Endeavour to undock Sunday – spacewalkers observe Hurricane Dean

by Chris Bergin

The final spacewalk of STS-118 has come to a successful conclusion, with a shortened EVA-4 including an amazing pass 200 miles above Hurricane Dean.

Because of Dean, the crew of Endeavour have been working at a pace to complete the final transfers between the International Space Station and the orbiter, as they bid farewell to the Expedition 15 crew, closing the hatches ahead of Sunday’s undocking. Endeavour will attempt to land on Tuesday.

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The always-stunning flyaround of the ISS has been deleted from Endeavour’s flight plan, as the crew attempt to complete the required operations ahead of re-entry.

Two major elements of post-undocking include the Late Inspection of Endeavour’s Thermal Protection System (TPS) – mirroring Flight Day 2’s scans using the OBSS (Orbiter Boom Sensor System), along with the FCS (Flight Control System) checkout and RCS (Reaction Control System) hotfire – to be completed over Sunday and Monday.

Endeavour is being targeted for a return to Earth on Tuesday, landing at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at midday, should the first attempt prove to be viable. However, a number of permutations exist, based on the weather situation.

‘End Of Mission (EOM) day is now Tuesday – that’s our first landing day,’ said Mission Management Team (MMT) co-chair Leroy Cain. ‘So we have now changed the plan from having EOM on Wednesday.’

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If the Hurricane threatens the Johnson Space Center in Houston, then NASA will attempt to land Endeavour at one of the three landing sites on Tuesday. Those three options are: the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, White Sands in New Mexico, and Edwards Air Force Base in California.

‘It all depends on if the storm is threatening us (Houston) when we get to the late Monday – early Tuesday – timeframe. If the storm is threatening this area, then we will have all three landing sites called up on Tuesday,’ added Cain.

‘If by that time the storm is not threatening the area, and is looking like it’s not going to be a threat, then the entry team will conduct the normal deorbit and entry plan.’

That would see Endeavour make an attempt to land on Tuesday at the Kennedy Space Center, with all three landing sites then being brought into action for Wednesday’s landing attempts. There are enough consumables onboard to allow attempts up to Friday – although it is very unlikely that Endeavour will still be in space by Thursday.

Earlier on Saturday, EVA-4 was completed, lasting five hours and two minutes – shortened to allow the timeline to stay on track for Sunday undocking.

The spacewalk, conducted by Canadian astronaut Dave Williams and ISS crewmember Clay Anderson, included the tasks of OBSS OSE (Orbiter Boom Sensor System/Orbital Support Equipment) installation on the S1 truss, ready to host the OBSS boom on station after STS-123, due to payload restrictions on STS-124.

Other tasks included the retrieval of the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) packages 3 and 4 – a task picked up from the terminated EVA-3 due to glove damage.

**Click the image to view a recording of the pass over Hurricane Dean during EVA-4 (free to view for forum members)**

During the EVA, the Station and Shuttle complex made a pass over Hurricane Dean, providing a stunning view from 200 miles high. The pass was commented on by Anderson and Williams.

‘Holy smokes, that’s impressive.. Can you see the eye?’ With Anderson joking, ‘They’re only impressive if they don’t come to you!’

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