NASA Targets Feb. 7 for Shuttle Launch
NASA Friday announced Feb. 7 as the target launch date for shuttle Atlantis’ STS-122 mission to the International Space Station and mid-March for the launch of Endeavour on STS-123. Liftoff of Atlantis from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla., will be at 2:47 p.m. EST.
A decision by the Russian Federal Space Agency to move up its Progress launch from Feb. 7 to Feb. 5 enables both STS-122 and STS-123 to launch before the next Russian Soyuz mission in early April. This allows astronauts assigned to the space station’s Expedition 16 crew to complete the tasks they have trained for, including support of the launch and docking of Jules Verne, the first European Space Agency Automated Transfer Vehicle. Targeting Feb. 7 also allows time to complete modifications to the engine cutoff sensor system that postponed two shuttle launch attempts in December.
Atlantis’ main objective during its STS-122 mission to the station is to install and activate the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory, which will provide scientists around the world the ability to conduct a variety of experiments in life, physical, and materials science, Earth observation and solar physics.
Shuttle Endeavour’s STS-123 mission will deliver Kibo, the first section of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s laboratory module, and Dextre, Canada’s new robotics system to the space station.
NASA managers will meet in the coming weeks to address the schedule of remaining shuttle flights beyond STS-123.