Endeavour Rolls Around
On Oct. 23, 2008, space shuttle Endeavour took center stage as it moved from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39B to Launch Pad 39A on the crawler-transporter -- a journey that took about eight hours and covered a distance of 3.4 miles.
For more than a month, Endeavour stood stately on Pad B while Atlantis occupied Pad A for its STS-125 mission to service NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
Endeavour was prepared as Atlantis' rescue mission and for its STS-126 mission to the International Space Station.
After a technical problem on Hubble delayed the servicing mission, Atlantis and its payload returned to Kennedy's Vehicle Assembly Building, making way for Endeavour's move to the center's primary launch site.
"It's a very rare set of circumstances," said Ken Tenbusch, flow director for Endeavour. "By rolling around (to Pad A), that allows the Ares and Constellation folks to do the modifications they need to do for their launch."
Endeavour originally was scheduled to move to its next seaside launch pad Oct. 25, but a stormy weekend forecast prompted NASA mission managers to rollaround a few days early.
The Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Leonardo, already inside the payload changeout room at Pad A, was moved into the shuttle's payload bay Oct. 26.
Leonardo, considered one of NASA's three "moving vans," is jam-packed with about 14,500 pounds of equipment and supplies -- one of the heaviest modules in shuttle history.
Endeavour also will deliver additional sleeping quarters, a second toilet, an exercise device and other household-type equipment to the orbiting outpost, which is all necessary to enable the station to accommodate a larger crew, starting in spring 2009.
"The flow was very smooth, even though we were processing both vehicles at the same time," Tenbusch said. "The team has done a superior effort from start to finish. We have a vehicle that's going to be flying next month, it's very exciting."
During the 15-day mission the STS-126 astronauts have an ambitious work schedule ahead of them.
Highlighting the four spacewalks will be the servicing of two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints, or SARJ, which allow the station's solar arrays to track the sun and supply the station with electrical power. They've been providing only limited use since Sept. 2007.
Commander Chris Ferguson heads-up the STS-126 mission; the other crew members include, Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Steve Bowen, Shane Kimbrough, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Donald Pettit and Sandra Magnus.
Magnus will remain aboard the space station, replacing Expedition 17/18 Flight Engineer Gregory Chamitoff, who will return to Earth with the STS-126 crew.
The crew flew into Kennedy Oct. 26 to participate in the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT, giving them the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the flight hardware and equipment they'll be working with in space.
They'll return to the space center for final preparations a few days before the Nov. 14 launch.
In the meantime, their vehicle stands proud, ready to embark on the next flight to help complete the building of the International Space Station.
Elaine M. Marconi
NASA's Kennedy Space Center