HOUSTON, March 14 (UPI) -- NASA officials Tuesday announced they have scheduled the next launch of the space shuttle Discovery for a July 1-19 window.
Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale said the new launch planning window will give the agency time to perform additional engineering work and analysis to ensure a safe flight.
Hale said the decision to schedule a July launch window followed a two-day meeting that focused on the shuttle's external fuel tank's engine cutoff -- ECO -- sensors.
The sensors indicate whether the tank still has fuel during liftoff. During testing, one of the four ECO sensors generated a slightly different reading than expected, so shuttle officials subsequently decided to remove and replace all four liquid hydrogen sensors.
"We've been saying for months that our engineering work would determine when we fly our next mission,," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for Space Operations. "Targeting July is the right choice in order to make smart decisions."
The STS-121 mission will take Shuttle Commander Steve Lindsey and six crewmembers to the International Space Station to evaluate new heat shield inspection and repair techniques and to deliver supplies and equipment to the station.