On the Cusp of Endeavour’s Final Flight


KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, April 28 – All systems are GO here at the Kennedy Space Center as the countdown clocks tick down to the final launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour. Supercool cryogenic fuels are now being loaded into the External Tank as of Friday morning. The STS-134 launch is slated for Friday, April 29 at 3:47 p.m. EDT.

Stormy weather, heavy rain and hours of crackling thunder passed over the launch pad Thursday evening and it was very uncertain if the launch could take place as scheduled on Friday. NASA technicians were pulled back from checking the shuttle stack for any signs of damage during the thunder strikes. Luckily there were no thunder strikes with ½ mile of the pad and no damage to the shuttle or the pad launch systems.

Update Note: Progress 42 P just docked at the ISS friday morning:

Universe Today photographer Alan Walters told me that hail fell late Thursday in nearby Titusville, just 12 miles from Shuttle Launch Pad 39 A while I was at the KSC Press Site some three miles away from the pad.

Shuttle launch officials delayed the retraction of the massive Rotating Service Structure (RSS) which protects the orbiter from bad weather and flying debris. RSS retraction had been planned for 7:00 p.m. and finally started just before midnight. The RSS must be pulled away from the orbiter soon in order to commence loading of the cryogenic liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel into the External Tank.

At Thursdays news briefing, NASA Test Director Jeff Spaulding said that the countdown was proceeding well with no technical problems of any significance. The weather was the only concern with a forecast of 70% favorable conditions due to the potential for exceeding the launch criteria for cross winds.

“Everything’s going well out at pad A,” he said. “We don’t have any issues right now that we’re tracking.”
Local official expect massive crowds of tourists and onlookers numbering 700,000 or more and massive post launch traffic jams.

If you come to the launch bring lots of food and water and expect a LONGGG wait going home or to your hotels. So bring some entertainment and enjoy the shuttle show. The Shuttle launch team is ecstatic and proud that the public is responding with overwhelming interest in this uniquely American enterprise.

The primary task of the STS-134 mission is to deliver the $2 Billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station which. AMS is a particle detector searching for dark energy, dark matter and anti matter to elucidate the birth of the Universe.

Watch for continuing Shuttle Launch Updates here at Universe Today

Lightning Strikes near Endeavour on April 28 at the Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Ken Kremer
Endeavour unveiled for flight after thunderstorm pass over Kennedy Space Center on April 28. Credit: Ken Kremer

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