Monday, May 09, 2011

Endeavour launch set for May 16; Atlantis slips

Endeavour is ready for a second launch attempt next Monday at 8:56 a.m., while the final shuttle mission is expected to slip to mid-July, NASA confirmed today.

Kennedy Space Center teams over the weekend completed round-the-clock repairs and tests to prevent a repeat of the failure that scrubbed Endeavour's April 29 launch attempt.

Heaters on a fuel line linked to the orbiter's hydraulic system failed to turn on, likely because of an electrical short.

Managers "now  have extremely high confidence that the problem is no longer on the ship or in any of the electronics," said Mike Moses, the shuttle launch integration manager.

The root cause of the electrical short has not yet been determined, though new data points to a possible current spike during a thermostat test last June might.

But Moses said a new power distribution box, wiring and thermostats have likely eliminated the risk of a repeat failure, providing adequate rationale to proceed with the launch even without a certain root cause.

Endeavour's crew is expected to arrive around 11 a.m. Thursday and the three-day countdown begin at 7 a.m. Friday. Fueling of Endeavour should start late Sunday night.

Because of the delays to Endeavour's mission, the launch of Atlantis on the 135th and last shuttle flight has slipped from a target of June 28 to mid-July. That probably means at least a couple more weeks of work for most of the thousands of KSC employees facing a layoff after wheels stop on the last flight.

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