Note: Nancy Atkinson is at Kennedy Space Center covering the launch of STS-130
The official countdown clock is ticking for the STS-130 mission of space shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station. This is the last planned night launch for the shuttle program, with a scheduled liftoff time of 9:39:47 GMT (4:39:47 a.m. EST) on Sunday, February 7. “Everything thus far is going exceeding well… we’re right on schedule where we’re supposed to be and we’ll continue to work through the day on our preparations,” said NASA Test Director Jeff Spaulding during this morning’s L-3 Countdown Status Briefing at KSC. The weather forecast might be the only issue, as forecasters are predicting a 70% chance of favorable weather, with high winds being the only concern for Sunday morning.
The seven-member crew will bring the Tranquility Node and a “cupola,” an observation deck for a full 360 degree view of Earth and the station. It will also serve as a robotic work station. With these new additions, the ISS will be 98% complete.
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Tranquility, also known as Node 3 was built in Italy under direction of ESA, in coordination with NASA. “It is one of the most complex modules we’ve brought to the station,” said NASA Payload Manager Joe Delai. “Node 3 is over 3,600 kg (8,000 lbs) heavier than any other module,(with a total weight of 15,115 kg (33,325 lbs.)
Delai said adding the modules will make the ISS larger than a five bedroom house. With all the storage space in Tranquility, the ISS will in total be able to house 100 telephone booth-sized racks and store the supportive equip to allow for a 6-person crew on the ISS.
Delai said they are taking advantage of the 7 X 4 meter (24 X 14 ft) volume of the Node and bringing 33 bags of stowage containing 485 kg (1,068 lbs) of provisions for the crew.
Preparations and tests at Launch Pad 39A will continue with final flight crew stowage occurring after communications checks Saturday. The rotating service structure that protects the shuttle from weather prior to launch will be moved away from the vehicle at about 8 a.m. EST Saturday, and we hope to bring you pictures and an update at that time.
For more pictures and an inside look at what it is like to cover a space shuttle launch, I’m writing about my adventures on my personal blog.