Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Endeavour targeting Friday move to VAB

An approaching storm front has Kennedy Space Center managers looking to move Endeavour to the Vehicle Assembly Building on Friday instead of Saturday.

The planned 1 p.m. move would also preserve weekend family time for spaceport workers before the holidays, a concern for managers ahead of a busy and historic 2010.

Endeavour's targeted Feb. 4 launch is the first five shuttle missions planned next year before NASA retires the three-orbiter fleet.

Workers on Thursday will mount the orbiter to a 76-wheeled transporter for a quarter-mile "rollover" to the the 52-story assembly building.

There, a crane will hoist the 88-ton orbiter into a high bay for connection to an external tank and twin solid rocket boosters already mounted upon a mobile launcher platform.

The assembled shuttle is scheduled to be delivered Jan. 6 to launch pad 39A.

Managers will determine Friday morning if Endeavour is ready for rollover and the weather is cooperating.

A Saturday rollover could still be attempted if conditions warrant. If technical or weather issues forced a delay to next week, it would not impact the mission.

The shuttle is slated to remain sheltered in the assembly building for several weeks over the holidays, well beyond its normal one-week stay before heading out to the launch pad.

During a 13-day mission, Endeavour and six astronauts plan to deliver the final major U.S. module to the International Space Station, called Tranquility.

IMAGES: In Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at Kennedy Space Center, processing of space shuttle Endeavour is complete, its payload bay doors are closed, and it is ready for its move to the Vehicle Assembly Building. At top, the close-up shows the thermal protection system tiles protecting Endeavour's cockpit. Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller.

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