NASA clears Endeavour for its final flight into space, bringing the shuttle one step closer to the end.
Officials at NASA announced
that the space shuttle Endeavour's final flight into space is scheduled to
launch the morning of Monday, May 16 on a 16-day mission to the International
Space Station. The STS-134 crew is preparing to return Thursday to NASA's Kennedy
Space Center in Florida. Endeavour's final launch will also mark the beginning of the end for an
era of NASA; it will be the space agency's penultimate shuttle flight.
Space shuttle program launch
integration manager Mike Moses and shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach
announced the date at a news briefing Monday from Kennedy Space Center. They
also discussed the progress of repairs since Endeavour's launch postponement on
A short in the heater
circuit associated with Endeavour's hydraulic system resulted in the launch
postponement. NASA technicians determined the most likely failure was inside a
switchbox in the shuttle's aft compartment and associated electrical wiring
connecting the switchbox to the heaters. The heater circuits prevent freezing
of the fuel lines providing hydraulic power to steer the vehicle during ascent
and entry, the space agency explained in a pre-launch release document.
The faulty box was replaced
May 4. Since Friday, Kennedy technicians installed and tested new wiring that
bypasses the suspect electrical wiring and confirmed the heater system is
working properly. They also are completing retests of other systems powered by
the switchbox and are closing out Endeavour's aft compartment.
In the meantime, technicians
at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A will continue closing out Endeavour's
aft compartment and will retract the access arm to the external fuel tank
today. Workers will complete installing and reconnecting the spacecraft's ordnance,
and the team will continue preparing for the start of the countdown on Friday.
The crew members for space
shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission are Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H.
Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel
and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori. Kelly's wife, U.S.
Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), is expected to attend the launch
of her husband's final mission to space, another milestone in the
congresswoman's remarkable recovery after she was shot in the head during an
assassination attempt this January.
During the 16-day mission,
Endeavour and its crew will deliver the AMS (Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer) and
spare parts including two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas
tank and additional spare parts for Dextre. The AMS is a particle physics
detector designed to search for various types of unusual matter. The crew also
will transfer Endeavour's orbiter boom sensor system to the ISS (International Space Station), where it could
assist spacewalkers as an extension for the station's robotic arm.
Among Endeavour's missions
was the first to include four spacewalks, and then the first to include five.
Its STS-67 mission set a length record of almost two full days longer than any
shuttle mission before it. Its airlock is the only one to have seen three
spacewalkers exit through it for a single spacewalk. And in its cargo bay, the
first two pieces of the ISS were joined together.
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.