It will be a sad nostalgic year for the space shuttle team – every milestone toward launch – will also be one more step toward the end of an era.
The shuttle Endeavour headed out to launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center last week. She’s currently undergoing final preps for launch on a mission to deliver and install Tranquility – the third and final node of the space station. But all is not tranquil for this station component – the ammonia lines that connect Tranquility to the station cooling system failed a pressurization test. Apparently it is a fundamental design flaw, one team is working on a redesign that will be sent up to station later. But for now – engineers are now welding together some shorter hoses in an effort to jury rig a fix.
Launch is targeted for Feburary 7, but don’t write that one in pen.
In the mean time, crews moved the the big external fuel tank that will power Discovery into orbit in March into the Vehicle Assembly Building where it will be mated with the solid rocket boosters and the orbiter.
And Discovery’s crew was at the Cape this week for what’s called a Crew Equipment Interface Test – it is the last time they can lay their hands on some flight hardware before they head off on their supply run to the station.