NASA announced Thursday that space shuttle Atlantis’ STS-125 mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope is targeted to launch May 12, 2009. The mission, which was previously scheduled for October of this year was delayed when a data handling unit on the telescope failed. Since then, engineers have been working to prepare a 1970’s era spare unit for flight. They expect to be able to ship the spare, known as the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling System, to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in spring 2009.
STS-125 is an 11-day flight featuring five spacewalks to extend Hubble’s life into the next decade by refurbishing and upgrading the telescope with state-of-the-art science instruments and swapping failed hardware. The crew consists of Scott Altman, commander; Greg Johnson, pilot; and mission specialists are veteran spacewalkers John Grunsfeld and Mike Massimino, and first-time space fliers Andrew Feustel, Michael Good and Megan McArthur.
The next space shuttle mission, STS-119, is scheduled for launch on Feb. 12, 2009, which will go to the International Space Station and bring up the S6 starboard truss segment and the final set of solar arrays. Another shuttle mission, STS-127 mission, is also targeted for launch in May 2009, but it’s possible that flight could slip. The Hubble mission will need another shuttle on standby for a rescue mission, should STS-125 encounter any problems (since its not going to the ISS, which would serve as a safe haven if a shuttle had any damage where it could not land safely).
Beyond that, STS-128 is targeted for August 2009, and STS-129 is targeted for November 2009. As always, all target launch dates are subject to change.