Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Live at KSC: Hubble Payload Installed in Atlantis

Workers at Kennedy Space Center this morning began loading the 22,544-pound payload that will be hauled to the Hubble Space Telescope into shuttle Atlantis.

The fifth and final Hubble servicing mission is targeted for launch May 12.

Payload loading operations began around 7 a.m. at launch pad 39A and were expected to take about 12 hours, after which electrical connections inside the orbiter's cargo bay will begin to be made.

The highly sensitive payload is held by four large carriers: the Flight Support System, or FSS; the Super Lightweight Interchangeable Carrier, or SLIC; the Multi-Use Lightweight Equipment carrier, or MULE; and the Orbital Replacement Unit Carrier, or ORUC.

The payload includes two new state-of-the-art science instruments, the Wide Field Camera-3 and Cosmic Origins Spectrograph; equipment for challenging repairs to two more instruments that aren't working, the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph; and replacement batteries, gyroscopes and thermal blankets.

Also heading into orbit is a data processing computer to replace one that failed last fall, causing the mission to be postponed from October.

All the hardware is designed to extend the school bus-sized observatory's life at least through 2014, and possibly years longer. It's discovery power could be increased by up to 70 times.

The telescope was launched in 1990 and is still running on its original batteries.

A crew of seven astronauts, led by three-time shuttle flyer and Hubble mission veteran Scott "Scooter" Altman, hopes to refurbish Hubble for the last time during an 11-day mission that includes five spacewalks.

You can read more about the mission in NASA's official STS-125 press kit, "The Final Visit to Hubble".

IMAGE NOTE: On launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on April 18, the payload canister was lifted toward the payload changeout room, or PCR, on the rotating service structure. The canister's cargo of Hubble Space Telescope equipment was deposited in the PCR for transfer later to the payload bay on space shuttle Atlantis, at right. Atlantis' 11-day STS-125 mission to service Hubble is targeted for launch May 12. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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