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NASA to launch Shuttle Atlantis as early as June

The barge carrying external tank 117 is maneuvered toward the dock by a tug boat in the turn basin of Kennedy's Launch Complex 39 area. Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 10, 2007
The US space agency said Tuesday it could launch the space shuttle Atlantis as early as June 8, after its takeoff was delayed last month following hail damage to the orbiter's external fuel tank.

The shuttle is expected to launch some time between June 8 and July 17 after repairs were completed to hail damage, incurred during a strong Florida thunderstorm, that experts said was the worst they had ever seen.

"Based on the discussions we had today, I would say the confidence is high that we would fly in that June/July window," said Wayne Hale, manager of the Space Shuttle Program.

Repairs and inspections showed positive results, he said.

"The technical team, the independence review team, all express a high degree of confidence we can come to a positive outcome," Hale said.

The entire team agreed that adequate progress is being made to ET-124 and ET-117 which arrived last week would still be available, if necessary.

John Honeycutt, deputy manager of the External Tank Project said, "We've done a significant amount of aero-thermal and icing testing to support the repairs [done] at Marshall Space Flight Center. Our goal is to provide a tank that is safe to fly."

The storm swept the Cape Canaveral, Florida, area in February, pelting the shuttle with hail as it sat at a Kennedy Space Center launch pad, being prepared for a mission to the orbiting International Space Station (ISS).

If for some reason the shuttle could not take off in June or July, the next window of opportunity would begin August 5, Hale said.

The Atlantis mission is aimed at continuing construction of the ISS.

During the last shuttle mission to the ISS, in December, Discovery astronauts rewired the outpost's power system and continued constructing the station by installing a truss segment on its grid-like structure.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Cape Canaveral FL (SPX) Mar 29, 2007
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