NASA officials have given the green light for an early June launch of the space shuttle Atlantis to deliver new solar arrays to the International Space Station (ISS).
Atlantis is set to lift off on June 8 at 7:38 p.m. EDT (2338 GMT). The decision was made following a one and a half day Flight Readiness Review meeting by mission managers and engineers.
"We're good to go. We have no show stoppers ahead of us," said Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale during a NASA media teleconference Thursday.
The start of the 11-day STS-117 mission was originally set for March 15, but was delayed due to hail damage to the orbiter’s foam-covered external tank following a late-February storm.
"The hail storm was just a freak event," said Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach. "We do not expect that to happen again in the life of the program. We endured it, got through it, and are ready to go fly now."
STS-117 will see the delivery of the second and third starboard truss segments (S3/S4) and a new pair of solar arrays to the space station, which will be installed during three planned spacewalks. The STS-117 solar arrays are the third of four U.S.-built power-generating wings to launch towards the ISS before the station's planned completion in 2010.
The mission will be commanded by Frederick Sturckow. The all-male crew will also include pilot Lee Archambault, and mission specialists James Reilly II, Patrick Forrester, Steven Swanson, and John Olivas.
Expedition 15/16 flight engineer Clay Anderson will also fly aboard Atlantis, and will replace Expedition 15 flight engineer Sunita Williams, who has been aboard the station since December 2006. Williams will return to Earth with the STS-117 crew.
Atlantis has a clear launch window from June 8 to 12. For every day that the launch is delayed, launch time is moved forward about 23 minutes. If the shuttle fails to launch by June 12, it will stand down for four days to allow the scheduled launch of a Lockheed Martin Atlas rocket on June 14. The next launch opportunity will then be June 17.
"We got a pretty good plan in place," Leinbach said. "Right now, if you give us four attempts in five days, we feel pretty good about getting off the ground."
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