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STS-125: Hubble Part Needs More Time

The Hubble Space Telescope is back up and running after ground controllers were able to switch over to the Side B Control Unit/Scientific Data Formatter (CU/SDF). The CU/SDF is an onboard computer for storing, formatting and transmitting Hubble science data to the ground. The primary (Side A) CU/SDF unit failed on September 27. Shuttle Atlantis was scheduled to rendezvous with Hubble to perform the last of its five Servicing Missions, but NASA did not want to perform all the other repairs and leave Hubble without a backup computer. The task of swapping out the failed CU/SDF was added to the mission, which pushed the launch date to February 2009, but now the unit won't be ready until April.

Space shuttle Atlantis rolled back to the VAB on October 20, and it will be de-stacked from its current launch configuration. Endeavour will launch next, on a flight to prepare the International Space Station for a six-person crew. Liftoff of STS-126 is scheduled for November 14. NASA reports:

NASA Managers Delay Hubble Servicing Mission

Oct. 30, 2008 - 7:30 p.m. EDT
Atlantis inside the VAB after returning from the launchpad. NASA PHOTO NO: KSC-08PD-3280NASA managers have announced that they will not meet a possible February 2009 launch time for the fifth and final shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. The decision comes after engineers completed assessments of the work needed to get a second data handling unit for the telescope ready to fly. The unit will replace one that failed on Hubble in late September, causing the agency to postpone the servicing mission, which had been targeted for Oct. 14.

"We now have done enough analysis of all the things that need to happen with the flight spare unit to know that we cannot be ready for a February launch," said NASA's Astrophysics Division Director Jon Morse at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The February date was an initial estimate, assuming minimal hardware preparations and test durations that are no longer viewed as realistic. We've communicated our assessment to the Space Shuttle Program so it can adjust near-term plans. We will work closely with the Shuttle Program to develop details for a new launch opportunity."

Gerstenmaier said during a news conference Thursday they would unbolt Atlantis from its launch stack and return it to its processing hangar. Atlantis is the shuttle that will be used in servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble managers say they expect to deliver a replacement data handling unit to Kennedy in April 2009. The exact new target launch date for the Hubble mission is under review.

Additional Resources
› News Release
› Servicing Mission 4 News
› STS-125 Site

Preflight pics are up at the JSC Gallery. More preflight pics and video at KSC. Discussion here. Check the links at right for play-by-play and NASA TV.

Christian Way