NASA Moves Up Key Dates for Shuttle Launch
Space shuttle Discovery is purged - providing cool and humidified air conditioning to the payload bay and other cavities to remove any residual explosive or toxic fumes – while still on the runway.
CREDIT: NASA/Kim Shiflett
NASA aims to accelerate the campaign to launch shuttle Atlantis in October by moving major pre-launch milestones up about four days each, officials said Friday.
The 15-story external tank designated for the mission will be mated to twin solid rocket boosters on Aug. 3 rather than Aug. 7, Kennedy Space Center spokeswoman Candrea Thomas said.
If all goes well, NASA hopes to advance the orbiter's move to the Vehicle Assembly Building, and then its rollout to launch pad 39A, by about the same amount of time.
Schedules still are under evaluation, but in that case, the Atlantis move to the assembly building would come around Aug. 18 rather than Aug. 22.
Rollout to the pad would come around Aug. 25.
NASA wants to move up its next two launches to make sure the second flies before a window of opportunity closes in late November.
The Atlantis launch on a Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission is scheduled for Oct. 8. Endeavour is slated to launch Nov. 10 on an International Space Station outfitting mission.
Managers will meet Aug. 14 to see if earlier dates can be targeted.
The sun angle on the station between Nov. 25 and Dec. 17 will be such that the outpost would not be able to generate enough power, or dispel enough heat, to support a docked shuttle mission.
NASA also would opt not to launch during the Christmas or New Year's holidays.
That means Nov. 24 is effectively the last day in 2008 to launch shuttle missions to the station.
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