Monday, November 16, 2009

Live At KSC: Atlantis En Route To Space Station

Space shuttle Atlantis blasted off under sunny skies from Kennedy Space Center today with a crew of six headed to the International Space Station.

"We're really excited to take this incredible vehicle for a ride and meet up with another incredible vehicle," Mission Commander Charlie "Scorch" Hobaugh said after being told his ship was "go" to launch.

With Atlantis' on-time liftoff at 2:28 p.m., only five more shuttle launches remain on the schedule before the fleet's retirement after more than two decades of service.

The crew's 11-day mission is to deliver more than 27,000-pounds of spare parts and other materials to the orbiting outpost, the kind of large materials that only can be ferried up by a shuttle. The goal is to stock the station well enough to keep it operating long past the shuttle's retirement.

Other members of the mission include pilot Barry Wilmore and mission specialists Randy Bresnik, Mike Foreman, Leland Melvin and Bobby Satcher. Hobaugh has jokingly described the crew as four pilots and two "very smart people" - Melvin is an engineer and Satcher an orthopedic surgeon.

The crew will carry out three spacewalks, expected to total nearly 20 hours. In addition to attaching the waffle-patterned platforms that will hold the spare parts, the spacewalkers will also install experiment samples tol test materials that NASA hopes to use in the Orion spacecraft, which is being designed as the next capsule to carry American astronauts into space.

The space shuttle fleet is currently scheduled to retire next fall, but the tight launch schedule may cause the last flights to slip into 2011. The successor Constellation program includes Ares rockets, the Orion spacecraft and a lunar lander.

Today's launch means that the Atlantis crew is on schedule to spend Thanksgiving in orbit - the second time in as many years that shuttle astronauts have spent the U.S. holiday orbiting far above Earth.

Atlantis is scheduled to land at KSC at 9:43 a.m. on Nov. 27.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the NASA image of Space Atlantis cuting its way through the blue skies over Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff on its STS-129 mission came at 2:28 p.m. Aboard are crew members Commander Charles O. Hobaugh; Pilot Barry E. Wilmore; and Mission Specialists Leland Melvin, Randy Bresnik, Mike Foreman and Robert L. Satcher Jr. On STS-129, the crew will deliver two Express Logistics Carriers to the International Space Station, the largest of the shuttle's cargo carriers, containing 15 spare pieces of equipment including two gyroscopes, two nitrogen tank assemblies, two pump modules, an ammonia tank assembly and a spare latching end effector for the station's robotic arm. Atlantis will return to Earth a station crew member, Nicole Stott, who has spent more than two months aboard the orbiting laboratory. STS-129 is slated to be the final space shuttle Expedition crew rotation flight. For information on the STS-129 mission and crew, visit Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

1 comment:

stevepem said...

Todd - Question about the audio sources during launch. I always assumed it is coming from microphones placed at the launch pad, since the video and audio are perfectly synchronized when the main engines ignite. However I now wonder if they also have microphones on the shuttle. I know that seems far-fetched however watch a replay of the launch and when the shuttle goes through that first cloud layer there is a momentary and very noticeable change in audio pitch that coincides exactly with the shuttle passing through the cloud layer. I have the launch on my TIVO and have replayed it over and over and the change in pitch coincides EXACTLY with the shuttle going through the clouds, which can only be explained by there being microphones on the shuttle. Maybe it's not so far-fetched, I remember a few years ago when they first showed the video from the recovered SRB's, the video contained audio which included the eerie sounds of the SRB's twisting in the high-altitude wind.