Friday, March 18, 2011

Hazardous Propellant-Loading In Work At KSC

NASA and contractor engineers are loading toxic rocket propellant aboard Endeavour today as preps for the orbiter's 25th and final flight continue at Kennedy Space Center.

The 18-story spaceship and six astronauts are scheduled to blast off from launch pad 39A at 7:48 p.m. April 19. A three-day launch countdown is slated to begin at 6:03 p.m. April 16.

Engineers today are loading monomethyl hydrazine and nitrogen textroxide into storage tanks aboard the shuttle. The tanks feed Endeavour's twin orbital maneuvering engines and its 44 nose-and-tail steering jets.

The shuttle's three Auxiliary Power Units will be fueled on Saturday. The APUs provide the hydraulic power needed to steer the shuttle's main engines in flight and operate its aerosurfaces, landing gear, brakes and nosewheel steering system during atmospheric reentry and landing.

The hazardous propellant-loading operations will clear the way for the delivery to the pad early next week of the shuttle's primary payload, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. The AMS is a large particle physics experiment package that will be housed outside the International Space Station. It is expected to shed light on dark matter and dark energy in the universe.

The Rotating Service Structure at the launch pad will be backed away from Endeavour on Monday in advance of the arrival of the AMS. The payload is to be delivered to the pad and installed in the Payload Changeout Room there on Monday evening.

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