Shuttle Endeavour readying for February launch

Shuttle moved to launch pad 39A Wednesday for a planned February 7 liftoff on a space station assembly mission, the first of a final five flights planned for 2010.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--The shuttle Endeavour was hauled to a launch pad Wednesday for work to ready the ship for a planned February 7 launch on a space station assembly mission, the first of a final five flights planned for 2010.

Endeavour, mounted atop a mobile launch platform carried by an Apollo-era crawler-transporter, began the 3.4-mile trip from the Vehicle Assembly Building to launch complex 39A at 4:13 a.m. EST. The MLP was "hard down" at the pad at 10:37 a.m.

The shuttle Endeavour approaches pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now

A program-level flight readiness review is planned for January 19 and 20, followed by an executive-level review January 27 to assess launch processing and set an official launch date.

"February 7th is looking great," Dana Hutcherson, the Endeavour flow director, said Wednesday. "We got a little bit of contingency time (in the processing schedule), so everything is looking well. We're not tracking any major issues or concerns."

Endeavour's crew--commander George Zamka, pilot Terry Virts, Kathryn Hire, Stephen Robinson, Nicholas Patrick and Robert Behnken--plans to fly to the Kennedy Space Center January 19 to review emergency procedures and participate in a practice countdown Januar 21.

If all goes well, the real countdown will begin at 2 a.m. on February 4. Liftoff on the 130th shuttle mission currently is targeted for 4:39 a.m. on February 7.

The primary goal of the flight is to deliver and attach a final major U.S. pressurized module, a roomy addition known as node 3, or Tranquility, that will house life support equipment and exercise gear currently located elsewhere in the lab complex.

Sporting a multiwindow cupola that will permit spectacular panoramic views, Tranquility will be attached to the left-side port of the central Unity module, directly across from the station's Quest airlock.

Assuming an on-time launch, Endeavour will dock with the space station around 1:23 a.m. on February 9. Tranquility will be attached during a spacewalk by Behnken and Patrick on February 10. Two more spacewalks are scheduled for February 12 and 15 before undocking February 17 and landing back at the Kennedy Space Center two days later.

Endeavour's flight is the first of five station-bound missions planned for 2010, the final five shuttle flights before NASA's orbiters are retired. Here is the current schedule (times in EST/EDT and subject to change):

  • 02/07/10, 04:39 a.m.: STS-130/ISS-20A - Endeavour
  • 03/18/10, 01:34 p.m.: STS-131/ISS-19A - Discovery
  • 05/14/10, 02:28 p.m.: STS-132/ISS-ULF 4 - Atlantis (final flight)
  • 07/29/10, 07:51 a.m.: STS-134/ISS-ULF 6 - Endeavour (final flight)
  • 09/16/10, 11:57 a.m.: STS-133/ISS-ULF 5 - Discovery (final flight)
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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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