Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Final Shuttle Flight Set For July 8 Launch

NASA officials today set July 8 as the firm launch date for the nation's 135th and final shuttle flight, and the four astronauts destined to fly the grand finale will arrive at Kennedy Space Center on Independence Day.

Liftoff from launch pad 39A is slated for 11:26 a.m. July 8, the middle of a 10-minute opportunity to put Atlantis and its astronauts on course for a rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station. The astronauts aim to make one final shuttle supply run to the complex prior to shuttle fleet retirement.

Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and two mission specialists -- Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim -- will depart Ellington Field near Johnson Space Center at noon Monday and arrive at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility at 2:45 p.m.

The final countdown for NASA's 30-year-old space shuttle program will begin at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

If all goes well, engineers will begin loading a half-million gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen into the shuttle's external tank at 2:01 a.m. Friday, and the astronauts will depart crew quarters and head for the launch pad at 7:36 a.m.

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