Tomorrow morning's launch of space shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station looks promising, as mission managers are reporting no problems and the weather appears to be cooperating. The shuttle is scheduled to lift off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:17 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time).
The 16-day Endeavour mission will deliver a Japanese science module to the ISS, including an exposed "porch" that will allow experiments to be carried out in the extreme conditions of space.
The space station, which saw its population double to six for the first time late last month, will host a whopping 13 astronauts from five countries (Russia, the U.S., Japan, Canada and Belgium) once Endeavour docks with its seven-person crew.
Like last month's shuttle visit to the Hubble Space Telescope, the upcoming mission, officially designated STS-127, will feature a tweeting astronaut. Endeavour commander Mark Polansky has been updating space buffs on his preparations for launch as Astro_127 on Twitter, and a NASA spokesperson says he intends to file updates from orbit just as Mike Massimino (aka Astro_Mike) did during the Hubble mission.
Also, just like May's Hubble servicing operation, the Endeavour mission will feature five spacewalks, an intense schedule that should help NASA wrap up its heavy lifting in completing the ISS before the space shuttle is retired next year.
After Saturday, only seven shuttle launches remain before the program's scheduled phaseout.
Photo of Endeavour nearing the launch pad: NASA/Kim Shiflett