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'Brilliant nighttime liftoff'

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Endeavour is en route to the ISS following a 'brilliant nighttime liftoff' from the Kennedy Space Center.

Endeavour lifts off. Pic: NASA

The shuttle finally got off the the ground at 09:14 GMT after a scrubbed launch yesterday. The 13-day STS-130 mission will deliver the US's Tranquility node and seven-windowed cupola to the International Space Station.

Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations, enthused: "What a beautiful launch we had this morning... the orbiter performed extremely well. This is a great start to a very complicated mission."

On board Endeavour are commander George Zamka, pilot Terry Virts and mission specialists Robert Behnken, Kathryn Hire, Nicholas Patrick and Stephen Robinson. Behnken and Patrick are tasked with three space walks to attach the node and cupola, and when that's done, the ISS will be "about 90 per cent complete", NASA notes.

NASA has an STS-130 mission summary here (pdf). ®

Bootnote

STS-130 marks the last night shuttle launch. The remaining missions are Discovery's STS-131, slated to lift off on 18 March, followed by Atlantis on STS-132 on 14 May. Endeavour will be back in action on 29th July's STS-134, and the fleet will bow out on 16 September when Discovery blasts off on STS-133, "the 134th and final shuttle flight and the 36th shuttle mission to the [International Space] station". ®

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