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Fri, Dec 05, 2008

NASA Sets Target Launch Date For Hubble Mission

STS-125 To Finally Fly In May 2009

Thwarted earlier this year by a series of technical problems onboard the orbital observatory, NASA announced this week the space shuttle Atlantis' STS-125 mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope has been rescheduled to launch May 12, 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. Scott Altman will command STS-125, with Gregory C. Johnson serving as pilot. Mission specialists are veteran spacewalkers John Grunsfeld and Mike Massimino, and first-time space fliers Andrew Feustel, Michael Good and Megan McArthur.

The final servicing mission to Hubble was delayed in September when a data handling unit on the telescope failed. Since then, engineers have been working to prepare a spare 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.

As ANN reported, NASA had hoped to launch the delayed mission as early as February... but was forced to bump the launch further due to the need for extra time to make the SICDHS ready.

The manifest has been adjusted to reflect current planning. The next space shuttle mission, STS-119, is now targeted for launch February 12, 2009.

NASA is also examining its planned STS-127 mission onboard Endeavour, currently targeted for launch on May 15, 2009. While that launch date will likely be pushed off to accommodate STS-125, the orbiter will be on the pad in time to serve as a "lifeboat" for the Atlantis crew should an emergency arise on-orbit.

STS-128 is targeted for August 2009, and STS-129 is targeted for November 2009. All target launch dates are subject to change.

FMI: www.nasa.gov/hubble

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