Monday, June 20, 2011

Last shuttle crew coming to KSC today

The final four shuttle astronauts are scheduled to jet into Kennedy Space Center this afternoon for three days of training for the last shuttle mission.

Mission commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim are expected to arrive in a pair of T-38 jets around 5:45 p.m.

The crew will perform a full launch dress rehearsal, strapping into Atlantis on launch pad 39A Thursday morning for a simulation.

During their stay at Kennedy, they'll also review procedures for evacuating the launch pad in an emergency, get familiar with the configuration of the mission's payload in Atlantis' cargo bay and check the fit of their orange launch-and-entry suits.

The crew is targeting an 11:26 a.m. July 8 launch to resupply the International Space Station on a 12-day mission.

The mission's primary payload, a 25,500-pound cargo container, is expected to be installed in the orbiter today at the pad.

Also today, technicians will begin repair work important to keeping the launch on schedule. They'll begin replacing a 90-pound main fuel valve on one of the three shuttle main engines, believed to have leaked during last week's tanking test.

And X-ray-like inspections will continue on support braces lining the mid-section of Atlantis' external tank, to make sure there are no cracks.

Shuttle program managers will meet Tuesday for a first flight readiness review to assess the progress toward the 135th and final launch.

IMAGE: On launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on June 17, the access arm supporting the pad's White Room is in place against space shuttle Atlantis. The room provides workers and astronauts an entry point to the shuttle's crew compartment. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett.

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