STS-125 – NASA’s Flight Of Opportunity

by Chris Bergin

Flagship mission STS-125, better known as the final Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission, has officially entered NASA’s flight manifests as the “Flight Of Opportunity.”

HST SM-04 is currently scheduled for No Earlier Than (NET) April 17, 2008, involving Shuttle Discovery. Confirmation of the mission is expected next month.

For all the very latest STS Manifests (FAWG and Launch Schedule Manifests), plus Flight Assignment latest and MOD ‘Work To’ STS and ISS Schedules, join L2 – which includes the HST LON rescue presentation and STS-125 latest.

While moves are being made to attempt to bump the launch up to the end of 2007, initial preparations continue towards the dual approach of training a veteran crew to carrying out the servicing of the space telescope, along with evaluations for a one-of-its-kind LON (Launch On Need) rescue mission being on standby.

The last Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission took place on STS-109, with one of the most spectacular launches ever witnessed at the Kennedy Space Center, as Columbia’s dawn launch pierced through low clouds, lighting up the State of Florida in the process.

**Click the image to view the camcorder video recording of STS-109’s launch (free to view for forum members)**

December 2007 is ambitious to say the least, due to natural slippage in the launch manifest. Both STS-116 and STS-117 are under threat of slipping a few months due to delays with Atlantis’ External Tank (required both for Atlantis’ primary mission and her support of Discovery’s December mission).

Realistically, the Hubble mission is expected to remain sandwiched between the two major launch and installation missions for the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) in early 2008, currently dated – before slippage – as NET December 6, 2007, STS-123/1J/A, Endeavour – JEM ELM-PS, SLP-D1 with SPDM Dextre, and NET February 7, 2008, STS-124/1J, Atlantis – JEM PM, JEM RMS.

The latest manifests, dated September 12 and 13, now include payloads for all of the remaining flights in the Shuttle manifest. Previously, manifests had only shown scheduled payloads up to Node 2/STS-120.

LON missions only – at present – extend as far as STS-322, which is in support of STS-120. Installing a rescue requirement for the Hubble Servicing Mission would prove to be extremely complex.

It is hoped that continued confidence in on-orbit inspection, repair techniques and improved External Tanks that suffer less foam liberation will mitigate the need to have an orbiter on standby for Discovery’s mission, which was intimated by Shuttle manager John Shannon during a recent press conference.

‘The question on Hubble is Launch On Need, because that’s going to be extremely difficult to do,’ he noted, pointing out the rush to launch another orbiter, while Discovery is used as a lifeboat. ‘It’s going to be very tough.’

However, breaking source news tonight notes that Constellation may not see the handover of Pad 39B on the schedule date of March 31, 2007, due to ‘evaluations of having two pads available for a 2007 Hubble servicing mission, plus LON requirement.’

Pad 39B is set to undergo construction (and dismantling) work next year, ahead of the Ares I-1 test flight. An article will follow when further information is available. 

Meanwhile, a recent incident involving one of the new cameras that will fly with Discovery to upgrade an existing part of the telescope will not affect the scheduling of the mission, sources note.

Below is the current STS launch manifest (updated).

01 – December 14, 2006 – STS-116 – 12A.1 – Discovery – P5, Spacehab-SM, ICC
[February 9, 2007 – STS-317 – LON for STS-116 – Atlantis]
02 – February 22, 2007 – STS-117 – 13A – Atlantis – S3/S4
[May 8, 2007 – STS-318 – LON for STS-117 – Endeavour]
03 – June 11, 2007 – STS-118 – 13A.1 – Endeavour – S5, Spacehab-SM, ESP3
[July 26, 2007 – STS-320 – LON for STS-118 – Atlantis]
04 – August 9, 2007 – STS-120 – 10A – Atlantis – Node 2, PDGF
[September 28, 2007 – STS-322 – LON for STS-120 – Discovery]
05 – October 17, 2007 – STS-122 – 1E – Discovery – Columbus, MPESS
06 – December 6, 2007 – STS-123 – 1J/A – Endeavour – JEM ELM-PS, SLP-D1 with SPDM Dextre
07 – February 7, 2008 – STS-124 – 1J – Atlantis – JEM PM with JEM RMS
08 – April 17, 2008 – STS-125 – HST SM-04 – Flight Of Opportunity – Discovery
09 – June 19, 2008 – STS-119 – 15A – Endeavour – S6
10 – August 21, 2008 – STS-126 – ULF2 – Atlantis – MPLM, LMC
11 – October 30, 2008 – STS-127 – 2J/A – Discovery – JEM EF, ELM-ES, SLP-D2
12 – January 22, 2009 – STS-128 – 17A – Endeavour – MPLM, LMC
13 – April 30, 2009 – STS-129 – ULF3 – Discovery – ELC1, ELC2
14 – July 16, 2009 – STS-130 – 19A – Endeavour – MPLM, LMC
[October 22, 2009 – STS-131 – ULF4/CLF – Discovery – ELC3, ELC4]
15 – January 21, 2010 – STS-132 – 20A – Endeavour – Node 3 with Cupola
[July 15, 2010 – STS-133 – ULF5/CLF – Endeavour – ELC5, ELC1]

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