NASA plans final shuttle flight for June

NASA is pressing ahead, its fingers crossed, for a third and final shuttle flight this year.

It still doesn’t know where the money will come from, but has set a launch date for the STS-135 mission of June 28.

NASA plans to fly the mission with orbiter Atlantis carrying the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module, delivering supplies, logistics and spare parts to the International Space Station. It would have a team of four.

It will also include a system to investigate whether it’s possible to robotically refuel existing spacecraft and return a failed ammonia pump module, which would help NASA understand what went wrong and improve pump designs for future systems.

Atlantis was originally intended for use only in an emergency, as a rescue mission in case something went wrong with April’s Endeavour flight. But if that goes according to plan, the STS-135 mission could go ahead.

Meanwhile, work continues on preparations for the next shuttle mission, STS-133. Technicians are making good progress with modifications to the stringers on Discovery’s external fuel tank, says NASA. Discovery and its six astronauts are targeted to launch on the STS-133 mission to the International Space Station on February 24. The team is reviewing robotics procedures and spacewalk timelines.