Endeavour astronauts practice their countdown
BY JUSTIN RAY
Posted: April 1, 2011
The Endeavour astronauts followed a realistic countdown sequence today, getting suited up and strapping inside the space shuttle for a thorough dress rehearsal that culminated with a pretend ignition and shutdown of the three main engines at T-minus 4 seconds.
The Astrovan delivered the astronauts to the seaside pad to begin entering the orbiter and taking their assigned seats for the "dry" countdown, which did not involve fueling the shuttle.
The final count also practiced holds at the intermediate way points of T-minus 5 minutes and T-minus 1 minute, 57 seconds before eventually ticking down to the simulated pad abort at 2:05 p.m. EDT.
The Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test concluded with the astronauts exiting the shuttle at 2:25 p.m. to rehearse the "Mode 1" emergency evacuation procedures and hopping in the escape baskets hanging on the launch tower.
"We didn't have any issues. I think everything went pretty smooth and looking forward to practicing Mode 1," Kelly said before leaving the orbiter.
After Thursday's stormy weather held up preparations for test, NASA officials initially pushed back the mock liftoff time by five hours. But managers ended up shortening the delay to just three hours.
"From the entire crew of Endeavour, thanks for getting us here early. I know there was a lot of hard work that went into it with all the weather you guys were dealing with yesterday and we really appreciate that. We're going to get a chance to go back to Houston today and spend one of two final weekends with our families. So we really appreciate you guys doing that for us," Kelly radioed the launch team after the successful rehearsal.
Every shuttle crew undergoes the TCDT before a planned launch. While in Florida, the astronauts spent time learning about emergency equipment, test-drove an armored tank for evacuating the pad, got some landing practice in the training aircraft and toured the payload bay.
The astronauts will return to Kennedy Space Center on April 15 to begin their real countdown activities.
Liftoff remains targeted for April 19 at 7:48 p.m. EDT on a two-week flight to install the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle physics experiment and a cache of large spare parts on the International Space Station, plus perform four spacewalks for the maintenance and upkeep of the orbiting complex.