Rescue shuttle prepped for trip to launch pad

Space shuttle Endeavour, the emergency rescue ship for the shuttle Atlantis' crew in case of trouble during next month's Hubble Space Telescope repair mission, is being prepped for rollout to the launch pad.

The space shuttle Endeavour, the designated rescue ship for next month's Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission in case something goes awry, was hauled from its processing hangar to the vehicle assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando, Fla., early Friday.

Inside the vehicle assembly building, the shuttle will be attached to an external tank and solid-fuel boosters. Rollout to pad 39B is planned for April 17.

The shuttle Atlantis already is mounted atop pad 39A for work to ready the ship for blastoff on May 12, at 10:31 a.m. PDT, on a fifth and final mission to service and upgrade the space telescope. It is the only flight left on NASA's shuttle manifest that is not bound for the International Space Station.

Because the Hubble Space Telescope and the space station are in different orbits, the Atlantis crew cannot seek safe haven aboard the lab complex if the shuttle experiences any sort of problem that might prevent a safe re-entry. As a result, NASA is processing Endeavour in parallel for a quick-response launch from pad 39B if a rescue mission is required.

Space shuttle Endeavour is hauled out of its processing hangar early Friday for a short trip to the vehicle assembly building. Justin Ray/

Endeavour sits atop its multi-wheel transporter. Justin Ray/

Endeavour moves into the vehicle assembly building for attachment to an external fuel tank and two solid-fuel boosters. Rollout to pad 39B is scheduled for April 17. Justin Ray/

About the author

    Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He has covered more than 125 shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune, and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia." You can follow his frequent status updates at the CBS News Space page.


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