The Cape Week in Review - Orbital Wants to Launch Astronauts from the Cape

This week at Cape Canaveral the final shuttle mission's external tank arrived. The Air Force announced that the launch of an Atlas V rocket at months' end would slip to August and Orbital would like to launch astronauts from the Cape. This week in Cape History focuses on Apollo 11.

Final Shuttle Mission's External Tank Arrives at Kennedy Space Center

The end of an era rolled out of a barge and headed toward its date with history. The 15-story tall External Tank (ET) that is currently scheduled to fly on the final shuttle mission was unloaded today around 9:30 a.m. EDT. Brought to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) by the Pegasus barge, the ET traveled some 900 miles across the Gulf of Mexico. When the ET left the Michoud Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana last Thursday it was given a send off that included NASA officials, lawmakers and even a brass band.

The ETs were built by the Lockheed Martin Corporation. This one, designated ET-138 will help space shuttle Endeavour blast into orbit no earlier than February 26, 2011 on mission STS-134. ET-138 is the last tank that is planned to be used. However, another tank will be built in case an emergency occurs on the final mission requiring a rescue flight. This tank is scheduled to be delivered in October. It is currently being discussed as to whether not another mission should be flown to the International Space Station (ISS) this mission, STS-135, if so approved the tank that arrived today would be used to fly this mission. In either case, the tank that arrived today will likely fly on the final mission of the space shuttle program.

These large tanks contain some 500,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen which is utilized by the three space shuttle main engines (SSME) as the orbiter barrels its way into orbit. After the tank has been emptied it is jettisoned and burns up in the atmosphere above the Indian Ocean. It is the only part of the shuttle that is not reused after launch.

Shuttle_ET_500x334.jpgET-138 arrives at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This External Tank will more than likely be used on the final mission of the shuttle program. If STS-134 with Endeavour is the last mission then it will be used on that flight. However, if STS-135 is approved, this tank will be swapped out and used on STS-135 instead. Image Credit: Alan Waters

Orbital Would Likely Launch Astronauts from the Cape

With the announcement that NASA is seeking commercial crew taxis to low-Earth-orbit, one private firm stated that it would launch from Cape Canaveral if selected. Orbital Sciences Corporation said on July 13. Former shuttle astronaut and current Deputy General Manager of the Advanced Programs Group Frank Culbertson confirmed this during a National Space Club luncheon in Cape Canaveral where he was the featured speaker.

Currently Orbital is working on building both the spacecraft and the infrastructure that would allow them to launch cargo to the International Space Station - from Virginia. The firm holds a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to launch eight supply missions to the space station by 2015. SpaceX has a similar contract with 12 missions total, they however will launch from Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 40.

With President Obama's plans to make NASA reliant on commercially-provided launch vehicles Orbital is looking to launch its Taurus II rocket with their Cygnus spacecraft some time next summer. If successful, the private space firm could make its first cargo delivery as early as next fall. As the Senate has just passed the NASA Reauthorization Act of 2010 what will become of this push towards commercialization remains to be seen.

Air Force Pushes Back Launch of Atlas V Rocket

The next scheduled rocket launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station has been pushed back 10 days from July 30 to Aug. 10, 2010. Engineers asked for more time to test the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket's part that assists the fairing that protects the payload during launch to separate properly.

When the Atlas V does launch it will carry the first in a new series of military communications satellites in the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) program. It will lift off from Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 41 and it is not expected to impact either the Oct. 19 launch of a Delta IV Heavy or the launch of another Atlas V currently scheduled for launch on Nov. 17.

This Week in Cape History

apollo_11_lunar_module_500x365.jpg

July 13, 1995: NASA launched space shuttle Discovery on mission STS-70 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission marked the first use of the Block 1 Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) The mission lasted a total of nine days and included the deployment of the seventh Tracking Data and Relay Satellite (TDRS).

July 15-24, 1975: The United States and the former United Soviet Socialist Republic rendezvoused in space for he first time with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. The mission was designed to test out rendezvous and docking procedures for American and Soviet spacecraft, and to open the way for future international space missions.

July 16, 1969: NASA launched the crew of Apollo 11 atop a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A. Four days later mankind would realize an eternal dream and two men would set foot on another world for the first time. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would spend just under a day on the lunar surface and would spend some two and a half hours walking on the surface of the moon. The crew of Apollo 11, rounded out by command module pilot Mike Collins would splash down safely back on Earth on July 24, 1969.


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The Cape Week in Review is compiled by Jason Rhian, the Cape Insider, and is a weekly
round-up of what's happening at Cape Canaveral. If you have information or suggestions for the Cape Week in Review please email us at capereview@spaceref.com.

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This page contains a single entry by Jason Rhian published on July 18, 2010 10:25 AM.

NASA Reauthorization Bill Provides ATK with a Glimmer of Hope was the previous entry in this blog.

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