NASA Sets Target Launch Dates for Three 2007 Shuttle Flights

Shuttle Discovery, Cargo Prepared for December Spaceflight
The orbiter Discovery is suspended vertically above the floor of the transfer aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building in preparation for NASA's STS-116 mission. (Image credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller.)

NASA space shuttle managers formallydecided Thursday to push back the launches of three orbiter missions in 2007 toallow extra time for spacecraft processing.

"It's acombination of processing and orbiter turnaround," KyleHerring, a NASA spokesperson at the Johnson Space Center, told Herring added that shuttle external fuel tank preparations are a priority: "We knowthat the tank processing is one of the critical path items and has been since return to flight."

NASA'sfirst shuttle flight of 2007--STS-117 aboard Atlantis--is expected to carry newfuel tank modifications when it launches no earlier than March 16 on a missionto deliver new solar arrays and truss segments to the International SpaceStation (ISS).

The shuttleEndeavour will follow no earlier than June 28, on NASA's STS-118 mission, toadd another truss segment and a spare parts storage platform to the ISS. Those missionspave the way for the planned Sept. 7 launch of Atlantis' STS-120 mission to install a U.S.-built hub [image]that will link future laboratories to the ISS.

The threeshuttle missions were originally slated to launch on Feb. 22, June 11 and Aug.9, respectively, but were pushed back to accommodate shuttle processing needs,as well as plans for upcoming ISS astronautspacewalks, crew rotations and automated cargo shipments.

NASA hasscheduled five shuttle flights in 2007 to continue space station assembly.

"The othertwo flights are set for October and December in 2007," Herring said.

October'sflight, STS-122 aboard Discovery, will deliver the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratoryto the ISS. Endeavour is expected to launch its STS-123 mission in Decembercarrying the logistics module for Japan's Kibo laboratory [image]and Canada'sDextre robotic arm attachment.

NASA's nextshuttle mission of 2006--STS-116aboard Discovery--is scheduled to launch on Dec. 7 to add a new trusssegment to the ISS and rewire the outpost's electrical grid.

At least 14shuttle flights, including STS-116, are expected to completethe ISS by NASA's September2010 deadline, when the agency plans to retire its three-orbiter fleet.

The flightschedule also includes room for a pair of extra ISS-bound flights to haul spareparts and other items to the orbital laboratory, as well as a 2008 flight toservice the Hubble Space Telescope.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.