NASA Set to Launch Final Year of Shuttle

By Roy Mark  |  Posted 2010-02-06

NASA officials gave a thumbs up Feb. 5 for the Feb. 7 launch of the space shuttle Endeavour, which is currently set for a 4:39 a.m. liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. As things currently stand at NASA, the mission to the International Space Station is the first of five last missions for the shuttle mission.

Five shuttle missions are planned in 2010, with the last flight currently targeted for launch in September. After that, the fleet goes into mothballs as NASA determines in what direction the future of U.S. manned spaceflight is headed.

Kathy Winters, shuttle weather officer, said the forecast has improved and there's only a 20 percent chance weather would be an issue at launch time. Although it may be a little chilly and breezy, no constraints should be violated. The forecast at the transoceanic abort landing sites in Spain and France also looks favorable.

Mike Leinbach, shuttle launch director, said his team is not tracking any technical issues and everything is on track for the rotating service structure rollback at 8 a.m. Saturday and loading of the external fuel tank with propellants around 7:15 p.m.

"The team is energized and excited about the countdown ... looking forward to getting Endeavour off the ground Sunday morning," said Mike Leinbach, shuttle launch director.

The flight will be Endeavour's 24th mission and the 33rd shuttle flight dedicated to station assembly and maintenance. Liftoff is planned for 4:39 a.m. EST, making it the final scheduled space shuttle night launch.

Endeavour's primary mission will be the delivery of the Tranquility node, the final module of the U.S. portion of the space station. Tranquility will provide additional room for crew members and many of the space station's life support and environmental control systems. Attached to the node is a cupola, which houses a robotic control station and has seven windows to provide a panoramic view of Earth, celestial objects and visiting spacecraft.

Spanning about 22 feet in length and 14 feet in diameter, Tranquility's connection point on the station will be on the Earth-facing side of the Unity node. The new component will provide an additional docking point for space shuttles and other crew vehicles visiting the station.

According to NASA, the cupola's windows will be more than trim. As more cargo vehicles begin frequenting the space station, the station's robotic arm is going to be called into action to capture some of them as they approach and guide them into their docking port. Cupola will provide additional views for those operations. 

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