NASA aims to launch shuttle Sunday

US shuttle Atlantis got safety clearance to tank up and blast off on Sunday after the mission was postponed three times for technical faults, the space agency NASA said.

NASA aims to launch shuttle Sunday
"All parties agreed that it was a safe thing to go fly given the mitigating steps that we have put in yesterday," said Wayne Hale, shuttle program manager, referring to safety measures after fuel gauges on Atlantis' tank were found faulty.

"So we got basically a unanimous decision to go forward," he added, talking to reporters after the mission chiefs met on Saturday afternoon.

The launch, initially scheduled for Thursday, was repeatedly postponed after fuel gauge sensors gave false readings during fuelling, requiring engineers to investigate what NASA described as a very complex problem.

"We had a total of 48 hours of very thorough engineering review of the anomaly we had on the tanking in launch attempt," Hale said.

"If everything works perfectly for the tanking (on Sunday) we'll go fly."

The Atlantis crew of seven is preparing for an 11-day mission to fly the European Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station, orbiting hundreds of miles above Earth.

"If we have any other anomalies or repeated anomaly, then we will stand down and troubleshoot," Hale said. "Probably it would reduce substantially our chances to launch in this launch window."

There are only a few days left in which conditions will be right for the shuttle to launch from Earth to reach the space station. Hale said a launch may be possible up until Friday.

He also detailed a series of technical measures taken to fix problems with the electronic sensors, which caused the gauges to fail.

"Our current system is not as reliable as we would like it to be," he said.

If the sensors function correctly during fuelling on Sunday, the launch will go ahead at 3:21 pm (2021 GMT). NASA said there is a 80 percent probability of favourable launch weather at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Aralık 2007, 16:37