credit: NASA / caption: but when in '09?
The latest Space Shuttle programme manifest shows the Ares I-X launch put back to 11 July 2009, assuming a 12 May date next year for the lift-off of Hubble Space Telescope (HST) servicing mission four (SM4), STS-125
And in a related change the lightning tower seen in the poster above is unlikely now to occur as the planned four lightning towers that will, Russian launch pad-like, stand at each of the "corners" of the Kennedy Space Center complex are already being put in place
click on the images in this blog post to see a larger version in the same browser window
credit: NASA / caption: the AMS mission makes its debut on the FAWG
Talking to Flight at the International Astronautical Congress held in Glasgow from 29 September to 3 October the Ares I-X deputy mission manager Stephan Davis said that the US space agency was not sure when the Constellation programme test flight would take-off
Then it became clear that work this month on a faulty replacement Hubble electronic box to discover its problem would determine whether even a May STS-125 launch was possible
NASA then informed Flight that: "What was stated in the [30 October] HST telecon and then restated in the post-Flight Readiness Review briefing last week, the Hubble programme can not support launch of SM4 in mid-February. After additional analysis, testing and troubleshooting, we should know more in early December about the feasibility of shipping the flight hardware to KSC in the April 2009 time frame. This work needs to be completed before we can set a targeted launch date for the servicing mission. Once we have a better understanding of flight hardware delivery to Florida, the Space Operations Mission Directorate will assess where future flights fall on the manifest. Meanwhile, engineers continue troubleshooting Side A, and testing Side B of the spare SIC & DH [electronic box] is moving forward at Goddard."
So the question remains, that determination, scheduled for December, will it end a May STS-125 launch target? Around the time of the HST telecon NASA's exploration systems mission directorate (ESMD) told Flight it was hoping to reduce the gap between STS-125 and Ares I-X despite the delay
ESMD said: "Since the first announcement of the STS-125 slip, the Ares I-X team has been assessing launch date possibilities and schedules for the Mobile Launch Platform and Pad B work. With this new date, the team will need some additional time to determine the impact. Presently, we do not believe it will be a day-for-day slip because work is being done within the project, with the cooperation of the Space Shuttle program, to find ways to begin work and thus speed the process to ready Ares I-X for launch. We are evaluating work we can do on the mobile launcher to get at least some of the modification work done in parallel and mitigate some of that impact to the launch date."
We now know that what was to be a six-month gap between an October STS-125 launch and an April 2009 Ares I-X flight has been reduced with the new May to July timeline. With October rumoured on the internet to be an alternate STS-125 date after May the eight week gap between SM4 and Ares I-X would then see a December test flight
The manifest also shows that NASA now expects to retire its Shuttle fleet by August 2010 with Atlantis carrying out that final flight, STS-134, for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) instrument, with a launch date of 5 August 2010
Now expect Hyperbola's pre-ministerial meeting advice for the European Space Agency later this week