Friday, April 17, 2009

Live at KSC: Rescue Shuttle Perched On Pad

LIVE IMAGES: Refresh this page for updates and the latest still images from launch pad 39A (left) and NASA TV (right).

Endeavour and Atlantis both are out on Kennedy Space Center pads this morning for what is expected to be the last time spaceships are simultaneously perched on NASA's two oceanside shuttle launch complexes.

Endeavour crawled up onto launch pad 39B early today after an overnight move from the KSC Vehicle Assembly Building. There, it is surrounded by three 600-foot-tall towers designed to protect next-generation Ares 1 rockets from lightning.

The rescue shuttle rolled out of High Bay No. 1 of the 52-story assembly building at 11:57 p.m. Thursday and approached the pad as predawn skies began to light up the nation's primary human space launch operations center. The trip to the pad spanned 4.2 miles.

You can watch a live NASA TV broadcast of the shuttle on the pad here in The Flame Trench beginning at 6:30 a.m. Simply click the NASA TV box at the righthand side of this page to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage. Be sure to refresh this page, too, for periodic updates.

Click to enlarge the shot to the left. It shows Endeavour atop a giant tracked transporter, which was built in 1965 to haul NASA Saturn 5 moon rockets, as they started moving down the river-rock crawlerway that stretches between the assembly building and the shuttle launch pads.

The image is a screen grab from a live video camera atop the assembly building -- one that enables engineers in Firing Room 4 of the Launch Control Center to track the move out to the pad. NASA and contractor engineers responded to a "Call To Stations" in The Firing Room at 8 p.m. Thursday to support the rollout operation.

Atlantis is standing on launch pad 39A, where that shuttle is being readied for a planned May 12 launch on NASA's fifth and final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. Cargo for the flight is to be transported to the pad around 6 p.m. Saturday, so NASA engineers aim to roll back the Rotating Service Structure at the pad around 1 p.m. today.

A half mile to the north, the giant gantry at pad 39B opened for the arrival of Endeavour, which would be launched on a rescue mission if Atlantis were to sustain critical damage during its upcoming Hubble servicing flight.

NASA officials say it likely will be the last time shuttles are clearly visible on both pads before the agency's three-orbiter fleet is retired in late 2010.

Coincidentally, NASA expects about 50,000 people to stream onto space center grounds for KSC Family Day on Saturday. NASA and contractor employees with permanent KSC credentials are invited to bring up to six people in personal vehicles during the day Saturday. Vehicles as large as a seven-person van will be allowed through KSC gates as long as an occupant is properly badged.


Anonymous said...

just testing

Mark Lopa said...

Very strange to see the shuttle launch tower without a lightning rod on top...haven't seen that since the early 80s when they were assembling Pad B. Times are definitely changing.