Saturday, May 14, 2011

NASA Loads Up Endeavour's Three Fuel Cells

NASA engineers are loading up Endeavour's power-producing fuel cells today as managers keep a wary eye on stormy weather that could sweep into the central Florida area Sunday and interrupt countdown operations.

But the weather is expected to clear in time for six astronauts to strap into the shuttle early Monday and then blast off on the orbiter's 25th and final flight.

Liftoff remains scheduled for 8:56 a.m. Monday.

Supercold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen are being pumped into the shuttle's three fuel cells, which combine the chemical reactants to generate electricity to operate all spaceship systems. Drinking water is a byproduct.

The hazardous operation got under way earlier today and launch pad 39A will be reopened around mid-afternoon. Loading up the system is important to NASA's plan to fly Endeavour for 16 days rather than an original 14-day mission.

Air Force meteorologists expect a chance of isolated afternoon thunderstorms in the Kennedy Space Center area today. On Sunday, there is a chance rain showers and thunderstorms might hamper plans to roll back the Rotation Service Structure at the launch pad. But any storms are expected to move to the southeast by the time engineers begin loading the shuttle's external tank at 11:36 p.m. Sunday.

ABOUT THE IMAGES: The image on the left is the latest still image from the Air Force Weather Channel at the 45th Space Wing; on the right is the latest still from a live video feed in the Launch Complex 39 area.

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