Friday, April 22, 2011

Endeavour one week from last launch

Endeavour is a week from launching on its 25th and final flight, while work at Kennedy Space Center continues to ready Atlantis for the last shuttle flight this summer and to decommission Discovery after its last flight.

At launch pad 39A, technicians are completing tests and closeouts on Endeavour's two solid rocket boosters and the orbiter's aft section, after pressurizing its propulsion systems earlier this week.

Techs are scheduled to take the weekend off, then get ready to start the official launch countdown at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Endeavour is scheduled to blast off at 3:47 p.m.  next Friday to the International Space Station for a mission of at least 14 days.

Meanwhile, in a shuttle hangar, workers are removing an orbital maneuvering system pod from the right side of Discovery's tail fin.

Along with the already removed left pod and nose thrusters, the systems will be serviced at KSC and then shipped to NASA's White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico to clean them of plumbing contaminated with toxic hypergolic propellants. That's one of the major processes that must be completed before Discovery can be moved to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., perhaps early next year.

On Monday in the Vehicle Assembly Building, crews will begin connecting an external tank to the boosters that will help Atlantis launch the final shuttle mission.

Atlantis is expected to roll from its hangar into the assembly building May 12, and the final shuttle stack begin rolling out to the launch pad May 20. The last shuttle crew of four astronauts will visit KSC for a countdown dress rehearsal in early June, and a tanking test is planned June 7.

"Right now, all looks good for the end of June -- June 28 -- for the final flight," shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach said earlier this week.

IMAGE: In Orbiter Processing Facility-3 at Kennedy Space Center on July 14, 2010, a technician monitored the placement of the right-hand orbital maneuvering system pod being installed on space shuttle Discovery. Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky.

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