The Space Shuttle Pinball Machine - Page 2

Remote Battery Mod
I found this web site that describes a good way to remote mount the three AA batteries that keep high score on a pinball machine.  Normally, they are mounted right on the CPU board, and if they leak, it could lead to disastrous results.

The new battery holder.  It allows the remote mount of the batteries
without modifying the CPU board.

The idea is to use small wooden dowels cut to size to fit into the original battery's locations.  This removes the need to permanently alter the CPU board.  These dowels are then wired to a battery holder.  In my case, I could not find triple battery holders, and used a quad unit (for $0.85 ) instead.  A jumper on the fourth battery's location completed the circuit.  The wires from the battery holder were then connected to wood screws fastened into the end of the cut dowels.

The new battery holder installed.  Now if the batteries leak, they will
not cause damage to the CPU board.

I also performed this mod on my other pinball machines, and discovered to my amazement that the voltage on my IJ's set was 2.0 Volts!  Despite this low state of charge, the memory's contents was preserved, but it would only have been a few more months before the high scores would have been lost.

LEDs for illumination
In November 2009, had a sale on LEDs, and I decided to purchase some to try on this machine.  I decided to focus on the backboard illumination and experiment a little on the playfield lights.

Backglass lit with filament bulbs.

Backglass lit with mainly LEDs.

Here are the mods on the backbox:
  • My previously built mod of the illuminated Space Shuttle toy causes the illustration on the backglass to look quite yellow.  So I used 12 cold-white LEDs right behind the backglass Shuttle.
  • I used two amber LEDs behind the moon to accentuate its orange color on the front-lit artwork.
  • Along the top, I tried a line of warm-white LEDs, but this proved too white.  I then switched to a 50-50 mix of LEDs and filament bulbs.
Mods to the playfield lights:
  • All white inserts have warm-white LEDs.  This includes the spinner value (3), Stop&Score (2), the outlane inserts (2), and the bonus matrix (15), and hi-power ones in the pop bumpers (3).  The result looked extremely nice.
  • I tried some LEDs in the colored inserts, but noticed no difference, so I removed them.
Overall, I am very pleased with the white light from the mods.  The backglass now matches the white Shuttle toy.  Other users on the newsgroup report a 'stroboscopic' effect as the ball flies over the playfield due to the super-fast risetime of the LEDs, and I could see this too.  Overall cost of this project was about $20.

A comparison of a conventional #44 bulb (left), and the LED.
Its extended length made it very difficult to install.

One problem I found is that the LEDs are longer from center tip to bayonet pins as shown above.  This made them extremely difficult to twist into their sockets, and I even destroyed one LED by twisting its lens off from its base.  Initially, I used a miniature screwdriver to help push the bayonet pin into its detent, but this did not work very well.  In the end, I decided to file the tip down, and sometimes had to file it near to the black insulator before the LED would fit.  However, I am very pleased with the overall look, and felt it was worth doing this.

Playfield Renovation
I decided to give playfield renovation a try.  See here for that page.

NASA Luminaries and this pinball machine.

Gene Kranz
On September 19, 2005, Gene Kranz came to speak to us.  He was flight director on many famous Apollo Missions, including Apollo 13.  He was also the Mission Operations Director for the First Servicing Mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.  I took this opportunity to get his autograph on some playfield plastics.

Meeting Gene Kranz.  It was a thrill to meet one of the greats in the space industry.  He graciously autographed some of the playfield plastics.

Dr. John Grunsfeld
On 11/7/05, I asked Astronaut John Grunsfeld (who visits with us at Hubble very often) to autograph some playfield plastics.  He performed several Shuttle spacewalks to repair Hubble.

Photo of Dr. John Grunsfeld (on right) after the fifth day of
servicing Hubble during STS-109 (3/8/02).

Dr. Mike Massimino
On 1/31/06, Astronaut Mike Massimino was gracious enough to autograph one of the slingshot plastics.  He also serviced the Hubble during STS-109.

Guenter Wendt
We were visited by Mr. Guenter Wendt, who was pad leader for the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and early Shuttle days.  His book "The Unbroken Chain" tells the story of the space program from the point of view of the many thousands of engineers, technicians and scientists who worked on the space program.  He appeared in the movie Apollo 13 as himself.

Mr. Wendt autographing one of the slingshot plastics.
In the foreground is a copy of his book : "The unbroken chain".

The crew of STS-125

Plastic over the ball lock signed by the crew of STS-125. 
Top picture is of John Grunsfeld (left), and Scott Altman (right).
John is the lead EVA spacewalker, and Scott is the Commander.

Topper with the signatures of the crew of STS-125, the SM-4
Servicing Mission to Hubble.

The crew signed the header at an Orioles game with the entire Hubble
team.  Top row: Mike "Bueno" Good, Mike "Mass" Massimino, Megan McArthur.
Bottom row: John Grunsfeld, Scott "Scooter" Altman,
Greg " Ray Jay" Johson, and Drew Fuestel.

Oursler autograph
Oursler autograph
In June 2014, Joe George met Barry Oursler, the designer of Space Shuttle Pinball,
with whom I had previously corresponded about the history of the pin.
Joe was kind enough to have a plastic autographed and is now on the machine.
(original image location).

Playfield glass
This backpainted mod to the playfield glass from Larry Hodgson is a
very nice idea.  Note the Space Shuttle toy exhaust plume.  I would have
probably not have covered the outlanes so much (May 2019).



  • November 2009 - See here for Page 1.
  • November 2009 - Adding LEDs to this machine.
See here for Page 1 of the Space Shuttle Pinball Machine

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(c) Edward Cheung 2005, all rights reserved.