Saturday, December 8, 2007

Atlantis "go" for Sunday launch

The meeting today went along the lines of the last meeting. Atlantis is now set to launch on Sunday at 3:21pm ET. NASA TV launch coverage begins at 6am ET. Tanking will start at 5:55am. Any sensor problems should manifest within one hour after tanking start, but of course it may also occur at any time later. The final test on the sensors is at T-9 minutes but they will be monitored down until T-31 seconds. Then, the automatic procedures are called in. At this point, a sensor failure will no longer cause a launch scrub.

The information in my last space shuttle Atlantis launch write-up is still valid. Except, of course, that NASA is now go for launch on Sunday. Weather conditions are favorable for launch, around 80% chance of launch. The emergency landing sites are also mostly "go". A 24 hour delay bring slightly less favorite weather, with a "only" a 70% chance for launch on Monday. Interestingly, 70% were also mentioned for Tuesday (not previously considered a potential launch day).

A launch scrub on Sunday because of the ECO sensors does not outrule a launch attempt on Monday.

Mr. Hale strongly expressed the view that even if things go really wrong after liftoff, there are ample safe abort modes. This includes landing in Europe as well as aborting to a lower orbit. He re-iterated that a launch abort scenario is highly unlikely.

Launch attempts on Sunday and Monday will preserve the potential two-day mission extension to do an extra spacewalk. Later launch attempts may also preserve it, there is some planning underway.

The number of tankings and detankings, including tests, is limited because each tanking increases the risk of foam debris. This is because the ultra-cool propellants cause stress on the tank material, cause it to shrink and expand.

Future missions will see a number of changes, for examples in the engines. Mr. Hale states that he has tasked "considerable resources" to fix the ECO sensor system issue for future flights.

Finally, let me just quote the NASA home page:

Today’s Mission Management Team meeting has concluded. We are “go” for a Sunday launch attempt.

A post MMT news conference on NASA TV is set for approximately 4:30 p.m. EST. The participants will be Wayne Hale, Space Shuttle Program manager, LeRoy Cain, MMT chairman, Doug Lyons, STS-122 launch director, and U.S Air Force Captain Chris Lovett, 45th Weather Squadron.
So let's hope we see this tomorrow afternoon:

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