Atlantis heads for launch pad
BY SPACEFLIGHT NOW
Posted: February 15, 2007
Editor's note: Rollout was successfully completed at 3:09 p.m. with the platform's lowered onto the pad pedestals.
Lumbering along with a top speed of one-mile-per-hour, space shuttle Atlantis emerged from Kennedy Space Center's mammoth Vehicle Assembly Building this morning for the trek to the newly refurbished launch pad 39A.
The trip, which should take about six hours, began at 8:19 a.m. EST.
Today's rollout to the pad travels along a three-and-a-half-mile route known as the crawlerway. The space-age road is 130 feet wide -- almost as broad as an eight-lane highway. Two 40-foot-wide lanes are separated by a 50-foot-wide median strip. The average depth is seven feet.
The Apollo-era crawler-transporter carrying Atlantis is powered by 16 traction motors that feed from two 2,750 horsepower diesel engines. Two 1,065 horsepower diesel engines are used for jacking, steering, lighting and ventilating. The transporter consumes 126 gallons of diesel fuel in each mile it travels from the VAB to the pad.
The overall weight of the transporter, mobile launch platform and shuttle is 12 million pounds.
About 30 workers are needed to operate the crawler, including three drivers -- a prime and backup in the front cabin and one in the rear -- a jacking and leveling operator, a control room operator to run crawler systems and talk with the Launch Control Center, two electricians, two electronic technicians and four diesel mechanics for starting, monitoring and shutting down the transporter's engines. The other team members are mechanics watching over the roll and helping with the platform's docking to the launch pad.
NASA anticipates the platform will be lowered onto the pad pedestals around 3 p.m. today. That will commence the methodical process of hooking up the crew module access and hydrogen vent arms extending from the launch tower, as well as electrical, propellant, communications and other lines between the ground systems and mobile platform.
The gantry-like Rotating Service Structure will be moved around Atlantis, allowing the payload bay doors to be opened this weekend in preparation for loading the mission cargo aboard the shuttle.
The payload is the Starboard 3/Starboard 4 combined truss structure for the International Space Station. The power-generating module will be attached to the station and its giant solar wings unfurled during the upcoming mission. The truss will provide a fourth of the station's power and allow the continued expansion of the outpost.
Liftoff remains targeted for March 15 at about 6:42 a.m. EDT. This 28th flight of Atlantis begins a busy year for the shuttle program in which five missions are planned, all dedicated to station assembly.
Atlantis will be pad 39A's first launch in over four years. The complex underwent a major refurbishment, enabling it to support all remaining shuttle flights planned through 2010.