Endeavour’s launch has been postponed because of a leak associated with the gaseous hydrogen venting system outside the shuttle’s external fuel tank. The system is used to carry excess hydrogen safely away from the launch pad. Managers scrubbed the launch for at least 96 hours. The earliest the shuttle could be ready to launch is June 17. However, there is a conflict on the Eastern Range that date with the scheduled
launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter/Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite. We’ll keep you posted on when a launch date is set.
Space shuttle Endeavour is all set to blast off
Saturday morning, June 13 at 7:17 am EDT, heading to the International Space Station. The mission will be jam-packed with five spacewalks for station construction, and Endeavour is bringing up a “front porch” for the ISS. Is adding a porch an attempt to make our orbiting home in space just a little more “homey?” Actually, the porch is a key piece of the Japanese laboratory, Kibo. And the ISS itself will be jam-packed, too as the newly expanded six-member ISS crew will welcome the seven-member shuttle crew – a record number of astronauts to be on board the station at one time.
On Friday morning the Rotating Service Structure was removed from around Endeavour, and all indications are good for an on-time liftoff Saturday. The weather looks to be about 90% “go,” and the shuttle processing has been smooth in preparations for launch.
“We’re in really good shape to fly,” said Mike Moses, director of shuttle integration at the Kennedy Space Center. “The team carefully reviewed the spacecraft to make sure nothing was overlooked since the launch comes only a few weeks after the end of the STS-125 Hubble repair mission.
Moses said having the big crew on the station could be an interesting time. “It’s like having your family descend on you for the holidays, right? And they’re going to stay for a very long time. And they come, and they’re bringing all their stuff.”
But he said the combined crews are more than ready for the challenge. “I think what we’re going to see is probably some unprecedented efficiencies because they all know where to go, they know what the procedures are, they know how to get things done,” he said.
Endeavour’s crew will install the porch, which is actually a platform for one end of the Kibo laboratory on the station. The platform will hold experiments designed to work outside the protective confines of the station, exposing them to the space environment.
Mark Polansky (follow him on Twitter at Astro_127) will command the shuttle for STS-127. Douglas Hurley will serve as the pilot. Mission specialists are Christopher Cassidy, Thomas Marshburn, David Wolf and Julie Payette, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut.
Also flying along is Timothy Kopra, who will stay on at the ISS as a flight engineer and science officer, while current ISS resident and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata will return to Earth.
This will be a banner flight for all the international partners, as all five space agencies – the United States, the Russian, the Canadian, the Japanese and the European – will have representatives at the space station when the shuttle arrives, in addition to the six extra Americans and one extra Canadian Endeavour will carry. Polansky said just having all those nations represented and working together toward common goals is a huge accomplishment.
“I don’t think that, as a global community, we get the credit we should for doing something like that and what it means to set that kind of example,” he said. “Countries that have, historically, had a lot of differences and even today have some tensions, politically – when it comes to the arena of space, we’re somehow insulated from all that. On our level, it’s simply figuring out how to get the job done. And it’s not just a job like you’re constructing some building here on Earth. You’re doing something in an extremely hostile environment.”
The two crews will be extremely busy during the 16 day mission, so don’t expect to see them sitting back and relax on the front porch.
If you want to watch the launch preparations on NASA TV, the crew will strap into Endeavour about 4:00 am EDT on Saturday.