Atlantis rolls out to launch pad

by Chris Bergin

Shuttle Atlantis’ has arrived at launch pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, following this morning’s rollout – which had been twice delayed due to weather. covered the rollout as a live event, with a vast amount of images on the links provided below. Meanwhile, NASA managers are also debating the possibility of moving STS-115’s launch date up to August 26.


Thunderstorms over the Cape ended the opportunity starting the rollout on the previous two attempts, but the weather has cleared in time for the 2am Eastern (7am UK time) start for the Shuttle’s journey. 

Shuttle Atlantis re-start of International Space Station assembly missions may see the possibility of the launch date moving up again, to August 26, which will be discussed by NASA managers at Thursday’s PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board) meeting in Houston.

‘FDRD CR in work to include August 26 as potential launch date, will be presented at August 3 PRCB,’ noted information supplied by sources.

Such a move would depend on lighting conditions, but the ultimate aim is to reclaim some of the launch window lost by the conflict with the Soyuz crew rotation, which saw NASA agree to end STS-115’s August launch window on September 7 – instead of September 13.


After arriving at the pad some six-hours later, the orbiter will be set for weeks of final testing at the pad, including a test of the auxiliary power units (APUs).

This test called a ‘hot fire’ ensures that all of orbiter’s APUs are in working condition and ready to fly.

In addition, the rotating service structure will be moved back around the vehicle to protect it from potential damage and the elements. This will allow for the installation of the mission’s payloads in Atlantis’ payload bay. Included in the ISS-12A package is a 45 foot long, 35,000 pound truss segment called P3/P4 that will be installed on the International Space Station.

‘The P3/P4 element will be installed on what is now the end of the P1 port truss segment already on orbit,’ explains Robbie Ashley, space station mission manager for the STS-115 mission. ‘It’s going to provide two primary capabilities, the first being power. The power module will provide the capability to generate, store, distribute and regulate power for the space station. It’s going to supplement the capability that is up there now with the P6 element.

‘In addition, the P3 half of the truss has a mechanism that’s going to rotate all of the outboard truss segments, including the solar arrays, to allow them to stay pointed at the sun for optimal power-generation capability.’

Another upcoming event for the crew is the terminal countdown demonstration test or TCDT, currently set for August 8 through 10. This countdown dress rehearsal will provide the crew with an opportunity to participate in a variety of simulated countdown activities, including equipment familiarization and emergency evacuation training.

Right now, Atlantis’ launch window opens on August 27 and extends until September 7. There is ongoing discussion between shuttle program manager Wayne Hale and NASA’s lighting analysis team regarding a launch opportunity on August 26.

NASA has mandated that the first three missions post-Columbia launch in daylight to evaluate changes made to the design of the External Tank meant to prevent foam loss.

An official launch date will be set by the Mission Management Team at the conclusion of the Flight Readiness Review, currently set for August 15-16.

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