Launch slip likely for shuttle Atlantis' flight to Hubble
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: September 22, 2008
The Atlantis astronauts are reviewing emergency procedures at the Kennedy Space Center before participating in a dress-rehearsal countdown Wednesday. Launch on a high-profile mission to service and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope remains targeted for 12:43:35 a.m. Oct. 10, but sources say the flight is expected to slip a few days because of training and hardware processing issues.
A shuttle program-level review is planned later this week. Mission managers will assess the shuttle's readiness, crew training, flight control preparations and the impact of Hurricane Ike on the Johnson Space Center workforce, before making a launch date recommendation to senior NASA managers. An executive-level FRR is scheduled for Oct. 2 and 3.
While the launch target remains Oct. 10, sources said today a slip of two or more days is expected because of lost training time due to the hurricane and the shutdown of the Johnson Space Center last week, as well as payload processing issues at the Kennedy Space Center.
The Atlantis astronauts, who flew to the Kennedy Space Center on Sunday to participate in this week's Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT, were in good spirits and eager to get on with preparations.
"I just wanted to take a minute and tell you all how happy we are to be down here and how great it felt to fly by and see a pad with our vehicle on it pointed up, ready to go," commander Scott Altman told reporters at the shuttle runway. "It's great to be down here and turning our focus from the hurricane that's behind us now to the flight that is in front of us."
Late last week, engineers delayed delivery of Atlantis' payload to the pad because of an insulation contamination issue with an instrument canister. That problem was resolved and the cargo was moved to the pad Saturday night, the day after the shuttle Endeavour was hauled to nearby pad 39B to serve as an emergency rescue vehicle for the Atlantis crew.
Engineers ran into more problems getting the Hubble cargo canister hoisted into pad 39A's payload changeout room, but the work was completed early Monday. The Hubble payload - two new science instruments, new batteries, gyros and other needed hardware - will be installed in Atlantis' cargo bay Tuesday.
Altman and his crewmates - pilot Gregory C. Johnson, flight engineer Megan McArthur and spacewalkers John Grunsfeld, Michael Massimino, Andrew Feustel and Michael Good - will field questions from reporters at the launch pad early Tuesday.
If all goes well, the astronauts will don pressure suits and strap in aboard Atlantis Wednesday for a practice countdown that will end with the simulated ignition and shutdown of the shuttle's main engines.
Mission planners have opted to launch Atlantis 10 minutes after the daily launch window opens to maximize ascent performance. An updated launch windows chart is available here.