Atlantis Space Bound On Schedule
ANN REALTIME UPDATE
09.09.06 11:15 EDT: With a deafening roar. riding atop its
signature column of white smoke, the shuttle Atlantis is finally on
it way to complete STS-115.
As all stations at the Kennedy Space Center reported "go" during
the final minutes of the countdown, the shuttle crew completed its
final checklists just before the successful launch at 11:15 EDT --
right on time.
The launch went off without a hitch (not counting the previous
four failed attempts) with Atlantis following a nominal trajectory.
All standard launch phases, including the initial roll, main engine
throttle back and solid booster separation were "picture
Follow along in the next weeks as ANN keeps you up to date on
STS-115 status and progress in its mission to support and
upgrade the International Space Station.
ANN REALTIME UPDATE 09.09.06 10:05 EDT:
Atlantis' crew is in the cockpit and the hatch is closed while the
countdown continues. NASA says they are on schedule for a launch at
11:15 EDT this morning -- the fifth attempt to get the balky
shuttle off the pad and into space.
The Associated Press reports that yesterday's decision to scrub
the mission cost over $600,000.
If the mission is cancelled again today, NASA will have to delay
another launch attempt until after a Russian Soyuz
mission planned to launch September 18th is complete. Atlantis
and the Russian Soyuz missions are to support
the ISS and both can't be at the station
Stay tuned for ANN's next real time update...
ANN REALTIME UPDATE 09.08.06 1055 EDT: We've
been here before... but we want to make sure it's safe. That's the
latest from NASA, as moments ago engineers scrubbed Friday's
scheduled launch of the shuttle Atlantis due to problems with one
of four ECO fuel level sensors on the shuttle's external fuel
This is not a new problem... in fact, the exact same type
of glitch caused some tense moments during launch preparations for
Discovery earlier this year. As Aero-News reported, NASA
mulled over installing new sensors in that tank... before
ultimately launching the orbiter in July with the possibly
malfunctioning sensor in place.
Launch is now scheduled for Saturday at 11:15 am EDT. The delay
means NASA will need to cut Atlantis' mission in orbit short
by one day, to provide a launch window for an upcoming Russian
Soyuz mission to the ISS later this month.
ANN REALTIME UPDATE 09.08.06 1050 EDT: A new
problem for Atlantis... as NASA engineers report a missing
manuevering jet cover they fear could have allowed moisture to
enter the thruster.
The concern NASA faces is the ever-present launch debris
factor... as engineers now attempt to determine whether ice formed
in the thruster could dislodge during launch, and strike the
News of the latest potential problem comes as engineers also
puzzle over the errant fuel cell that delayed Wednesday's launch...
as well as a problem with one of four fuel level sensors on the
shuttle's external fuel tank. It's worth noting NASA has launched a
shuttle -- Discovery -- with only three of those sensors operating
in the past.
A go/no-go decision is expected shortly. Stay tuned...
ANN REALTIME REPORTING 09.08.06 1010 EDT: The
hatch into Atlantis' crew cabin has been locked and sealed for
flight, following the seating of all six STS-115 astronauts inside
The crew members continue to power up the orbiter's systems as
the countdown to an 11:41 am launch marches on. The weather in
the Kennedy Space Center area is pleasant with temperatures in the
upper 70s and only wispy clouds fanning across the sky.
The decision to launch follows analysis of an issue found with
one of Atlantis' three electricity-generating fuel cells, which was
discovered during pre-launch preparations earlier this week.
NASA engineers have
determined that any failure of the suspect fuel cell during the
mission poses no danger to Atlantis and its crew. They also believe
two fuel cells alone would provide Atlantis with enough power to
accomplish the major goals of the mission.
During a Thursday evening news conference, shuttle program
manager Wayne Hale said the decision to fly Friday -- in spite of
continuing problems with the troublesome fuel cell -- came about
after a lively and inclusive meeting with space shuttle mission
managers and engineers held earlier that day.
"If you ever wanted to see the difference between the old NASA
and the new NASA, you should've been over there today. There was a
chance for everyone to participate," Hale continued to say that the
Mission Management team's vote to fly on Friday was nearly
The errant fuel cell isn't the only system causing some concern
on the orbiter, however -- as the launch team reported Friday
morning an ECO sensor on the hydrogen side of the external tank has
failed. At this time the team is pressing forward with launch
preparations, although Mission Management Team members are meeting
to determine if they will consider launching with three working
Launch weather remains at 70 percent "go" for launch, with the
primary concern for rain within 20 miles of the Shuttle Landing
Facility. No other issues are being addressed by the launch team at
Stay tuned to ANN for breaking news on the launch of STS-115,
whose mission is to resume construction on the International Space