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By | April 16, 2007

      NASA To Repair And Use Fuel Tank On Atlantis; June 8 Launch Set

      NASA will repair and use the external fuel tank that was damaged extensively by hail for the Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-117 mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

      Managers decided against swapping the badly dinged fuel tank for another external fuel tank that arrived at Kennedy Space Center April 6.

      However, it is taking so much time to repair the 2,660 dings from hail that hit the shuttle in a Florida storm that NASA is delaying launch of Atlantis until June 8 at the earliest. When the storm hit in February, Atlantis was poised on the launch pad, awaiting a liftoff date.

      “If we continue at the pace of repair that we’re doing, we should be looking at vehicle rollout to the launch pad, perhaps as early as May 6,” said Wayne Hale, manager of the space shuttle program.

      The launch window begins June 8..

      “The workforce has done an amazing job of assessing and repairing the tank so far, but the sheer volume of repairs dictates moving the launch target to June,” said Wayne Hale, the space shuttle program manager.

      NASA “is letting the work drive the schedule, not the other way around,” he said.

      The entire team agreed that adequate progress is being made to the dings-damaged external fuel tank, ET-124, and in any event an alternative tank, ET-117, would still be available, if necessary.

      If the other tank, ET-117, isn’t needed for the next Atlantis flight, then it will be prepared for the Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-118 mission to the space station, which now is targeted for launch in August.

      John Honeycutt, deputy manager of the external tank project said, “We’ve done a significant amount of aero-thermal and icing testing to support the repairs [done] at Marshall Space Flight Center. Our goal is to provide a tank that is safe to fly.”

      NASA Provides $26.6 Million Settlement To Columbia Disaster Families

      NASA provided a total $26.6 million to bereaved families of the seven crew members who died in the Feb. 1, 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

      In return for payments, provided in an earlier NASA budget, families agreed not to sue NASA or contractors.

      During launch, a chunk of foam insulation broke off the external fuel tank, hitting and puncturing the leading edge of a wing on the Columbia orbiter vehicle, damage that went undetected. Later, during the return to Earth, fiery hot gases of reentry rushed into the wing, heating it and causing structural failure. The craft and crew were lost.

      Telesat Launches Anik F3 Communications Satellite

      International Launch Services, a multinational consortium, launched into orbit the Anik F3 communications satellite for Telesat Canada.

      That launch, from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, lifted off from Pad 39 at 6:54 p.m. last Monday.

      A three-stage Russian Krunichev-built Proton Breeze M rocket was used to loft the satellite that will carry telecommunications and broadcasting services to North America.

      The vehicle lifted off from Pad 39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 4:54 a.m. local time (6:54 p.m. Monday ET, 22:54 Monday GMT). The three-stage Proton vehicle rose through the atmosphere for nearly 10 minutes before sending the Breeze M upper stage and its satellite payload on to continue the 9-hour-11-minute mission. Following separation of the satellite, its signal was acquired by Telesat’s tracking station in Perth, Australia.

      The Anik F3 satellite was built for Telesat Canada by European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. unit Astrium. The sat separated from the Breeze M at 4:05 a.m. ET Tuesday.

      This was the fourth ILS Proton launch for Telesat, which launched its Anik F1R satellite in 2005, as well as Nimiq 1 in 1999 and Nimiq 2 in 2002 on Proton.

      The Anik F3 satellite uses an Astrium Eurostar 3000 bus, and is the sixth of this model to be launched by Proton. The Nimiq 4 spacecraft also is a Eurostar 3000. ILS also has launched two Eurostar 2000 models.

      It was the 40th ILS Proton launch. ILS is a U.S.-Russian joint venture that has exclusive worldwide rights to market commercial satellite launches on the Proton launcher.

      ILS also provides mission management. The major joint venture partners are Space Transport Inc., a privately held company, and Proton builder Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Moscow.

      ILS is incorporated in Delaware in the United States, and is headquartered in McLean, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C.

      That Anik F3 satellite will provide broadcasting and telecommunications capacity and business communications throughout North America and also carry a Ka-band payload to supplement services now being carried on the Anik F2 satellite.

      “Anik F3 will make substantial financial and operational contributions to Telesat going forward,” said Dan Goldberg, Telesat president and CEO.

      Manufactured by EADS Astrium, Telesat’s Anik F3 is the company’s second European-built satellite. ILS provided mission management. Anik F3 represents Telesat’s seventeenth successful satellite launch and its fourth with ILS.

      Telesat will officially take possession of Anik F3 after the satellite has successfully completed comprehensive in-orbit testing.

      The satellite is equipped with 32 Ku-band transponders, 24 C-band transponders, and a small Ka-band payload.

      The spacecraft has a launch mass of approximately 4634 kg (5.108 tons), a solar array span of 36 meters (118.1 feet) once deployed in orbit, and spacecraft power of 10 kW at end of life. Anik F3 has an estimated mission life of 15 years.

      NASA Plans April 25 Launch Of AIM Spacecraft

      NASA plans to launch the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) spacecraft in a window as early as April 25 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., aboard a Pegasus launch vehicle.

      The craft will explore mysterious ice clouds that dot the edge of space in the polar regions.

      These clouds that hover about 50 miles above Earth have grown brighter and more prevalent in recent years, and some scientists suggest that changes in these clouds may be the result of climate change.

      The mesosphere is the region just above the stratosphere. Researchers know very little about how these polar mesospheric clouds form, why they are being seen at lower latitudes than ever before or why they have recently grown brighter and more frequent.

      Those clouds are noctilucent, meaning they can be seen from the ground only at night, when they are illuminated by sunlight no longer visible from Earth. The brightest now are known to be primarily composed of water ice.

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