NASA to Discuss Fuel Tank Repair Progress for Shuttle Atlantis

NASA Targets June Launch for Space Shuttle Atlantis
Workers apply foam and molds on the shuttle Atlantis' external tank to areas damaged by hail. The white hole with a red circle around it (upper right) is a hole prepared for molding and material application. The red material is sealant tape so the mold doesn't leak when the foam rises. The white/translucent square mold is an area where the foam has been applied and the foam has risen and cured against the mold surface. (Image credit: NASA/George Shelton.)

NASAmission managers will discuss repair efforts to the space shuttle Atlantis'hail-battered fuel tank today, and are expected to lay out plans for theorbiter's return to the launch pad next week.

Shuttleofficials are slated to begin meeting at about 9:00 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) toevaluate repairs to thousands of dings and divots etched into Atlantis' fueltank during a freakFeb. 26 hail storm above its Pad 39A launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The resulting damage delayedthe shuttle's planned STS-117 mission from March 15 to no earlier than June8.

"They'refeeling pretty good about that right now," NASA spokesperson Kyle Herring, ofthe agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, told SPACE.com of therepair work. "June 8, right now, continues to be the internal target launchdate."

In additionto going over Atlantis' fuel tank repair work, shuttle officials will alsodiscuss progress on propellant line inspections for the orbiter's three mainengines, NASA officials said.

Herringsaid NASA shuttle managers are targeting May 16 as the date to haul Atlantisback to its Pad 39A launch site from its berth inside the agency's cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building at KSC.

Commandedby veteran shuttle astronaut Rick Sturckow, Atlantis' STS-117 mission will delivernew solar arrays to the International Space Station during a planned 11-dayspaceflight. The mission will also ferryNASA astronaut Clayton Anderson to the ISS, where he will relieve U.S. spaceflyer Sunita Williams as part of the outpost's Expedition 15 crew.

NASAshuttle officials will discuss the results of today's meeting during anafternoon teleconference with reporters, the space agency said.

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Tariq Malik
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Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com 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 Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, 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 (opens in new tab) 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 Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast (opens in new tab) with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network (opens in new tab). To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik (opens in new tab).