It’s a crowded dance floor and someone had to step aside. Because of Saturday’s launch delay for STS-127, the shuttle and the upcoming dual mission to the moon — the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) — were both vying to launch from Kennedy Space Center on the same day, which is not a possibility (usually there needs to be at least 48 hours between launches as the Air Force’s Eastern Range that monitors needs that amount of time to reconfigure the systems.) At a press conference today, NASA launch manager at KSC, Chuck Dovale announced LRO/LRCROSS will give up their originally schedule launch date of June 17 so that the shuttle can go. “We are relinquishing the June 17 date to the shuttle,” he said. “However, we will maintain June 18 as the earliest possible date for LRO/LCROSS. We will monitor the shuttle’s progress, and if they were to scrub the launch for any reason before midnight on the 16th, we can still maintain launch on the 18th.” But there’s a lot that has to go right for the optimum and hoped for launch schedules to happen.
As of now, Endeavour’s launch is scheduled for 5:40 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, June 17. If that happens, LRO/LCROSS will lift off together aboard an Atlas V rocket on Thursday, June 18. There are three launch opportunities from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in on the 18th: 5:12 p.m., 5:22 p.m. and 5:32 p.m.
As of now, Endeavour astronauts will have one shot at getting off the ground Wednesday. If the shuttle runs into additional problems, the flight likely will be delayed to July 11 because of temperature constraints related to the International Space Station’s orbit.
NASA and the Air Force as still discussing if the Atlas launch can take place on the 18th if the shuttle launches on the 17th. That would be an unprecedented move.
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If Thursday’s liftoff of LRO and LCROSS is postponed 24 hours, the launch times Friday are 6:41 p.m., 6:51 p.m. and 7:01 p.m. Saturday’s opportunities are 8:08 p.m., 8:18 p.m. and 8:28 p.m.
Click here for a notated satellite view of the KSC launch complex.
Endeavour’s planned June 13 liftoff because of was postponed because of a leak associated with the gaseous hydrogen venting system outside the shuttle’s external fuel tank. The system is used to carry excess hydrogen safely away from the launch pad. Endeavour’s 16-day mission will feature five spacewalks and complete construction of the Japanese Kibo laboratory. Astronauts will attach a platform to the outside of the Japanese module that will allow experiments to be exposed to space.
LRO is scheduled for a one-year exploration mission at a polar orbit of about 31 miles, or 50 kilometers, the closest any spacecraft has orbited the moon. The primary objective of LRO is to conduct investigations to prepare for future explorations of the moon.
LCROSS, a partner mission that will search for water ice on the moon by sending the spent upper-stage Centaur rocket, about the size of a sports utility vehicle, to impact part of a polar crater in permanent shadows. LCROSS will fly into the plume of dust left by the impact and measure the properties before also colliding with the lunar surface.
We’ll keep you posted on the
dance launch schedule.