After a one-day delay due to clouds, space shuttle Endeavour launched at 4:14 a.m. EST Monday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with a new module and an attached cupola for the International Space Station that should increase human understanding of our home planet. It was the last scheduled night launch in shuttle program history.
Commander George Zamka, Pilot Terry Virts and Mission Specialists Kay Hire, Stephen Robinson, Nicholas Patrick and Robert Behnken began their 13-day mission with an eight-and-a-half-minute dash to orbit to begin the pursuit of the orbital outpost, lighting up the central Florida coast as Endeavour arced to the northeast en route to space.
When Endeavour lifted off, the station was traveling at almost five miles a second about 212 miles over western Romania. Endeavour is scheduled to dock with the station at 12:09 a.m. Wednesday over the northern coast of Spain.
"What a beautiful launch we had this morning... the orbiter performed extremely well," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations, during the STS-130 postlaunch news conference. "This is a great start to a very complicated mission."
Jean-Jacques Dordain, European Space Agency director general, thanked NASA, the crew and the ground teams for "a very beautiful launch." Dordain said, "It was an important event. Even more important for us because the shuttle was full of European hardware."
Mike Moses, shuttle launch integration manager, said the count went unbelievably smooth. He commented how the weather constraints influenced the launch of space shuttle Endeavour and how happy he was that it all came together today. Docking is set for flight day three with three spacewalks planned to install the Tranquility node and then cupola permanently to the International Space Station. "This will be a good example of international partnerships and cooperation between the station crew and shuttle crew," said Moses.
"This was one of the smoothest countdowns ever," said Mike Leinbach, shuttle launch director. "The team was very, very energized going into the count."
For more information visit NASA's website
Further information about European modules: Node-3 (Tranquility) and Cupola