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Space Shuttle Atlantis Transported To Launch Pad For April Flight With PM-Misguided Missile,

March 22, 1989

Space Shuttle Atlantis Transported To Launch Pad For April Flight With PM-Misguided Missile, Bjt

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ Space shuttle Atlantis was moved to the launch pad today for liftoff next month on a mission to send the Magellan space probe to Venus.

Perched vertically on a giant caterpillar-track transporter, the shuttle began the four-mile trip at 12:01 a.m., reaching the pad nearly eight hours later, traveling at maximum speed of 1 mph.

At the launch pad, Atlantis will be prepared for liftoff April 28. The 7,600-pound Magellan spacecraft will be loaded into the shuttle’s cargo bay Friday.

During the first day of the four-day mission, the five astronauts are to release the probe to begin its 15-month outward journey. Once in orbit around Venus, Magellan’s powerful radar is to switch on and relay to Earth the sharpest images yet of the cloud-shrouded planet.

The crew members are commander David Walker, pilot Ronald Grabe and mission specialists Mary Cleave, Mark Lee and Norman Thagard.

NASA announced Tuesday that Atlantis’ launch would not be affected by the finding of a small leak in the cooling system of one of Discovery’s main engines. The leak was discovered after that shuttle returned to Earth on Saturday following a successful five-day mission.

Discovery is being inspected at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and will be flown back to the Kennedy Space Center here Friday atop a Boeing 747 jetliner.

The leak was found in the combustion chamber of one of the three main engines in one localized area where layers of nickel and copper had begun to separate, said the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which found no leak during prelaunch inspections.

″There was no indication during the flight that the separation of materials had any effect on engine performance,″ the space agency said.

It said that when Discovery is returned to Kennedy, the engine will be removed and disassembled for detailed inspection and evaluation.

The engine will be replaced by a new unit before Atlantis’ next flight, now scheduled for August.

″It is not known at this point whether there will be any schedule impact as a result of the engine replacement,″ the NASA statement said.

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