Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Endeavour secured to external tank

Kennedy Space Center technicians today finished securely fastening Endeavour to its external tank following Monday's move into the Vehicle Assembly Building.

The assembled shuttle is scheduled to begin rolling out to launch pad 39A at 8 p.m. next Wednesday in preparation for a targeted 7:48 p.m. April 19 blastoff. 

Teams are assessing whether the rollout would be affected if Discovery's planned Tuesday morning landing slipped a day or more due to weather or technical problems.

Also still to be determined is whether a tanking test will be performed once Endeavour is at the pad. The tank underwent the same modifications Discovery's did to beef up intertank support beams called stringers to prevent cracks.

NASA officials praised the performance of Discovery's tank following last Thursday's liftoff.  And Endeavour's is an older model not expected to share the same stringer materials that were problematic on Discovery's tank.

Endeavour and six astronauts plan to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station during a 14-day mission led by Mark Kelly, the husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering from a head wound suffered during a Jan. 8 shooting rampage in Tucson. 

The mission is the last for Endeaovur and the second-to-last planned before the shuttle program is retired.

IMAGE: Space shuttle Endeavour is firmly attached to its external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters in a high bay of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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