After the rollover from the OPF the Space Shuttle Endeavour orbiter has been brought into the central bay of the VAB. From here it is fitted with a special lifting jig to hoist it up to the the top of the VAB. Here it is carefully threaded through the infrastructure and then lowered into High Bay 1 where it is finally connected to the External Tank and the Solid Rocket Boosters prior to its rollout to the launch pad.
This whole process is called lift and mate. Despite sounding quite simple it is a long and precise operation taking several hours.
The scheduled lift was to be started at 3pm but when we were escorted into the VAB the engineers were still fitting the lifting jig to Endeavours four mount points. This was causing some problems as one of the mounting pins would not thread into the shuttle correctly.
Read on to discover the intricacies of getting Endeavour into the right position and to view the picture gallery:
We had a tour of the ground, 5th and 15th floors of the VAB whilst waiting for the the problems with inserting the lifting pins. After many hours of attempting to fit the lifting jig the lift was aborted for the night waiting for the morning crew to come on shift and take a fresh attempt.
We were all sent back to the Press Center to wait for the crew change. Bright and early the next day the jig was successfully connected up to Endeavour. The orbiter was released from the transported and raised up horizontally when the transporter was removed.
To get from the central bay to High Bay 1, where the stack (External Tank and SRBs) are awaiting the Space Shuttle, the orbiter needs to be lifted up and over all the walkways and access gantries.
With sufficient space under the orbiter Endeavour was pulled up into a vertical where it was lifted by a 325 ton crane to within a few feet of the roof of the VAB. During the lift the shuttle is rotated to an angle of 45 degrees to enable it to slide through the opening between bays.
Once it is in the High Bay it is taken out over the top of the stack where it is then rotated so that the bottom of the orbiter is facing the stack in the correct orientation. Endeavour was then lowered towards the floor of the VAB where it was mated to the stack which has already been assembled on top of the Mobile Launch Platform.
Just over 24 hours after Space Shuttle Endeavour started the move from the Orbital Processor Facility it was in place and connected to the External Tank and SRBs ready for a final check out. The next stage of preparing for flight is the Rollout when the Mobile Launch Platform including the stack is lifted up on the Crawler and transported the 2 miles down the Crawlerway to Launch Complex 39A.
The STS-134 Space Shuttle Endeavour Lift and Mate image gallery: (click on thumbnail to enlarge)