NASA Sets Feb. 7 Launch Date for Shuttle Atlantis

NASA Delays Shuttle Launch to January After Fuel Sensor Glitch
In the late afternoon shadows, space shuttle Atlantis is still poised on the pad after its launch on mission STS-122 was postponed on Dec. 6, 2007. (Image credit: NASA/George Shelton.)

NASAmanagers decided Friday to officially aim for a Feb. 7 launch of the shuttleAtlantis and delay another flight to mid-March as engineers work to replace anelectrical connector on the orbiter?s fuel tank.

The launchtarget will allow time to install and test the new connector and avoidschedule conflicts with other spacecraft that, like Atlantis, are bound for theInternational Space Station (ISS), NASA officials said in a statement.

Atlantisand its STS-122 astronaut crew are now scheduled to launch at 2:47 p.m. EST(1947 GMT) on Feb. 7, two months late, on a planned 11-daymission to deliver the European Space Agency?s (ESA) Columbus laboratory tothe ISS.

The spaceflighthas been delayedsince early December by fuel sensor glitches, which engineers traced backto a suspect electrical connector at the bottom of Atlantis? external tank. Engineersare expected to complete the installation of a replacement connector onSaturday, NASA officials said.

NASA alsopushed back the planned Feb. 14 launch of the shuttle Endeavour to mid-March.That mission, STS-123, will deliver a robotic arm addition and the firstsegment of Japan?s Kibo laboratory to the ISS.

The newshuttle launch dates, as well as a decision by Russia?s Federal Space Agency tomove the launch of an ISS-bound unmanned Progress cargo ship up two days toFeb. 5, were tailored to suit the work schedules of the space station?s currentExpedition 16 crew, NASA officials said.

In additionto a spacewalkrepair of starboard solar wing motor slated for later this month, thestation?s three-person crew is also gearing up for the arrival of the Europeancargo ship Jules Verne. Built for the ESA, Jules Verneis the first of a series of Automated Transfer Vehicles that designed to haulfresh supplies to astronauts aboard the ISS.

Atlantis?STS-122 mission will mark the first of five scheduled shuttle flights slated tolaunch this year. The shuttle Discovery is scheduled for an April launch todeliver second element of the station?s Kibo lab.

A plannedAugust mission, also aboard Atlantis, is aimed at overhauling the Hubble SpaceTelescope while a September flight of Endeavour will haul fresh supplies to theISS.

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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.