Spaceflight Now STS-108

Endeavour rolled to pad under cloak of secrecy
Posted: October 31, 2001

With a pair of F-15 fighter jets seen flying overhead, space shuttle Endeavour made the slow crawl to the launch pad today at Kennedy Space Center amid extraordinary secrecy never before experienced for such a routine event.

Shuttle Endeavour rolls out to pad 39B. On the upper right, an Air Force F-15 Eagle tactical fighter can be seen flying by the pad. Photo: NASA
Riding atop a mobile transporter, Endeavour with its attached external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters departed the 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building before dawn for the 4.1-mile trek to pad 39B.

Citing the heightened level of security following the September 11 terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, NASA didn't announce the shuttle move in advance. It was the first time in the 20-year history of the shuttle program that the space agency kept rollout a secret.

In fact, NASA didn't even say exactly when the trip began or concluded, only acknowledging the shuttle had arrived on the seaside pad by "late morning."

In addition to the F-15s, a surveillance aircraft and helicopter were also observed in the KSC skies during rollout. The roar of the F-15s were heard well into the evening around the Cape, suggesting they may be playing a role protecting the shuttle throughout its stay on the launch pad. Of course KSC officials do not discuss details of their security plan.

Endeavour remains scheduled for blastoff on November 29 for an 11-day mission to shuttle the next resident crew to the international space station and ferry the current crew back to Earth.

The Expedition Four crew is commanded by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Onufrienko with American flight engineers Carl Walz and Dan Bursch. The three men will replace the Expedition Three crew of commander Frank Culbertson, pilot Vladimir Dezhurov and flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin.

Endeavour's crew is led by commander Dom Gorie, with pilot Mark Kelly and mission specialists Linda Godwin and Dan Tani.

The shuttle will carry an Italian-made cargo module packed with equipment and supplies for the station. The Raffaello module will be temporarily mounted to the station so its payload can be unloaded by the astronauts. The reusable module then will be returned to Endeavour's cargo bay for the trip back to Earth.

Also aboard Endeavour will be 6,000 American flags to be presented to the families of the terrorist attack victims after the shuttle flight.

A flock of birds also buzz around Endeavour during rollout. Photo: NASA
Expect the secrecy to continue right through Endeavour's launch, insiders say. NASA officials are discussing putting in place the public affairs procedures similar to those used for classified shuttle military missions that were flown from 1985 to 1990. Back then, the space agency wouldn't announce the exact launch time until nine minutes before blastoff.

However, NASA has disclosed Endeavour's launch time of 7:44 p.m. EST for a November 29 liftoff for quite awhile.

The details of the procedures to be implemented for Endeavour's launch are not yet known.

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Shuttle Endeavour is rolled out to launch pad 39B on October 31 in preparation for liftoff November 29 to ferry the next resident crew to the international space station.
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An F-15 Eagle tactical fighter jet can be seen flying over launch pad 39B as shuttle Endeavour arrives at the seaside complex.
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Riding atop a special transporter, shuttle Endeavour emerges from its Orbiter Processing Facility hangar on October 24 for the trip to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.
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Endeavour travels to the 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building to be attached with an external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters atop a mobile platform. Sister-ship Discovery can be seen sitting VAB.
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