The NASA space shuttle home page currently states that Atlantis could possibly launch on January, 24th. However, there are serious doubts about that date. From what I have found on the net, early February sounds much more realistic - with a launch on February, 2nd if there will be no further tanking test conducted. The most likely scenario, however, seems to be a launch no early then February, 8th.
Unfortunately, I am currently very busy with one of my projects and thus can not report more in-depth. That will follow hopefully soon. In the mean time, let me quote the NASA shuttle home page:
NASA flight control teams and ground operations teams have been requested to protect for a Jan. 24th launch date for Space Shuttle Atlantis. As work progresses, that date will be modified as required, says John Shannon, deputy manager for the Space Shuttle Program. The schedule depends on test results and modifications to a fuel sensor system connector on the external fuel tank Atlantis will use for launch on its STS-122 mission to the International Space Station. Other launch opportunities could come between Jan. 24th and the first week of February.
The connector suspected of prompting false readings during two previous launch attempts is undergoing intensive testing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Engineers also will test potential modifications to the connector to certify it for flight. Marshall has a test facility that allows the connector to be subjected to the same conditions it saw during the earlier launch attempts.
The modification and testing plans were discussed along with the launch preparation schedule during a meeting of Space Shuttle Program managers Thursday.
Technicians at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., will modify a replacement connector for the one that was removed. Metal pins inside the connector will be soldered to the socket, Shannon explained. The new connector is scheduled to be in place by Jan. 10.
"We're fairly confident that if the problem is where we think it is, that this will solve that," Shannon said.
Atlantis remains at the launch pad as the agency studies ways to modify the connector. The shuttle will carry the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory to the space station during the STS-122 mission.
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