NASA managers announced that space shuttle Endeavour is ready to launch next week on its final flight to the International Space Station following a daylong Flight Readiness Review. The space agency reported technicians at the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A will continue preparations for space shuttle Endeavour's launch countdown, which will begin Tuesday at 2 p.m. This week, pad crews will perform preparations to pressurize space shuttle Endeavour's main propulsion system.
At NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, the STS-134 astronauts will perform ascent integration simulations today. Endeavour's six crew members are scheduled to arrive at Kennedy on Tuesday, April 26, for final launch preparations. 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.
During the 14-day mission, Endeavour will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and spare parts including two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank, additional spare parts for Dextre, a two armed robot, or telemanipulator, which is part of the Mobile Servicing System on the ISS, and extends the function of the system to replace some activities otherwise requiring spacewalks.
AMS, a particle physics detector, is designed to search for various types of unusual matter by measuring cosmic rays. Its experiments are designed to help researchers study the formation of the universe and search for evidence of dark matter, strange matter and antimatter. Endeavour also will fly the Expedite the Processing of Experiment to Space Station (Express) Logistics Carrier 3 (ELC-3), a platform that carries spare parts that will sustain space station operations once the shuttles are retired from service.
The mission will feature four spacewalks to do maintenance work and install new components. These are the last scheduled spacewalks by shuttle crew members. Shuttle mission STS-134 is the final flight for Endeavour and the second-to-last flight for the space shuttle program. After its final mission, the shuttle will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles for public display.
Earlier in April, the space agency's administrator, Charles Bolden, announced the facilities where four shuttle orbiters would be displayed permanently at the conclusion of the space shuttle program. Shuttle Enterprise, the first orbiter built, will move from the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia to its new location in New York, while the Udvar-Hazy Center will become the new home for shuttle Discovery, which retired after completing its 39th mission in March. Shuttle Atlantis, which will fly the last planned shuttle mission in June, will be displayed at the Kennedy visitors center.
NASA's space shuttle fleet began setting records with its first launch on April 12, 1981. Starting with Columbia and continuing with Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, the spacecraft has carried people into orbit repeatedly, launched, recovered and repaired satellites, conducted cutting-edge research and built the largest structure in space, the International Space Station. April 12 marked the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle launch.