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By | February 19, 2007

      Atlantis Arrives At Launch Pad, Poised For March 15 Liftoff

      Space Shuttle Atlantis arrived at Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, set for launch on March 15, in a window that remains open for several days.

      This will kick off a challenging series of space shuttle flights this year that are critical to moving the International Space Station (ISS) construction job toward a planned 2010 completion, according to Wayne Hale, NASA space shuttle program manager, and Michael Suffredini, ISS program manager, speaking to reporters in a conference-call briefing.

      The giant shuttle, along with its external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters, last week traveled from the Vehicle Assembly Building at just under 1 mph.

      Mission STS-117 will be the first liftoff from Pad 39A in four years.

      The next milestone for this mission is a full launch dress rehearsal, known as the terminal countdown demonstration test from Feb. 21 to 23 at Kennedy. The test provides the crew an opportunity to participate in various simulated countdown activities, including equipment familiarization and emergency egress training.

      Atlantis will go to the International Space Station (ISS) on an 11-day mission that could possibly be extended to 13 days, Hale said. He explained that with each mission, NASA always wishes to see the greatest amount of work completed on the ISS assembly job.

      On the Atlantis mission, the six-member crew will install a new truss segment, retract a set of solar arrays and unfold a new set on the starboard side of the station. Lessons learned from two previous missions will provide the astronauts with new techniques and tools to perform their duties.

      Suffredini said he is “nervous about retracting solar arrays.”

      In the most recent shuttle missions, space-walking astronauts have had to contend with attempting to coax long-deployed solar arrays to retract, at times having to use brute force to shake them into a stowed position. NASA crews haven’t yet perfected the art of getting arrays to retract, he said.

      Commanding the 117 crew is Frederick Sturckow, a veteran of two shuttle missions (STS-88, STS-105), while Lee Archambault will be making his first flight as shuttle pilot. Mission Specialists James Reilly (STS-89, STS-104) and Patrick Forrester (STS-105) will be returning to the station. Steven Swanson and John Olivas, both mission specialists, join the crew for their first flight into space.

      DDG 1000 Missile Launcher Tested, Raytheon And BAE Announce

      The MK57 Vertical Launching System missile launcher tested successfully, Raytheon Co. [RTN] and BAE Systems announced.

      The companies completed a restrained test firing of a Standard Missile-2 BLK IV MK72 rocket booster on the new MK57 Vertical Launching System missile launcher.

      That test demonstrated the launcher capability to withstand a static burn of a MK72 rocket motor in the new launcher.

      The test was conducted at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to prepare for deploying the MK57 Vertical Launching System on the next-generation DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class destroyers.

      The DDG 1000 will carry 20 MK57 Vertical Launching System missile launchers distributed along the periphery of the ship.

      The MK57 features an open architecture, modular electronics design that provides a significant advantage for the integration of new missile systems without requiring modification of the launcher control software, according to the companies.

      This design will result in faster, more efficient system upgrades, as well as save significant costs and time for the Navy. To date, the MK57 team has met all program objectives, is on track to complete the design, and will be ready for production, the firms predicted.

      Under the Navy DDG 1000 design, development and integration contract awarded in 2005, Raytheon IDS serves as the prime mission systems equipment integrator for all electronic and combat systems for the DDG 1000 program. BAE Systems serves as the design agent for the MK57 and is responsible for building the launcher for the DDG 1000 destroyer.

      The DDG 1000 development program began as the DD(X) contract award to Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] and Raytheon in 2002.

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