Atlantis Will Ride Out Ernesto

NASA managers decided on Tuesday that Tropical Storm Ernesto won’t pose a threat to the Space Shuttle Atlantis, so they rolled it back out to the launch pad. There will still be high winds, so Atlantis will be locked down to the launch pad on Tuesday evening. If all goes well, Atlantis could launch as early as next week, returning to the International Space Station to continue its construction. The Kennedy Space Center will remain closed until Thursday, depending on the storm’s track.

NASA managers decided early Tuesday to move the Space Shuttle Atlantis from its launch pad into the Vehicle Assembly Building for protection from approaching Tropical Storm Ernesto, but later in the day, when the weather forecast improved, they reversed the decision and began moving Atlantis back to the pad.

Assessments of updated weather forecasts convinced shuttle managers that Atlantis would be protected from the storm at the pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Atlantis is expected to be locked down at the launch pad about 8 p.m. EDT Tuesday. The rotating service structure, which will surround the spacecraft and serve as a protective barrier from the storm, will be put around Atlantis about 30 minutes later.

Depending on the effects of Ernesto on Kennedy, a new launch date for Atlantis’ STS-115 mission to the International Space Station could be set once storm damage is evaluated and work resumes at the launch pad. A launch attempt may be possible next week.

Kennedy is expected to close ahead of the storm late Tuesday and remain closed until at least Thursday. The center’s emergency operations personnel will stay on-site to monitor the storm and make initial damage assessments after it passes.

The STS-115 crew, Commander Brent Jett, Pilot Chris Ferguson, mission specialists Joe Tanner, Dan Burbank, Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper and Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean, returned to NASA’s Johnson Space Center Tuesday morning. Crew members would return to Kennedy after a new launch date is scheduled.

During STS-115, Atlantis’ astronauts will deliver and install the 17.5-ton, bus-sized P3/P4 integrated truss segment on the station. The girder-like truss includes a set of giant solar arrays, batteries and associated electronics. The P3/P4 truss segment will provide one-fourth of the total power-generation capability for the completed station.

For information about the STS-115 crew and mission, visit:

Original Source: NASA News Release