Monday, May 03, 2010

Preparations for Next Shuttle Mission

Less than two weeks remain until space shuttle Atlantis' liftoff on its STS-132 mission, targeted for May 14 at 2:20 p.m. EDT. At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians will attach the orbital midbody unit to Atlantis. Additionally, the spacewalk suits to be worn by Atlantis' astronauts during the mission will be checked out before they're stowed for flight.

The six STS-132 astronauts are at their home base, NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. They'll go through medical exams and a final prelaunch crew news conference with reporters today.

NASA managers will hold a news conference Wednesday, May 5, at Kennedy after the Flight Readiness Review meeting to discuss space shuttle Atlantis' upcoming mission.

NASA is planning to make some changes to the target launch dates for the last two scheduled space shuttle flights. Scientists with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, or AMS, program recently decided to change out the current magnet in the particle physics experiment module that will be attached to the International Space Station to a longer lasting one. This will take advantage of NASA's plan to extend station operations until at least 2020.

Because of the magnet change, space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission, which will carry the AMS experiment to the station and was targeted to launch July 29, now is expected to launch no earlier than mid-November 2010. An exact target launch date hasn't yet been determined.

The AMS is designed to help study the formation of the universe and search for evidence of dark matter and antimatter by measuring cosmic rays.

Space shuttle Discovery's STS-133 mission currently remains targeted for its Sept. 16 launch date, but managers will continue to assess its readiness for flight and make changes as appropriate.