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Space transport

Rocket launch

A rocket blasts off, carrying a space probe.A rocket blasts off, carrying a space probe.Click to play videoThere are 21 days to go before lift-off. The rocket parts are assembled in the vehicle assembly building. A crawler-transporter vehicle then carries the rocket stack, along with the launch support tower and the launcher platform, out to the launch pad. Countdown to lift-off, now just six hours away, begins. The flight programme is loaded into the onboard computers and radio communication links are checked.

The astronauts inside the spacecraftThe astronauts inside the spacecraft

Five hours to go...

Five hours before lift-off, the ground crew have filled the first and second stages with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel, as well as the solid-fuel rocket boosters. Engineers make the site ready for launch and personnel are evacuated from the area. The crew enters the spacecraft three hours before lift-off. Mission Control have been monitoring reports from the spacecraft itself, the tracking stations that will follow its ascent and weather satellites. When everything is satisfactory, the final stage of countdown begins.

The rocket’s engines fireThe rocket’s engines fire

Three minutes to go...

Technicians and engineers who prepare a launch pad for lift-off are known as "pad rats".

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