When Space Shuttle Endeavour returned from its last mission on Feb 21st 2010 STS-130. The Orbiter was towed to Orbiter Processing Facility bay 2 or OPF2 where the ship was stripped down and prepared for it’s final flight to the International Space Station on flight STS-134.
When the Shuttle is ready it is moved from the OPF to the VAB. This is known as Rollover. Typically this takes place first thing in the morning as indeed it did this time. We arrived at dawn on the 28th Feb 2011 for first movement which happened around about 8am.
Our video is a time lapse showing the painfully slow backing up of the Space Shuttle Endeavour from the OPF, through the (relatively rapid) movement between the hangers, to the final stop inside the VAB where it will go through a process known as Lift and Mate.
A description of the Endeavour Rollover and picture gallery follows:
The first process in the preparation of the Orbiter is to checkout the spaceship and install the main engines. A large number of other processes are completed here before the Shuttle is finally ready to be moved from the OPF to the Vehicle Assembly Building. This is quite a straightforward procedure (well at least for NASA it is) and involves transporting Endeavour on a purpose built vehicle just under half mile from one hanger to another.
Despite the ‘simplicity’ of the task it takes a heck of a long time to achieve. Firstly Endeavour on the transport is backed out of the OPF. This is not a simple everyday backing up as there is only a small cutout in the hanger for the tail fin. Not only that but the transport emits some rather noxious fumes which must be vented outside the hanger. This means that whilst backing up the vent tube must be constantly shifted backwards to avoid getting crushed.
Once out of the OPF the transport backs round onto the main road between the OPF and the VAB. Closely following it were a group of workers carrying the mission banner that has been signed by all of the crew working on the orbiter. When the transport has been straightened up it heads off down a 440 yard straightaway. This is not a drag race and although it is the fastest part of the rollover it is still slower than walking pace.
A hundred yards or so before the turn in to the VAB the transporter and Shuttle stop in the shade of the VAB. This allows the workers and NASA personnel an opportunity to come out and view Endeavour on its final trip to the VAB.
About 3 hours later, and still in the shade of the VAB the transporter started it’s engines for the final stretch into the north entrance of the VAB hanger. In less than 20 minutes Endeavour was safely inside the VAB sitting on the transported awaiting the “Lift and Mate”. This is when the Orbiter will be joined to the bright orange External Tank and the Solid Rocket Boosters awaiting in High Bay one in the VAB. The Lift and Mate was scheduled to start at about 3pm the same day.
The STS-134 Space Shuttle Endeavour rollover image gallery: (click on thumbnail to enlarge)