NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavour was launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center's launch complex 39A at 18:36 local time on 8 August to start its first mission, STS-118, in over four years.

During the 11-day mission Endeavour's crew will deliver to the International Space Station its S5 starboard truss segment, 2,600kg (5,800lb) of cargo, fit a bracket for the future storage of Space Shuttle Discovery's inspection boom and test the orbiter's Space Shuttle Power Transfer System (SSPTS). Endeavour's last mission was STS-113, which took place from 23 November to 7 December 2002.

 NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavour was launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center

The SSPTS enables Shuttles to draw 2kW from the ISS, reducing the orbiter's fuel cells need to produce their maximum output of 4.5kW. This means that instead of being docked to ISS for six to eight days, the orbiter can be docked for up to 12 days. The SSPTS is operated through switches on the flightdeck. If Endeavour's SSPTS works STS-118 might be extended. Shuttle Discovery has also had the SSPTS fitted.

The SSPTS was fitted to Endeavour during its 24-month Orbiter Maintenance Downtime Period (OMDP), which started in December 2003 at Kennedy.

It was one of 124 modifications carried out. These included recommended return to flight safety modifications, the bonding of more than 1,000 thermal protection system tiles, the inspection of more than 93km (150 miles) of wiring and the addition of a multifunctional electronic display, glass cockpit, system and Navstar global positioning system equipment. The ODMP was Endeavour's last before the Shuttle fleet is retired in 2010.

On STS-118's flight day 10, during the mission's fourth spacewalk, the inspection boom bracket will be fitted to two trunnions on the zenith side of the S1 truss.

With the bracket fitted Discovery will leave its 15m (49ft)-long, 222kg inspection boom assembly behind on mission STS-120, scheduled for 20 October. This is because it cannot carry the boom and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's ISS laboratory module Kibo on mission STS-124, planned for April next year.

Following the launch of Endeavour on the 119th Shuttle flight, NASA administrator Mike Griffin said: "A launch operation doesn't get any better than this, it can't."

Source: Flight International