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August 27, 2006

Launch Slipped Until Tuesday; Debate on Rollback

As mission managers confirmed that the shuttle launch had been slipped to no earlier than Tuesday, debate continued on whether to rollback the launch stack to safeguard against oncoming Tropical Storm Ernesto.

As of this writing, Ernesto had just been downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm, but that could change as the storm moves to Cuba.

Regardless of the title, the challenge for shuttle mission managers is that their rules prohibit moving the shuttle stack if winds continually exceed 40 knots -- which even a tropical storm could easily exceed.

Rollback to the Vehicle Assembly Building, the massive structure which contains the shuttles during their stack assembly, takes about 42 hours. With Ernesto peeling toward central Florida, that gives NASA a narrow window to make their decision -- and perhaps not enough time to try a launch on Tuesday before the storm arrives on Thursday.

No one said space is easy -- but trying to get off a shuttle launch in the middle of hurricane season is a particular challenge.

Posted by george_whitesides at August 27, 2006 06:55 PM



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