Monday, March 28, 2011

Endeavour Crew Flies To KSC This Week

The crew for the 25th and final flight of shuttle Endeavour will fly to Kennedy Space Center for a practice countdown this week as NASA gears up for a planned April 19 launch of an International Space Station outfitting mission.

Meanwhile, a robotic Japanese space freighter will depart the international outpost around 11:45 p.m. today, marking the first major Japanese operation at the station since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Asian country and crippled its Mission Control Center north of Tokyo.

Endeavour mission commander Mark Kelly and his crew will arrive at KSC at 7 p.m. Tuesday and then take part in their Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT. The six astronauts will participate in emergency training at launch pad 39A and a two-day practice countdown. The crew will hold an informal Q & A with reporters at the pad Thursday. On Friday, the astronauts will don launch-and-entry suits and climb aboard Endeavour at the pad Friday for the final hours of a launch day dress rehearsal.

The crew includes pilot Gregory "Box" Johnson and four mission specialists: Gregory Chamitoff, Andrew Fuestel, Michael Fincke and Roberto Vittori of the European Space Agency.

At the pad today, engineers and technicians will hook up a sliding extension platform that allows the midsection of the orbiter to be serviced. The Orbiter Midbody Umbilical Unit attaches to the left side of the spaceship so liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen can be loaded into the shuttle's fuel cell system. The chemical reactants are combined to generate electricity to power all spaceship systems.

Nitrogen and helium gas lines also cross the service platform so fuel cell tanks can be pressurized. The platform is 22 feet long, 13 feet wide and 20 feet high. It extends from the Rotating Service Structure at levels ranging from 158 feet to 176 feet above the pad surface.

Aft engine compartment closeouts will pick up today, too.

Launch is set for 7:48 p.m. April 19. A three-day countdown is slated to begin around 6 p.m. April 16.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the NASA image of the shuttle Endeavour standing on launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, where it is being readied for an April 19 launch. You can also click the enlarged version to get an even bigger, more detailed view. Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller.

1 comment:

Deen said...

Must be nice to be an Astronaut. Sit around all year waiting for a chance to go up in space. Major coolness.