Spaceflight Now: Space Station/STS-98

NASA settles on new space shuttle launch schedule

Posted: January 25, 2001

File image of space shuttle launch. Photo: NASA
As expected, NASA managers today agreed on a revised near-term shuttle launch schedule, delaying the next flight one day to Feb. 7 and the flight after that from March 1 to March 8. Other downstream flights face delays of several weeks and two space station crew rotation missions are under review.

Engineers at the Kennedy Space Center are gearing up to move the shuttle Atlantis from the Vehicle Assembly Building back out to pad 39A Friday for work to ready the ship for blastoff Feb. 7 on a long-awaited flight to attach the U.S. laboratory module, Destiny, to the international space station.

Liftoff is targeted for 6:11:14 p.m. on Feb. 7 with a backup opportunity at 5:48:38 p.m. on Feb. 8. A launch on either day would result in a flight day three rendezvous with the space station.

NASA originally hoped to send Atlantis into orbit Jan. 18, but the flight was delayed twice - first to Jan. 19 and then to Feb. 6 - by work to inspect suspect electrical wiring in the ship's two solid-fuel boosters.

An additional one-day delay was ordered today because of a conflict with the launch of an Air Force Titan 4 rocket from the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and because a launch on Feb. 6 would have required a flight day four rendezvous with the space station.

NASA managers on Monday discussed potential delays for downstream flights and today, they agreed on a revised near-term flight schedule. But additional meetings are planned next week to resolve open questions with at least two flights.

Old Date New Date STS/ISS/Shuttle Payload
02/06/01 02/07/01 STS-98/ISS-5A/Atlantis ISS lab module
03/01/01 03/08/01 STS-102/ISS-5A.1/Discovery ISS crew rotation
04/19/01 04/19/01 STS-100/ISS-6A/Endeavour ISS robot arm
05/17/01 06/08/01 STS-104/ISS-7A/Atlantis ISS airlock
06/21/01 07/12/01 STS-105/ISS-7A.1/Discovery ISS crew rotation
10/04/01 10/04/01 STS-108/ISS-UF1/Endeavour ISS crew rotation
11/??/01 STS-107 or STS-109 TBD

STS-102 will carry the space station's second full-time crew into orbit. The Expedition Three crew will go up on STS-105 while their replacements, Expedition Four, will launch aboard STS-108.

Because STS-105 faces a delay of several weeks - and possibly longer because of required maintenance on Discovery and issues involving the station's orbit - launch of STS-108 could slip beyond Oct. 4 to ensure adequate separation between the two crew rotations.

NASA's most recent space station assembly schedule called for the Expedition Three crew to spend 113 days in space from launch on STS-105 to space station undocking on STS-108. Under that scenario, STS-108 would take off in late October for a station undocking around Nov. 2.

Senior NASA managers will review planning for both flights next Thursday and possibly set new launch targets.

In addition, NASA is still debating what to do about shuttle Columbia, currently undergoing modifications and repairs at Boeing's Palmdale, Calif., processing facility.

Columbia had been scheduled for two flights this year, one in August to carry out a suite of science experiments, and another at the end of the year to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

But Columbia will not get back to the Kennedy Space Center until late next month and engineers now say the veteran spaceplane will not be ready for flight until mid November.

Whether the science mission - STS-107 - or Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission 3B, known as STS-109, will get the nod is not yet known.

Status Summary

See the Status Center for full play-by-play coverage.