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U.S. shuttle Endeavour orbited on the way to ISS

RIA Novosti

09/08/2007 10:43 WASHINGTON, August 9 (RIA Novosti) - The NASA space shuttle Endeavour has been orbited after a successful launch to the International Space Station (ISS) from Cape Canaveral at 6:36 p.m. local time (10:36 p.m. GMT) Wednesday.

The shuttle is expected to deliver a seven-member crew, a space station segment and 5,800 pounds of cargo and supplies to the space outpost Friday for an 11-day assembly mission, designated STS-118.

During three scheduled spacewalks, the astronauts - Commander Scott Kelly, Pilot Charlie Hobaugh, mission specialists Tracy Caldwell, Barbara Morgan and Alvin Drew, and veteran astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Dafydd Williams of the Canadian Space Agency - will attach a truss segment, install a new gyroscope and an external spare parts platform to the station, and test a new power transfer system.

The new system enables electricity supply for docked shuttles from the ISS, which allows shuttles to remain in orbit longer. If the system works as expected, three days and a spacewalk will be added to the mission.

Teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan will also conduct some educational experiments. Morgan was the backup to Christa McAuliffe, the teacher-turned astronaut who was killed when the shuttle Challenger exploded on lift-off in 1986.

This is the 119th shuttle flight and the 20th mission for Endeavour, the first in more than four years. The shuttle underwent modernization, including in safety systems.

Shortly before Endeavour's liftoff, NASA experts discovered an abnormal leak rate in the cabin, which was rectified after an air pressure-relief valve was replaced with one from the Atlantis shuttle.

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