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By | January 29, 2007

      Space Shuttle Atlantis To Launch March 15 On STS-117 Mission To ISS

      Space Shuttle Atlantis will launch March 15 from Kennedy Space Center on the STS-117 mission to the International Space Station (ISS), NASA announced.

      Atlantis on this mission will continue construction of the ISS, adding the second and third starboard truss segments (S3/S4) and another pair of solar arrays to the space station.

      This comes after complex missions by Space Shuttles Discovery and Atlantis last year that involved adding a huge port-side P3/P4 truss segment and solar arrays to the space station, and rewiring the ISS.

      NASA is holding to a rigorous schedule of shuttle missions, roughly four a year, attempting to finish construction of the space station before the space shuttle fleet is due to retire in 2010.

      That goal was placed in doubt when one craft, Space Shuttle Columbia, was destroyed in a 2003 mishap. A chunk of foam insulation ripped loose from the Columbia external fuel tank and hit the leading edge of a wing on the orbiter vehicle, punching a hole in the wing.

      That undetected damage permitted fiery hot gases of the atmosphere to enter the wing during reentry, causing structural failure. The ship and crew were lost.

      The tragedy prompted NASA to institute new safety procedures, ranging from lessening the amount of foam insulation on the tank, to removal of a protuberance air ramp, to conducting minute visual and robotic inspections of each orbiter vehicle after it attains orbit, upon docking with the ISS, and post-departure from the ISS, before reentry.

      These steps, despite doubts by some NASA officials, worked. Each shuttle has had little damage detected after landing.

      On STS-117, the crew of six will include Marine Col Frederick Sturckow as commander, Air Force Col. Lee Archambault as pilot, and mission specialists James Reilly II, Patrick Forrester, Steven Swanson and John D. Olivas.

      This will be the 21st shuttle mission to the International Space Station.

      Tomahawk Launched From Destroyer In Gulf Of Mexico

      A Navy Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile was launched from the USS Donald Cooke (DDG 75) Arleigh Burke Class destroyer underway in the Gulf of Mexico sea ranges, according to the Navy.

      The ship was cruising off the coast of the Florida panhandle.

      Seconds after launch from the ship’s vertical launch system, the Tomahawk missile transitioned to cruise flight.

      It flew a fully guided 645-nautical mile test flight using global positioning satellite and digital scene matching area correlator navigation.

      The one-hour, 30-minute flight concluded at a target and recovery site on the Eglin Air Force Base land range.

      The Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System (TTWCS) provides command and control of the missile during launch and while in-flight. Using TTWCS, the ship can redirect the Tomahawk to a new target while in flight.

      TTWCS was developed for the Navy by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] Management and Data Systems in Valley Forge, Penn.

      This marked the first execution of a Tomahawk Block IV test mission into Eglin ranges. This test also marked the first Block IV launch from the Donald Cook.

      Although a first with Block IV, the ship is very familiar with the Tomahawk missile, as it took part in the first strikes in Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 20, 2003.

      The Tomahawk cruise missile is a long range, subsonic cruise missile used for land attack warfare, launched from surface ships and submarines.

      Tomahawk is designed to fly at extremely low altitudes at high subsonic speeds, and can be flown over evasive routes by several mission-tailored guidance systems.

      Tomahawk missiles are deployed throughout the world’s oceans on numerous surface ships and submarines, including Aegis-class cruisers, guided missile destroyers, and Seawolf and Los Angeles-class submarines.

      The Tomahawk program is managed by the Program Executive Office, Strike Weapons and Unmanned Aviation (PEO(W)) located at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md.It is manufactured by Raytheon Co. [RTN] Missile Systems in Tucson, Ariz.

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