Launch Coverage

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Welcome to NASA's STS-122 Launch Blog
Space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 7 at 2:45 p.m. EST on a mission to deliver the European-built Columbus science laboratory to the International Space Station.

Note: All times are given in Eastern Time unless otherwise noted.
Activated: 9:45 a.m. EST
Deactivated: 3:00 p.m. EST

Video Gallery Video highlights from the STS-122 countdown are selected from televised coverage provided by NASA TV.
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3 p.m. - With the STS-122 mission under way, the crew will focus on getting ready to dock with the International Space Station on Saturday. Check back often for updates throughout this exciting mission. This concludes launch coverage by

2:53 p.m. – Atlantis is in orbit . . . The three main engines on Atlantis have shut down as planned and the external tank that held the cryogenic propellant for the engines has been jettisoned. The main engines fired throughout the 8½-minute flight into orbit. Atlantis is now speeding through low Earth orbit at about 17,500 mph in its chase of the International Space Station. The crew will open the payload bay doors soon and reveal the Columbus laboratory to space for the first time.

2:48 p.m. – Booster separation … The twin solid rocket boosters that helped push Atlantis off the launch pad and up to speed have burned out and separated from the space shuttle stack, leaving Atlantis and its external tank heading for orbit. All continues to look normal on the climb into space.

2:45 pm. – LIFTOFF!

2:44 p.m. – T-30 seconds and counting . . . Computers on Atlantis are controlling the space shuttle in the last seconds of the countdown. The three main engines on Atlantis will ignite six seconds before liftoff and the solid rocket boosters will fire at T-0.

2:43 p.m. – T-2 minutes and counting . . . The external tank access arm has retracted into the launch tower and out of the way of the shuttle for launch. The arm holds the “beanie cap” that allows evaporating liquid oxygen to vent away from the shuttle during the countdown.

2:38 p.m. – T-7 minutes and counting . . . The orbiter access arm that reaches out to the side hatch on space shuttle Atlantis has swiveled away from the shuttle to its launch position beside the launch tower. It can be returned to the side of the orbiter quickly in case of emergency.

2:36 p.m. – T-9 minutes and counting . . . The countdown has resumed for the launch of space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-122 mission. The last minutes of the countdown will see the orbiter access arm retracted to the tower, the “beanie cap” withdrawn from the top of the external tank and, of course, the launch itself. The liftoff is on schedule for the planned 2:45 p.m. launch time and weather is not expected to be an issue. Atlantis will be aiming for a precise corridor in space so it can catch the International Space Station on Saturday.

2:35 p.m. – At T-9 minutes and holding . . . Weather is green and all remains on schedule for a 2:45 p.m. liftoff.

2:20 p.m. - The Mission Management Team is being polled for launch and everyone has reported they are "go" for launch today. The MMT, as it is known, reports that the space shuttle Atlantis is ready for the mission.

2 p.m. – Less than an hour before launch, the weather conditions have turned unacceptable because of a thunderstorm near Kennedy Space Center. Forecasters are hoping there is enough time for the storm to move away from the launch site before the planned 2:45 p.m. launch. Launch preparations continue on schedule and there are no technical issues.

1:51 p.m. - The countdown has entered its final planned hold at the T-9 minute mark. During this final hold, the Mission Management Team will conduct its final “go-no go” poll for launch.

1:40 p.m. – The countdown to the launch of STS-122 has resumed after a planned hold. The clock will run down to the T-9 minute point and hold for another planned pause. Launch remains on schedule for 2:45 p.m. on a mission to carry the European-built Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station.

1:30 p.m. – T-20 minutes and holding. No technical issues and weather remains go.

1:25 p.m. – The countdown is nearing a built-in hold at the T-20 minute point. The hold will expire in 10 minutes. There are no technical problems reported and the current weather at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center remains go for launch.

12:55 p.m. – Less than two hours before scheduled liftoff at 2:45 p.m. EST, the hatch into space shuttle Atlantis has been closed by technicians at the launch pad. After closing out the white room, the technicians will leave the launch pad area while the seven astronauts onboard the shuttle continue their launch preparations. The countdown clock continues to move smoothly toward its next built-in hold at the T-20:00 mark. The clock will hold there for 10 minutes and then wind down again to the T-9:00 point.

12:44 p.m. – The launch forecast has improved slightly, with weather officer Kathy Winters calling for a 40 percent chance of acceptable weather, up from 30 percent.

12:17 p.m. – With all the astronauts in their places inside Atlantis, they will go through checklists and other procedures leading up to launch.

12:06 p.m. - The Final Inspection Team reports that the external tank looks good. There are no ice buildups or other issues with the insulation on the tank. "The tank looks very good for a launch," NASA Launch Commentator George Diller reports. There are no other technical issues reported, either.

12:01 p.m. - Rex Walheim is the last to board Atlantis today. Like Melvin, he will serve as a flight engineer and help the commander and pilot during ascent into space. Walheim will be the lead spacewalker for all three spacewalks planned for STS-122.

11:59 a.m. – Dr. Stanley Love, an astronomer, has taken his seat on the space shuttle’s middeck center seat. He is seated between Leopold Eyharts and Hans Schlegel. Love will conduct a spacewalk and operate the space station robot arm during the mission.

11:57 a.m. – The launch site has returned to green weather conditions. The meteorologists expect to keep an eye on the weather throughout the countdown.

11:55 a.m. – Mission Specialist Leland Melvin is getting strapped in on Atlantis’ flight deck. As flight engineer during launch, he will help Commander Steve Frick and Pilot Alan Poindexter during ascent.

11:46 a.m. – The cloud ceiling at 2,500 feet above the launch site is red, which means current conditions violate launch criteria. Countdown procedures are continuing and meteorologists will continue evaluating conditions on up to launch time.

