WASHINGTON: The US space agency was readying the space shuttle Atlantis and its crew of seven astronauts for a Monday launch to deliver a stockpile of spare parts for the nearly completed International Space Station.
Liftoff is set for 2:28 pm (1928 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center near Florida’s Cape Canaveral, NASA said on Saturday.
“Atlantis is ready to go, in really great shape,” said shuttle launch manager Mike Moses at a press conference broadcast on NASA television.
“We’re right on the money,” added Mike Leinbach, space shuttle launch director. “We’re not tracking any issues with the vehicle, flight elements or ground systems. I’m happy to report we’re ready to go.” Chief launch meteorologist Kathy Winters also confirmed that “weather should be very good” at Kennedy Space Center on Monday, and said there was just a ten per cent chance of weather prohibiting the launch.
Led by Marine Corps colonel Charlie Hobaugh, the all-male crew arrived on Thursday at Kennedy Space Center from Houston, Texas, where the astronauts are based.
The 11-day space outing, to be the fifth and last shuttle mission for 2009, is set to include three spacewalks aimed at storing space hardware on the exterior of the ISS.
The delivery of spare parts to the orbiting outpost is designed to keep the orbiting outpost in service after the shuttle fleet is retired. There are just five more shuttle launches scheduled before the planned September 2010 retirement of the fleet.
“This flight is all about spares — basically, we’re getting them up there while we still can,” Brian Smith, space station flight director for the 0mission, said in a statement released by NASA.
“You’ll see this theme in some of the flights that are going to come after ours as well,” Smith added.
In total, NASA said some 12,360 kg of spares will be delivered manoeuvering the
station.