Endeavour's payload shipped out to launch pad 39A
BY JUSTIN RAY
Posted: January 18, 2010
The Tranquility module that'll be a new room with a view for the International Space Station was trucked to space shuttle Endeavour's launch pad overnight, destined for blastoff next month.
Ground crews went to work hoisting the canister up the gantry to unload Tranquility into the pad's cleanroom for its eventual insertion into the shuttle bay later this week.
The module was built in Italy by Thales Alenia Space as part of the collaboration between the European Space Agency and NASA in the space station program. It was delivered to KSC in May to undergo final testing and preps for flight.
Endeavour's construction mission will bring Tranquility to the station for installation and activation, complex work that'll include three spacewalks.
The module's home is the port-side attachment spot on the Unity connecting node, the original U.S.-built piece of the station launched in 1998.
Tranquility will become a utility room for the outpost, housing large refrigerator-sized racks of equipment such as the oxygen generation and air scrubbing systems, water recycling gear, the treadmill named for comedian Stephen Colbert and the toilet and hygiene compartment. The racks are positioned throughout the station at present.
The module is 23.6 feet in length, 14.5 feet in diameter and weighs 33,325 pounds at launch.
Bill Dowdell, the deputy director for space station operations at KSC, says the module is a highly complicated piece of machinery that is ready for the astronauts to outfit with all of that vital equipment.
"The Italians are very proud of it and rightly so."
Hitching a ride to orbit on the module is a seven-windowed cupola, also built in Europe. It'll become the control room for operating the station's Canadian-made robotic arm, affording panoramic views around the outpost for the astronauts, not to mention serving as a spectacular viewing portal to the cosmos.
Original plans for the station assembly sequence called for the cupola to be launched on an old Spacelab pallet in the shuttle bay. But when NASA reduced the number of available flights, it appeared the cupola could get left on the ground.
Engineers then devised a new strategy to launch the cupola temporarily anchored to the vacant berthing port on the front of Tranquility. They dusted off handling equipment and successfully got the two structures mated together in a delicate operation between American and European technicians.
The astronauts will use the station arm to relocate the cupola to its intended position on the side of Tranquility during the mission. The duo can't be launched in that final configuration due to the tight confines of Endeavour's payload bay.
Also stashed inside Tranquility are bags of supplies -- about 1,000 pounds worth -- that take advantage of available capacity for delivering extra cargo to the station during these final shuttle flights.
Endeavour remains targeted for launch February 7 at 4:39 a.m. EST.
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