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NASA may delay final space shuttle launch until 2011

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Space shuttle at Cape Canaveral launch padThe final planned space shuttle mission, currently slated for mid-November at the earliest, may not lift off until February 2011, according to a NASA spokesperson.

Only two launches remain before the shuttle program’s planned phaseout; the next launch, the STS-133 mission of space shuttle Discovery, is currently scheduled for September 16. But a delay in payload hardware for Discovery‘s mission may force a postponement of STS-133 to October 29, says public affairs officer Michael Curie of NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

That would in turn push back the successive and final shuttle launch, the STS-134 mission of space shuttle Endeavour, to February 28, 2011. Many observers had predicted that weather or technical delays, which are relatively common, would force just such a revision of the tightly packed launch calendar.

NASA has been flying missions at a rapid clip as the space agency seeks to complete its share of construction of the International Space Station and retire the shuttles. The past six shuttle flights have been to the space station, and both remaining missions are station runs as well.

Curie says that the space shuttle program is reviewing the issue and that a final decision will be made July 1. "The shuttle program is funded through the first quarter of [fiscal year] 2011 to fly missions, and there is no issue with moving STS-134 into February," he adds.

Photo of a space shuttle on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida: NASA/KSC

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  1. 1. ChuckLightyear 2:31 pm 06/27/2010

    President Obama wake-up we must have a robust manned space program and need to go back to the moon in the next 3 years, we need the shuttles until a smaller shuttle can be developed and use the current shuttle technology to put a reusable lunar lander in low earth orbit with the components to goto the moon. This is for our national security and creates the technical jobs our country will continue to need to compete in the world in the future. It is part of the larger picture with genetic research and renewable energy sources. A few of our current newer shuttles can be upgraded and are very usable for special tasks, such as Hubble upgrades and returning large payloads back to earth. A shuttle piloted be 2 can be left at the space station and they can be rotated so they can be used as emergency re-entry vehicles and to support the international space station.

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