NASA Officially Sets Earlier Launch Date for Shuttle Endeavour

NASA Aims to Launch Shuttle Endeavour Two Days Early
The seven-astronaut crew of NASA's STs-118 are pictured from the left are astronauts Richard Mastracchio, mission specialist; Barbara Morgan, a mission specialist and NASA's first educator astronaut; Charles Hobaugh, pilot; Scott Kelly, commander; Tracy Caldwell, Canadian Space Agency's Dafydd Williams, and Alvin Drew Jr., all mission specialists. The crewmembers are attired in training versions of their shuttle launch and entry suits. (Image credit: NASA.)

NASA mission managersdecided Thursday to bump up the planned August launch of the shuttle Endeavour,giving the spacecraft's seven-astronaut crew a head start on a what is expectedto be a busy month for spaceflight.

Initially targeted for anAug. 9 launch, Endeavour's STS-118 crew is now on track to fly two days earlyon what will be the orbiter's firstspaceflight since 2002. The extra time will give NASA added flexibility tolaunch Endeavour from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) between the planned Aug. 3flight of the agency's MarsPhoenix lander and the Aug. 11 liftoff of an Atlas 5 rocket from the nearbyCape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"They did elect tomove the target date to Aug. 7 to increase our launch opportunities," NASAspokesperson Kyle Herring, of the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston,Texas, told SPACE.com.

The move will allow more timebetween the launch of Endeavour from KSC and the Atlas 5 rocket carrying theU.S. military's Wideband Global SATCOM communications satellite. The planned spaceshots, as well as the earlier Phoenix launch, will liftoff over the EasternTest Range that encompasses both KSC and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.Range restrictions typically call for a 48-hour buffer period between thelaunches.

Commanded by veteranshuttle flyer Scott Kelly, Endeavour's STS-118 mission will deliver a newstarboard-side piece of the International Space Station (ISS) and haul freshcargo to the orbital laboratory.

The STS-118 crew also includeseducator-astronaut Barbara Morgan, who haswaited more than 20 years to fly aboard a shuttle since she was first chosen asbackup for schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe during NASA's Teacher in Spaceprogram. McAuliffe and six NASA astronauts died during the 1986Challenger accident.

Endeavour's planned 11-daymission will mark NASA's second of the year to continue assembly of the ISS. Theshuttle Atlantis successfully completeda 14-day mission on June 22 and NASA hopes to launch up to three moreshuttle flights in 2007.

  • SPACE.com Video Interplayer: Space Station Power Up with STS-117
  • IMAGES: Atlantis Shuttle's STS-117 Launch Day
  • Complete Shuttle Mission Coverage

 

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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).