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Though Wary Of Storms, NASA Moves Atlantis To Pad

Launch Scheduled For Early October

Buoyed by weather forecasts that show Florida's Space Coast presently out-of-danger from several offshore storms, on Thursday NASA moved the space shuttle Atlantis to the launch pad, in anticipation of its October launch on the STS-125 mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

Atlantis arrived at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A at around 1600 EDT, six hours after the shuttle rolled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Mission managers cleared the move after an early-morning meeting on the status of Tropical Storm Hanna, that determined the storm would remain far enough offshore and instead strike the Carolina coast.

For the moment, it also appears Kennedy will be spared the brunt of Hurricane Ike, which strengthened to a Category 4 storm Thursday afternoon and is currently projected to hit South Florida early next week. NASA is also keeping an eye on another developing storm, Tropical Storm Josephine.

Barring any more weather-related delays -- a phenomenon Atlantis seems to attract, as ANN has reported here, here, here, and here -- NASA projects an October 8 launch date for the shuttle and its seven-member crew, who will fly the last-ever servicing mission to the orbital observatory.

However, that date may be moved off a couple days due to delays stemming from earlier Tropical Storm Fay, as well as a minor technical glitch. NASA must also ready the shuttle Endeavour, which will serve as an emergency "lifeboat" to rescue the Atlantis crew should their orbiter suffers irreparable damage during launch.

FMI: www.nasa.gov/shuttle

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