Space Shuttle Atlantis Now Open at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Rendering of a nose-cone view of Space Shuttle Atlantis on display with its cargo bay doors open and Canadarm extended at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Space Shuttle Atlantis Now Open at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

World’s Most Comprehensive and Interactive Attraction Devoted to the Space Shuttle

(St. Louis, MO – July 2, 2013) – PGAV Destinations is proud to announce that its latest destination design, Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC), is now open to the public on Florida’s Space Coast, less than an hour east of Orlando.


The new attraction tells the epic 30-year story of the Space Shuttle Program and stars Atlantis, one of only three remaining space-flown orbiters, and the last to fly in space. The PGAV Destinations design brings guests within inches of the historic spacecraft and takes them on a journey to space and back again via emotionally engaging immersion experiences. PGAV served as the principle storytelling and design firm for the attraction architecture, interiors, exhibits, and media.

Now just 17 months after the groundbreaking of the revolutionary attraction, the following chronicles PGAV’s journey in helping create Space Shuttle Atlantis.

PGAV: Master Planners

Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts has operated KSCVC on behalf of NASA for 18 years. In 2010, the company hired PGAV Destinations to develop ideas to take the Visitor Complex to the next level. Out of that partnership, PGAV developed a 10-year master plan which outlined and advised specific steps for Delaware North regarding guest experience, food, retail, new attractions, and new NASA stories to tell. This strategic outline also contained a robust, 10-year forecast and analysis of attendance growth and what steps Delaware North would need to take to meet those projections.

The first project of the Master Plan opened in December 2012 with the new $16m entry plaza. In this phase, PGAV served as the architects, environmental designers, and graphic designers. Stemming from the central idea of what the entry plaza should convey – the excitement to be held within – the new, bold “Explore” marquee places visitors in the central mindset and mood for the spirit of NASA. The entry plaza executes on this theme via a beautiful new fountain show, NASA-globe icon, retail space, dining, and reworked ticketing and guest flow that gives visitors a glimpse of the awe-inspiring Rocket Garden before they’ve even set foot inside the complex.

PGAV: Creating Space Shuttle Atlantis

“They [Delaware North] engaged us based upon our strong relationship with them and many of our people’s passion for NASA’s space program,” said Mike Konzen, PGAV principal and chairman. “They were confident that our creativity could translate their ideas into something truly compelling.” For this next project, the result of which is the brand new Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction, PGAV Destinations served as the architects, exhibit designers, graphic designers, interior designers, and media storytelling lead.

Much of creating the experiential concept of the attraction began with PGAV asking the question, “what would be the best way to experience Atlantis,” and what sort of attraction would be fitting of the world’s greatest spaceport? The following months included countless interviews with Delaware North and NASA staff, from simulation engineers to astronauts, to uncover a diverse collection of the greatest, most iconic, and rarely told stories of the 30-year shuttle program. That outline led PGAV to create an ideal storytelling experience that translates all of those accomplishments, personal histories, and wonder into something to engage and immerse millions of visitors for decades to come.


The first aspect of the storytelling is the exterior of the 90,000 square-foot building, highlighting PGAV’s architectural expertise. Iconic in and of itself, the building represents the power of re-entry through iridescent wings on a background representing the tile pattern on the underside of the orbiter. The icon is guarded by a full-scale replica of the legendary external tank and two solid rocket boosters, which could accelerate the entire shuttle stack to 3,000 m.p.h. and 28 miles high in just two minutes. Both were intentionally designed and implemented to build anticipation in visitors as they approach the attraction and bring the branding and excitement of Space Shuttle Atlantis outside its own doors.

Once inside the new attraction, the entire layout, guest flow, how Atlantis is displayed, and the more than 60 interactive exhibits were imagined and designed by PGAV Destinations. One of the greatest challenges the firm faced in this design was that once they had decided to display the shuttle as if it were in flight, how were guests going to be able to still see the shuttle from every angle possible? This challenge was met through various ideal observation decks, immersive media experiences, and its iconic 43.21º tilt with its payload bay doors open and extended Canadarm.


