Almost the end of an era: the last external tank scheduled to fly on a shuttle mission was rolled out of the Michoud Assembly Facility on Thursday. The tank, ET-138, traveled on a wheeled transporter one mile to the Michoud barge dock, accompanied by a brass band and hundreds of the workers who built tanks over the past 37 years. One additional tank will come from Michoud; ET-122, which was at damaged Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, and is being restored to flight configuration and is scheduled for delivery to Kennedy in late September to serve as the “Launch on Need” tank, for the STS-335 rescue ship, if needed. Or, it might get to fly in space – no decision yet if NASA will get one additional mission.
You can see a gallery of images from Thursday’s New Orleans’ style celebration at this NASA Flickr page.
The tank will make a 900-mile sea journey to Kennedy Space Center, (around the oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico) and then processing will begin to mate it with shuttle Endeavour and solid rocket boosters for the STS-134 mission, scheduled to launch no earlier than
mid-November February 2011. The mission will deliver the Express Logistics Carrier 3 and the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station. It will be the 36th shuttle mission to the space station and the 134th and final scheduled shuttle flight.