Launch of NASA's shuttle Endeavour sparks early last Monday sunrise

Space shuttle Endeavour lit up the predawn sky above Florida's Space Coast on Monday with a 4:14 EST launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle's last scheduled night launch began a 13-day flight to the International Space Station and the final year of shuttle operations.

Endeavour's STS-130 mission will include three spacewalks and the delivery of the Tranquility node, the final major U.S. portion of the station. Tranquility will provide additional room for crew members and many of the space station's life support and environmental control systems.

Attached to Tranquility is a cupola with seven windows that houses a robotic control station. The windows will provide a panoramic view of Earth, celestial objects, and visiting spacecraft. After the node and cupola are added, the orbiting laboratory will be approximately 90 percent complete.

Shortly before liftoff, Commander George Zamka said, "Thanks to the great team that got Tranquility, cupola, and Endeavour to this point. And thanks also to the team that got us ready to bring Node 3 and cupola to life. We'll see you in a couple of weeks. It's time to go fly."

Zamka is joined on the flight by Pilot Terry Virts and Mission Specialists Kathryn Hire, Stephen Robinson, Nicholas Patrick, and Robert Behnken. Virts is making his first trip to space.

Endeavour's first landing opportunity at Kennedy is scheduled for Saturday, February 20, at 10:01 p.m. The STS-130 mission will be Endeavour's 24th flight and the 32nd shuttle mission dedicated to station assembly and maintenance.