WASHINGTON – NASA is targeting June 8 as the next possible launch opportunity for space shuttle Atlantis’ STS-117 mission to the International Space Station.

Tuesday’s decision by agency management followed a meeting that reviewed the progress in repairing insulating foam on the shuttle’s external fuel tank, which was damaged during a sudden hail storm Feb. 26 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. That damage required engineers to repair approximately 2,660 sites on the tank.

The meeting also included an assessment of using the repaired external tank for the STS-117 mission versus swapping to one that arrived last week from the manufacturing plant in New Orleans. Managers decided to finish repairs to Atlantis’ current tank and use it for STS-117. The tank that arrived Friday will be prepared for space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-118 mission to the space station and now is targeted for launch in August.

“The workforce has done an amazing job of assessing and repairing the tank so far, but the sheer volume of repairs dictates moving the launch target to June,” said Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale.

June 8 is the opening of the next available launch window for Atlantis to go to the station. STS-117 Commander Rick Sturckow, Pilot Lee Archambault and mission specialists Jim Reilly, Patrick Forrester, Steven Swanson and John “Danny” Olivas will continue training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston. During the 11-day mission, the astronauts will work with the station crew and ground teams to install a new, girder-like truss segment, unfold a new set of solar arrays and retract one array on the starboard side of the station.

For more information about the STS-117 crew and mission, visit: