Tropical Storm Delays Space Shuttle's Move
This graphic from the U.S. National Hurricane Center depicts the anticipated three-day course of Tropical Storm Fay as of Aug. 18, 2008.
Credit: NHC.

NASA?s space shuttle Atlantis will have to wait a few more days before leaving its Florida spaceport hangar in order to avoid severe weather expected from Tropical Storm Fay.

The shuttle was slated to make the short trek from its service hangar to NASA?s cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Monday, but mission managers opted to wait until Fay passed before moving the 100-ton spacecraft into position to receive its fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters.

?It?s safer right now to leave it in the [Orbiter Processing Facility],? NASA spokesperson Candrea Thomas told ?We want to make sure everything is safe.?

Thomas said the main concerns included high winds and rain associated with Fay, which was moving northeast toward the southwestern coast of Florida at about 14 mph (23 kph) with sustained maximum winds nearing speeds of 60 mph (95 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center.

Atlantis will likely not make the move to the Vehicle Assembly Building until about midday Thursday, but the delay should not impact the shuttle?s planned Oct. 8 launch toward the Hubble Space Telescope, Thomas said.

?Right now, there?s no impact on the targeted launch date,? she added.

Commanded by veteran spaceflyer Scott Altman, Atlantis? STS-125 astronauts are preparing to fly the fifth and final servicing mission to Hubble. During their planned 11-day mission, the seven-astronaut crew is expected to perform five back-to-back spacewalks to replace gyroscopes, make unprecedented repairs and install new instruments to make the now 18-year-old space telescope more powerful than ever.

It should take shuttle workers about two days to move Atlantis into NASA?s 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building, hoist it into a vertical position and attach the orbiter to its external tank and rocket boosters, Thomas said. The shuttle is slated to roll out to its Pad 39A launch site sometime next week.

Atlantis? STS-125 flight will mark NASA?s fourth shuttle mission of up to five planned for this year. The upcoming spaceflight is also the only one of the space agency?s 10 remaining shuttle missions not aimed at completing construction of the International Space Station before the orbiter fleet is retired in 2010.