Griffin announces July 13 launch date

by Chris Bergin

NASA administrator Mike Griffin has announced that July 13 will be the launch date for the long-awaited Return to Flight of the Space Shuttle fleet – beginning with Shuttle Discovery on STS-114.

Late information, coming out of the Flight Readiness Review, had rumoured a date of July 18 – however, Griffin has officially set the date as the 13th as originally planned.

While it was confirmed that several departments had completed their elements of the FRR, it was noted that some core managers were still meeting this morning – thus meaning the FRR was still in session today – contrary to earlier reports.

“Based on a very thorough and very successful flight readiness review we’re currently ‘go for launch’ of Discovery on July 13,” said Griffin at the press conference to announce the launch date.

The NASA head had already pre-empted his ‘go for launch’ comment to the US Senate on Tuesday, with a response to the Stafford-Covey Return to Flight Group – which had noted NASA had three safety recommendations outstanding from the Columbia Accident Investigation Board report – yet gave a their go-ahead to proceed with the launch, even if it wasn’t required from the Task Group.

Discovery will be the first Shuttle to launch since the Columbia accident in 2003 – Discovery was also the first Shuttle to fly following the Challenger accident in 1986.

United Space Alliance workers and NASA managers alike will be carefully watching the build-up of Ice – which can become a potential debris threat to the Orbiter on assent – when super-cold propellant is loaded into the External Tank prior to launch.

Also under the spotlight will be the pre-press over-cycling which was noted on the two tanking tests in the build-up to STS-114’s launch. However, that occurred on a different External Tank and a different LH2 Diffuser to what Discovery will be using.

Discovery’s window to the International Space Station extends to July 31.

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