NASA Eyes Shuttle Antenna Bolts in Atlantis Flight Review

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.)

A swarm ofNASA shuttle managers,engineers and contractors have descended on the agency's Florida spaceport fora two-day meeting to decide whether the Atlantis orbiter is fit to launch sixastronauts spaceward on Aug. 27.

Among themany items to be discussed during the meeting is whether engineers need toreplace a set of four bolts connecting Atlantis' primary data and video antennato the upper right side of the orbiter's payload bay.

"I know they'regoing to present it and we're going to lay out a plan on what the work would take,"said NASA spokesperson Bruce Buckingham, of the agency's Kennedy Space Center (KSC)where the meeting is underway, adding that it's still far from final whether additionalwork will be required at the shuttle's launch pad.

The four boltslatching Atlantis' antenna dish in place are shorter than those stipulated inengineering specifications, but have flown on all 26 of the shuttle's spaceflights.Engineers have expressed some concern that the bolts could shake loose duringlaunch, which could send the antenna plunging down the length of Atlantis'60-foot (18-meter) payload bay and cause serious damage to the orbiter.

"If we did decideto go do the work, it could in all likelihood not affect our launch date,"Buckingham said.

Atlantis isslatedto launch from KSC's Pad 39Bsite no earlier than 4:30 p.m. EDT (1030 GMT) on Aug. 27 to begin an 11-daymission to the InternationalSpace Station (ISS).

Its STS-115mission, commanded by veteran shuttle astronaut BrentJett, will deliver a newsolar array and pair of truss segments to the orbital laboratory.

But firstAtlantis must pass muster before teams of safety engineers and top shuttleofficials during a standard pre-launch meeting known as the Flight ReadinessReview.

Buckinghamsaid that between 200 and 300 shuttle officials, engineers and contractors begandiscussing Atlantis' flight readiness at about 8:00 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) today. Talksare expected to stretch on through Wednesday, with a final launch target to beannounced that afternoon.

NASAwill broadcast the results of Atlantis' STS-115 Flight Readiness Review meetinglive on NASATV no earlier than 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT). You are invited to follow the briefingusing SPACE.com'sNASA TV feed, which is available by clickinghere.

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