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NASA to launch space shuttle Discovery on May 15
WASHINGTON (AFP) Feb 19, 2005
NASA will launch space shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station in May, and Atlantis will make the flight in July, the US space agency said, firming up plans for the resumption of space shuttle flights more than two years after the Columbia disaster.

"NASA's Space Flight Leadership Council met today and refined the launch planning window for Discoverys Return to Flight mission to May 15 to June 3, 2005," the US space agency said Friday.

"STS-114 will rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS)," with seven crew members on board, according to a NASA statement that described elaborate testing and system checks as almost completed.

Atlantis also has a mission to the ISS in the works, with a launch window of July 12-July 31, the agency said.

NASA mothballed its shuttle program after the Columbia tragedy and has since been working to modify the remaining three shuttles to avoid a recurrence.

Columbia disintegrated on re-entry on February 1, 2003, killing all seven astronauts on board.

An inquiry board found that a piece of insulating foam dislodged from a fuel tank during takeoff and hit the left wing of the Columbia hard enough to damage the craft's protective thermal skin.

On reentry, superheated gasses entered the wing and destroyed its internal structure, triggering the craft's destruction.

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