Saturday, July 09, 2011

Atlantis boosters return to port Sunday

The last two solid rocket boosters to launch with a shuttle are expected to return to the Space Coast Sunday, according to United Space Alliance, whose crews recover the boosters at sea.

The recovery ship Liberty Star will be first back with one booster. It's expected to arrive at the Port Canaveral jetty around noon and continue through the locks a few hours later on its way to Hangar AF at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Freedom Star will follow in the evening with the second booster, with a jetty arrival very tentatively planned around 8 p.m. It will dock overnight and pass through the locks early Monday.

Difficult weather conditions slowed recovery of the boosters from the Atlantic about 140 miles down range, off the coast of Jacksonville.

The two boosters provide more than 80 percent of the shuttle's thrust at liftoff and during the first stage of ascent. 

The separate two minutes into flight and splash down after seven minutes.

It's not yet known if the largest solids boosters ever flown have done so for the last time, or if they might be reused on a heavy-lift rocket NASA plans to build.

Click here for more background on the two recovery ships.

IMAGE: On Feb. 28, 2011, the Solid Rocket Booster Retrieval Ship Liberty Star towed a booster to the dock at Hangar AF on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The booster was used during space shuttle Discovery's STS-133 launch from Kennedy Space Center. Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

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