Friday, April 01, 2011

Endeavour crew completes launch rehearsal

Endeavour astronauts are preparing to fly back to Houston after wrapping up a dress rehearsal at Kennedy Space Center for their planned April 19 launch to the International Space Station.

The six astronauts strapped into their seats aboard the shuttle early this afternoon at launch pad 39A, following all the same procedures they would on launch day, as launch teams manned consoles in the Launch Control Center.

Around 2 p.m., the simulated countdown halted four seconds before liftoff.

Endeavour commander Mark Kelly, pilot Greg Johnson and mission specialists Greg Chamitoff, Drew Feustel, Mike Fincke and Robterto Vittori then climbed out of the orbiter for a review of emergency escape procedures.

The practice countdown was delayed a few hours because preparations were delayed by the powerful storms that swept through the space center Wednesday and Thursday.

But it appears Endeavour sustained only some minor damage to insulating foam covering the external tank, which is not expected to impact the launch. Inspections, however, were to continue into this afternoon and Saturday.

Top NASA managers are scheduled to meet next Friday at KSC for a Launch Readiness Review that will set an official launch date. Liftoff is now planned for 7:48 p.m. April 19.

Endeavour and its crew plan to fly a 14-day mission to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and spare parts to the station. It is Endeavour's 25th and final flight, and the second-t0-last shuttle mission.

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