Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Now "Hanna" delays Atlantis roll-out

The National Hurricane Center in Miami put the Kennedy Space Center well within the 40 to 50 percent probability zone experiencing at least tropical storm winds from Hurricane Hanna through the end of the week ahead. Often Florida-grazing storms, on their way to a strike on or near North Carolina's Outer Banks, put Cape Canaveral on the western and weaker side of nominally-strengthed storms. But Hanna has high potential to become a strong hurricane and the Cape is within a small probability of experiencing a direct strike from the storm over the next two days.

All good reasons to delay roll-out of Atlantis, once again, yesterday. The orbiter was originally scheduled for roll-out August 29. Hurricane Gustev, which eventually struck Louisianna, was the threat then. Now more storms are matching up with the highest average date for Atlantic landfall of Hurricane, Sept. 11.

Whether the October 10 launch date of Atlantis, and the last servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, will remain intact can't yet be predicted, say mission planners.

The mission requires an orbital inclination closer to the equator than the 51.3 degree orbital plain of ISS, a potential safe harbor for damaged Shuttles devoted to finishing ISS construction, November's mission of Discovery must be on the launch pad also, acting as a back-up rescue flight, if needed.

In the Atlantic storm track, three other tropical systems appear ready to take initial paths toward Florida, with "Ike" moving swiftly westward only days after forming off Cape Verde.