Flight controllers in Houston and Moscow are preparing for the next launch attempt of the Shuttle Atlantis to send six American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut to the International Space Station (ISS).
Shuttle program officials are now targeting Thursday, May 18, for launch at about 6:38 a.m. EDT. A new countdown will begin on Monday, May 15, the same day the seven crew members plan to return to the Kennedy Space Center. A launch on May 18 would put Atlantis on a trajectory for a rendezvous with the ISS on Flight Day 4, with docking planned for shortly after midnight EDT on Sunday, May 21 (late Saturday night, May 20, CDT). Undocking would occur on May 26 with a night landing in the pre-dawn hours at KSC on Memorial Day, May 29.
With ISS systems functioning well, Station program officials determined that, for the moment, no firing of the engines on the Zarya module will be required to adjust the orbit of the ISS to facilitate rendezvous opportunities for Atlantis. ISS mission managers will review this plan at their next meeting on May 11, and could execute an altitude adjustment maneuver on May 16 if plans change, but it is highly unlikely any Zarya propellent will be used prior to Atlantisí arrival. Once docked to the ISS, Atlantis will reboost the Station by around 22 statute miles for the arrival of the Russian Zvezda Service Module this July following its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
At the time of docking, the ISS is expected to be at an altitude of 206 statute miles (332 kilometers). The average decay of the Stationís orbit is a little more than 1½ miles per week, but there are no concerns regarding the Stationís altitude falling below safe limits. As of midday today, the ISS has circled the Earth more than 8,328 times since its first component was launched in November 1998.
Otherwise, the focus of attention for flight controllers over the next two weeks will be on routine cycling of Zaryaís batteries and the monitoring of other ISS systems.
NOTE: The next Mission Control Center ISS Status Report regarding on-orbit activities will be issued Thursday, May 11. For further information, please contact the NASA Public Affairs Office at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, 281-483-5111.
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