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Orbiter: Endeavour
Mission: STS-130
Payload: Tranquility
Launch: Feb. 8, 2010
Time: 4:14 a.m. EST
Site: Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center
Landing: Feb. 21 @ 10:20 p.m. EST
Site: KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility

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Crew cleared to relocate cupola to permanent home
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: February 14, 2010


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The Endeavour astronauts have been cleared to move a multi-window cupola from the outboard port of the new Tranquility module to its Earth-facing hatch after engineers concluded an interference issue with a protective cover would not prevent a normal docking.


Animation of the cupola move with the station robot arm. Credit: NASA TV
 
To fit in Endeavour's cargo bay, the cupola had to be launched on Tranquility's outboard port but it is intended to serve as an observation deck and robot arm control station and for that it needs to be on the module's Earth-facing, or nadir, port.

Preparing for the move, the astronauts attempted to install a protective cover over the outboard hatch's docking mechanism to protect it from low temperatures and micrometeoroid impacts after the cupola was removed. But a mechanical interference issue prevented the crew from locking the cover in place.

Station commander Jeffrey Williams ultimately succeeded after removing underlying bolts, allowing the so-called "towel bar" latching mechanism to engage. But clearances were tight and engineers were unsure whether a similar cover on the nadir port could prevent the cupola's attachment.

After extensive analysis, engineers concluded the tolerances were acceptable and during the morning wakeup call, the astronauts were cleared to proceed.

"The good news for today is, overnight we looked at all the information you gathered for us yesterday and sent down and we became very comfortable with you doing the cupola depress and relocate today," said Shannon Lucid in mission control. "So that's our plan."

"Shannon, that's fantastic news," replied astronaut Nicholas Patrick from Endeavour. "Thank you to all on the ground who worked on that so hard overnight. There are cheers from downstairs as everybody is waking up. And to all in mission control and Houston and elsewhere, happy Valentine's Day."

The crew plans to depressurize the cupola starting around 6:51 p.m. EST. Terry Virts and Kay Hire, operating the station's robot arm, then will lock onto a grapple fixture on the side of the cupola just after 9 p.m. After Williams disengages the common berthing mechanism holding the cupola in place, Virts and Hire will move it to Tranquility's nadir port.

The unberthing procedure is expected to begin around 10:44 p.m. If all goes well, installation on the nadir port will begin around 11:30 p.m.

Engineers will be monitoring how much torque is required to drive the motorized bolts in the berthing mechanism that will lock the cupola to the nadir port. No problems are expected, but if high torque levels indicate unacceptable interference, the procedure will be aborted. In that case, the cupola likely would be returned to the outboard port pending additional analysis.

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