Feeds

Atlantis heads for ISS with spare parts

Last shuttle blast of year

Boost IT visibility and business value

The last shuttle leaving Earth this year has come and gone, with Atlantis and its crew of six astronauts blasting off from Kennedy Space Center at 2:28 pm EST (7:28 pm GMT) on Monday.

Loaded with spare parts and supplies, space shuttle Atlantis is expected to dock with the International Space Station this Wednesday, beginning an 11-day mission to stock the orbiting outpost and swap crew.

After today, only five shuttle launches remain before the planned September 2010 retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet, ending three decades of activity. NASA is now focused on building up a reserve of spare parts to extend the lifetime of the ISS.

In a post-launch press conference, NASA officials called it a "picture-perfect" liftoff with no significant technical hitches and the morning's overcast weather in Florida clearing up in time for a good view of the shuttle's climb.

"Congratulations to the team. What a great way to start the mission," said Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Space Operations.

The STS-129 mission is the fifth and last shuttle launch of the year – the most NASA has launched in a single year since 2002. The shuttle is carrying some 27,000 pounds (12,300 kilos) of gyroscopes, ammonia tanks, two nitrogen tank assemblies, and other equipment on its journey and will feature three spacewalks.

Astronauts will be preparing the ISS both inside and out for the STS-130 mission, during which the final US space station module, Tranquility, will be delivered. Originally, Tranquility was to be installed on the Earth-facing port of the ISS's Harmony node, but it was later decided it would fit better on the port side of Harmony. The switch means significant changes and rewiring to prepare for the assembly for the ISS crew.

Today's STS-129 mission is commanded by Charles Hobaugh and piloted by Barry Wilmore. Mission specialists aboard Atlantis are Robert Satcher, Mike Foreman, Randy Bresnik, and Leland Melvin. It's the first trip to space for Wilmore, Satcher, and Bresnik.

The mission will also return station crew member Nicole Stott to Earth. It is slated to be the final space shuttle crew rotation flight before the fleet's retirement. From then, it will be up to Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS.

To drum up public interest in space flight, NASA invited approximately 100 Twitter users for front-row seats of the Atlantis liftoff today. Gerstenmaier said he's already read some of the Tweets for the launch and calls the reaction "pretty amazing."

"They've captured the spirit and excitement we all feel — and managed to do it in very few characters," he said. ®

Story updated with post-launch press conference details.

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN Kickstarter push breaks TWELVE THOUSAND POUNDS
That's right, folks, you've stumped up OVER 9000 beer tokens - and counting
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?