New STS manifest changes NET dates

by Chris Bergin

Discovery’s new No Earlier Than (NET) launch date for STS-121 is now May 10, while Atlantis has been bumped down to August for her STS-300 contingency shuttle crew support (CSCS) mission – and STS-115 assembly flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

The latest Shuttle flight manifest, acquired by this site, points to External Tank (ET-118) – which will fly with Atlantis – being delayed past the required point of supporting her July launch date, previously noted on flight manifest option 05D-12.
The new manifest could be changed at least once more this month, with a PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board) meeting on February 16 set to discuss the current launch schedule.

Discovery’s window, now shortened by a week, runs until May 23, with United Space Alliance sources noting they will need a smooth launch processing flow to achieve the May window, given the lack of contingency days installed into the start of the window, leading to a maximum of 13 days contingency, even before Discovery has rolled over to the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) on April 13.

NASA officials won’t be working to a tight – or rushed – timeline, given no official launch date has been set. A move to July would not be a launch date delay, rather a new target launch window. NASA sources emphasised STS-121’s importance to the remaining Shuttle manifest, with a launch of Discovery only occurring – as with all launches – when they are absolutely confident to do so.

All dates are currently laid out to assist processing timelines for engineers and technicians working on the Shuttle fleet. However, NASA PAO did send out an e-mail to the media last night for accreditation purposes for a May 3-23 STS-121 launch window.

ET-119, which will fly with Discovery on STS-121, is set to be shipped from the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) on March 3, arriving at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on March 8. – Exclusive Shipping Date article.

Discovery’s processing remains on track, despite two of her SSME’s being removed to help evaluations on an IFA (In Flight Anomaly) of high levels of O2, recorded by catch bottles in her aft during ascent on STS-114. Evaluations are set to confirm the recordings were – as initially thought – bad data, due to an new analysis machine. – Exclusive articles that revealed the information on the leak – and following evaluations.

Discovery’s sister, Atlantis, continues to be in launch prep for STS-115 in OPF (Orbiter Processing Facility) 1, readying herself to carry ISS truss elements P3/P4 uphill. She was set to launch – as per manifest 05D-12 – within a window starting July 1, but has now been moved to a NET date of August 28.

The reason for the loss of the July window is ET-118’s delay in arriving at KSC in time to support launch processing for the July window.

ET-118, currently located at the Horizontal Final Assembly Bay, Position 1 at MAF, only had part of its PAL (Protuberance Air Loads) ramp removed three weeks ago, with a large amount of work still to be completed on fight modifications, such as the Ice/Frost ramp.

A delay to Atlantis’ launch schedule will not stop Discovery launching in May, despite the STS-300 rescue mission requirement surrounding STS-121. This is due to an extension of the CSCS window, allowing Atlantis to aim for an August 4 ‘assessed launch date’ – according to the new manifest, should Discovery suffer serious damage on ascent, leading to her crew needing to take up residence in the ‘safe haven’ of the ISS.

The large extension of the CSCS window, jumping from a 15th of July assessed launch date to August 4 – in support of a May launch of Discovery – points to an improved supporting role from the Russians, added to large amounts of logistics carried on Discovery, with the new manifest showing two Progress re-supply missions on the 10th of April and June 30, in assistance of ensuring the ISS is capable of supporting a jump to nine crew members, while awaiting Atlantis’ rescue.

Those Progress dates have recently been updated by the Russians, with the re-supply missions now slated for April 24 and June 28 respectively.

It is possible, though not listed, that the Russians could add another Progress mission in support of a CSCS contingency. RCS Energia previously noted they could ‘rush’ three Soyuz crafts to rescue Discovery’s crew, during STS-114, last year.

The rest of the manifest, which concentrates on the first five missions of the final four years of Shuttle flights, remains the same as the previous manifest. STS-119 to STS-123 remain on the manifest, but are tagged as ‘not on the baseline’ of the FDRD (Flight Definition and Requirements Directive).

Below is the current manifest for the next nine flights.

New NET dates:

STS-121 – Discovery – May 10 (NET)
[STS-300 – Atlantis – Aug 4)
STS-115 – Atlantis – August 28
STS-116 – Endeavour – October 1
STS-117 – Atlantis – December 7

STS-118 – Endeavour – March 15
STS-119 – Discovery – May 3
STS-120 – Atlantis – June 14
STS-122 – Endeavour – August 23
STS-123 – Discovery – October 11.

For latest news and live updates: – PRCB and STS Manifest thread – Orbiter specific live updates thread.

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