Thursday, April 22, 2010

At last, Atlantis is on launch pad for May mission

Atlantis this morning has reached its seaside perch on launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, more than six hours into an overnight move from the Vehicle Assembly Building.

The shuttle began its 3.4-mile journey ahead of schedule at 11:31 p.m. Wednesday, rolling slowly atop an eight-tracked crawler-transporter, and reached the pad at 6:03 a.m.

Storms over the past few days had stalled the move, which was first planned for Monday evening.

Because of the delays, KSC teams have only one spare day to handle any unexpected technical or weather issues and still be ready for a targeted May 14 launch to the International Space Station.

Atlantis' six-person crew arrived at KSC Tuesday evening for several days of standard pre-launch training.

The crew is scheduled to visit the pad at 9:15 a.m. to discuss their planned 12-day mission with media representatives. You can open a video player to watch the event live by clicking the NASA TV box at right.

Later today, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 41 a short distance down the coast, an Atlas V rocket is scheduled to blast off with an unmanned spacecraft resembling a miniature space shuttle. Called the Orbital Test Vehicle, or OTV, the Air Force spacecraft is based on NASA's X-37B.

A nine-minute launch window runs from 7:52 p.m. to 8:01 p.m. We'll have live coverage of the countdown here in the Flame Trench, and you can sign up for text message alerts here.

IMAGES: By Michael R. Brown, Florida Today.

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