Monday, November 02, 2009

Live At KSC: Shuttle Practice Countdown Picks Up

NASA picked up a practice countdown at Kennedy Space Center this morning as the agency pressed ahead with preparations for the planned Nov. 16 launch of Atlantis and six astronauts on an International Space Station outfitting mission.

Atlantis and a crew led by veteran shuttle pilot Charlie Hobaugh are slated to blast off at 2:28 p.m. Nov. 16, hauling up a payload that includes two $30 million logistics carriers, an ammonia tank assembly, a nitrogen tank assembly, a dome-shaped gyroscope, a spare "hand" for the station's robotic arm and a variety of other large spares.

NASA staged a Call To Stations in Firing Room No. 4 of the Launch Control Center at 7:30 a.m. today and a two-day practice countdown began a half-hour later. Hobaugh and his crew are due in at the Shuttle Landing Facility around 5 p.m. today. The astronauts will don launch-and-entry suits and board Atlantis at the pad Tuesday for the last few hours of a launch-day dress rehearsal.

The exercise -- known as the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT -- is the last major training session for a shuttle crew at KSC prior to launch. It will culminate at 11 a.m. Tuesday with a countdown cutoff at T-Minus 4 seconds and a subsequent emergency escape drill at the pad.

Check out all the details on the STS-129 mission here in this Official NASA Press Kit.

The payload for the mission was delivered to launch pad 39A last Friday and will be installed in the shuttle's expansive payload bay on Wednesday. Here's a handy spreadsheet that details the weight and cost of the STS129 PAYLOAD

Over the weekend, NASA contractor technicians checked out the shuttle's toilet and also the spacesuits that will be worn on three spacewalks to be carried out by mission specialists Mike Foreman, Randy Bresnik and Robert Satcher. The crew also includes pilot Barry Wilmore and mission specialist Leland Melvin. Station flight engineer Nicole Stott will return to Earth aboard Atlantis.

The weekend work kept NASA on track for the Nov. 16 launch. The 10-day, 19-hour and 19-minute mission is scheduled to end with a landing at KSC's three-mile shuttle runway at 9:57 a.m. Nov. 27.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the NASA image of shuttle Atlantis on launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. You can also click the enlarged image to get an even bigger, more detailed view. The opening beneath the shuttle's mobile launcher platform is the [ad 39A flame trench. The launch pad in the background is Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. United Launch Alliance flies Atlas V rockets from that pad. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett.


Anonymous said...

Will we be able to watch the TCDT?

James Dean said...

Unfortunately, there's no TV coverage of TCDT. The live video camera feeds posted at the top of Tuesday morning's post are the closets we can get to the live action. We did get pictures of the crew walking out of the Operations and Checkout Building this morning en route to the launch pad, courtesy of Florida Today photographer Mike Brown.