Monday, October 19, 2009

Live at KSC: Atlantis Launch Date Shifts to Nov. 16

NASA is now targeting a Nov. 16 launch for space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station, a four-day slip that gives Kennedy Space Center teams an extra opportunity to launch the Ares I-X test flight next week.

The test flight is scheduled to blast off at 8 a.m. Oct. 27, at the opening of a four-hour launch window.

By pushing the Atlantis mission back, NASA can attempt to launch Ares I-X on three consecutive days -- through Oct. 29 -- instead of the two previously planned.

Some of the same United Space Alliance ground personnel are working to prepare both the shuttle and Ares I-X for flight, and the shuttle's earlier Nov. 12 target date limited their time for the test flight.

Besides that, Nov. 12 was not available on the Air Force's Eastern Range, which tracks rockets launching from the KSC and Cape Canaveral to make sure they don't veer off course and threaten populated areas.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled to send a commercial satellite into orbit Nov. 14.

With a ULA Delta IV rocket set to blast off four days later, NASA is in negotiations to see if the shuttle launch can take priority.

Atlantis must launch its 11-day mission by Nov. 19 or stand down until Dec. 6, because the sun's angle to the space station wouldn't support a shuttle mission in between.

Any of the November launch opportunities, if they pan out, would place a shuttle crew on orbit during Thanksgiving for the second consecutive year.

KSC teams are getting ready to roll the unmanned Ares I-X rocket from the 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building to launch pad 39B just after midnight tonight.

That move is causing the Atlantis crew, which just flew in to KSC this morning, to abbreviate three planned days of pre-launch training.

The six astronauts will do as much as they can before departing tomorrow, then return Nov. 2-3 to complete the rest.

A Nov. 16 launch would targeted for 2:28 p.m. EST, in the middle of a 10-minute window.

IMAGE NOTE: At Kennedy Space Center on Oct. 14, space shuttle Atlantis reached the end of its 3.4-mile journey, known as rollout, from the Vehicle Assembly Building to launch pad 39A. The pad overlooks the Atlantic Ocean in the background. First motion was at 6:38 a.m. EDT. The rollout took about six hours, and the shuttle was secure or "hard down" on the pad at 1:31 p.m. Liftoff of Atlantis on its STS-129 mission to the International Space Station is now targeted for Nov. 16. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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