Shuttle launch window extended to Sept. 8
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: August 30, 2006
NASA and Russian space managers agreed today to extend the shuttle Atlantis' launch window by one day, to Sept. 8, to bolster the U.S. space agency's chances of getting the weather-delayed shuttle off the ground this month.
To get the extra day, NASA managers agreed that Atlantis will undock from the international space station by Sept. 17 at the latest, clearing the way for launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket carrying the space station's next crew at 12:08 a.m. EDT on Sept. 18.
NASA managers hope to have Atlantis ready for launch by Sept. 6, if possible, after tropical storm Ernesto passes through the Kennedy Space Center area.
A launch on Sept. 6 or 7 would permit NASA to extend the docked phase of the mission by up to two days to give the crew time for additional heat shield inspections, if necessary, or to deal with other contingencies. A launch on Sept. 8, however, would force NASA to forego one additional docked day in order to ensure an undocking on Sept. 17.
Any shuttle launch past Sept. 8 would force the Russians to delay the launch of Soyuz TMA-9. And that, in turn, would delay the return of the station's outgoing crew aboard the Soyuz TMA-8 spacecraft, resulting in a night landing. For safety reasons, the Russians want to avoid that scenario if at all possible.
Under current planning, if Atlantis fails to get off the ground by Sept. 8 the flight will be delayed to around Oct. 26, barring a NASA decision to relax current rules requiring a daylight launch. In that case, the Russians had hoped to move the Soyuz TMA-9 launch back up to Sept. 14, the mission's original launch date before the Russians agreed to accommodate launch attempts through Sept. 7. Now that Sept. 8 is a possibility for Atlantis, the Russians have decided to forego any attempt to launch the Soyuz on Sept. 14 and to focus exclusively on Sept. 18.
The official crew patch for the STS-115 mission of space shuttle Atlantis to resume orbital construction of the International Space Station.
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