KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., May 16, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Space Shuttle Endeavour successfully lifted off for the final time from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center today on one of just two remaining missions before the Shuttle Program ends.
"Every Shuttle launch is a thrill to watch, but this launch, Endeavour's last, has a special meaning to all those who have played a role in the many successful missions of this remarkable vehicle," said Dan Brandenstein, Chief Operating Officer for United Space Alliance (USA). Brandenstein, a four-time Shuttle crew member, served as commander of Endeavour's maiden voyage, STS-49, in 1992.
"Endeavour and the other two orbiters continue to perform exceedingly well. Better with every flight," Brandenstein said. "It is a testament to how well they were designed and the outstanding care they have received. The team of people operating these machines are performing better now than ever before as well, and we are all very proud of this program and its accomplishments."
Today's launch begins Endeavour's 25th spaceflight, and its 11th mission to the ISS. STS-134 is the 52nd Shuttle processed by USA, which has had primary responsibility for the maintenance and operation of the fleet since becoming NASA's prime Shuttle contractor in 1996. During preparations for the mission, Endeavour was modified to add a tile "bump" on the lower surface near the starboard wing. This protuberance, part of the Boundary Layer Transition flight Experiment, aims to test the thermal impact of air flow disturbances during re-entry. USA technicians also modified the orbiter's boom, a 50-foot extension that attaches to the remote manipulating arm, in order to prepare the boom for its permanent installation on the ISS, as it will be left behind when Endeavour returns.
The STS-134 cargo includes the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 (AMS), a particle physics detector that will be mounted on the International Space Station (ISS). It will be used to search for types of unusual matter by measuring cosmic ray particles. The data from the AMS will help scientists determine what the universe is made of and how it began. Endeavour's cargo will also include an Express Logistics Carrier that contains spare parts that are critical to sustaining ISS operations.
"We have a great deal of up mass and down mass capability with the Space Shuttle orbiter and the goal is to take maximum advantage of that capability on the remaining Shuttle flights," said Virginia Barnes, USA's Chief Executive Officer. "These final Shuttle missions are critically important for leaving the station in the best possible configuration for its next phase of operations."
About United Space Alliance:
United Space Alliance is a world leader in space operations with extensive experience in all aspects of the field. Headquartered in Houston, USA has more than 6,000 employees working in Texas, Florida and Alabama. Currently, USA is applying its broad range of capabilities to NASA's Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs as well as to space operations customers in the commercial and international space industry sectors.
SOURCE United Space Alliance