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The Mission




Orbiter: Endeavour
Mission: STS-127
Payload: ISS 2J/A
Launch: July 15, 2009
Time: 6:03 p.m. EDT
Site: Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Landing: July 31 @ approx. 10:48 a.m.
Site: Shuttle Landing Facility, KSC
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Meet the astronauts flying aboard Endeavour's STS-127 mission.

CDR: Mark Polansky

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STS-127: The programs

In advance of shuttle Endeavour's STS-127 mission to the station, managers from both programs discuss the flight.

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STS-127: The mission

A detailed step-by-step preview of Endeavour's STS-125 mission to install an external exposure platform on the station's Kibo science facility.

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STS-127: The EVAs

The lead spacewalk officer provides indepth explanations of the EVAs on Endeavour's assembly mission to the station.

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STS-127: The crew

The seven astronauts launching on Endeavour meet the press in the traditional pre-flight news conference.

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Space shuttle Endeavour launch postponed by leak
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: June 13, 2009


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Launch of the shuttle Endeavour, grounded by a gaseous hydrogen leak during fueling Saturday, is off until Wednesday at the earliest, NASA officials say. But because of the already planned launch of NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite Wednesday, the shuttle team could be delayed to June 20, the last day this month Endeavour can be launched.


The file image shows the launch pad's gaseous hydrogen vent arm that connects the pad tower to the shuttle's tank. Credit: NASA TV
 
Mission managers plan to meet later this weekend to discuss troubleshooting and to assess their options, including negotiations with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project and the Air Force Eastern Range that provides telemetry and tracking support for all rockets launched from Florida.

"Obviously, the 17th is a range problem, there's a conflict out there with LRO/LCROSS," said Mike Moses, shuttle integration manager at the Kennedy Space Center. "We haven't even begun to work that yet. ... We'll start those negotiations tomorrow and see where we get, both with the Range and with the NASA payload."

In the meantime, shuttle engineers will press ahead with troubleshooting to figure out what went wrong during fueling.

Engineers began the three-hour fueling process at 9:52 p.m. Friday. As the hydrogen section of the tank fills up, some of the liquid turns into a gas that is carried away by a vent line. As Endeavour's tank was being topped off, sensors indicated higher-than-allowable levels of gaseous hydrogen at the ground umbilical plate, or GUP, that connects the vent line to the side of the shuttle's external tank.

The problem, which only shows up when supercold cryogenic propellants are flowing, was virtually identical to a leak in March that grounded the shuttle Discovery for four days. In that case, engineers disassembled the umbilical and replaced a critical seal. While the "root cause" of the problem was never determined, the system worked normally during Discovery's subsequent launch attempt.

"We got into tanking on time," senior Launch Director Mike Leinbach said early Saturday. "Everything was going perfectly fine, per plan. But just like on the STS-119 mission, we suffered a leak at the ground umbilical carrier plate just as soon as we got into the topping part of the sequence on the hydrogen load.

"The signature was almost identical to what we had two flows ago. The guys on console cycled the valve as they did previously, they cycled the valve four times trying to clear up that leak. In the past, every now and then that'll work for us. This time, again, it didn't work for us. We were out of spec leakage at that disconnect.

"It's a four-day scrub turnaround is what we're estimating right now," he said. "That's a preliminary plan, but I would not expect it to be any shorter than that. ... It's going to be very, very similar to what we went through last time on STS-119."


A closeup view of the ground umbilical carrier plate. Credit: NASA TV
 
Moses said engineers were surprised to encounter the same problem in two out of three launch campaigns. After the March leak, "we measured how that seal fits, we looked at it under a microscope, we looked at it under cryo conditions, we didn't really find anything that would tell us what common cause is."

"But obviously, something is going on, the second time in three flights, something is going on. So teams are being kicked off to go look at that. ... But really, our plan is going to be pretty much what it was last time, which is just R-and-R that seal and then we really have to tank again to see what happens."

That means Endeavour will be grounded until Wednesday at the earliest. But NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter currently is scheduled for launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket at 3:51 p.m. Wednesday.

It takes the Eastern Range two days to reconfigure its systems to support a different launch. If the LRO mission stays on track and takes off Wednesday afternoon as planned, the next opportunity for Endeavour would be before dawn on June 20.

But in that case, NASA would only have one day to get Endeavour off the ground or the flight would slip to July 11 because of temperature constraints related to the orbit of the International Space Station.

