Next Launch Window At End Of April
ANN REALTIME UPDATE
02.27.07 1655 EST: NASA has officially postponed the
planned March 15 liftoff date for the shuttle Atlantis, due to
damage sustained to the external tank's problematic foam insulation
in a strong hailstorm Monday.
"This constitutes the worst damage from hail that we have seen
on external tank foam," said Wayne Hale, manager of the Space
Shuttle Program, in a Tuesday press briefing.
Hale added a number of areas need to be repaired, and are not
accessible at the launch pad. The shuttle will begin its slow
journey back to the Vehicle Assembly Building over the weekend, or
early next week. Technicians will then have the opportunity to give
the space shuttle an intensive look at the damage and evaluate what
it will take to repair it.
"It will be about a month before we can talk about heading back
to the launch posture," said Hale, "given the repair schedule and
the ISS requirements.
The next launch window opportunity opens in late April and
extends out to the later part of May.
ANN REALTIME REPORTING 02.27.07 1635 EST: NASA
officials have confirmed that space shuttle Atlantis will need to
roll back to the Vehicle Assembly Building, to examine damage
suffered from a strong hailstorm that blew through the Kennedy
Space Center launch complex Monday evening.
Remote camera images (shown above and below) indicate extensive
damage to the external tank, with several chips showing on the
tank's foam insulation. A full assessment on the scene is just
getting underway due to the pad being closed for a fuel loading
operation that started Monday morning.
The two-day Flight Readiness Review at NASA's Kennedy Space
Center will continue in parallel with Kennedy Ground Operations
assessment of the external tank damage. The Flight Readiness Review
board will be briefed midday Wednesday.
Before each mission, the review is conducted by top-level NASA
officials, space shuttle program managers, engineers and
contractors approximately two weeks prior to the opening of the
launch window. They examine the readiness of the space shuttle,
flight crew and payloads to determine if everything is set to
proceed for launch.
The Atlantis flight crew will return to Kennedy a few days
before the launch of mission STS-117 to the International Space
Station, targeted for March 15.
At this time, NASA has not stated whether the rollback will
affect the planned launch date. Typically, NASA requires three
weeks to ready an orbiter for liftoff after it has rolled out of
This is the second time in as many launch attempts Atlantis will
leave the launch pad via crawler due to a strong storm. As Aero-News reported last
year, NASA chose to begin rolling Atlantis back to the
VAB ahead of Hurricane Ernesto -- but later opted to roll the
shuttle back to the pad, as the storm's track later diverted south
of the launch pad.