NASA’s final visit to the Hubble Space Telescope is now set for Oct. 8.
Atlantis and a crew of seven were supposed to fly to Hubble at the end of August, but the mission was delayed because of extra time needed to build the shuttle fuel tanks required for the flight and a potential rescue mission.
NASA on Thursday set the new launch date for Atlantis, and also pushed back space shuttle Endeavour’s supply mission to the international space station from Oct. 16 to Nov. 10.
The Atlantis crew will repair and upgrade the 18-year-old Hubble telescope. Under the Hubble mission plan, NASA needs a second shuttle waiting to launch at Kennedy Space Center in case of an emergency. Endeavour will be prepared to lift off if needed two weeks after Atlantis' scheduled launch.
If an emergency rescue mission proves unnecessary, then Endeavour would proceed with the November supply mission.
The space shuttle Discovery is set to launch May 31 to deliver and install Japan’s massive lab, Kibo, at the space station.
All three shuttles are scheduled to be retired from service by the end of 2010, and on Thursday NASA said Atlantis would be assigned two more flights after the Hubble mission, "in order to more efficiently fly the remaining shuttle flights using the three orbiters in sequence."
NASA's current launch manifest lists nine shuttle flights after Atlantis' Hubble repair mission.
This report includes information from The Associated Press and msnbc.com.