If everything goes according to plan, the Space Shuttle Endeavour will take off from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida tomorrow at 11:17:15 UTC on its 23rd mission – the 10th to the International Space Station (ISS). Seven crew members of STS-127 commanded by NASA veteran Mark Polansky (STS-98, STS-116) will stay in space for 15 Days 16 Hours and 59 Minutes and land at the KSC at 16:16 UTC on June 29. Mission specialists Dave Wolf, Chris Cassidy, Tom Mashburn and Tim Kopra will combine for 31 hours and 45 minutes during 5 planed spacewalks (EVA).
Julie Payette (STS-96) will return to the ISS after 10 years as a mission specialist operating the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS) aka Canadarm (Canadarm 1) and the Mobile Servicing System (MSS), better known by its primary component Canadarm2. In a meeting of generations, Julie Payette and Robert Thirsk (55) of Expedition 20, a member of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) committee which selected her from a pool of 5,330 applicants, will be the first two Canadian astronaut in space at the same time.
STS-127 will be the first spaceflight for the shuttle pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Christopher Cassidy, Tom Marshburn and Tim Kopra. Mission specialist Dave Wolf has never flown the shuttle but has spent 128 says aboard the Russian space station MIR. Koichi Wakata (STS-119) of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will return to Earth and Tim Kopra will join the crew of Expedition 20 as a flight engineer where he will remain until August when Nicole Stott of STS-128 will take his place.
The mission will deliver to the station 2 modules of the Japanese Kibo (means “hope”) complex where science experiments will be exposed to the extreme environment of space. The rest of the payload consists of the ICC-VLD to provide heater power and electrical connections for the Orbital Replacement Units (ORU’s), the Atmosphere Neutral Density Experiment’s (ANDE) two microsatellites to gather data on the density and the composition of Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) atmosphere and finally, the Dual RF Astrodynamic GPS Orbital Navigator Satellite (DRAGONSat) to collect GPS data on autonomous spacecraft rendezvous and docking capabilities. The Shuttle carries also a resupply of water, food and oxygen for the station.
One of the STS-127 Detailed Test Objectives (DTO’s) is to perform a series of tests to investigate the DragonEye laser navigation sensor, SpaceX’s Dragon vehicles will use on approach to the ISS. NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO) – yes, it really is C3PO – is financing the experiment for SpaceX, a space transportation startup company, in NASA’s effort to stimulate a commercial market for spaceflight services. The SpaceX Dragon should be capable of carrying seven people or a smaller crew with cargo to the ISS.
Today, at 18:52 UTC, the countdown will resume at T-11 after a built-in 13 hours and 52 minutes hold. At 01:52 UTC on Saturday, the external fuel tank will be loaded with 2.2 million liters of liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer. At 07:27 UTC the crew will depart KSC Operations and Checkout Building and board the Astrovan to take them to the launch pad 39A a few minutes away. During the last built-in hold at T-9 minutes, the Launch Director Bryan Lunney, Mission Management Team and NASA Test Director Steve Payne will conduct the final “go/no go” polls for the launch.
Mission’s commander Mark Polansky will be the sending updates to his Twitter account via shuttle-NASA emails. 24/7 coverage of the STS-127 mission will be available on NASA TV. You can also follow the Space Shuttle Endeavour and the ISS in real time through NASA’s real time tracking. Information about out about visible ISS passes at your location is available from heavens-above.
The next mission to the ISS will be STS-128, the 33rd construction flight, planned to launch on August 7 at 13:07 UTC. Shuttle Discovery will carry a Lightweight Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure Carrier and the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (Leonardo) whose main purpose is to assist with establishing a six-man crew capacity by providing extra supplies and equipment to the station.
Endeavour next flight is scheduled for February 4, 2010. The STS-130 mission (assembly flight 20A) will deliver the Tranquility Node 3 and the Cupola Module to the station. The shuttle’s last visit to space is planned for July 29, 2010. During STS-133 (assembly flight ULF5) the ISS will be extended with the EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 4 (ELC4) and Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM).