Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Shuttle Crew Equips Station With Critical Spares

Endeavour's astronauts got down to business quickly today, delivering a pallet of spare parts that will help extend the life of the International Space Station to 2020 or later.

The Express Logistics Carrier was hoisted out of Endeavour's cargo bay with the shuttle's robot arm, handed off to its sister space station arm and then attached to the port side of the outpost's 335-foot central truss. The metallic backbone of the station is about the length of an American football field and provides a stable mount for outpost solar arrays.

Latched onto the pallet: a spare radiator to dispel heat built up during routine station operations; two S-band radio communications antennas, an ammonia-filled coolant system tank, a high-pressure gas tank full of oxygen and extra parts for the two-armed Canadian robot Dextre.

The installation was one of the major objectives of Endeavour's 12th and final flight to the station, which is its 25th and final flight since it joined NASA's shuttle fleet as a replacement for Challenger.

Coming up on Thursday: the delivery of the shuttle's prime payload -- a $2 billion cosmic ray detector that could be as important to astrophysics as the Hubble Space Telescope.

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