The exhibits within the attraction provide a wide diversity of interactives, state-of-the-art media components, and rich story-telling to engage visitors in NASA’s incredible science and history. Among these, all of which were designed by PGAV, are the Hubble Space Telescope Theater, International Space Station Gallery, the On Orbit gallery, and many others. The vast majority of these exhibits provide hands-on STEM learning opportunities to help support the nation’s STEM education efforts and extensive studies were done on learning methods based on demographic differentials to ensure that Space Shuttle Atlantis would offer elements that every single visitor could learn from, enjoy and be immersed in.

Sustainability of the facility was also a requirement for this project.  PGAV worked to design an attraction that meets LEED Silver requirements and provides a great home for this priceless artifact.

To prepare visitors for Atlantis and the individual stories and attractions within, PGAV Destinations conceived and created each of the media treatments for the attraction. This involved outlining the intended storyline, key messages, and overall concept of the media experiences. PGAV developed the concept, design, and guest experience integration for several unique media experiences including:

  1. A pre-show element, which tells the thrilling genesis of NASA’s shuttle program.
  2. The main show, which transports guests through time, experiencing the excitement of the space shuttle program with thundering bass and beautiful imagery.
  3. The ambient show, which provides a dynamic back-drop to the orbiter Atlantis on display.
  4. The accomplishments of the Hubble Space Telescope, highlighting the stunning imagery sent back to Earth from Hubble.

The Future of KSCVC

The incredible Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction is the latest and most impressive addition to KSCVC, but its growth is far from over. There is plenty more to come from KSCVC and Delaware North in the shape of renovations and new attractions. These will provide new ways to experience the future of space exploration, how NASA’s research is impacting daily life here on Earth, and will bring Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex into the next century and beyond.

Some of the highlights of Space Shuttle Atlantis include:

  • The Entrance – Outside Space Shuttle Atlantis, guests are greeted by a full-scale, 184-foot-tall vertical replica of the space shuttle’s external tank and two solid rocket boosters. These stand seven feel taller than Niagara Falls and could accelerate the entire shuttle stack to 3,500 m.p.h. and 24 miles high in just two minutes.
  • The BuildingSpace Shuttle Atlantis features two sweeping architectural elements, or “wings,” representing the space shuttle’s launch and return. The outer layer of the building, cloaked in iridescent hues of orange and gold, represents the fiery-glow of re-entry. The taller, internal wing of the building is covered in a shimmering gray tile pattern representing the tiled underside of the orbiter. The building is designed to meet LEED Silver sustainability standards.
  • Pre-show and Show – Multimedia presentations build anticipation by telling the compelling story of the 30-year Space Shuttle Program and the thousands of people who took part in creating and maintaining NASA’s five space-flown shuttles – as well as the  next generation of manned spaceflight programs.
  • Hubble Space Telescope Theater – A high-fidelity replica shows the Hubble Space Telescope in all its glory, 43’ long and 14’ in diameter, with its solar panels fully deployed. A 40-seat theater shows highlights of the Hubble program.
  • International Space Station (ISS) Gallery – Guests can climb aboard replicas of ISS modules and experience the sensation of floating in space, then interact with “virtual” astronauts at the Microgravity Theater who show what it’s like to live and work 250 miles above the Earth. Freestanding pods recreate components of the station, including upside-down astronaut sleeping quarters. A 16’ long, 4’ wide interactive media wall tracks the location of the real ISS and provides live downloads from the crew’s Twitter feed, as well exciting updates about its scientific research.
  • Shuttle Launch Experience – Guests can “get vertical” and strap in to the sights, sounds and sensations of a space shuttle launch at the experience that veteran space shuttle astronauts helped develop and now call the next best thing to an actual launch.
  • Astronaut Training Simulators – Future astronauts can practice landing the orbiter, docking to the ISS, and manipulating the robotic Canadarm on 21 consoles modeled after actual NASA training simulators.
  • Shuttle On Orbit – The 24-foot-long interactive Space Transportation System (STS) Timeline brings NASA’s 135 space shuttle missions to life with details on every launch, landing, astronaut, payload and more. Augmented reality monitors provide an “X-ray” view of Atlantis’s crucial systems and prerecorded views of its interior, including the cockpit, middeck and payload bay. At the rear of Atlantis, guests can see an actual 8,000 pound space shuttle main engine. Virtual reality simulators invite guests to test their spacewalking skills while budding commanders can take the controls in a space shuttle cockpit replica.
  • Space Shuttle Processing Area – The authentic “beanie cap” or vent hood from Launch Pad 39B finds a new home at the “Blast Off” game in which guests can kick together virtual molecules of hydrogen and oxygen to create the space shuttle’s liquid fuel. They can also try their hand at virtually mating the orbiter to the shuttle stack in the Vehicle Assembly Building. The wheels and tires from Atlantis’ final mission, STS-135, are also available for guests to touch and spin.
  • The Re-entry Zone – Visitors can see what it takes for astronauts to land the orbiter as a high-speed glider, creating their own sonic booms and gliding, or rather, sliding, to a landing on the steep slope of the Re-entry Slide.
  • Shuttle Express Retail Shop – The 4,000-square-foot shop features a wide array of shuttle and space-related merchandise displayed amid youth artwork depicting their visions for the future of space flight.

