NASA'sspace operations chief has delayed until March a decision on whether a missionto repair the Hubble Space Telescope will tie up one or both space shuttlelaunch pads, a decision that could impact the scheduled July test flight forthe Ares I-X launch vehicle.
For now, the Ares I-Xflight, a suborbital test of the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle NASA isbuilding to launch the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle starting in 2015, remainson schedule for a July launch, Jeff Hanley, Constellation program manager atNASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston said Jan. 23. Ares I-X program managerspreviously said they would need to knowby February when one of the shuttle launch pads would be turned over tothem so they could begin three or four months of modifications necessary forthe Ares I-X launch.
Both launchpads currently are reserved for the May repair mission to theHubble Space Telescope: one for the shuttle going to Hubble and theother to launch a second shuttle on a rescue mission if needed. Bill Gerstenmaier,NASA's associate administrator for space operations, said he would not decideuntil March whether the mission could be conducted using one launch pad. Atissue is whether the standby shuttle could be moved to the launch pad andlift off soon enough to rescue the Hubble repair crew. Safety requirementsenacted following the 2003 spaceshuttle Columbia disaster call for keeping a second shuttle on standby tomount a rescue of any shuttle crew are bound for a destination other than theinternational space station.
WhileNASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate continues to deliberateover releasing the second pad to Ares I-X prior to the Hubble mission,NASA is continuing to make some early pad modifications that would notpreclude a space shuttle launch, Hanley said.
NASA'sLangley Research Center in Hampton, Va., announced Jan. 22 that it was ready toship prototypes of Orion and its launch abort system to Kennedy SpaceCenter in Florida for integration with the rest of the Ares I-X vehicle.
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