NASA Sets Initial Date For Launch Of Final Shuttle Mission
NASA astronaut Mark Kelly (pictured), commander of the STS-134
space shuttle mission aboard the International Space Station,
expressed confidence about the future of the U.S. role in space
exploration during media interviews Thursday.
"NASA is leading the way and will continue to do so," Kelly said
in an interview with NPR's Scott Simon. "We are the lead partner on
the International Space Station and when humans go back to the moon
and on to Mars, I'm sure it's going to be the United States and
NASA that's leading that as well. As we move into more
commercialization of the launch vehicles and getting access to
orbit, that's still NASA that's leading that project and hopefully
buying those services and this is something I think that in the
long run could mean the expansion of humans accessing space. So
we're pretty excited about the future for NASA."
STS-134 is the last mission for Endeavour. Astronauts Drew
Feustel and Greg Chamitoff completed a six-hour, 19-minute
spacewalk at 0920 EDT. They successfully installed antennas for the
External Wireless Communication system, routing cables, setting up
the antenna, installing handrails, and connecting power cables.
Endeavour Docked With ISS
Because of a carbon dioxide sensor failure in Chamitoff's
spacesuit, flight controllers limited his spacewalk time to about 6
hrs 20 minutes, 10 minutes less than the planned six hours and 30
minutes. There was no indication his suit's carbon dioxide levels
would rise. However, they deferred tasks to remove a micrometeoroid
debris shield to access and attach some of the connection
This was the first of the four STS-134 spacewalks, the 245th
spacewalk conducted by U.S. astronauts, the 115th from space
station airlocks, and the 156th in support of space station
assembly and maintenance, totaling 980 hours, 12 min. It was
Feustel's fourth spacewalk for a total time of 27 hours and 17
minutes. As Chamitoff's first, his total time spacewalking is six
hours and 19 minutes.
Meanwhile, Pilot Greg Johnson and Mission Specialist Roberto
Vittori transferred equipment and supplies from Endeavour's middeck
to the station.
NASA has set the tentative launch date for the final shuttle
mission ... STS-135 ... for July 8th at about 1140 EDT. This date
was targeted based on NASA's current planning. An official launch
date will be announced following the June 28 Flight Readiness
There are several non-standard activities, including a tanking
test followed by an X-ray inspection of a section of the external
fuel tank, which may affect Atlantis' processing. The tank consists
of three sections. Mission managers want to X-ray aluminum support
beams, known as stringers, located where the liquid hydrogen tank
meets the intertank.
Cracked intertank stringers were identified during shuttle
Discovery's first launch attempt in November 2010 and delayed its
launch until the problem was resolved. X-ray inspection of the
intertank stringers provides additional confidence that there are
no stringer cracks in Atlantis' tank. The stringers located where
the liquid oxygen tank meets the intertank were modified with extra
material to add strength and do not require inspection.
The 12-day mission also will deliver an experiment designed to
demonstrate and test the tools, technologies and techniques needed
to robotically refuel satellites in space, even satellites not
designed to be serviced. The crew also will return an ammonia pump
that recently failed on the station. Engineers want to understand
why the pump failed and improve designs for future spacecraft.
Chris Ferguson, a veteran of two previous shuttle missions, will
command the flight. Doug Hurley will serve as the pilot, a role he
filled on STS-127 in 2009. Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim will be the
mission specialists. Magnus spent 4.5 months aboard the station
beginning in November 2008. Walheim flew on STS-110 in 2002 and
STS-122 in 2008.
STS-135 will be Atlantis' 33rd mission and the 37th shuttle
flight dedicated to station assembly and maintenance. It will be
the 135th and final mission of NASA's Space Shuttle Program.