Managers at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) are meeting today to clarify their shipping dates for the next two External Tanks (ET-119 and ET-118) – which will help NASA determine their STS-121 launch date.
A new manifest – acquired by this site and dated this month – shows the current STS launch dates is sill pointing towards a May 10 to 23 launch window for STS-121, with flights 18 and 19 now being classed as Contingency Logistic Flights.
Officially, MAF is shipping ET-119 to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on March, 3. That date was brought forward to Feb. 28, with the possibility of shipping by this weekend. ET-119 will be flying with Discovery as part of the STS-121.
ET-118 – to be used on Atlantis’ STS-115 (and on standby for the STS-300 contingency shuttle crew support mission) remains to be given a firm shipping date at this time, although it is estimated to leave New Orleans on April 7.
ET-119 is currently housed in Building 420, Cell 2 at MAF, with ET-118 located in Horizontal Final Assembly, Position 1, with its PAL ramp now removed.
The latest manifest, dated Feb. 9, shows the same flight running order as the previous manifest, produced in January. Different to that manifest is the last two flights of the Shuttle – flights 18 and 19, for Endeavour and Discovery respectively, have now been classed as Contingency Logistic Flights – pointing to the likely change of 16 missions to the International Space Station (ISS).
One extra flight, bringing the manifest up to 17 flights before retirement of the fleet, will be a servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope (HSM). The date for that mission will be decided after STS-121.
While MAF sources have been unable to confirm, Florida Today’s blog are reporting that they’ve been informed that ET-119 will ship from New Orleans tomorrow. That would place the arrival date for March 1 at KSC.
Should all go to plan, NASA will have nine days of contingency in the processing flow for a May 10 launch date.
However, all will ride on a successful wind tunnel test, which will make or break the green light for the PAL rampless ET to fly on STS-121.