Columbia's astronomy mission with the $150 million Astro observatory is off until August because of a hydrogen leak, making Atlantis the next shuttle to fly, NASA says.
Atlantis is scheduled to carry a secret military payload into orbit in mid-July."I do not have any problem at all moving Atlantis out and preparing it for its next flight," shuttle director Robert L. Crippen said Thursday. "I think we've got a situation that is safe to go fly, and if we do not we will have evidence of that that will be very clear to us."
Columbia's upcoming flights will be pushed back "in an orderly fashion," Crippen said. A scientific research mission scheduled for August is now set for December, pushing Columbia's December mission with a microgravity laboratory into next year.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will move Columbia from the launch pad back to the hangar next week so the hydrogen leak can be repaired.