Monday, February 01, 2010

Endeavour poised for a Super Bowl Sunday Launch

NASA-KSC image

NASA's thirty-second space shuttle flight in support of construction of the International Space Station is set to lift-off this Sunday morning on a two week flight.

Endeavour's six-person crew will deliver and hook-up two major components to the station which will extend the amount of living quarters as the station begins its second and final decade on orbit. Two of Endeavour's crew members will perform three spacewalks beginning on the fifth day of the mission.

Launch of the 130th space shuttle flight is planned for Super Bowl Sunday - February 7 - at 4:39:44 am EST, from launch pad 39-A here at the Kennedy Space Center. The launch window is only five minutes.

Commanding Endeavour's crew will be George Zamka who will be making his second trip to the space station. Terry Virts, who will serve as pilot, is making his first space flight. Mission Specialists Nicholas Patrick, Robert Behnken, Stephen Robinson and Kathryn Hire are all space veterans and round out the crew.

Endeavour will carry up the 7 meter-long Tranquility module and the dome shaped Cupola module. Tranquility is a pressurized cylindrical node (15 feet in diameter) which will house living quarters and serve as an exercise section of the station.

Endeavour is set to dock to Earth's orbital outpost on Tuesday morning, Feb. 9 at 1:18 am EST.

Following an on time Sunday launch, astronauts Behnken and Patrick will begin the first of three spacewalks on Feb. 10 at 10:39 pm. The six and one-half hour planned orbital walk will focus on getting Tranquility ready to be installed on the space station's Unity node. They will be disconnecting the Tranquility cables which will be connected to Endeavour's payload bay; and remove eight flight covers from the docking port of Tranquility.

Two hours into the midnight spacewalk, robotic arm operator Hire will unberth Tranquility from the orbiter (~12:15 am Feb. 11) and slowly move it over for docking to Unity. Once docked to Unity, the spacewalkers will begin connecting several heating and avionics cables to the new module.

On Thursday night (Feb. 11), both the space station and Endeavour's commanders will open the hatch and enter the new Tranquility module for the first time.

Endeavour is expected to return home to the Space Coast on Feb. 19 at 11:13 pm, following 14 days in space. This flight will also mark the the first of the final five flights in the space shuttle program.

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