Space Shuttle Endeavour Cleared for Nov. 14 Launch

Space Shuttle Endeavour Cleared for Nov. 14 Launch
At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, space shuttle Endeavour reaches the top of Launch Pad 39A after rolling around from launch Pad 39B on Oct. 23, 2008. (Image credit: NASA/Troy Cryder.)

The spaceshuttle Endeavour is set for a Nov. 14 launch toward the InternationalSpace Station, where astronauts hope to deliver new gear that will prime theorbital outpost for double-sized crews, top NASA officials announced lateThursday.

Endeavouris slated to rocket toward the space station at 7:55 p.m. EST (0055 Nov. 15GMT) on a 15-daymission to deliver a new crewmember and equipment that will help boost theoutpost up to six-person crews. The spaceflight will mark NASA?s fourth shuttleflight of the year, the most since 2002.

?We?re invery good shape to go fly,? said NASA shuttle program manager John Shannon in astatus briefing. ?We?re really looking forward to getting back into orbit.?

Earliertoday, NASA officials also announceda new delay to a separate shuttle mission, the STS-125 flight of the Atlantisorbiter, to launch a seven-astronaut crew on the lastservice call to the Hubble Space Telescope. That mission was slated to flyin February after a data relay glitch aboard the telescope thwarted plans foran Oct. 14 blast off.

Hubble engineerssuccessfully switched the space telescope to a backup data relay system and, earlier today,released the firstnew image from the observatory since the Sept. 27 malfunction. But problems with aspare unit NASA hoped to launch aboard Atlantis to fix the ailing system forgood will add months of extra checks and tests, mission managers said.

Meanwhile,Endeavour will launch as planned with its own seven-astronaut crew.

Commandedby veteran astronaut Chris Ferguson, Endeavour?s STS-126 crew is slated toblast off from NASA?s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., with apayload bay packed with a second space station kitchen, spare bathroom, newsleeping compartments, extra gym equipment and a water recycling system. Thenew gear is due to be installed and tested over the next few months to allowthe station to double its current three-person crew size in mid-2009.

?This is anextremely complicated mission for us,? said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA?s spaceoperations chief.

Fergusonand his crew also plan to perform four spacewalks during the mission, which areprimarily aimed at cleaning and greasing up a balky solar array joint on thestation?s starboard side. The joint, which has been damaged by bits of metalgrit, is one of two designed to spin the station?s outboard U.S.-built solar arrays likepaddlewheels so they always face the Sun as the station orbits the Earth.

Set tolaunch with Ferguson next month are shuttle pilot Eric Boe and missionspecialists Don Petit, Steve Bowen, Heidi Stefanyshyn-Piper, Shane Kimbroughand Sandra Magnus. Boe, Bowen and Kimbrough will make their first trips tospace during the mission.

Magnus,however, plans a much longer stay in orbit than her crewmates. She will replacefellow NASA astronaut Gregory Chamitoff, who launched toward the station lastJune, as a member of the outpost?s Expedition 18 crew until her own replacementarrives in March.

?When weget six people up there, I think it?s big enough that it still won?t feel verycrowded,? Magnus said of helping to double the station?s crew size. ?But thiswill be very exciting.?


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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.