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Atlantis arrives at launch pad for Hubble Mission

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Space shuttle Atlantis stands on launch pad 39A, ready for final preparations for the STS-125 mission to service Hubble Space Telescope. Photo credit: NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL (BNS): NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis, which is scheduled to take up the STS-125 mission to Hubble Space Telescope on May 12, has reached its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

Atlantis arrived at launch pad 39A at around 9.10 a.m. EDT on Tuesday on top of a giant crawler-transporter, NASA said in a statement.

The shuttle will take 11 days to reach the Hubble. During five spacewalks, seven astronauts will install two new instruments, repair two inactive ones and replace other components in the Telescope, NASA said.

The telescope will be equipped with a new Science Instrument Command and Data Handling unit which will replace the existing one that stopped working in September 2008. The new unit arrived at the space centre on Monday.

After the upgrade, the space telescope will have six working, complementary science instruments with capabilities beyond those now available and an extended operational lifespan through at least 2014, the US space agency said.

The crew of Atlantis would include Scott Altman as commander, Gregory C. Johnson as pilot; John Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino, Megan McArthur, Andrew Feustel and Michael Good as mission specialists.

STS-125 is the 126th shuttle flight, the 30th flight for Atlantis and the fifth Hubble servicing mission, according to NASA.

Meanwhile, space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to roll out to Kennedy's other launch pad, 39B on April 17. Endeavour will be prepared for liftoff in the unlikely event that a rescue mission is necessary following Atlantis' launch, NASA said.

After Atlantis is cleared to land, Endeavour will move to launch pad 39A for its upcoming STS-127 mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The spacecraft is scheduled for launch in mid-June.

NASA managers decided to proceed with the dual-pad approach after carefully reviewing the manifest options to complete the ISS and to ensure that it is in the most robust condition possible following shuttle retirement.

The dual-pad approach requires one month less processing time than the single-pad approach and will help complete both STS-125 and STS-127 missions. Endeavour will deliver the Japanese Exposed Facility and make the space station more robust to support cargo delivery for a six-person crew.

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