PGAV Destinations Media Contact: Ben Cober, ben.cober@PGAV.com, (314) 231-7318

**Thank you to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for images three, four, and six.

About PGAV Destinations      

PGAV Destinations is a global leader in the planning and design of unique destinations. Now in its fifth decade, the practice has evolved to become the ideal destination-consulting partner, skilled at developing growth-oriented master plans and translating those plans into successful projects. No other firm offers such an integrated approach to destination planning.

PGAV’s key clients include industry leaders such as SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Universal Studios, the Biltmore Companies, Bass Pro Shops, Ameristar Casinos, The Gettysburg Foundation, the St. Louis Zoo, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, and many others. Recent assignments include planning and design at many of the world’s “must see” destinations, including the Grand Canyon, Biltmore Estate, Hearst Castle, the Georgia Aquarium, the Hoover Dam, and SeaWorld Adventure Parks. www.PGAVDestinations.com

About Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts

Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts is an industry leader, providing Stewardship and Hospitality in Special Places SM with hotel, retail, food service, recreation and transportation operations at historic and scenic properties in North America and Australia. The company operates Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida; in Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Olympic, Shenandoah and Yosemite national parks, including The Ahwahnee and other Yosemite lodges; The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake in Ohio; Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa in British Columbia; Gideon Putnam Resort in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; and in Niagara Falls State Park. http://www.delawarenorth.com/default.aspx 

About Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex brings to life the epic story of the U.S. space program, offering a full day or more of fun and educational activities, including the Kennedy Space Center Tour featuring the Saturn V Center with an actual Saturn V moon rocket, the new Angry Birds™ Space Encounter, Shuttle Launch Experience, 3D IMAX® space films, Astronaut Encounter, Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted and many other interactive exhibits. The new $100 million home for Space Shuttle Atlantis opens June 29, 2013. Admission also includes the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®, featuring historic spacecraft and the world’s largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia, which opens daily at noon and closing times vary by season. Only 45 minutes from Orlando, Fla., Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens daily at 9 a.m. with closing times varying by season.  Admission is $50 + tax for adults and $40 + tax for children ages 3-11. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Commander’s Club Annual Pass is $63 + tax for adults and $53 + tax for children ages 3-11.  For more information, call 877-313-2610 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.

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