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Thu, Jun 24, 2010

NASA Seeks A Possible Delay In Final Shuttle Flights

Last Launch Would Be In February Of Next Year

The final two space shuttle flights may be delayed by several months, extending the program until February of next year.

NASA mission managers have proposed that the final Discovery launch (STS-133) be pushed to October 29th, and the last Endeavour liftoff, which would be the end of the program, not be attempted until February 28th, 2011.

Space.com reports that NASA spokesperson Mike Curie that the proposal will be reviewed by all parties involved, including the ISS program, the astronaut office, and mission controllers. "It's being discussed, but there has been no decision made yet," he said.

Fox news reports that Curie said NASA needs a little more time to get some spare hardware ready to fly on Discovery. One of the primary objectives of the STS-133 mission is to deliver spare parts for the Leonardo module. It is also supposed to take a humanoid robot to the station.

The Endeavour mission has the $1.5 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on its manifest, but scientists have determined that a key component of the device needs to be replaced before it is 'shipped'. They are installing a more permanent magnet that will allow the device to have a longer service life.

But the spectrometer is not the cause for proposing a delay in the STS-134 mission. Curie said it's a matter of scheduling. If Discovery is delayed until October, the facility can't be ready to launch another shuttle in November, and February really becomes the next available launch window due to astronomic conditions, as well as Russian manned and unmanned ships scheduled to be docked at the station.

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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