The launch date for the long-awaited Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 (AMS) to the International Space Station has been set for Friday, April 29, at 3:47 p.m. EDT on from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The 14-day STS-134 mission is shuttle Endeavour’s final scheduled flight. After a flight readiness review today, NASA and contractor managers determined the shuttle and station’s equipment, support systems and personnel are ready to go.
The other notable aspect of the mission is that Mark Kelly is commanding, and his wife, Representative Gabrielle Giffords is tentatively expected to attend the launch, just months after she was shot in the head. This certainly will bring a unique aspect to the launch, at least for the media coverage, drawing attention to the mission to those who might not normally take notice.
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For those who always pay attention to shuttle missions, however, two aspects make this mission noteworthy: the AMS and Endeavour’s final mission. The mission will also feature the last four spacewalks by a shuttle crew.
The AMS is designed to measure cosmic rays to search for various types of unusual matter, such as dark matter and antimatter. The instrument’s experiments will help researchers study the formation of the universe.
Also during the flight, Endeavour also will deliver the Express Logistics Carrier 3, a platform that carries spare parts to sustain station operations after the shuttles are retired from service. During the scheduled spacewalks, astronauts will do maintenance work, install new components, and perform a complex series of tasks to top off the ammonia in one of the station’s photovoltaic thermal control system cooling loops.
The crew consists of Kelly, Pilot Greg H. Johnson, NASA Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Andrew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff and European Space Agency Mission Specialist Roberto Vittori. They are scheduled to arrive at Kennedy on Tuesday, April 26, for final launch preparations.
STS-134 is the 134th shuttle mission, Endeavour’s 25th flight and the 36th shuttle mission to the station.
Universe Today will be on hand live to cover the launch from Kennedy Space Center, and provide updates as the mission progresses.