NASA managers want to get Endeavour off as soon as possible to avoid downstream delays for upcoming space station assembly missions as the shuttle program winds down toward retirement in 2010. But the LRO mission is a high priority as well and it's not yet clear how NASA might ultimately resolve the conflict.

"They only have a four-day window, it's a lunar rendezvous, so they have those four days and if they don't make that they have to wait two weeks before they could go again," said Moses.

"So there are two parts to that. One, we don't want them to miss their lunar rendezvous window because that's very difficult to replan around. The other thing is, the Range is kind of backing up, especially on the Atlas pad, there are a lot of payloads that are waiting for LRO to get going and having a payload that needs to wait every two weeks for its launch window to reopen could cause some problems. We're going to have those negotiations, I can't begin to foretell how they're going to go.

"We had pretty much agreed ahead of time that we would probably not bump them off the Range, but it would all depend on why we needed to scrub in the first place," Moses said. "We didn't really talk about a failure like this, we were mostly thinking weather. So we'll go and re-talk again. But I don't expect that we'll make them go away and we'll take that whole window. But if we do, we'd try the 17th and could go all the way through the 20th."

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Additional coverage for subscribers:
VIDEO: LEAK POSTPONES SHUTTLE ENDEAVOUR LAUNCH PLAY

VIDEO: TIME-LAPSE OF SUN SETTING OVER PAD 39A PLAY
VIDEO: ANOTHER TIME-LAPSE OF GANTRY RETRACTION PLAY
VIDEO: TIME-LAPSE OF LAUNCH PAD TOWER ROLLBACK PLAY

VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH MARK POLANSKY PLAY
VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH DOUG HURLEY PLAY
VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS CASSIDY PLAY
VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH JULIE PAYETTE PLAY
VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH TOM MARSHBURN PLAY
VIDEO: PRE-LAUNCH INTERVIEW WITH DAVE WOLF PLAY

VIDEO: THE STS-127 MISSION PREVIEW MOVIE PLAY
VIDEO: THURSDAY'S PRE-LAUNCH NEWS CONFERENCE PLAY
VIDEO: JAPANESE SCIENCE FACILITIES ABOARD STATION PLAY
VIDEO: COUNTDOWN BEGINS TICKING FOR SATURDAY'S LAUNCH PLAY
VIDEO: LAUNCH COUNTDOWN PREVIEW BRIEFING PLAY
VIDEO: CREW ARRIVES JUST BEFORE MIDNIGHT PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: GET TO KNOW ENDEAVOUR'S ASTRONAUTS PLAY

VIDEO: ASTRONAUTS PRACTICE EVACUATION OF SHUTTLE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: CREW BOARDS SHUTTLE FOR PRACTICE COUNT PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ASTRONAUTS SUIT UP FOR DRESS REHEARSAL PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: CREW INSPECTS CARGO IN THE PAYLOAD BAY PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: TRAINING SESSIONS AT LAUNCH PAD AND BUNKER PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: INFORMAL CREW NEWS CONFERENCE AT LAUNCH PAD PLAY
VIDEO: ASTRONAUTS ARRIVE FOR PRACTICE COUNTDOWN PLAY

VIDEO: FLIGHT READINESS REVIEW SETS LAUNCH DATE PLAY

VIDEO: PAD 39A GANTRY ENCLOSES SHUTTLE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ROLLAROUND MOVES ENDEAVOUR TO PAD 39A PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ENDEAVOUR IS HAULED OFF LAUNCH PAD 39B PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: TIME-LAPSE OF SHUTTLE'S LAUNCH PAD SWITCH PLAY

VIDEO: SHUTTLE AND STATION PROGRAM UPDATE PLAY
VIDEO: THE STS-127 MISSION OVERVIEW BRIEFING PLAY
VIDEO: PREVIEW BRIEFING ON MISSION'S SPACEWALKS PLAY
VIDEO: THE ASTRONAUTS' PRE-FLIGHT NEWS BRIEFING PLAY

VIDEO: PAD 39B AND ITS LAST SPACE SHUTTLE PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ENDEAVOUR'S SUNRISE ARRIVAL AT PAD 39B PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: MIDNIGHT ROLLOUT FROM ASSEMBLY BUILDING PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ENDEAVOUR HOISTED FOR ATTACHMENT TO TANK PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: CRANE ROTATES ENDEAVOUR VERTICALLY PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ENDEAVOUR MOVES TO ASSEMBLY BUILDING PLAY | HI-DEF
VIDEO: ORION AND ARES ROCKET PROGRESS REPORT PLAY
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