Saturday, May 09, 2009

Live at KSC: No issues for Atlantis

NASA officials reported no pre-launch concerns for shuttle Atlantis at a 6:30 p.m. news conference today at Kennedy Space Center, which followed a Mission Management Team meeting that produced a unanimous "go" for launch.

"It really went well," Mike Moses, the team's chairman, said of the meeting. "Nice and smooth. No issues."

"The team is not tracking anything that would prevent an on-time launch Monday," added Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach.

As a result, the team does not plan to meet on Mother's Day

The Air Force's weather forecast calls for an 80-percent chance of weather that would support the scheduled launch time of 2:01 p.m. Monday.

There is only a slight chance that a shower near at an abort landing site in Spain could present a problem during the 62-minute launch window.

The preferred 2:01 p.m. launch time is 20 minutes into that window.

The time optimizes the shuttle's performance for its rendezvous with Hubble and also gives launch managers a chance to make sure the orbiter isn't on course to run into any orbiting space debris.

Processing of shuttle Endeavour on pad 39B to the north of Atlantis is complete until next week. Endeavour could be launched as a rescue shuttle as early as seven days after Atlantis, if Atlantis sustains major damage during liftoff.

"We're in good shape with Endeavour," Leinbach said.

Moses said both orbiters were checked - and cleared - for a couple of minor thruster-related issues uncovered during post-flight inspections of Discovery, which returned from its STS-119 mission on March 28.

A nut was missing from a retaining plate in a forward Reaction Control System vernier thruster, and another nut was loose on an attach point fitting in an Orbital Maneuvering System pod.

Pad 39A was cleared for much of the day for loading of cryogenic reactants that power Atlantis' fuel cells, which provide electricity for shuttle systems during flight.

Launch preparations will continue overnight. On Sunday, orbiter and ground communications networks will be checked out and some crew equipment will be stowed in Atlantis.

The pad's Rotating Service Structure is scheduled to be retracted into its launch position at 5 p.m.

Fueling of the shuttle's orange external tank is expected to being at 4:41 a.m. Monday.

A new round of briefings updating Atlantis' progress toward launch begins at 10 a.m. Sunday with a countdown status report. Briefings on the Hubble program and the observatory's scientific capabilities follow at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

You can watch them all live here on The Flame Trench. Just click on the NASA TV image on the right side of the page to launch an online viewer.

IMAGE NOTE: A launch countdown sign along the road at the Kennedy Space Center today shows two days until the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis and the start of the STS-125 mission. The 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building is seen in the background. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

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