Fuel Tank Deliveries Slow Program Progress
NASA may delay some or
all of its scheduled 2007 launches. The space agency says despite
the delays, it still plans five ISS construction missions.
NASA officials told Florida Today the slips will give the agency
time to get new external tanks to Kennedy Space Center and finish
prep work on the orbiters scheduled to fly.
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center spokeswoman June Malone told
Reuters, "Delivery schedules have always been a factor, but in the
past it's just been more behind-the-scenes."
The Marshall Space Flight Center oversees work the shuttle's
tank as well as the engine and boosters. Following the Columbia
disaster, NASA put workers there on tank upgrade and improvement
projects, so production has fallen behind.
NASA should give official word on the delays during a series of
press briefings it has scheduled next month.
Florida Now reports the next shuttle mission, slated for
December 7th, will go as planned. That flight will deliver another
large section of the ISS's central truss.
Flights now scheduled for February 22 and June 11 were to
continue construction on the station's backbone, but will now go on
March 16 and June 28 instead.
The August 9 launch to deliver a module allowing the addition of
science labs from ISS partner countries is slipped to September
NASA says it WILL deliver those ISS lab components for its
European and Japanese partners before the end of the year, it just
doesn't have firm dates for those launches yet.
Another potential mission to be discussed before the end of this
month is a one to service the Hubble space telescope. Recent
pressure from scientists prompted NASA to reconsider a previous
decision to drop all further Hubble missions, but with new delays
looming, Hubble's future is now more uncertain than ever.