Space Shuttle Atlantis Leaves Launch Pad And Rolls Back To Vehicle Assembly Building
Spade Shuttle Atlantis, towering over its crawler transporter, today was moved off Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center and headed into the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).
Atlantis was moved into the VAB because liftoff for the shuttle, which had been expected last week, will be delayed by four months because of problems on the Hubble Space Telescope that Atlantis crew members will repair and refurbish. (Please see separate story in this issue.)
At this point, Atlantis is expected to launch on its rescue mission for the Hubble sometime in February, after a replacement is prepared for a recently failed critical unit on the space telescope.
Because Atlantis is not going to the International Space Station, which can provide a sort of life raft refuge if problems develop on the shuttle, the Atlantis mission will have to involve another space shuttle on the ground ready to fly to the rescue in an emergency.
Space Shuttle Discovery may replace Space Shuttle Endeavour on that lifeguard duty. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, Oct. 6, 2008.)