KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida (CNN) -- Riding a brilliant tower of flame into the night sky, the space shuttle Endeavour left Earth on Friday, carrying seven astronauts on a 15-day mission to the international space station.
The space shuttle Endeavour launched on time at 7:55 p.m. ET on Friday from the Kennedy Space Center in eastern Florida, mission managers announced.
"Preparing our home in space for a larger international family," launch commentator Candrea Thomas said during liftoff.
The 15-day flight's primary goal is to update the international space station so it can house six crew members at a time comfortably, instead of the current three.
Additions to the station's living space include more places to sleep, another bathroom, a better water system, new exercise equipment and a bigger refrigerator.
Four spacewalks are also scheduled to repair and service the station's two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints, which enable the station's solar panels to track the sun.
The mission will also bring home astronaut Greg Chamitoff, who has been at the space station since May. His replacement is mission specialist Sandra Magnus.
The shuttle is also bringing Thanksgiving dinner, with irradiated turkey, candied yams, stuffing and dessert, because it won't be returning to Earth until November 29.
The crew also includes commander Chris Ferguson, mission specialist Donald Pettit, mission specialist Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, pilot Eric Boe, mission specialist Steve Bowen and mission specialist Shane Kimbrough.
Mission managers cleared the shuttle about 10 minutes before its scheduled launch.
The final inspection team, also known as the "ice team," gave a last look using cameras, binoculars and infrared sensing devices to look for ice build up on the shuttle stack, which includes the orbiter, the external tank and solid rocket boosters.