NASA announced today a target launch date for the Space Shuttle Atlantis' STS-125 mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope: May 12, 2009.
NASA was hoping to launch seven astronauts to Hubble aboard the shuttle Atlantis on Oct. 14, but delayed the mission to February after a serious hardware failure prevented the space telescope from relaying the bulk of its images and data to Earth in September.
Then in October, the launch was postponed to no earlier than May. Now a date has been picked.
Engineers have been working to prepare a spare data handling unit for the telescope to replace one that failed Sept. 27. They expect to be able to ship the spare, known as the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling System, to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida in spring 2009, today's statement said.
The mission is planned to be an 11-day flight with five spacewalks to extend Hubble's life into the next decade by refurbishing and upgrading the telescope with state-of-the-art science instruments and swapping failed hardware.
Scott Altman will command STS-125, with Gregory C. Johnson serving as pilot. Mission specialists are veteran spacewalkers John Grunsfeld and Mike Massimino, and first-time space fliers Andrew Feustel, Michael Good and Megan McArthur.
The next space shuttle mission, STS-119, is targeted for launch on Feb. 12, 2009. Preparations continue for the STS-127 mission, currently targeted for launch in May 2009. That launch will be further assessed and coordinated with NASA's international partners at a later date. STS-128 is targeted for August 2009, and STS-129 is targeted for November 2009.
All target launch dates are subject to change, NASA noted.
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