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NASA plans Endeavour shuttle launch despite setback

February 7, 2010 - UNITED STATES

NASA wants to send Endeavour with the Italian-built Tranquility module from Cape Kennedy, Florida, to the International Space Station on Feb 7, but is facing issues with the ammonia lines and connectors that route cooling to and from the module. Attached to the left side of the central Unity module, Tranquility will house life support and exercise gear now housed in other modules. With the shuttles nearing their 2010 retirement, NASA is particularly eager to avoid launch delays.

The shuttles are needed to deliver modules and other heavy payloads to the ISS, but the program that has come to symbolize NASA's space endeavors for the last 30 years is coming to an end and there is no replacement on hand. Any delay because of the lines and connectors would upset the tight launch schedule to deliver major components before the retirement date. Endeavour's STS-130 mission will mark the first of NASA's five final shuttle missions scheduled to fly before the retirement. NASA engineers say it may be possible to clear the lines for use as is. If the lines can't be used, according to a Spaceflight Now report on Jan 12, NASA could opt to launch the new module on time but delay its activation until new lines can be installed during a subsequent flight. The publication's sources said senior managers have ruled out rolling Endeavour back to the Vehicle Assembly Building and proceeding instead with the next flight in the sequence. As well as Tranquility, Endeavour will deliver a crew of six to the ISS. The shuttle Atlantis carried 15 tons of equipment and a crew of six on Nov 16. Jan/10

Next shuttle mission faces changes due to payload issue (Spaceflight Now 12 Jan 2010)

As shuttle retirement nears, NASA weighs options for future space exploration (RFERL 22 Nov 2009)

Date written/update: 2010-02-07