June 15, 2009

NASA schedules new launch dates

Space shuttle Endeavour's next launch attempt has been set for 5:40 a.m. EDT Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

As a result of the shuttle re-scheduling, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite will lift off together Thursday aboard an Atlas V rocket Thursday. NASA officials say they have three launch windows that day at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida: 5:12 p.m., 5:22 p.m. and 5:32 p.m. EDT.

Endeavour's originally scheduled Saturday launch date was postponed because of a leak in its gaseous hydrogen venting system that carries excess hydrogen safely away from the launch pad.

Endeavour's 16-day STS-127 mission to the International Space Station will feature five spacewalks to complete construction of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is to embark on a one-year exploration mission at a polar orbit of about 31 miles, NASA said, which is the closest any spacecraft has orbited the moon. The orbiter's primary objective is to prepare for future explorations of the moon.

The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite will search for water ice on the moon by sending the spent upper-stage Centaur rocket into a polar crater. The spacecraft will fly into the plume of dust left by the impact and measure its properties before also colliding with the lunar surface.