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Space Shuttle Atlantis Returns to Storage

Space Shuttle Atlantis Returns to Storage
Space shuttle Atlantis rides a crawler from Launch Pad 39A to the Vehicle Assembly Building on Oct. 20, 2008. (Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

ShuttleAtlantis retreated from its launch pad Monday for the third time in its lastfour missions.

  • In 2006, the shuttle got halfway back to the Vehicle Assembly Building before forecasters determined Tropical Storm Ernesto was a safe distance from Kennedy Space Center.
  • Last year, a February hailstorm damaged the orbiter's tiles and external tank, making repairs necessary.
  • This time, a computer glitch aboard the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope last month postponed Atlantis' servicing mission and forced the shuttle back into storage.

"Of course, we alwaysprefer a launch to a rollback, but the vehicle is in good condition and will beready for the Hubble mission," Atlantis Flow Director Angie Brewer said.

Atlantis began the 3.5-miletrip to the assembly building on top of a 6 million-pound crawler-transporterjust before sunrise, and finished six hours later.

The shuttle, its twin solidrocket boosters and fuel tank will remain stacked on a mobile launcher platformuntil next year, preparing to launch as early as February.

The move cleared the wayfor Endeavour to shift to launch pad 39A early Saturday.

Endeavour is stationedon pad 39B, a short distance up the coast, where it stood ready as a rescuevehicle if Atlantis sustained critical damage during the Hubble mission. But itnow will proceed with a 15-day outfitting mission to the International SpaceStation that is targetedfor liftoff Nov. 14. Endeavour's cargo includes bedroom, bathroom andkitchen gear that will enable the station to support six-person crews forlong-duration visits. Astronauts also will conduct four spacewalks to work onrotating joints that allow solar arrays to track the sun.

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