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Endeavour flight: the NASA shuttle launch that disappeared

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The launch team has rules it must follow regarding permissible launch weather, but those rule don't cover "how long you can watch before the launch goes out of sight," he quipped during a post-launch new conference.

Heater problem fixed

Endeavour originally was slated to begin its trip to the International Space Station on April 29. But the launch team scrubbed the liftoff during the final countdown because a key component related to one of the orbiter's auxiliary power units was misbehaving.

The auxiliary power units run the hydraulic systems that operate landing gear, flight-control-surfaces on the wings and tail, and the gimbals that swivel the shuttle's main engines to provided steering during ascent. The troublesome component was a heater designed to keep the fuel lines to one of the units from freezing while the shuttle is on orbit.

Technicians traced the problem to an electrical switch box in the orbiter's aft section. They made the necessary repairs, and the heater performed as advertised.

"We can declare that a victory," says Peter Nickolenko, the assistant launch director for the mission.

During Endeavour's 16-day stay at the space station, the orbiter's crew, commanded by US Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, will install a $1.5 billion physics experiment on the outside of the station.

In addition, crew members will conduct four spacewalks, the final four of the shuttle program. Space-suited mission specialists will swap out experiments on the station's exterior, perform a range of maintenance chores, and fine-tune the installment of Endeavour's robotic arm as part of the station's robotic-arm system.

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