Launch of space shuttle Atlantis on its STS-132 mission to the International Space Station officially is set for May 14 at 2:20 p.m. EDT. Top NASA managers made the decision at the end of Wednesday’s Flight Readiness Review at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“We had a very thorough review today. We went through all the things that happened on the vehicle, both the shuttle and also the station,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations. “The vehicle is ready to go fly. It’s a true testament to the work the teams have done down here at [Kennedy].”
Commander Ken Ham will lead the six-member astronaut crew during the 12-day flight. Atlantis and crew will deliver an Integrated Cargo Carrier and a Russian-built Mini Research Module.
John Shannon, Space Shuttle Program manager, pointed out that STS-132 – Atlantis’ last planned mission – will be an exciting one.
“Twelve days, three [spacewalks], tons of robotics… We’re putting on spares that make us feel good about the long-term sustainability of the ISS, replacing batteries that have been up there for a while, and docking a Russian-built ISS module,” he said. “This flight has a little bit of everything, and it’s been a great preparation for the team.”
The countdown will begin May 11 at 4 p.m. when countdown clocks at the oceanside launch complex begin ticking backward from the T-43 hour mark.
Changes to Last Two Planned Shuttle Launches NASA is planning to make some changes to the target launch dates for the last two scheduled space shuttle flights. Scientists with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, or AMS, program recently decided to change out the current magnet in the particle physics experiment module that will be attached to the International Space Station to a longer lasting one. This will take advantage of NASA’s plan to extend station operations until at least 2020.
Because of the magnet change, space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-134 mission, which will carry the AMS experiment to the station and was targeted to launch July 29, now is expected to launch no earlier than mid-November 2010. An exact target launch date hasn’t yet been determined.
The AMS is designed to help study the formation of the universe and search for evidence of dark matter and antimatter by measuring cosmic rays.
Space shuttle Discovery’s STS-133 mission currently remains targeted for its Sept. 16 launch date, but managers will continue to assess its readiness for flight and make changes as appropriate.