Image: Tank in VAB
NASA
Inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the external tank for space shuttle Discovery is suspended over the transfer aisle as it is lifted up into a checkout cell for processing on Friday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 3/31/2008 8:03:03 PM ET 2008-04-01T00:03:03

NASA's next space shuttle launch has been delayed until May 31, nearly a week later than previously planned because of extra time needed to get the fuel tank to Florida.

Discovery had been scheduled to blast off May 25, but the external fuel tank for the space station mission got held up by bad weather. The tank finally arrived at Kennedy Space Center from its assembly plant in New Orleans last week.

NASA also wanted to avoid having the launch team work through the Memorial Day weekend.

Discovery's mission is the second of three flights bringing components to the international space station for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory. The first section, a logistics module, went up on the shuttle Endeavour's flight, which ended last Wednesday.

The Japanese Pressurized Module will be the station's largest science laboratory, measuring 37 feet (11 meters) long and 14 feet (4.3 meters) in diameter, or about the size of a large tour bus. The shuttle also will deliver the lab's robotic arm system, which supports operations outside of Kibo. The logistics module, which was installed in a temporary location during Endeavour's flight, will be attached to the larger lab module.

Mark Kelly will command the seven-member crew, which includes pilot Ken Ham, NASA astronauts Greg Chamitoff, Karen Nyberg, Ron Garan Jr. and Mike Fossum, and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.

Chamitoff will replace Garrett Reisman, who flew up to the station aboard Endeavour, and remain aboard the station as a member of the Expedition 17 crew. Reisman will return to Earth with Discovery's crew.

This report includes information from The Associated Press and msnbc.com.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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