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Space Shuttle Looses Battle of Launch Dates

Published by Matt on Mon Oct 19, 2009 7:03 pm via: source
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Written by Nancy Atkinson

It’s the old shuttle shuffle. The launch of Atlantis for the STS-129 mission has been pushed back by four days to November 16 to accommodate two unmanned rocket launches from Cape Canaveral, as well as the inaugural launch of the Ares I-X, scheduled for October 27.

Right now the shuttle launch window lasts one day – the 16th. A second launch attempt on November 17 is being negotiated, prior to standing down for a Delta IV launch and the Leonid Meteor Shower (NASA won’t launch the shuttle into a shooting gallery), so if weather or technical issues don’t allow liftoff then, the next window opens from December 6-13. But there are issues with that time frame, too.

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the crawlerway is sprayed with water to minimize the dust cloud generated by the passing of the crawler-transporter. Space shuttle Atlantis is making its 3.4-mile trek from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A in the background. Credit: NASA

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the crawlerway is sprayed with water to minimize the dust cloud generated by the passing of the crawler-transporter. Space shuttle Atlantis is making its 3.4-mile trek from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A in the background. Credit: NASA

Atlantis would need to launch by Dec. 13 to finish its mission before a Russian Soyuz arrives on Dec. 23 (joint safety guidelines say the shuttle can’t be docked when an another ship arrives). ing ship and depart the station in advance of the Dec. 23 arrival of a Russian crew transport craft. Additionally, the Geminid Meteor Shower is scheduled for Dec. 13-14, so NASA would likely try to launch by the 12th.

The shuttle can’t be at the International Space Station from Nov. 21 through Dec. 5 because the angle of the sun will be such that the solar arrays could not generate enough electricity to support a docked shuttle.
The way it looks now, if Atlantis hasn’t launched by Dec. 13, it will stay on the ground until January 7. As antiquated as it sounds, NASA tries to avoid flying during the New Year’s holiday because the shuttle’s computers are not designed to handle the year-end rollover.

NASA said today the main reason for delaying Atlantis’ launch from the originally scheduled date of Nov. 12 is because of Tuesday morning’s rollout of the Ares 1-X out to launch pad 39-B, and subsequent personnel issues with preparations for the Ares flight and STS-129 at the same time . In a case of bad management, the STS-129 crew flew to Florida Monday morning to begin a training and a Terminal Countdown Test, but after they arrived, they were notified that NASA managers scrubbed the two days of training sessions by the crew out at the adjacent pad 39-A. The crew will return to the to Kennedy Space Center in early November to perform the practice countdown simulation in which they suit up and board the shuttle.

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