Thursday, May 13, 2010

Final Planned Launch of Atlantis set for Friday

The final planned launch of the space shuttle Atlantis remains scheduled for tomorrow from America's Space Coast.

"From a Space Shuttle Program and ISS Program standpoint, we're ready to launch Atlantis and get this mission under way," the chairman of the prelaunch mission management team, Mike Moses, stated yesterday.

Lift-off remains set for Friday afternoon at 2:20:07 pm EDT, from launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center.

Once Atlantis arrives on orbit, the crew will focus on steering their ship toward their port of call -- the International Space Station.

"Twelve days, three EVA's (or spacewalk), tons of robotics... We're putting on spares that make us feel good about the long-term sustainability of the ISS, replacing batteries that have been up there for a while, and docking a Russian-built ISS module," Space Shuttle program manager John Shannon stated a few days ago. "This flight has a little bit of everything, and it's been a great preparation for the team."

The new module Shannon refers to is Russia's new key to adding an extra docking port to their side of the station. The mini-Reseach Module 1 is a while bullet-shaped section which will be added to allow for an extra cargo ship to dock and to create a large storage facility for needed supplies.

The 17, 147 pound MRM-1 will head into orbit in the aft section of the shuttle's payload bay filled to the roof with supplies for the current Expedition 23 crew aboard the space station. On Tuesday, it will be docked to the Russian Zarya module's earth-facing port with the use of the station's robotic arm.

On Wednesday, Mission commander Kenneth Ham and pilot Tony Antonelli performed several touch-and-go landings at Kennedy's shuttle landing facility's runway in a modified Gulfstream II jet which handles just like the orbiter.

With one day until launch, several key items will happen today at pad 39-A.

A series of communications checks between Atlantis and Kennedy's launch control center in Firing Room 4, and checks with the Johnson Space Center near Houston will occur this morning.

Final crew items and experiments destined for the station will be loaded into the middeck of Atlantis today.

At about 5:30 pm, the massive protective rotating service structure which surrounds the orbiter will be moved away exposing the entire space shuttle stack as she nears launch.

Ground crews spent yesterday afternoon filling the orbiter's fuel cells with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen for the twelve day flight. The fuel cells produce electricity for the space shuttle and in turn their byproduct is water use for the crew while on orbit.

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