A flawless countdown and beautiful weather was all the Kennedy Space Center needed today to get the space shuttle Atlantis on her way to orbit with a crew of seven on a high profile but delayed mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.
"At last our launch has come along," said commander Scott Altman minutes before launch. "Getting to this point has been challenging, but the whole team, everyone, has pulled together to take us into space."
Liftoff occurred on time this afternoon at 2:01:56 pm EDT, from launch complex 39-A to begin an 11 day mission. Seconds into the ascent phase, a warning alarm sounded related to the orbiter's main propulsion system engine 1 in the cockpit and mission control told Altman and Johnson to ignore it.
Another issue which space shuttle mission management team chairman Mike Mosses stated, "Right away off the pad, ASA-1 [AeroSurface Actuator] which is a flight control feedback system that controls the aerosurfaces, all the TVC [Thrust Vector Controllers]... it's one of four systems and it failed. It looks like the power failed to that unit and took it down. Again, it was one of four, it was no issue, it bypassed itself. The crew's going to leave it alone for now while the teams look at it."
Two minutes into the ascent, the space shuttle's twin rocket boosters separated after providing much of the powered thrust to get the heavy orbiter closer to space.
Led by Altman, the STS-125 Atlantis crew includes pilot Gregory C. Johnson and Mission Specialists Megan McArthur, John Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino, Andrew Feustel and Michael Good.
This will be the final servicing visit to Hubble, and the last American space flight to fly above 300 statue miles. Hubble is orbiting earth at about 350 miles, inclined to earth's equator 28.45 degrees. Atlantis is scheduled to grappled the 19 year-old space telescope on Wednesday at 12:54 pm EDT.
Once Atlantis has Hubble docked in its payload bay, crew members will perform five planned spacewalks to install new equipment and update existing parts to keep the telescope operation through 2014.
The first spacewalk will start on Thursday morning and see astronauts Grunsfeld and Feustel remove the wide-field planetary camera and install the wide field camera III beginning at about 9:26 am.