Next Shuttle Launch Slips to April 29

Next Shuttle Launch Slips to April 29

NASA is delaying the launch of STS-134 (Endeavour) by ten days, from April 19 to April 29. The agency says in a press release today that the slip is required to allow for the launch and docking of a Russian Progress cargo ship.

“The delay removes a scheduling conflict with a Russian Progress cargo supply vehicle scheduled to launch April 27 and arrive at the station April 29,” NASA says.

Endeavour is scheduled to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) to the International Space Station as part of a mission commanded by astronaut Mark Kelly. AMS is a particle physics experiment that scientists hope will detect antimatter. Scientists theorize that the universe began with the Big Bang, at which time equal amounts of matter and antimatter should have been created, but little antimatter has been detected. AMS is designed to help solve that cosmological mystery.

Kelly is married to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) who is recovering from an assassination attempt on January 8 and many are hoping that she will be well enough to attend the launch. His twin brother, Scott, just returned from a long duration mission on the ISS.

Only one space shuttle launch remains on the schedule after this one; the so-called Launch-on-Need mission or STS-135 (Atlantis). NASA plans to fly it as long as Congress does not make severe cuts to its budget. Congress directed NASA to fly the mission in the 2010 NASA authorization, but no funds were requested for it in the FY2011 budget request, complicating its budget fate. NASA is currently planning to launch STS-135 on June 28, 2011.

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