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Last Step on Earth
Payload canister at launch pad.
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
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As the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis nears, the next step in preparations at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A was the arrival of the mission's payload. With umbilical lines still attached, the payload canister was lifted up to the payload changeout room on the rotating service structure. The canister contains the S3/S4 integrated truss, the next segment to be added to the International Space Station. After Atlantis arrives at the pad later this week, the truss segment will be transferred to the payload bay. The changeout room is enclosed and environmentally controlled to support cargo delivery to the pad and subsequent vertical installation into the orbiter's payload bay. The STS-117 crew will install the new truss segment, retract a set of solar arrays and unfold a new set on the starboard side of the station. Launch is targeted for March 15.

The S3/S4 integrated truss segment is loaded into the payload canister. In the Space Station Processing Facility, an overhead crane settled the S3/S4 integrated truss into the payload canister. The canister was then placed in a vertical position in the Canister Rotation Facility before it was moved to the pad in preparation for the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-117.
Image credit: NASA/George Shelton
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