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11 June 2009

Astronomy: Countdown to Space Shuttle Launch

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. - All is quiet on L...Launch Pad 39a Image via Wikipedia

Space Shuttle STS-127 Endeavour's crew in June 2009

From Denny:

How favorable is the launch?

Two days and counting! Good weather by 90% is predicted for the launch on Saturday in Cape Canaveral, Florida at the NASA Kennedy Space Center. Considering I also live on the Gulf of Mexico, I know that is a very favorable weather outlook. There is one concern, lightning, which could be triggered by the slight chance for clouds over the launch pad.
Even if they "happen to delay launch the weather still looks good," says the Shuttle's weather officer Kathy Winters. The shuttle's liftoff is planned for 7:17 AM EDT (1117 GMT) from the launch pad 39a. If they cannot launch Saturday it still looks 90% favorable for the next 24 hours into Sunday and 80% for Monday.

What is the mission of the 7 person Endeavour crew?

The 16-day mission is all about visiting the International Space Station to deliver a porch-like experiment platform to the Japanese Kibo lab as well as other gear.

The mission's schedule will be nocturnal so the crew is sleeping in today, according to the veteran astronaut Mark Polansky. They are scheduled to wake up tonight at 8:15 PM EDT (2415 GMT). The two Canada Space Agency mission specialists, Julie Payette and Chris Cassidy, will conduct practice flights in NASA's T-38 training jets.

In order to install the new piece to the Kibo lab there will be at least five difficult spacewalks and a series of challenging robotic arm operations. They will also install a set of spare equipment for the space station.

Once Endeavour's STS-127 crew is onboard it will be quite crowded quarters as the population will double to thirteen. Mike Moses, the Endeavour's mission management team remarked, "It's like having your family descend on you for the holidays and they're gonna stay for a very long time ... and they're going to bring all their stuff!" Moses expects things to go smoothly as the team was able to train together before launch. He even thinks there "will be unprecedented efficiencies."

If, for some reason, Endeavour is unable to launch it will have to stand down after Monday. Why? There is another launch scheduled nearby at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on June 17th. What is set to launch is an unmanned spacecraft headed toward the moon.

Another window for launch opportunity if this June date is missed for Endeavour is July 11th. So far "all systems are go" as the launch countdown for Saturday began on Wednesday for liftoff.

Written by Denny Lyon

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