Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Atlantis set for overnight crawl to launch pad

Cooped up in Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building for more than two days because of showers and thunderstorms, Atlantis finally appears ready for a move to launch pad 39A.

After an evening weather review showed a promising forecast, space center workers at 12:01 a.m. Thursday plan to begin rolling the 11-million pound shuttle and its mobile launcher platform to the pad atop a giant crawler-transporter.

The 3.4-mile journey is expected to take six or seven hours.

NASA first scheduled the "rollout" Monday evening, coordinating it with a photo opportunity for employees hoping to see what is expected to be Atlantis' last trip to the pad ahead of its final mission, targeted for launch May 14.

But storms thwarted that and several more attempts to start the move, most recently Wednesday morning, when the crawlerway was deemed to soggy.

NASA TV will show the shuttle emerge from the 52-story assembly building bathed in xenon lights just after midnight. The coverage will pause as the shuttle disappears into darkness and resume as daybreak reveals the ship on or near the launch pad.

Atlantis is due to reach the pad shortly before the six-person crew that will fly it next month is scheduled to answer questions about their mission from reporters.

Atlantis hopefully will loom in the background for the 9:15 a.m. media event, before pad 39A's protective gantry closes around the shuttle for about the next three weeks, until it is time to fuel the vehicle for flight.

You can watch the rollout and the Q-and-A session here -- just click on the NASA TV box at right to launch a video player.

No comments: