Monday, November 09, 2009

Live at KSC: Atlantis one week from launch

Space shuttle Atlantis is a week from blasting off on the year's final mission if preparations continue on schedule and a rocket launches as planned early Saturday.

Over the weekend at Kennedy Space Center, crews finished installing explosive devices that will fire to allow Atlantis to separate from its mobile launcher platform, and enable the shuttle's twin solid rocket boosters and external tank to fall away during the climb to orbit.

Today, sensors and microphones are being installed in the tail service masts at launch pad 39A and the rear area of the shuttle as part of an ongoing analysis of noise vibration generated by the start-up of three main engines.

NASA is monitoring the path of Hurricane Ida, which is headed toward Florid'a Panhandle, but it currently poses no threat to shuttle operations.

The crew of six astronauts launching aboard Atlantis is scheduled to enter quarantine tonight.

Charlie Hobaugh is the mission's commander. The pilot is Barry Wilmore, and the missions specialists are Randy Bresnik, Mike Foreman, Leland Melvin and Bobby Satcher.

They are due to fly into KSC Thursday morning. The countdown is set to pick up at 1 p.m. Friday.

For next Monday's planned 2:28 p.m. launch to stay on track, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a communications satellite must launch on time Saturday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket's launch window is from 12:48 a.m. to 2:18 a.m. -- essentially late Friday night.

If weather or a technical glitch delays the Atlas V a day, it would bump the Atlantis launch to next Tuesday.

The shuttle is set to deliver bulky spare parts to the International Space Station during an 11-day mission. The parts include two gyroscopes and nitrogen and ammonia tank assemblies.

IMAGE NOTE: At launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 3, the STS-129 crew, dressed in their launch-and-entry suits, appeared ready for liftoff following the completion of their Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, a dress rehearsal for launch. Behind them were space shuttle Atlantis' external tank and the nose cone of a solid rocket booster. From left: mission specialists Leland Melvin and Randy Bresnik; pilot Barry Wilmore; commander Charles Hobaugh; and mission specialists Mike Foreman and Robert Satcher Jr. Launch of Atlantis on its STS-129 mission to the International Space Station is set for Nov. 16. On STS-129, the crew will deliver to the station two spare gyroscopes, two nitrogen tank assemblies, two pump modules, an ammonia tank assembly and a spare latching end effector for the station's robotic arm. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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