Image Credit: NASA TV
Endeavour moved from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to launch pad 39-A on Wednesday 6 January 2010 in preparation for a 7 February launch to the International Space Station (ISS). This will be Endeavour’s 25th voyage into space.
A major concern is the status of the Tranquility module (Node 3) from the European Space Agency (ESA), which is Endeavour’s cargo for delivery to the ISS. In July, there were two ruptures in the ammonia lines that are a vital element in the Active Thermal Control System (ATCS). The ATCS provides cooling for the Tranquility module. In November, there was a leak during testing of a newly designed replacement. In December, a newly manufactured line failed. On Thursday, another ammonia line ruptured during testing in California.
The upshot is to put the mission in doubt. Major questions involve conducting a minimum duration flight, rearranging cargo assignments for the shuttles or rearranging shuttle order. None of this is trivial.
For example, one cannot simply swap STS-130 and STS-131. STS-130 is scheduled to transfer the WRS 1 & 2, WHC, OGS, ARS and T2 racks from the US Lab and Node 2 to Node 3, which would free up 5 rack locations in the US Lab, and 1 rack location in Node 2.
STS-131 is scheduled to deliver mission racks MARES, WORF, MELFI-3 & CQ to the ISS. If Tranquility (Node 3) is not in place, would there even be enough open rack locations in ISS to accommodate them?
Given the current uncertainty, the 7 February launch date is in serious doubt. Stay tuned for updates.