NASA space shuttle Atlantis is getting ready for its targeted launch to the International Space Station from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:26 am EDT on July 8.
Will the shuttle launch on that date and end NASA's 30-year space shuttle program? Today NASA managers will meet at Kennedy Space Center to conduct the final Flight Readiness Review that is expected to confirm the currently targeted launch date.
On Monday, technicians at Launch Pad 39A began the week-long process of closing space shuttle Atlantis' aft section in preparation for its liftoff on the STS-135 mission to the International Space Station.
Over the weekend, teams at the pad completed a full retest of the No. 3 engine's main fuel valve. They replaced the valve last week due to a suspected leak detected during a tanking test on June 15.
In addition, engineers found no issues with the 21-foot long support beams on space shuttle Atlantis' external fuel tank following X-ray scans of the stringers that were completed last week.
The crew members for the STS-135 mission are: Commander Christopher Ferguson, Pilot Douglas Hurley and Mission Specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim.
The STS-135 astronauts at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston practiced an entry simulation as they continue to train for the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program.
The mission to the International Space Station will last for 12 days, during which 8,000 pounds of spare parts will be delivered to the station. The shuttle will also test whether it is possible to robotically refuel existing orbiting satellites.
Apart from the spare parts, the shuttle will transport two Apple Inc.'s iPhone 4 to the U.S. National Laboratory. The iPhones will probably make their journey home on a Russian Soyuz vehicle in the fall of 2011.
Odyssey Space Research has planted a custom-made iOS app, called SpaceLab for iOS, on the iPhones to conduct four experiments that are Limb Tracker, Sensor Cal, State Acq and LFI. The app, which replicates the experience and tasks affected by the crew members on the app, is also available for download on App Store for $0.99.
In addition, on July 19, a day after the expected launch of Atlantis, NASA will give 30 of its Twitter followers a chance to test their skills at space shuttle ascent, rendezvous or landing aboard the same simulator astronauts use to train for their missions. NASA's Johnson Space Center is hosting a daylong Tweetup on that day.
Participants will get a behind-the-scenes tour at Johnson and a hands-on opportunity aboard the shuttle simulator to take control in a training scenario. The tour includes a look at the Mission Control Center and astronauts' training facilities. Visitors also will have the opportunity to speak with flight directors, trainers, astronauts and managers.
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