Friday, April 15, 2011

Last shuttle boosters completed at KSC

Another shuttle program "last" enters the record books today at Kennedy Space Center as technicians stack the last solid rocket booster segment for the last shuttle flight.

The pointy piece of the right booster, called the right forward assembly (shown at left in this picture), will be lifted into place inside the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Two 140-foot-tall boosters, each weighing 1.3 million pounds, will help Atlantis blast off on the final shuttle mission, which is tentatively targeted for launch June 28.

An external tank is scheduled to be connected to the boosters April 25, and Atlantis will follow after a planned May 12 move from its hangar to the assembly building.

The fully assembled shuttle is expected to roll out to launch pad 39A on the evening of May 20.

While the last shuttle boosters are being completed, even bigger boosters could one day be stacked at the space center. Manufacturer ATK is proposing to use a five-segment booster -- developed for the canceled Ares I rocket -- as a first stage for a commercial crew launcher, and NASA might also use them for a heavy-lift rocket.

Florida Today's Todd Halvorson wrote about the stacking of the last boosters last year after their delivery to KSC.

IMAGE: At Kennedy Space Center on Jan. 18, the space shuttle program's final solid rocket booster assembly was stationed in the transfer aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building. The right and left forward assemblies, which were refurbished and processed at Kennedy, are comprised of three components -- nose cap, frustum and forward skirt. Credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

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