- Associated Press - Sunday, August 31, 2014

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - Restoration experts at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force are launching their largest restoration project yet at the museum in southwestern Ohio.

A Titan 4B space launch vehicle that has been sitting in gigantic pieces in a Wright-Patterson Air Force Base hangar near Dayton is being prepared for restoration efforts. It will be displayed in the museum’s fourth building, slated to open in 2016.

The Titan 4B stood more than 200 feet tall, and just one of its solid rocket motor units weighs 75,000 pounds.

“This is the largest artifact we have ever restored, Greg Hassler, a supervisor in the museum’s restoration division, said in a statement released by the museum. “We had moved all the pieces into our restoration hangars, and now our staff is cataloging parts and planning the best way to tackle this massive project.”

The Titan 4B is nearly twice as tall as other similar vehicles in the museum’s collection. A big challenge will be determining how to display it horizontally, because it is too tall to stand up inside the gallery, Hassler said.

The Titan rocket family was a critical component of U.S. space efforts for nearly 50 years from the first launch in 1959 to the last in 2005. More than 350 Titans were launched overall. The family of rockets included two models of intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, and several other types of space launch vehicles.

The Titan 4B and the exhibit space around it will be crucial for telling the U.S. Air Force’s space story, said Doug Lantry, project manager for the new Space Gallery to be housed in the fourth building.

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