|Volume: 05, Issue: 19||12/12/2007|
Atlantis Launch Delayed Until January 2008Space shuttle Atlantis' STS-122 mission to the International Space Station is targeted to launch no earlier than January 2, 2008, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The liftoff date depends on the resolution of a problem in a fuel sensor system.
Early on December 9, 2007, one of the four engine cutoff, or ECO, sensors inside the liquid hydrogen section of Atlantis' external fuel tank gave a false reading while the tank was being filled. NASA's current Launch Commit Criteria require that all four sensors function properly.
The sensor system is one of several that protect the shuttle's main engines by triggering their shut down if fuel runs unexpectedly low. Atlantis' scheduled launch on December 6, 2007, was delayed after two liquid hydrogen ECO sensors gave false readings.
The crew of STS-122 will be headed back to Houston on December 9, 2007, but before leaving they expressed their gratitude for the effort to launch.
"We want to thank everyone who worked so hard to get us into space this launch window," the astronauts said in a statement. "We had support teams working around the clock at KSC, JSC, and numerous sites in Europe. We were ready to fly, but understand that these types of technical challenges are part of the space program. We hope everyone gets some well-deserved rest, and we will be back to try again when the vehicle is ready to fly."
The main objective of Atlantis' 11-day mission is to install and activate the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory, which will provide scientists around the world with the ability to conduct a variety of life, physical and materials science experiments.
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