Second to last Space Shuttle Mission

I haven’t talked much about spacey type stuff, si I figured I’d post a quick update about the upcoming shuttle mission, STS-134.  The mission was supposed to have launched yesterday, but due to a hardware malfunction the launch was delayed.  I’ve talked about this mission a bit in this post a while back. 

This mission will be carrying more supplies and spare parts, like most shuttle missions, along with the AMS-02 instrument.  This big physics experiment is designed to detect high-energy particles zipping through space while attached to the international space station.  This experiment is similar in principle to the particle detectors built into the large ground-based particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider and the Tevatron. 

The glitch that prevented launch yesterday was due to an issue with some heaters that did not turn on like they were supposed to during a pre-launch test.  These heaters are intended to keep the fuel lines for the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) from freezing while the orbiter is in space.  The APU is a device that reacts together two hypergolic propellants to produce pressure in the hydraulic systems for the orbiter.  There are three APUs, any one of which can supply the necessary hydraulic pressure, as well as two strings of heaters for the fuel lines as well.  However, the flight rules specify that these heaters need to be working, so NASA will do what it has to do to get them working again. 

This flight will be the last for the space shuttle Endeavour.  She was the fifth and last shuttle built, as a replacement for the Challenger.  After returning from this mission, Endeavour will be de-serviced, taking all the toxic and other hazardous material out of the vehicle.  She will then be flown on the back of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 747 to the California Science Center for permanent display. 

Expect this launch to occur Monday, Tuesday, or possibly Wednesday, depending on how long it takes to find and fix the cause of this problem.  Launch times will be in the early afternoon, around 2:34 EDT on Monday, and a few minutes earlier on Tuesday, and a few minutes earlier still on Wednesday.  As always, SpaceFlightNow will be streaming the launch live with commentary, and NASATV will also have a live webcast.  This is a cool NASA page, with all the major events during the countdown as well, if you are interested.  Should be a big crowd to watch this one!


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