15 October 2008

Atlantis (STS-125) launch delayed

ZUI this article from Aviation Week:
Spaceflight planners at NASA are scrambling to rearrange the space shuttle flight manifest in the wake of last month's electronics failure on the Hubble Space Telescope.


Present planning has the shuttle Atlantis rolling back to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) from Pad 39A on Oct. 20. Atlantis had been scheduled to launch on Oct. 14 on the STS-125 Hubble-servicing mission, but now it will wait until sometime after February 2009 for another chance to fly the mission.

Its payload - two new instruments and a supply of replacement batteries, gyros and other hardware designed to keep the Hubble operating at upgraded capability for at least five more years - will be pulled back into the pad's rotating service structure on Oct. 7. It will stay there until it is returned to the Payload Handling and Servicing Facility on Oct. 13.

Eventually, crews will repack the payload to include a spare Control Unit/Science Data Formatter to replace the one that failed Sept. 27. The backup unit is undergoing testing at Goddard Space Flight Center to ensure that it will restore full redundancy to the telescope's data-handling system (Aerospace DAILY, Oct. 1).


If the Hubble program can get the backup hardware ready and the mission replanned in time, Atlantis will fly the STS-125 servicing mission in February 2009, with the shuttle Discovery acting as rescue vehicle. If it takes longer to prepare the modified Hubble mission, Discovery is tentatively set to fly STS-119 and deliver the final ISS solar array wing to orbit in February.

In that scenario Endeavour, back from the November station-logistics flight, will be processed to replay the role of rescue craft to a Hubble servicing mission before being prepared for the STS-127 mission to the station in May 2009.

Five shuttle missions are currently scheduled for 2009, with three more to follow in 2010 before the last shuttle is decommissioned.

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