National Geographic

STS-130 Launch Coverage: Sunrise at the Launch Pad

By Susan Poulton

for Breaking Orbit

It was a chilly morning at the launch pad, as the sun rose on Endeavour during the rollback of the Rotating Service Structure (RSS). When the shuttle is on the launch pad, it is covered by a gantry structure to protect it from the elements and allow for access to the payload bay and other orbiter systems. About 20 hours before launch, this structure is rolled away to reveal the orbiter in final preparation for launch. It’s a special moment to witness, especially when the crowd of press and photographers is small and the air is fresh and quiet. These quiet moments with the space shuttle will become few and far between as attendance for launches grows toward the final launch.

After a brief update from NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, the press center will become quiet until later this evening as the press prepares for an all-nighter leading up to the 4:39am ET launch.


—Image Credit: Susan Poulton. The sun rises on Kennedy Space Center as the countdown clock holds at 11 hours.

rss_shuttle.jpg—Image Credit: Susan Poulton. The RSS gantry begins to swing back to reveal the orbiter on the launch pad.

shuttle_road.jpg—Image Credit: Susan Poulton. It’s been a long road for the shuttle program and Endeavour waits for launch at 4:39am ET.

—Susan Poulton works for National Geographic Digital Media and is a self-proclaimed space geek. Since graduating from Space Camp in 1987, she’s been fascinated by all things space and can’t resist sharing this passion with others. A veteran of 12 launches (and over 30 launch attempts), she has attempted to see every space shuttle launch since STS-114 in 2005.