NASA has announced 7 February 2008 as the target launch date for Space Shuttle Atlantis' STS-122 mission to carry the European Columbus laboratory into space. For the latest updates, please consult the NASA website and the ESA Columbus blog.
The Russian Space Agency has advanced its Progress launch from 7 February to 5 February. A decision which means the International Space Station will be ready to receive Atlantis a couple of days after the Shuttle is launched.
Targeting a 7 February launch date also allows NASA engineers time to complete modifications to the engine cut-off sensor system that postponed two launch attempts in December. Lift-off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, will be at 14:47 Florida time (20:47 CET).
After STS-122, the next Shuttle mission - STS-123 - is targeted for mid-March. This launch schedule allows astronauts assigned to the International Space Station's Expedition 16 crew to complete the tasks for which they trained, including support to the launch and docking of Jules Verne, ESA's first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV).
Atlantis' main objective during its STS-122 mission to the International Space Station is to install and activate the Columbus laboratory, which will provide scientists around the world the ability to conduct a variety of life, physical and materials science experiments.
ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Léopold Eyharts are part of the STS-122 crew responsible for bringing Columbus into orbit. Schlegel will play a key role in two of the three spacewalks scheduled for the mission.
Eyharts will remain on board the ISS as a member of the permanent Expedition 16 crew – he will oversee the installation, activation and in-orbit commissioning of Columbus and its experiment facilities.