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Emily LakdawallaMay 11, 2009

Atlantis Exposed to the Heavens -- T Minus 14 Hours from Blast-off to Hubble

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

Space Shuttle Atlantis has been exposed for flight on Sunday evening May 10 after the retraction of the Rotation Service Structure (RSS). I am reporting directly from just outside the perimeter security fence at Launch Pad 39 A at the Kennedy Space Center on a glorious but steamy Florida afternoon with not a cloud in the sky. Starting at about 5:20 PM the press contingent witnessed the start of the RSS retraction by the NASA launch pad staff. It took about 25 minutes for the massive structure to pivot 120 degrees away from the orbiter and into its launch position.

Awaiting Retraction

Awaiting Retraction

e await the start of retraction of the protective Rotating Service Structure (RSS) at Pad 39 A at KSC on May 10, 2009

he 130-foot-high RSS encircles the orbiter, providing weather protection and work access to the orbiter for change-out and servicing of the Hubble payload in the payload bay. Platforms at five levels provide access to the science instruments and payload support equipment at the pad with the payload bay doors open in the environmentally controlled Payload Change-out Room.
Atlantis during retraction

Atlantis during retraction

tlantis begins to reveal herself about 10 minutes into RSS retraction.

e watched as the twilight sun set behind the shuttle and 5 clusters of Xenon high intensity searchlights (40 lights total) surrounding the pad were gradually lit to bathe the orbiter in a distinctive glow.
Atlantis at dusk

Atlantis at dusk

pace Shuttle Atlantis at dusk at Launch Pad 39 A, RSS retracted at left. Less than 16 hours from launch to save the iconic Hubble Space Telescope.

t this morning's Countdown status briefing, NASA Test Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said that the countdown timeline is on target and "After many months of preparation, Atlantis is ready to fly. It's a very busy mission as we refurbish, renew and restore the Hubble Space Telescope. We at NASA are looking forward to sharing the wonders of space for many years to come". Debbie Hahn, STS-125 payload manager, said that "All Hubble hardware has been closed out and the payloads are ready for flight. None of the payloads are powered for launch".

The Hubble Space Telescope will be flying directly over the Kennedy Space Center if Atlantis launches as scheduled at 2:01 PM on May 11. Shuttle Weather Officer Kathy Winters said the weather forecast has improved to "90% Go" for Monday. In the event of a delay, the weather outlook is reduced to "60% Go" on Tuesday and Wednesday with a threat of thunderstorms moving in.

May 10 Press briefing

May 10 Press briefing

t May 10 KSC Press Briefing, the Atlantis orbiter, Hubble instrument payload and weather outlook are all declared "Go" for launch in less than 24 hours by Charlie Blackwell-Thompson (left), Debbie Hahn and Kathy Winters.

he clock is ticking away towards Mondays launch with cryogenic fueling set to start in less than 2 hours. This morning, STS-125 Commander Scott Altman and Pilot Gregory C. Johnson once again practiced landings in the Shuttle Training Aircraft as the entire crew readies for their mission.
Ken and Atlantis

Ken and Atlantis

en Kremer and Atlantis at Launch Pad 39 A after RSS retraction completed.

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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