Sunday, May 10, 2009

Live At KSC: Tower Rollback Sets Stage For Launch

LIVE IMAGES: Refresh this page for updates and the latest still images from cameras at Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A (left) and NASA TV (right).

NASA back a towering gantry away from shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center tonight, setting the stage for fuel-loading operations that are scheduled to commence early Monday morning.

Atlantis and seven astronauts remains scheduled to blast off from launch pad 39A at 2:01 p.m. The weather conditions are expected to be near-perfect.

Still to come tonight: NASA will clear a blast danger zone around the launch complex of all but essential personnel, and the orbiter's three power-producing fuel cells will be activated.

NASA's Mission Management Team will meet at 4 a.m. to decide whether to proceed with external tank fuel-loading operations. Engineers are planning to begin the three-hour operation at 4:41 a.m.

We'll have live coverage of the final countdown and launch here in The Flame Trench as well as on the home page of Florida Today:

Check out The Flame Trench for periodic updates, and the home page for live countdown and launch coverage from the roof of our blockhouse here at the Launch Complex 39 Press Site.

Look for NASA TV Launch Commentary to com up on the Florida Today home page starting at 8:30 a.m.

We'll webcast NASA TV Commentary beginning at that time and then start up a series of live countdown updates and interviews at 10 a.m.

Here's our live shot line-up for what should be an awesome launch day:

++10 a.m.: Former NASA astronaut Mike Bloomfield, now with shuttle booster manufacturer ATK, will update us on preparations for the Ares I-X launch, which is the first test flight in NASA's bid to return American astronauts to the moon.

The launch is scheduled for no earlier than Aug. 30 from pad 39B, where Endeavour now is poised for launch on a rescue mission should Atlantis sustain critical damage in flight.

++10:30 a.m.: Former NASA astronaut Jon McBride, who now makes appearances at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. We'll talk about the Shuttle Launch Experience attraction and how closely it resembles the real thing.

++11 a.m.: Former NASA astronaut Loren Shriver, now vice president of engineering and integration for United Space Alliance and USA's Chief Technology Officer, will join us. He was commander of the 1990 mission to deploy the Hubble telescope.

From 11:30 to noon we'll breakaway for the debut of a half-hour Florida Today television news program on WBCC-TV, the local public television station located on channel 5 on local cable systems.

++Noon: Matt Ashmore, senior tools engineer with ATK, will join us. We'll talk about some of the 116 tools that have been developed for the telescope servicing crew. We'll also have a live demonstration of some of the tools.

++12:30 p.m.: Mike Dahm, Boeing Lead Test Engineer for STS-125, will join us. Dahm led the team at Kennedy Space Center that tested and prepped all the Hubble hardware that is going up in Atlantis.

1 p.m.: Hubble Project Scientist Mal Niedner of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. We'll talk about what Hubble has meant to astronomy, and what new science is planned with the new and repaired instruments after the mission.

1:30 p.m. NASA Astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburge will join us. We'll talk about a supply run she and her STS-131 crewmates will be making to the International Space Station next March.

In the meantime, you can watch "Saving Hubble," a half-hour special we produced for WBCC-TV. It previews the Atlantis flight, the rescue mission that would be flown if Atlantis suffers severe damage, the Hubble Space Telescope and what the observatory has meant to our knowledge of the universe.

Click Here To Watch.

ABOUT THE IMAGES: Click to enlarge and save the NASA TV screen grabs of the rollback earlier this evening of the Rotating Service Structure at Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A, where Atlantis is being readied for a 2:01 p.m. Monday launch on NASA's fifth and final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission.

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