Monday, May 04, 2009

Final Hubble Mission: One Week Until Launch

Atlantis astronauts are preparing to go into quarantine tonight, one week before their planned blast-off from Kennedy Space Center on a final mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

The crew is expected to fly into KSC early Friday evening, just after countdown clocks officially begin ticking down to next Monday's 2:01 p.m. launch and an 11-day mission.

Spaceport officials say minor repairs were completed over the weekend to a radiator faceplate in the left cargo bay door of Atlantis, which sustained a crack when a wrench socket fell on it during loading of the Hubble payload.

Also completed: Stowage in the payload bay of the boom extension used for heat shield inspections; installation of ordnance that should separate Atlantis from its mobile launcher platform, solid rocket boosters and external tank during ascent; and updating of the orbiter's flight computers with new software.

The Atlantis crew today went through a final review of launch abort procedures - "how to get out of the shuttle if something bad happens," according to a Twitter message from mission specialist and spacewalker Mike Massimino, a.k.a. Astro_Mike.

Later, the crew munched on a good luck cake with its training team, Massimino said.

Work also continues at pad 39B on shuttle Endeavour, which is being prepared for a potential rescue mission. Spacesuits that could be used during a daring on-orbit transfer of the Atlantis crew have been checked out.

In other shuttle news, a new 15-story external tank is en route to the space center from the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans. The Lockheed Martin Corp.-built tank, ET-132, departed by barge on Friday and is expected to complete its 900-mile voyage Wednesday.

The orange tank is expected to help shuttle Discovery launch to the International Space Station on STS-128, which is targeted for launch Aug. 6.

The tank shipped shortly after Michoud laid off about 100 employees, part of an ongoing series of reductions that began last fall as tank production winds down with eight or nine shuttle missions left to fly.

1 comment:

gm said...

After posting several comments on US' space forums and blogs (with links to my article about the Hubble SM4 risks) my question is: "Does the american Press take care of the Atlantis' astronauts lives?"
Well, while waiting for an answer about this question, I've UPDATED my article with other concerns regarding the STS-400 rescue mission, the space-junk problem and the Atlantis' radiator issue, also, in the same article, I give some suggestions to increase the Atlantis' astronauts chances to survive to this risky mission (if "something goes wrong" of course).