Space shuttle flight tank delivery must navigate around oil spill - - The News for South Mississippi

Space shuttle flight tank delivery must navigate around oil spill


NEW ORLEANS, LA (WLOX) - A big delivery from NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility to Kennedy Space Center just got a little more difficult thanks to the hazardous oil floating in the Gulf of Mexico.

Monday night, External Tank-137 is scheduled to leave the Michoud Facility near New Orleans. Workers rolled the tank into the enclosed barge, Pegasus, on Saturday, but high winds delayed the scheduled departure.

The voyage to Kennedy Space Center is 900 miles and will take approximately six days. Two tugs will escort Pegasus and ET-137 due east in the Intracoastal Canal to the Port of Gulfport where Solid Rocket Booster retrieval ship Freedom Star is waiting to tow the tank across the Gulf of Mexico, around Key West and up the eastern side of Florida to Kennedy Space Center. Freedom Star is expected to arrive at Kennedy Space Center on Sunday, May 9.

The switch to the Freedom Star ship in Gulfport was set to take place during daylight hours so as to avoid any oil that may be in the area.

Lockheed Martin has built 133 flight tanks for the Space Shuttle program, which is scheduled to end later this year after 29 years.

ET-137 is the next-to-last flight tank that will be delivered to Kennedy Space Center and is currently scheduled to propel shuttle Endeavour to orbit in mid-November for its flight to the International Space Station – the final shuttle mission.

Too large to travel by rail or interstate highway, the External Tank stands 15 stories tall (154 feet) and is almost 28 feet in diameter. ET-137 will weigh close to 1.7 million pounds when loaded with 535,000 gallons of propellant prior to launch.

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