CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - NASA plans to launch its next shuttle mission to the International Space Station on August 7, two days earlier than the previous target date, to avoid a scheduling crunch at Florida’s spaceport, the space agency said on Thursday.
NASA managers moved up the date to gain more time for launch attempts of the shuttle Endeavour between two other planned launches from the Eastern Test Range.
The test range includes the shuttle’s launch site at the Kennedy Space Center as well as the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
“While the schedule is tight, we certainly can make it,” said NASA spokesman Kyle Herring.
The range provides tracking, safety and other support services for all rocket launches and typically needs two days to reconfigure equipment for various vehicles.
The month kicks off with NASA’s launch of a new Mars lander called Phoenix on August 3. The shuttle is next, followed by a military communications satellite set to fly on an Atlas rocket on August 11.
Endeavour, making its first flight since a major refurbishment that took place as NASA recovered from the 2003 shuttle Columbia disaster, is set to deliver a metal beam to the $100 billion orbital outpost, which is a little more than 60 percent complete.
Endeavour’s crew includes Barbara Morgan, a teacher-turned-astronaut who initially trained alongside Challenger teacher-in-space Christa McAuliffe.
McAuliffe died along with her six crewmates during Challenger’s launch on January 28, 1986, when one of the shuttle’s booster rockets failed. Morgan later was invited to join the astronaut corps as an educator mission specialist, a new category of astronaut.