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Launch Dates Shift for Missions to Several Space Missions

Launch Dates Shift for Missions to Several Space Missions
On Launch Pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, workers watch closely as the second half of the fairing is moved into the mobile service tower for placement around NASA's Kepler spacecraft (left) to complete encapsulation on Feb. 26, 2009. (Image credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. ? Thelaunch dates for a NASA planet-hunter, a moon-mapper, a shuttle mission to theInternational Space Station and an advanced military communications satelliteall are changing ? and all for different reasons.

A launchfailure on the West Coast, minor trouble with a spacecraft heater, tightlytimed launch windows and ongoing engineering analyses of suspect shuttle mainpropulsion system valves all have been factors in a fluid schedule for upcominglaunches from the Space Coast.

Here?s a look at the newlyset launch dates:

  • Next Friday: AUnited Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket is slated to blast off from CapeCanaveral Air Force Station, haulingup NASA?s Kepler spacecraft ? a robotic scout that will look for Earth-likeplanets in other solar systems.
  • Launchwindows: 10:49 through 10:52 p.m. and 11:13 through 11:16 p.m. EST

The launch had been set forThursday.

NASA pushed it back to giveengineers time to check common hardware between the Delta 2 and a Taurus XLrocket that failed to deliver a NASA atmospheric sciences satellite to orbitearlier this week.

  • March 13: AUnited Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket is scheduled to loft a next-generationmilitary communications satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral Air ForceStation.
  • Launchwindow: 9:25 p.m. to 10:07 p.m.

The launch had been set forMarch 9 but was delayed so engineers could repair and retest a faulty heatercircuit on the spacecraft.

NASA earlier this week setMarch 12 as a tentativelaunch date for shuttle Discovery on a station assembly mission. But theagency has yet to book the date on the Air Force Eastern Range.

The Eastern Range providestracking, range safety, weather forecasting and launch scheduling services forall missions from Florida?s Space Coast.

Launch of the Atlas 5 andthe military communications satellite would have to be delayed for Discovery tofly March 12. It typically takes two days to reset range systems betweenlaunches of different vehicles.

  • May 20: A UnitedLaunch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral AirForce Station with NASA?sLunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite.
  • Launchwindow: To be determined.

The launch had been set forApril 24 but was pushed due to a delay in the March Atlas 5 launch with themilitary satellite as well as the timing required for launch of the lunarmission.

The launch must be timed toput both the lunar orbiter and its companion spacecraft on the proper course toachieve science objectives. Two- to three-day launch opportunities come upabout every two weeks.

NASA considered trying tolaunch the moon mission during a window between May 7 and May 9 but decidedAtlas V turnaround operations would make the schedule too tight. The nextwindow opens May 20 and closes May 23.

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Published under license from FLORIDA TODAY. Copyright ? 2009 FLORIDA TODAY. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any way without the written consent of FLORIDA TODAY.


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Todd Halvoron is a veteran aerospace journalist based in Titusville, Florida who covered NASA and the U.S. space program for 27 years with Florida Today. His coverage for Florida Today also appeared in USA Today, and 80 other newspapers across the United States. Todd earned a bachelor's degree in English literature, journalism and fiction from the University of Cincinnati and also served as Florida Today's Kennedy Space Center Bureau Chief during his tenure at Florida Today. Halvorson has been an independent aerospace journalist since 2013.