Astronauts arrive at Cape to practice launch countdown
BY JUSTIN RAY
Posted: July 16, 2007
The seven space shuttle Endeavour astronauts jetted into Kennedy Space Center Monday evening for this week's launch countdown dress rehearsal, a key part of the crew's final pre-flight training regimen.
"It's really a privilege to be here. We really, really look forward to the rest of our training and we really appreciate the opportunity to fly the orbiter," Kelly told reporters gathered at the runway to cover the arrival.
The crew for this space station assembly mission includes pilot Charlie Hobaugh, spacewalkers Rick Mastracchio and Dave Williams, rookies Tracy Caldwell and Al Drew, and educator-astronaut Barbara Morgan. A former Idaho school teacher, Morgan was Christa McAuliffe's backup in the original "teacher-in-space" program.
Shuttle Endeavour, which recently came out of a major maintenance overhaul, will be making its first flight in nearly five years when it launches August 7.
"A lot of people have been working very, very hard on Endeavour over many years. It is a great ship and we look forward to flying it for all the people that work for this program, but particularly all of the people that really have put their heart and soul into this vehicle -- the people here at KSC."
Other activities on their schedule this week include inspections of the mission payloads, trying on the launch and landing spacesuits and holding an informal chat with reporters at the pad. The TCDT culminates Thursday when the crew boards Endeavour for a full countdown simulation.
The astronauts will follow a normal launch morning routine with breakfast, a weather briefing on conditions at the Cape and various abort landing sites, then don their suits and depart crew quarters at about 7:45 a.m. to board the Astrovan that will take them to pad 39A.
After arriving shortly past 8 a.m., all seven astronauts will climb inside Endeavour and strap into their assigned seats for the final three hours of the mock countdown.
Clocks will halt in the final seconds to simulate a shutdown of the three main engines just prior to liftoff around 11 a.m. The crew will egress the shuttle and practice scurrying to the slide-wire baskets.
For the countdown, the shuttle won't be fueled and the crew won't actually leave the tower in the baskets.
NASA says preparations to Endeavour are going smoothly following the shuttle's arrival at the pad last Wednesday. Technicians have opened the payload bay doors and installed the Starboard 5 truss and an external stowage platform headed for the station along with a Spacehab cargo module.
Main engine hydraulic checks and aerosurface flight control tests have been accomplished, and standard leak inspections in the propulsion system are underway. The pad's liquid oxygen storage tank was filled last week, and the hydrogen tank is being loaded early this week.
Meanwhile, stacking of the solid rocket boosters for the October launch of shuttle Discovery begins Wednesday inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. The external fuel tank will arrive via barge next week from the Lockheed Martin manufacturing plant outside New Orleans.