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Atlantis given green light for August launch

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NASA has confirmed that the Shuttle Atlantis will launch on 27 August after a confidential meeting to discuss the safety of the mission. NASA says the decision to launch was unanimous, despite the discovery of yet another safety problem.

Earlier this month, NASA found that an internal communications antenna on shuttles Discovery and Endeavour was being held in place by bolts far shorter than those specified.

Engineers are getting ready to work over the weekend to replace the bolts holding the antenna in place on Atlantis, but NASA has also asked its boffins to determine whether or not the Shuttle could fly one more time without launch vibrations shaking the antenna loose.

During the 11 day Atlantis mission, the crew will deliver and install a $370m extension to the International Space Station's solar power system, picking up construction where NASA left off in 2003, after the loss of Columbia and her crew.

Despite the support for the mission, Johnson Space Centre director Mike Coats and Marshall Space Flight Centre director Dave King are still pressing for further modifications to the Shuttle to finally eliminate the risk of foam insulation falling from the craft during its launch, the Houston Chronicle reports.

NASA says it is building titanium covers for the foam-covered fuel tank brackets, which it expects will be ready by February next year. ®

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