While everyone was out enjoying the sand and sun, Kennedy Space Center was abuzz with activity as well as they moved the space shuttle Atlantis one step closer to it’s October launch, which will be the agency’s fifth and final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. Four days ahead of schedule, crane operators with United Space Alliance lifted a 15-story external tank and mated it with twin solid rocket boosters and then lowered it onto a mobile launcher platform inside the Vehicle Assembly Building.
The orbiter Atlantis is tentatively scheduled to be rolled out of its processing hangar and into the assembly building on Aug. 18, and the fully assembled shuttle is targeted to roll out to launch pad 39A on Aug. 25. Space Shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to launch Nov. 10, but NASA plans to move the flight up to Nov. 7 but no later than Nov. 24 or the mission will be postponed until early 2009.
According to NASA, the sun angle on the station between Nov. 25 and Dec. 17 will be such that the outpost would be unable to generate enough power, or dispel enough heat, to support a docked shuttle mission, and NASA would not launch the flight over the Christmas and New Years holidays.
Senior NASA managers will meet Aug. 14 to decide whether the Atlantis and Endeavour launches can be targeted for Oct. 5 and Nov. 7.