Friday, June 24, 2011

KSC teams completing Atlantis engine repair

Kennedy Space Center teams over the weekend will wrap up repair work on an Atlantis engine ahead of a Tuesday flight readiness review that will set an official launch date for the 135th and final shuttle mission.

The launch is tentatively planned for 11:26 a.m. July 8 -- two weeks from today.

Technicians this week replaced the main fuel valve on shuttle main engine No. 3 after a suspected liquid hydrogen leak during a tanking test June 15.

Leak tests will be performed this weekend.

Teams late Thursday also completed X-ray-like scans of about 50 support braces lining the midsection of the external tank, on the side facing the orbiter, to confirm none cracked during the tanking test.

Some of the 21-foot braces, called stringers, cracked when Discovery was fueled last fall. The stringer tops were reinforced on that tank and the last two to fly.

The tops have been scanned with no word so far of any concerns. Scans of the stringer bottoms followed.

Atlantis' four-person crew flew back to Houston Thursday afternoon after completing a launch dress rehearsal.

If a July 8 launch is confirmed, they'll plan to return to KSC on July 4 for the final launch. Atlantis is scheduled to fly a 12-day mission to resupply the International Space Station.

IMAGE: After completing simulated pad emergency exit training on launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, the STS-135 crew members paused for a photo June 23. From left are Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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