Sunday, May 15, 2011

Endeavour unveiled for final launch Monday

Endeavor stands poised for its final launch after being unveiled this afternoon at Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A.

Crews began swinging open the pad's rotating service gantry a bit early and finished within 45 minutes.

That paves the way for preparations to load the shuttle's 15-story external tank with more than 530,000 gallons of propellant.

The three-hour fueling operation is scheduled to start at 11:36 p.m. today.

We'll have live coverage of Endeavour's final countdown starting then.

The latest weather forecast shows only a 10 percent chance weather might interfere with fueling.

Managers will meet at 11 p.m. to give a "go" or "no go" call to proceed with the loading of supercold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

There's a 70 percent chance conditions will be favorable for an 8:56 a.m. Monday launch.

Sign up for text message alerts on the countdown's progress here. WARNING: Texts will be sent throughout the night.

Other launch preps today include configuring cockpit switches inside the orbiter and activating its fuel cell system, which will produce power during flight; clearing the pad of nonessential personnel; and final walkdowns to inspect the vehicle and pad for any potential problems or debris.

Endeavour's crew of six astronauts awoke at midnight and this morning visited Endeavour on the pad, received a weather briefing and reviewed flight procedures.

They'll go to sleep at 4 p.m. and awake again at midnight to get ready for launch. If all goes well, they'll be strapping into their seats aboard Endeavour before dawn Monday, at 5:41 a.m. 

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