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Next shuttle launch still planned for May
Posted: Wed, Mar 1, 2006, 8:17 AM ET (1317 GMT)
STS-107: launch (NASA/KSC) NASA shuttle managers said Tuesday that they are still planning to launch the next shuttle mission, STS-121, in May, and hope to carry out three flights in 2006. The launch of STS-121 is currently scheduled for no earlier than May 10, in a launch window that runs through May 22. Officials acknowledge, though, that this schedule is "aggressive" and setbacks could push the launch back until July, the next available launch window. Engineers are still studying the foam shedding from the shuttle's external tank during the STS-114 launch last summer, finding that 16 chunks of foam fell off the tank during the shuttle's ascent. The external tank that will be used on the STS-121 mission is scheduled to arrive at the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, having been shipped from its factory in New Orleans over the weekend. If STS-121 launches in May or July, shuttle managers believe that they can carry out two more missions before the end of the year. NASA is currently planning about 17 shuttle missions before the fleet is retired in 2010.
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