NASA missionmanagers are expected to set a definitive launch date today for the shuttleEndeavour to haul two new additions to the International Space Station (ISS).
Shuttleprogram managers and engineers are wrapping up a two-day meeting at NASA?s KennedySpace Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., to determine whether Endeavour is readyfor a planned March 11 launch.
NASAspokesperson Kyle Herring told SPACE.com Thursday that the meeting, atraditional Flight Readiness Review that precedes every shuttle flight, wasgoing well. Mission managers are expected to announce their decision during apress briefing to begin no earlier than 2:00 p.m. EST (1900 GMT) today on NASATV.
Commanded bythree-time spaceflyer Dominic Gorie, Endeavour?sSTS-123 mission will mark NASA?s second shuttle flight dedicated to stationconstruction this year. It comes just weeks after the successfulFeb. 20 return of the shuttle Atlantis, which delivered Europe?s during a13-day spaceflight.
Gorie andhis crew are slated to launch at 2:28 a.m. EDT (0628 GMT) on March 11 on a16-day mission to the space station, where they will stage five spacewalks toinstall the first component of Japan?s massive Kibo laboratory and aCanadian-built robot on the orbiting outpost?s exterior.
NASA hopes to launch Endeavour by March 23 to avoid conflictswith other spacecraft also headed for the ISS in the next few weeks.
Theunmanned cargo ship Jules Verne, the European Space Agency?s first AutomatedTransfer Vehicle, is due launch toward the station from Kourou, French Guiana onMarch 7. But the spacecraft?s inaugural flight calls for a series of shakedowntests, and will dock at the ISS after Endeavour departs.
Russia?sFederal Space Agency, meanwhile, is gearing up for the plannedApril 8 launch of a Soyuz spacecraft that will ferry a new crew and Ko San,South Korea?s first astronaut, to the space station. That mission, to lift offfrom the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, will kickoff a crew change that will end with the April 19 landing of Ko and two membersof the station?s current Expedition 16 crew.
NASAwill hold a press briefing no earlier than 2:00 p.m. EST (1900 GMT) on NASA TVto discuss today's Flight Readiness Review meeting for Atlantis' STS-123 shuttle mission. Click here for SPACE.com's shuttle mission coverage and NASATV feed.
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- IMAGES: STS-122 Launch Day
- SPACE.com Video Interplayer: Europe's Columbus Lab Sets Sail for ISS on STS-122