Space shuttle fueled for liftoff with Japanese lab
By Michael Christie
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - The U.S. space shuttle Endeavour was poised to blast off from its Florida home port on Tuesday to deliver the first part of a huge Japanese laboratory to the International Space Station.
Technicians at the Kennedy Space Center began filling the ship's fuel tank on Monday afternoon with more than 500,000 gallons of supercold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen for the 2:28 a.m. EDT liftoff from its seaside launchpad.
Endeavour, which flew its first mission in 1992 and is the newest of NASA's three remaining space shuttles, is scheduled to spend 16 days in orbit -- 12 of them at the space station.
That will be the longest planned visit to date by a shuttle to the orbital outpost, a $100 billion project that is becoming truly multinational this year with last month's installation of Europe's first permanent space lab and now Japan's.
In addition to a storage and equipment module for Japan's double-decker bus-sized space lab, the main part of which will be hoisted to space in late May, Endeavour will carry a Canadian two-armed robotic system.
The final section of the $2.4 billion Japanese lab called Kibo, a Japanese word for "hope," will be launched into space next year.
Space around the station will be more crowded than usual during Endeavour's mission. Europe's first cargo ship, an unmanned Automated Transfer Vehicle called Jules Verne, was launched from French Guiana on Saturday and will be hovering near the station during the shuttle's visit, waiting for its turn to berth.
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