Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Last shuttle external tank ready to ship from New Orleans

The last shuttle external tank expected to be delivered to Kennedy Space Center is set to ship tonight from NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans.

The Lockheed Martin Corp.-built tank is due to arrive at KSC around noon next Monday, depending on weather conditions during the 600-mile journey across the Gulf of Mexico.

Around 7 or 8 p.m. EDT today, commercial tugs will pull away from Michoud with the tank enclosed in the Pegasus barge. The tank was rolled out to the barge Monday.

It's expected to arrive in Gulfport, Miss., for a hook-up with the Freedom Star solid rocket booster retrieval ship around 8 a.m. Wednesday. Piloted by a United Space Alliance crew, the Freedom Star will haul the tank the rest of the way.

ET-122, as the tank is labeled, was refurbished after sustaining damage when a roof collapsed during Hurricane Katrina. It's slated to fly with Endeavour on what is now the final scheduled shuttle mission next February.

The tank is the first ever emblazoned with a logo (above), which was painted on an access door on the ridged intertank between the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks. The shuttle is shown rising from horizon lines in the shape of a hurricane symbol.

IMAGE: A logo depicts External Tank-122 emerging from Hurricane Katrina. The tank is the only one ever to wear a logo. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

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