Monday, April 20, 2009

Officials Reviewing Hubble Flight's Readiness

Senior space shuttle and Hubble Space Telescope program managers are meeting today and Tuesday to discuss the status of the fifth and final Hubble servicing mission, targeted for launch May 12.

The standard program-level flight readiness review will present its recommendations to NASA administrators at an executive-level readiness review planned April 30 at Kennedy Space Center.

A press conference will follow that event, which will set the mission's official launch date and countdown timeline.

So far, KSC officials say shuttle Atlantis remains on track to blast off to the observatory at 1:31 p.m. May 12, but there is little margin in the schedule if any significant processing setback occurs.

The Hubble payload of new science instruments and repair equipment is scheduled to be installed in the orbiter's cargo bay this week, after being transported to launch pad 39A on Saturday evening.

The pad's Rotating Service Structure, or RSS, closed around the shuttle this morning, obscuring most of Atlantis from view. But Endeavour remains exposed on pad 39B to the north, with its RSS still swung open.

Endeavour, which last Friday was rolled from the 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building to pad 39B, will serve as a rescue shuttle if Atlantis sustains irreparable damage during a planned 11-day mission that includes five spacewalks.

Flight controllers today are doing a simulation related to the possible rescue mission, according to NASA press officials.

Meanwhile, at Johnson Space Center in Houston, STS-125 mission specialists John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel today are practicing for the mission's third spacewalk in the center's giant swimming pool known as the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, or NBL (shown at left).

Here's a short NASA summary of the mission's crew and goals.

IMAGE NOTE: After space shuttle Endeavour's rollout to Launch pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center last Friday (April 17), two different shuttles are poised on two different launch pads. Shuttle Atlantis (foreground) already was on Launch Pad 39A. With the space shuttle fleet set for retirement in 2010, this is expected to be the final time two shuttles will be on launch pads at the same time. Endeavour will stand by at pad B in the unlikely event that a rescue mission is necessary during Atlantis' upcoming mission to upgrade NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Atlantis is targeted to launch May 12. Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

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