Hubble Servicing Mission Delayed; Mission to ISS Set for Nov. 14

The space shuttle mission to repair and update the Hubble Space Telescope has been delayed. Mission managers were aiming for a February 2009 launch for STS-125 flight for the fifth and final shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. The replacement component for the data handling system that recently caused problems for the telescope not be ready by February, and now NASA is looking for a May 2009 launch. On a positive note, the “other” shuttle mission waiting in the wings, STS-126 to the International Space Station, is looking good and is go for launch. Current launch date is set for November 14 at 7:55 p.m. EST.

“We now have done enough analysis of all the things that need to happen with the flight spare unit to know that we cannot be ready for a February launch,” said NASA’s Astrophysics Division Director Jon Morse at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The spare Science Instrument Command and Data Handling system unit will replace one that failed on Hubble in late September, causing the agency to postpone the servicing mission, which had been targeted for Oct. 14.

A significant anomaly occurred during testing of the unit and NASA says six and a half months of further testing is needed before the it can be certified to fly. NASA’s plan is to have the spare unit ready to ship in the April 2009 timeframe so as to support a May 2009 launch.

sts-126 mission.  Credit: NASA
sts-126 mission. Credit: NASA

Endeavour’s STS-126 flight, set to launch on November 14 will feature important repair work to the station and prepare it for housing six crew members during long-duration missions. The primary focus of the 15-day flight and its four planned spacewalks is to service the station’s two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints, which have not been working correctly. They allow the station’s solar arrays to track the sun. Endeavour will carry about 32,000 pounds to orbit, including supplies and equipment necessary to double the crew size from three to six members in spring 2009. The new station cargo includes additional sleeping quarters, a second toilet and a resistance exercise device.

Source: 1st NASA press release, 2nd NASA press release