Monday, May 09, 2011

Repairs keep Endeavour on track for May 16 launch

NASA today is expected to confirm a date for Endeavour's second launch attempt, and it looks like next Monday is a viable option after a productive weekend of repairs at Kennedy Space Center.

"Over the weekend, the KSC team accomplished amazing progress on repair schedule. Working around the clock, the team actually made up time," Endeavour pilot Greg "Box" Johnson said this morning via Twitter. "A May 16th morning launch is on track!"

NASA on Friday set 8:56 a.m. May 16 as the "no earlier than" launch date, and said a press conference at 3 p.m. today would update the status of Endeavour's planned 16-day mission to deliver spare parts and a science instrument to the International Space Station.

Johnson said repairs were complete to systems that failed during a countdown to an April 29 launch. Heaters on a fuel line linked to an Auxiliary Power Unit, part of the ship's hydraulic system, didn't turn on. NASA traced the problem to a shorted out electrical circuit.

Repair teams this weekend planned to hook up new wires between the heaters and a newly installed power switching box installed in Endeavour's aft compartment, and to test nine systems controlled by that box.

"APU hardware repairs are complete & testing is underway," Johnson tweeted, attributing the update to Dana Hutcherson, the NASA manager responsible for preparing Endeavour for launch.

Endeavour mission specialist Mike Fincke also sounded optimistic that a launch was imminent after seeing the space station fly over Houston last night. "Wow!" he tweeted. "Can't believe I will go back there in just over a week."

NASA says closeouts of the aft compartment and countdown preparations will begin today. The countdown to a May 16 launch would begin Friday.
IMAGE: At Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A on Friday, May 6, technicians used a borescope to inspect wiring after installing a new aft load control assembly (ALCA-2) in the aft compartment of space shuttle Endeavour. Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

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