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Last Updated: Friday, 1 June 2007, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Nasa names shuttle launch date
Atlantis
Atlantis should launch on 8 June
After weeks of delay, space shuttle Atlantis has finally been given a launch date for its mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

US space agency officials said the blast-off was scheduled for 8 June from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The orbiter will deliver new equipment to the space station.

The mission was due to take place in March but repairs had to be made to the shuttle's external tank, which was damaged by a hailstorm in February.

Golf-ball sized hail stones hit the launcher vehicle system, causing hundreds of dents and minor surface damage to the tank's foam covering and to heat shields on the orbiter itself.

Since the destruction of Atlantis's sister shuttle Columbia and the death of its crew in 2003, shuttle damage has been a major cause of concern for Nasa.

Columbia's heat shield was damaged during its launch and the ship was destroyed as it returned through the atmosphere 16 days later.

'Good to go'

After extensive repairs, Nasa is now confident Atlantis is ready to fly.

"We're good to go," said Wayne Hale, Nasa's space shuttle programme manager.

"We have no show stoppers ahead of us."

crew
A crew of seven will be travelling in Atlantis

Atlantis will have a crew of seven: Rick Sturckow will command the mission and Lee Archambault will serve as Atlantis' pilot. Mission specialists James Reilly, Patrick Forrester, Steven Swanson, John Olivas and Flight Engineer Clayton Anderson make up the rest of the team.

Mr Anderson will replace Sunita Williams on the ISS, who will be returning to Earth aboard Atlantis.

The crew will be installing a new backbone segment and a set of solar wings on the space station, which is currently being expanded.

Nasa must fly at least 13 more missions to finish constructing the orbiting outpost before retiring its fleet of shuttles in 2010.

However, the delays to Atlantis' mission have meant that Nasa will have to reduce its 2007 programme from five to four launches.


SEE ALSO
In graphics: Space Station
30 Apr 07 |  Science/Nature
Nasa delays Europe's lab launch
18 Apr 07 |  Science/Nature
Nasa aims for June shuttle launch
11 Apr 07 |  Science/Nature
Atlantis orbiter rolled off pad
05 Mar 07 |  Americas

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