Endeavour departs from ISS – busy times ahead of re-entry

by Chris Bergin

Endeavour has successfully undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) after a busy final day of STS-118’s docked element of the mission.

Described by Expedition 15 crewmember Clay Anderson as “chaotic” – Endeavour’s crew managed to complete final transfers on time last night, before sealing the hatches ahead of Sunday’s undocking. Endeavour is already moving into preparations for Late Inspections, just minutes after leaving the ISS.

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The EOM (End Of Mission) day was brought forward to Tuesday due to the potential threat of Hurricane Dean. The storm had the potential to disrupt operations at the Johnson Space Center in Houston by around Wednesday.

However, early projections on Sunday show the Hurricane is now expected to miss Texas completely, although such weather patterns can change course within a matter of hours.

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Undocking occurred during a KU band blackout, meaning live coverage was sent in the form of still photos via the S-Band antenna. Video, filmed by Anderson, was set to be replayed, moments later, although the charismatic astronaut had problems getting his camera to replay the video.

Describing things as ‘chaotic,’ Anderson complained, comparing it with the rush to complete final transfers, saying he was covered in wires trying to get his camera to work, joking: ‘Sometimes they like to tie me up to the wall and keep me out of the way.’

Endeavour’s crew are now carrying out Late Inspections, utilizing the OBSS (Orbiter Boom Sensor System), grappled to the orbiter’s robotic arm. The inspections will mirror those of Flight Day 2, scanning the RCC panels and key leading edge TPS (Thermal Protection System).

Monday will be the final required operations ahead of re-entry, with the checkout of the Flight Control Systems (FCS), and the hotfire of the Reaction Control Systems (RCS) on the orbiter.

The first landing attempt of Endeavour at the Kennedy Space Center will call for a deorbit burn of 3 minutes 33 seconds, at 11:25am Eastern, using both OMS engines, for a reduction in velocity of 361 feet per second. Dropping out of orbit, Endeavour will hit entry interface 35 minutes later, at mach 25.

This first attempt would see Endeavour make a North West to South East approach, touching down at 12:32pm Eastern, on Runway 15 of the Kennedy Space Center.

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A second attempt to land at KSC would provide Endeavour with a stunning pass over the top of Hurricane Dean, with a westerly ground track towards Florida, 180,000 ft over the eye of the Hurricane. Endeavour would be too high to be affected by the storm.

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