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Emily LakdawallaMay 11, 2009

Fueling Atlantis! T Minus 6 Hours and Counting

Planetary Society volunteer Ken Kremer is reporting for us from the Kennedy Space Center, where he is anticipating the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis to the Hubble Space Telescope on May 11. Kremer is a research scientist and freelance journalist who spends his spare time giving public outreach presentations on behalf of The Planetary Society as a volunteer and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a Solar System Ambassador. He also enjoys creating Mars mosaics. Thanks Ken!


Ken Kremerby Ken Kremer

It's a beautiful morning for a launch here at the Kennedy Space Center.

Fueling has begun of Atlantis External Tank (ET) tank. The Mission Management Team met shortly after 4 AM EDT and gave the "go-ahead" for fueling. The propellant transfer lines have been chilled down, fuel is flowing and the countdown clock is ticking.

At 4:41 AM the NASA team opened the valves and began loading the 154 ft long ET with about 500,000 gallons of the cryogenic propellants: supercold liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid hydrogen (LH2 ) from storage tanks at the pad. The "tanking" process to achieve the flight load takes about three hours and is nearly complete as of 7:15 AM. Thereafter it will be replenished as needed. The final inspection team will then proceed to the pad. The cryogenic propellents fuel the orbiters three main engines (SSME's) during liftoff and ascent for the 8 and a half minute climb to orbit.

Crew Wake-up occurred at 5:30 AM and the astronauts underwent final medical exams. They depart for the launch pad at 10:16 AM and board the orbiter about 30 minutes later. Liftoff remains targeted for 2:01 p.m. EDT. Weather remains at 90 percent favorable.

Below is a rundown of Highlights on what to expect on Launch Day. Atlantis will dock with Hubble on Flight Day 3 at an altitude of 350 statute miles. The first of five back to back EVA spacewalks to service, restore and upgrade Hubble begins on Flight Day 4. Each spacewalk lasts about 6 and one half hour.Countdown Timeline for Monday May 11 (all times EDT)7:41 a.m.--Countdown enters a two-hour, 30-minute hold at T-3 hours; fueling enters stable replenish8:30 a.m.--Live launch coverage begins on NASA TV and Launch Blog10:11 a.m.--Countdown resumes at T-3 hours10:16 a.m.--Atlantis astronauts depart crew quarters for Launch Pad 39A10:46 a.m.--Astronauts arrive at the launch pad and begin to board Atlantis12:01 p.m.--Atlantis' hatch is closed and latched for launch12:51 p.m.--Countdown enters a 10-minute planned hold at the T-20 minute mark1:01 p.m.--Countdown resumes at the T-20 minute mark1:12 p.m.--Countdown enters a 40-minute planned hold at the T-9 minute mark, during which the Mission Management Team, and Launch Control team will conduct polls to give a final "go" decision for launch1:52 p.m.--Countdown resumes at the T-9 minute mark1:56 p.m.--Auxiliary Power Units start at the T-5 minute mark2:01:49 p.m.--Atlantis launches on the STS-125 mission2:10:19 p.m.--Main Engine Cut Off (MECO)

Fueling begins

Fueling begins

ryogenic Fueling of Space Shuttle Atlantis has started at Launch Pad 39 A on the morning of May 11, 2009. Hubble will be flying over KSC at launch time.

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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