Endeavour Poised for Final Takeoff on Sept. 19

by Ken Kremer on September 19, 2012

Image caption: Endeavour atop the 747 SCA exits the Mate-Demate Device at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

Everyone is hoping that the third time will be the charm to get the final flight of NASA’s three decade long shuttle program underway. See my gallery of shuttle Endeavour photos departing the gantry like Mate-Demate Device at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF).

Hordes of tourists from across the globe have descended on the Florida Space Coast to catch a glimpse of space history as Endeavour takes flight for the final time.

Space Shuttle Endeavour is poised for an early morning takeoff from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at first light on Wednesday, Sept. 19 following a two day delay due to poor weather conditions en route for the first leg of her cross country journey to California.

Image caption: Endeavour mated to NASA Boeing 747 at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

In the meantime, local crowds of KSC workers and enthusiastic tourists are unexpectedly enjoying a few last bonus days of up close looks at NASA’s youngest shuttle orbiter atop a 747 Jumbo Jet known as the SCA or Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

Endeavour awaits her departure orders firmly bolted on top of a specially modified 747 after being towed on Friday from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the shuttle landing strip. The orbiter weighs nearly 200,000 pounds or 100 tons.

Liftoff of Endeavour from the SLF at KSC was originally planned for Monday, Sep 17 with a stop along the way at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. But those carefully laid plans were derailed when a low pressure front materialized in the northern Gulf of Mexico generating a swatch of thunderstorms.

Image caption: Endeavour atop the SCA at Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC on Sept. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

Managers could not find a safe path to Houston and twice scrubbed Endeavour’s takeoff.

With the weather delays, the cross country ferry flight has the feel of a space shuttle launch.

NASA plans to take the final takeoff decision down to the wire, following the last weather briefing at 5 a.m. on Wednesday.

Along the way from Kennedy to Johnson, the pair will conduct several low-level flyovers of NASA centers along the flight path at about 1500 feet at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans before landing at Ellington Field near JSC.

Image caption: Endeavour atop the 747 SCA exits the Mate-Demate Device at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sept. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

At roughly 7:15 a.m. on Sept. 19, the SCA and Endeavour will depart Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility and perform a flyover of various areas and beaches of the Space Coast, including Kennedy, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base for 20 minutes for more.

Endeavour and the SCA will take a lengthy fly around victory lap around the Los Angeles area before landing at LAX at about 11.a.m PDT on Sept 21.

The orbiter will be towed along a 12 mile path through the streets of Inglewood and LA to the California Science Center. Eventually she will be displayed vertically, in launch configuration.

Endeavour flew 25 missions and traveled 122,883,151 miles during 299 days in space.

Ken Kremer

Image caption: Endeavour atop the SCA at Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC on Sept. 17. Credit: Ken Kremer

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

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