After Weather Delays, Space Shuttle Atlantis Reaches Launch Pad

After Weather Delays, Space Shuttle Atlantis Reaches Launch Pad
A banner cheers the space shuttle on as it reached Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Aug. 2, 2006.
(Image: © NASA/T. Gray.)

After twostalled attempts, NASA's spaceshuttle Atlantis rolled out to its Florida launch pad Wednesday as workersready the space plane for a planned liftoff later this month.

Atlantis reachedLaunch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida just after 8:00 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) following a seven-hour trek from the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building.

The orbiter'sMobile Launch Platform - which supports Atlantis, its external tank, and twinsolid rocket boosters - was on track to settle into final position on the pad atabout 9:00 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT), NASA officials told SPACE.com.

Despiteappearing hazy in NASA cameras at some times, while crystal clear at others,the weather appeared a welcome turn from the storms and lightning thatprevented Atlantis' two previous rollout attempts on Monday.

"I thinkeverything is looking good," NASA's KSC spokesperson Tracy Young told SPACE.comduring the move, adding that current weather forecasts look favorable asTropical Storm Chris approaches Florida's southern coast. "The storm is goingto head pretty well south of us."

WithAtlantis now at the launch pad, all the pieces are in place for NASA's planned STS-115space shot to jump start construction of the International SpaceStation (ISS) no earlier than Aug. 27.

The shuttle'sprimary load - a 17-ton set of newtrusses and solar arrays for the space station - rolled out to Pad 39B lastweek, and sits inside the complex's payload changeout room to be installed inAtlantis' 60-foot (18-meter) cargo bay.

Constructionof the ISS has been stalled since late2002 as NASA worked to recover from the 2003 loss of the Columbia orbiterand its seven-astronautcrew.

NASA hasnow put two shuttle flights aboard the Discovery orbiter - last months' STS-121mission and 2005's firstpost-Columbia flight STS-114 - under its belt and is pushing ahead tolaunch its first dedicated orbital constructionspaceflight in more than three years.

Commanded byshuttle flight veteran BrentJett, the STS-115 astronauts will stage three spacewalks outside the ISS toinstall two trusses on the station's port side to support two new solar arrays.Atlantis and its crew will also be the second shuttle flight to visit the spacestation's Expedition 13 astronauts in two months.

Discovery'sSTS1-121 mission launchedon July 4 and arrivedat the ISS two days later, ferrying European Space Agency (ESA) ThomasReiter to join Expedition13 commander PavelVinogradov and NASA science officer JeffreyWilliams aboard the station.

Jett andhis STS-115 crewmates are expected to spend 11 days in orbit to complete theirmission. The spaceflight's launchwindow currently stretches from Aug. 27 to Sept. 13, though NASA is hopingfor a liftoff nolater than Sept. 7 to allow a future Russian Soyuz spacecraft to rocket towardsthe ISS on Sept. 14.

  • VIDEO: Shuttle Commander Brent Jett
  • Image Gallery - STS-121: Space in Infrared
  • VIDEO: Spacewalk in Infrared
  • Complete Space Shuttle Mission Coverage
  • NASA's STS-115: Shuttle Atlantis to Jump Start ISS Construction

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