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August 28, 2006

Rollback ordered

With Tropical Storm Ernesto barreling toward Florida, mission managers have ordered the Space Shuttle be prepared for rollback to the Vehicle Assembly Building. The rollback can be cancelled at any time if the storm track improves. But the move to initiate rollback will dash any chance of getting off a Tuesday launch attempt.

This crew has been waiting for this flight for a long time -- one of the rookies on the mission is said to have gone through the longest training flow of any astronaut. Looks like they're going to have to wait a bit longer.

The challenge now is that the normal launch window closes in the middle of next week. But the shuttle could launch later and still be in good sun conditions. The problem is that the timing of the shuttle flight impacts the return of the next Soyuz capsule. If the shuttle goes up later than September 7, then the Soyuz would have to return in night conditions, something that the Russians want to avoid, as they've just switched over to a new (and private) vehicle retrieval service.

So: expect some heated discussions between Moscow, Washington and Houston over the next week.

Posted by george_whitesides at August 28, 2006 11:35 AM



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