RSC Energia president Nikolay Sevastyanov has announced that NASA now has a third launch date option of September 8 for Shuttle Atlantis’ STS-115. This would allow Atlantis to launch on September 6, 7 and 8.
Sevastyanov made the announcement at today’s press-conference at GCTC – who confirmed the extra date is related to an agreed delay for the launch of Soyuz TMA-9 to September 18, if required.
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Currently, the launch of Soyuz TMA-9 to the International Space Station (ISS) is scheduled for September 14. However, as announced by Sevastyanov, should Atlantis require the 6th to 8th window option – and Atlantis launches – the Russians have agreed to move the Soyuz TMA-9 launch to September 18 – which is the end of their natural launch window.
If Atlantis fails to launch by the final opportunity on September 8, the Soyuz TMA-9 launch will proceed on schedule, September 14.
‘Today we prepare to launch on September 14, but the Shuttle launch was postponed and the launch window is now planned on September 6th to 8th,’ said Sevastyanov.
‘If the Shuttle can be launched between September 6th and 8th, then we shall delay the launch of Soyuz TMA-9 to September 18.’
‘For the present, NASA has declared only the September 6th to 8th launch window for Shuttle, therefore we are guided by this information.’
NASA had already acknowledged that the problems with delaying Soyuz TMA-9’s launch to allow Atlantis a longer extension to her launch window would cause problems with the return to Earth of Expedition 13, who would have then landed before sunrise in desert land in Kazakhstan.
This could hamper the recovery of the crew.
‘If we were to launch Soyuz TMA-9 later than September 18, then the Expedition 13 crew will land in the dark time of day. That is undesirable for us.’
Noting an arrangement, Sevastyanov confirmed that NASA now has a third launch attempt opportunity, which could prove vital, if Atlantis fails to launch on the 6th or 7th of September, especially if weather conditions prove to be acceptable only on the 8th.
It appears this is a final arrangement, with the Russians noting their deadline for launching Soyuz TMA-9 will be based on a landing of the Expedition 13 crew on September 29.
‘Today, there is an arrangement between the Russian and American parties that the deadline for the Shuttle launch is September 8th.
‘Launch of Soyuz TMA-9 on September 18 will allow us to provide a landing opportunity for the Expedition 13 crew on September 29, which is a deadline for the landing in the daytime.
‘If the Shuttle does not launch between September 6th to 8th, then we will go under initial plans – and launch on September 14.’