Monday, July 23, 2007

Endeavor Rendezvous Planning

You might thing the title refers to planning for the STS-118 rendezvous of the shuttle Endeavor and the ISS, and it could indeed refer to that. I think I finally need to do a complete Orbiter shuttle fleet launch-to-ISS-rendezvous-and-dock mission to get in the right state of mind for the launch on August 7 (I've done all the parts, but never a complete launch-to-dock mission).

But no time for that just yet. The first rendezvous I need to arrange is for myself and Orlando on Saturday, August 4, to attend the NASA Education Conference Sunday and Monday and the launch on Tuesday evening. Regular old airline flight planning, made easier by the internet, of course. I found some cheap internet-only fares on Southwest, nonstop PVD-MCO (Providence-Orlando). Cool. But how long should I stay? If the shuttle doesn't launch on the 7th due to weather or something, what are the other launch windows?

Google STS-118 launch window and you find (among other things) this CBS News page with the essential info - early evening launch windows on the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th of August (that's as long as I can consider staying). I decided to give myself two additional chances to see the launch - fly back Friday so I can be home for a few days before another trip!

That CBS page is one of many pages related to shuttle operations, all apparently based on SpaceCalc, a detailed Microsoft Excel worksheet you can download here. The main mission status page lets you access a variety of SpaceCalc-derived web pages with timelines, flight plans, crew info, etc. There also the Boeing Reporter's Space Flight Notepad, a 3 MB PDF with extensive background information on shuttle operations and missions (it's updated for each mission, the STS-117 edition is up now).

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