Monday, November 16, 2009

Live At KSC: Final Inspection Team Heads To Pad

Live: Refresh this page for the latest still images from live video feeds at Kennedy Space Center.

Shuttle Atlantis is gassed up and ready to go at Kennedy Space Center today as countdown clocks ticked toward an afternoon launch for six astronauts on an International Space Station outfitting mission.

The shuttle and its crew are slated to blast off from Launch Complex 39A at 2:28 p.m. NASA engineers just finished loading more than 500,000 gallons of supercold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen into the shuttle's 15-story external tank. The propellants will power the shuttle's three main engines during a nine-minute climb into orbit.

The weather forecast worsened a bit overnight. But forecasters still say there is a 70 percent chance conditions will be acceptable for flight. That's down from 90 percent. The chief concern remains low-level clouds. NASA flight rules prohibit launching if low-level clouds would obscure the view of the shuttle runway during an emergency landing or block the view of range safety officers during the crucial first few minutes of flight.

Happening right now:

NASA's final inspection team is out at the launch pad. They are using high-powered telescopes and other devices to spot any dangerous ice build-ups that could break off the external tank during launch and damage the orbiter's fragile heat-shield tiles.

NASA's close-out crew also is at the pad preparing for the arrival of the Atlantis astronauts. The group of technicians, engineers and astronauts will help the Atlas crew board the spaceship and strap into seats on the flight deck and middeck of the shuttle's crew cabin.

The Atlantis astronauts will don launch-and-entry suits around 10:08 a.m. and then head out to the launch pad a half-hour later. The shuttle's hatch is to be closed for flight at 12:13 p.m.

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