Hubble Mission May Launch A Day Early

April 24, 2009|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,frank.roylance@baltsun.com

NASA officials said Thursday that they will try to launch their mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope a day earlier than planned.

The push to launch the shuttle Atlantis on May 11 instead of May 12 is driven by a desire to add a third day to the available launch window. Failure to launch by May 13 would delay the Hubble mission until May 27 because of competing demands on the Florida launch facilities, officials said.

"I feel fairly confident we can make a May 11 launch date," said LeRoy Cain, deputy manager of NASA's shuttle program. A final decision is due in "a week or so."

Hundreds of people in Maryland work with the telescope. Hubble's scientific work is managed by scientists and engineers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and Hubble is operated by engineers at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

Astronomers throughout the world publish scientific papers based on Hubble's observations.

This Hubble mission will be the first since 2002. Astronauts plan to upgrade the observatory's scientific instruments, repair problems that have accumulated over seven years and extend Hubble's orbital lifetime for at least another five years. No further repair missions are planned.

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