Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Live: Preps continue for KSC, Cape launches

On Veterans Day, Kennedy Space Center technicians are at work preparing space shuttle Atlantis for a 2:28 p.m. Monday launch to the International Space Station.

Crews today are expected to clear pad 39A for a hazardous operation. They'll begin pressurizing two dozen spherical tanks in the orbiter with helium and nitrogen used to pressurize shuttle propulsion systems.

It's a two-stage process designed to reduce the chance that the Composite Overwrap Pressure Vessels, of COPVs, could spontaneously explode.

NASA has monitored the hazard, which is a concern across the aerospace industry, since at least 2004. NASA's independent Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel noted ongoing work on the issue during public meetings at KSC last month.

The tanks are now pressurized first to the 80-percent level, then to 100 percent closer to launch.

The six astronauts launching on the Atlantis are due to fly into KSC around noon Thursday. The countdown is scheduled to pick up at 1 p.m. Friday, hours after NASA holds its first status briefing.

The mission, dubbed STS-129, will deliver spare parts to the space tation, prepare for the delivery of a new American module on the next mission, and and return station crew member Nicole Stott to Earth.

For the countdown to conclude on schedule, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a communications satellite must lift off as planned early Saturday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

An Air Force forecast released Tuesday offers a 70-percent chance of favorable weather for the launch, with a possibility of clouds, showers and winds left over from Tropical Storm Ida.

Winds will also be monitored during the rocket't planned Thursday roll from a service tower to Launch Complex 41.

Read more about the shuttle mission here, and more about the Atlas V launch here.

IMAGE NOTE: Above, at Kennedy Space Center on Oct. 14, flags flapped in the breeze off the Atlantic Ocean at launch pad 39A. Space shuttle Atlantis had reached the end of its 3.4-mile journey, known as rollout, from the Vehicle Assembly Building. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett. Below, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V four meter fairing with the Intelsat-14 spacecraft is shown at Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.


Anonymous said...

Atlas V rolls out to the pad, not a tower rolling back from it.

James Dean said...

Thanks for the correction.