NASA has set February 7th as the target date for finally launching the Space Shuttle Atlantis. This comes after several delays caused by a faulty sensor in the orbiter’s external fuel tank. Houston Public Radio’s Jim Bell reports the problem has been fixed — they hope.
NASA spokesman Rob Navias says engineers at the Kennedy Space Center think they’ve solved this problem once and for all.
“That connector was replaced over the weekend, and that leads us to believe that we have a shot at a target date of February 7th for the launch of Atlantis on the STS-122 mission to deliver the Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station.”
Fuel tank sensors monitor fuel consumption during liftoff and shut off the main engines when the fuel gets below a certain level. A faulty sensor could shut the engines off too soon and cause a disaster, but Navias says mission managers are satisfied with the new connectors, and they’re confident they can launch Atlantis in three and a half weeks.
“There will be two sets of reviews on January 25th and January 30th to assess the work that has been done and the retesting of this soldered connector that has been returned into the propulsion system of Atlantis, and then we will set the firm launch date, but we currently are tracking toward February7th for that launch.”
When it launches, Atlantis will carry a European Space Agency laboratory module to the International Space Station. Atlantis’s delays have forced a delay in launching the shuttle Endeavour in March, carrying half of a new Japanese lab. NASA hopes to be back on track by late April, with an on-time launch of Discovery with the second part of Japan’s lab. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.