Endeavour en route to ISS
'Brilliant nighttime liftoff'
Endeavour is en route to the ISS following a 'brilliant nighttime liftoff' from the Kennedy Space Center.
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). ®
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". ®
Having been out at the Cape for the launch...
None of the pictures I have seen have done it any justice to how amazing it actually is.
The previous nights atempt had been cancelled due to what they called "Dynamic Weather" by the range officer.
I spent the evening out at KSC on the Causeway waiting for the launch with the cameras ready to get something. As we left the hotel for KSC the sky was clear all the way up but by the time we arrived the clouds were back and looking like they would try and scrub a second launch atempt. The SRB's light up and kick off a great cloud of smoke followed by what looks like the largest explosion in the world as the sky goes from black to white. The shuttle appears from behind the could slowly and rapidly moves way with what looks like flame throwers behind it. The sound hits about thirty seconds later.
ps. would like to apply for elReg's man on the scene for the last four launches.
Nasa can't count ?
The reason is because mission STS133 was supposed to be the last one, and was well in the planning stage, when STS134 was added in. It was probably too much trouble and asking for a lot more to renumber the STS133 mission, so the new mission was numbered STS134, even though it leaves first.
It is good that STS134 will launch, because it is taking the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer with it which will allow us to look for exotic particles (anti-matter and the like) which we can't look for down here because they wouldn't survive the trip through the atmosphere.
Well us Europeans can put 20tonnes up using the ATV, and Japan also has the HTV for resupply. The Russians will carry on the Progress supply shipments, but for a while the Russian Soyez is the only way to get crew up and back.
NASA is paying a few companies loads of money to launch cargo for them to the ISS, but they are a little way off. There are also theories to man-rate some of their rockets to get crew up and back too.
There are thoughts about man-rating the ATV as well, but these things take time, so we all just have to watch the Russians doing it.