Thursday, December 27, 2007

Atlantis' launch moves to February 2008

Space Shuttle Atlantis is likely to launch not earlier than February. The target launch date of January, 10th 2007 for Atlantis STS-122 mission has been pushed back to early February. This is the result of today's mission management meeting.

The official NASA shuttle home page is even a bit more cautious:

NASA space shuttle managers met Thursday and decided to modify a fuel sensor system to correct false readings that postponed shuttle Atlantis' planned launches on Dec. 6 and Dec. 9.

Testing and analysis indicate that false readings from the engine cutoff sensor system occur in a three part feed-through connector. The connector passes electric signals from sensors inside the external fuel tank to shuttle electronics outside the tank. Technicians will remove portions of the connector and redesign the interface by soldering the pins to sockets at the external-to-feed-through side of the connector prior to installing the replacement into the external tank.

It is unknown how long it will take to complete the modifications and reapply foam to the shuttle's external tank. Managers will assess the progress of the work before determining a new target launch date for Atlantis.
The emphasis is mine. The repair is quite time consuming. I have currently no details, but it looks like there will be no full root cause analysis. That would probably have required a rollback to the VAB and a destack, and that process would make an early February launch date impossible. I hope to get more details soon and will post them when I have.

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