Space Shuttle Atlantis launches on mission STS-122

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Launch of STS-122

Space Shuttle Atlantis has launched from LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center on mission STS-122 to deliver the European Columbus module to the International Space Station. Liftoff occurred at 19:45 UTC, which is 14:45 local time at the launch site. Atlantis successfully reached orbit about eight and a half minutes later.

Columbus is the first research module to be added to the Space Station since 2001, and its launch came seven years to the day after the last research module, Destiny was launched, also aboard Atlantis. Docking with the International Space Station, on the PMA-2 docking port, is scheduled for Saturday. Earlier today, a Progress spacecraft docked with the Space Station, carrying new supplies for the outpost.

The Shuttle is carrying a crew of seven Astronauts; Stephen Frick, Alan G. Poindexter, Leland D. Melvin, Rex J. Walheim, Hans Schlegel, Stanley G. Love, and Léopold Eyharts.

The STS-122 crew

The launch had previously been delayed twice due to problems with fuel sensors in the Shuttle's external tank. A connector was replaced, and the third launch attempt proceeded without any sensor problems.

During the post launch press conference, it was reported that three pieces of foam debris were observed falling from the External Tank, however these were all small pieces of debris, so it is expected that any damage caused would not be mission-threatening.

STS-122 is the fifth orbital launch of 2008, the 24th Shuttle mission to the ISS, the 29th flight of Atlantis and the 121st overall Shuttle mission. It is scheduled to last 11 days, and conclude with a landing at the Kennedy Space Center on 19 February. Twelve further Shuttle missions remain before its retirement in 2010.


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