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NASA firms up space shuttle launch manifest

10 flights before retirement

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NASA has released its final manifest for space shuttle launches before the fleet retires in 2010.

This year will see, as previously announced, Atlantis' STS-125 mission to service Hubble (8 October), and Endeavour's STS-126 to the ISS (10 November).

Five flights are planned for 2009, kicking off with Discovery (STS-119 delivering final solar arrays to the ISS), on 12 February. Endeavour will on 15 May carry the final components of Japan's kibo lab (Exposed Facility and Experiment Logistics Module Exposed Section) on mission STS-127, while Atlantis (STS-128) is slated to launch on 30 July bearing science and storage racks for the station.

Discovery will be back in action on 15 October, when its mission STS-129 will "focus on staging spare components outside the station". The year wraps on 10 December with Endeavour on STS-130 whisking spacewards the "Cupola" - a "robotic control station with six windows around its sides and another in the center that provides a 360-degree view around the station".

The final three space shuttle launches are scheduled for 11 February 2010 (Atlantis, STS-131), 8 April (Discovery, STS-132) and 31 May (Endeavour, STS-133). They will deliver to the ISS Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, deliver maintenance and assembly hardware and "critical spare components", respectively.

NASA notes that while the "approved target dates are subject to change based on processing and other launch vehicle schedules", they represent its "commitment to complete assembly of the station and to retire the shuttle fleet as transition continues to the new launch vehicles, including Ares and Orion". ®

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