NASA next week will begin assembly of shuttle Atlantis for a planned Aug. 28 launch on a mission aimed at resuming construction of the half-built International Space Station.
Set to begin Friday, the assembly work also is timed to enable NASA to launch Atlantis on a mid-August rescue mission should serious problems crop up during a test flight aboard Discovery in July.
The assembly work will begin in high bay 3 of the Kennedy Space Center Vehicle Assembly Building, where workers will start stacking two solid rocket boosters on a mobile launcher platform.
Atlantis is to be rolled from a nearby hangar into the 52-story assembly building July 25. Crane operators will hoist the spaceship atop the mobile launcher platform and connect it to an external tank outfitted with the two boosters.
The external tank is due to arrive at KSC on June 5.
The prime payload for the mission -- a port-side station truss segment and associated solar arrays -- is to be moved to the launch pad July 27.
Mounted atop a giant tracked transporter, the fully assembled shuttle will roll out to the pad on Aug. 1.
The astronauts who will fly the mission will be at KSC for a practice countdown Aug. 8. The crew includes commander Brent Jett, pilot Chris Ferguson and four mission specialists: Joe Tanner, Dan Burbank, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Canadian Steve MacLean.
Post-Columbia launch restrictions will be in place for the mission. The flight must be launched during daylight and at a time when the shuttle's redesigned external tank will be jettisoned on the sunlit side of Earth.
The restrictions will enable NASA to document any external tank foam shedding during flight. The launch window will extend until Sept. 13.
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