11:45 a.m. – European Space Agency astronaut Hans Schlegel is making his last-minute adjustments before boarding Atlantis. Like his fellow ESA astronaut Eyharts, Schlegel will fly into space in a seat on Atlantis’ lower level. Schlegel flew once before on the shuttle. He was part of a German-sponsored research flight on STS-55 that was launched in 1993. Schlegel will conduct two spacewalks during the Atlantis mission to help activate the European-built Columbus laboratory.

11:37 a.m. - STS-122 Pilot Alan Poindexter is taking his place in the right-side seat on the flight deck of Atlantis as the countdown continues to roll toward a 2:45 p.m. lift off.

11:35 a.m. – The weather conditions are all green at Kennedy Space Center, although the forecast remains 30 percent chance of acceptable conditions at the 2:45 p.m. EST launch time.

11:32 a.m. – European Space Agency astronaut Leopold Eyharts is the next to get into Atlantis. He is sitting on the middeck, which is the lower level of the orbiter’s crew compartment. Eyharts is a general in the French air force. He will take the place of NASA astronaut and current International Space Station resident Dan Tani on the station.

11:25 a.m. – Commander Steve Frick is the first astronaut to enter Atlantis today. Because Atlantis is standing on its tail for launch, Frick and the others have to climb into their seats carefully and position themselves lying on their backs with their feet pointed to the sky. Frick will begin communication checks with the Launch Control Center at Kennedy Space Center after he gets strapped in and puts on his communications gear. As commander, he will sit in the front left seat on Atlantis’ flight deck.

11:15 a.m. – Atlantis’ crew has arrived at the base of Launch Pad 39A. It will be a short elevator ride to the level where the shuttle cockpit stands waiting for them. A team of technicians will help each astronaut strap in to his seat.

11 a.m. – The seven astronauts are on their way to the launch pad. They walked out of the Operations & Checkout Building clad in orange pressure suits and waved to a throng of well-wishers. The Astrovan will take them to the base of Launch Pad 39A where they will climb into elevators and ride up to the level where they will enter the crew compartment.

The countdown has resumed, as scheduled, and all the launch preparations are heading for the slated 2:45 p.m. EST liftoff.

10:45 a.m. – The countdown clock will resume ticking backwards in a few minutes. The clock has been in a planned hold for two-and-a-half hours. The crew will leave the Operations & Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in about 10 minutes and get in the Astrovan for the ride out to the launch pad.

10:25 a.m. - The seven astronauts of Atlantis are beginning to suit up. With the help of technicians, they will don their orange pressure suits and then go through a series of checks that make sure the suits will behave as they are supposed to at launch. The astronauts will leave for the launch pad just before 11 a.m.

10:15 a.m. – The astronauts are receiving a weather briefing concerning the forecast conditions at Kennedy Space Center. All eyes remain on the cold front expected to move in today. The astronauts will begin suiting up in about 10 minutes.

10 a.m. - At T-3 hours and holding, everything remains on course for Atlantis to lift off at 2:45 p.m. EST. Looking ahead a bit, the seven astronauts of the STS-122 mission are in the Astronaut Crew Quarters and will soon begin putting on the orange pressure suits they will wear during launch and landing operations. The crew will depart for the launch pad at about 11 a.m. EST. Technicians working at the launch pad are scheduled to close and lock the hatch at about 12:40 p.m. EST.

9:55 a.m. - The Final Inspection Team is at the launch pad carefully examining the outside of the external tank for signs of ice buildup on the tank's insulating foam. They use several tools to aid their inspection, including binoculars and infrared scanners.

9:50 a.m. - The flight calls for the crew to carry the European Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station and install it. The lab will be used as a microgravity research center for scientists to study space. It has racks inside designed to be swapped out easily as new experiments are brought up and completed research is returned to Earth. There are also platforms on the exterior of the module to house experiments designed for the vacuum of space.

Seven astronauts will fly Atlantis into orbit on this mission. They are commanded by Steve Frick. Alan Poindexter will serve as pilot. Mission Specialist Leland Melvin will serve as the flight engineer, which means he will sit on the flight deck during launch behind Poindexter. Mission Specialist Rex Walheim will also sit on the flight deck during launch. Walheim and Melvin will help Frick and Poindexter by keeping track of tasks and checklists during the 8 1/2-minute climb to orbit.

Stanley Love will sit on the middeck of Atlantis, which is the lower floor of the orbiter's crew compartment. European Space Agency astronauts Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts will also sit on the middeck during launch. Eyharts will remain on the International Space Station after Atlantis leaves. Current station resident NASA astronaut Dan Tani will take Eyharts' seat in Atlantis for Tani's return to Earth.

9:45 a.m. - Welcome to coverage of the launch of space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-122 mission. Countdown activities are moving smoothly toward a scheduled liftoff at 2:45 p.m. EST from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The countdown is in a planned hold at the T-3-hour point.

Weather officers are keeping watch on a front that is currently in the Northern Florida peninsula. Showers are located ahead of the front. The front will remain north of Kennedy Space Center (KSC) by launch time, but there will be cumulus clouds and showers in the area, and possibly an inland thunderstorm. Anvil clouds from thunderstorms that form inland would migrate toward the east coast. The primary concerns for launch time are cumulus clouds, showers, and anvils. The forecast for launch time remains 30 percent for acceptable conditions.

The massive external tank has been loaded with about 500,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The engine cutoff sensor system that prompted two launch delays in December is performing well and all four liquid hydrogen sensor circuits are operating as they should. The external tank is now in stable replenish, which means pumps are putting just enough new propellant into tanks to compensate for the small amount that evaporates during the countdown.

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