Company’s Coming! And They’re Bringing the Front Porch

Article written: 12 Jun , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

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UPDATE: 6/13
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.

Original article:
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.

How the Kibo will look after the space shuttle mission STS-127, scheduled for 2009. At centre is the Japanese Pressurized Module, which will be installed to the station's Harmony node during Discovery's 14-day mission. On top of it is the Logistics module, which was delivered in March. At left is the external module, a platform for space experiments to be installed during STS-127. (NASA)

How the Kibo will look after the space shuttle mission STS-127, scheduled for 2009. At centre is the Japanese Pressurized Module, which will be installed to the station's Harmony node during Discovery's 14-day mission. On top of it is the Logistics module, which was delivered in March. At left is the external module, a platform for space experiments to be installed during STS-127. (NASA)


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.


10 Responses

  1. Jon Hanford says

    I am looking forward to the MAXI experiment (Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image, the first astrophysical payload to be deployed on the ‘porch’ of Kibo module and designed with a host of experiments designed to peer at the entire soft x-r, and, like Suzaku, will benefit from shielding of energetic solar particles due to its’ relatively low-Earth-orbit (LEO). Details of the MAXI instrument can be found here: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0906/0906.0631v1.pdf .

  2. Jon Hanford says

    JAXA’s page on the MAXI experiment (with many illustrations) can be found here: http://kibo.jaxa.jp/en/experiment/ef/maxi/ . This instrument should neatly complement SWIFT, XMM-Newton, INTEGRAL, Fermi, Beppo-Sax, Chanda with its’ nearly full-sky FOV and rapid time resolution.

  3. DrFlimmer says

    Due to a broken PC that wishes to be repaired I will not be able to watch the launch, because exactly at launch time I will be far away from an internet connection in a PC store far away from home. Dammit!
    Certainly I will see some videos on youtube or at least the flight day highlights on NASA TV that should start quite early (although launch time is after midday local time (MEST)). But live is still cooler.
    (Btw: The video in the above about the launch abort is really terrifying – good luck for tomorrow!)

  4. Jon Hanford says

    I’m hoping for good weather too, as the last Shuttle-Hubble repair mission looked awesome from my hometown of Tampa, FL. Ought to be an awesome morning launch with the low sun angle highlighting the exhaust plume. NASA TV coverage begins at 2 AM EDT, so time to get some shuteye.

  5. Dark Gnat says

    I’m planning to see the launch in person at the Kenedy Space Center.

    I just arrived in Orlando today, and about to hit the sack for a few hours of snooze time before we get up at 2:00am. My wife and I will need to get to the KSC by 4:30am!

    As worn out as I am from mowing the lawn, packing, driving to the airport, going through security, geting the rental car, finding the hotel, grabbing dinner, (and having only a few hours of sleep last night), I’m so excited that it’s going to be hard for me to sleep!

    Obviously, I’m hoping and praying that everything is a go, and that the Shuttle is launched safely.

    This will be my first (and possibly only) viewing, so I’m very pumped!

  6. Jon Hanford says

    @Dark Gnat, that’s so great that you and your wife made the pilgrimage to KSC, but I hope you can stay there long enough to actually see the launch! It looks like Saturday may be their next best shot. I hope that you are able to witness the launch, as not many more Shuttle missions are left. Best of luck 🙂

  7. DrFlimmer says

    I’m sorry, it’s all my fault! I wished so hard to see the launch that NASA really SCRUBbed it. I wonder why this hydrogen line has cracked again. It has been replaced recently (March, due to the same problem). Well… I have a chance to see the launch, wednesday as the earlest, but probably next Saturday….

  8. Jon Hanford says

    DR Flimmer, maybe NASA heard about your situation and decided to give you another chance to watch the launch :). Like you have said, ” live is still cooler “. Yes, much cooler! I hope things work out with Dark Gnat, too. I’d trade my home base view here in Tampa, Florida with anyone’s view near Cape Canaveral in a heartbeat.

  9. DrFlimmer says

    Thanks, Jon Hanford.
    But since I’m only able to watch a launch on NASA TV (it’s quite a trip from Germany to Florida 😉 ), I would have liked to give “my luck” to Dark Gnat, who has just travelled the way to actually see the launch. Hopefully, as you have said, Jon, he is still able to stay as long as necessary to view it next week.

  10. Jon Hanford says

    I echo your sentiments, DrFilmmer, and good luck and best of wishes to all involved in the LRO/LCROSS mission. I’m certainly looking forward to the success of this mission as well 🙂

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