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By | April 9, 2007

      Soyuz Blasts Off For Space Station With Tourist Aboard

      The Expedition 15 International Space Station (ISS) crew and a tourist, computer magnate Charles Simonyi, Saturday night blasted off on a flight to the space station on a Soyuz TMA-10 vehicle from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

      Today, at 3:12 p.m. ET, Soyuz is to dock with the ISS. The docking will be carried on NASA TV. (Please go to on the Web, and go to Multimedia and click on NASA TV.)

      This will permit the Expedition 15 crew to take over the space station, while some members of the Expedition 14 crew then can return to Earth, according to NASA, Starsem, Arianespace and Russian partners in the mission.

      Cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin, Expedition 15 commander, and Oleg Kotov, Expedition 15 flight engineer, will settle in for a lengthy stay on the ISS, NASA stated.

      Flight Engineer Suni Williams, who has served as an Expedition 14 crewmember since December, will remain on the station, joining the Expedition 15 crew. She is scheduled to return home aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour this summer.

      Also riding on Soyuz is Charles Simonyi, a U.S. businessman, who paid about $20 million to $25 million for the trip. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, April 2, 2007, page 8.) He also will return to Earth next week with the Expedition 14 crew members.

      NASA Expedition 14 Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin, who have been orbiting on the station since September 2006, and Simonyi will land in north central Kazakhstan on April 20 at approximately 9:37 a.m. ET aboard the Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft that is currently docked at the station.

      That weekend Soyuz launch was the 1719th flight of a Soyuz launch vehicle. The manned transport spacecraft was accurately placed on the target orbit for another mission to the International Space Station.

      This was the second Soyuz family mission in 2007.

      Several other launches are planned for this year. They will include two launches of the Globalstar telecommunications satellites for Globalstar LLC, one launch of the Radarsat- 2 Earth observation satellite for the MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. and one launch of the Giove-B satellite for the European Space Agency.

      With the introduction of the Soyuz at the Guiana Space Center (CSG), this famed Russian medium-class launch vehicle becomes an integral part of the European launcher fleet, together with the heavy-lift Ariane 5 and the lightweight Vega. To be offered to the commercial market, the Soyuz at CSG is Europe ‘s reference medium-class launch vehicle for governmental and commercial missions.

      NASA To Decide Atlantis Fuel Tank Fate; Contaminant Found In Engine

      NASA will announce as soon as tomorrow whether it will use the hail-damaged external fuel tank on Space Shuttle Atlantis in its STS-117 mission to the International Space Station, or whether the damaged tank will be swapped out for another tank that arrived by barge last week at Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

      The Pegasus barge brought the external fuel tank to KSC after hail damaged the external fuel tank, especially the top of the tank, the oxygen tank section, now attached to Atlantis.

      Shuttle program managers will decide whether to use that damaged tank, ET-124, or use the just-arrived ET-117 for the STS-117 mission. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, April 2, 2007, page 1,)

      Foam repairs on the liquid hydrogen tank, which is located on the bottom of the external tank, are complete and the focus is currently on repairs to the liquid oxygen tank that took the brunt of the hail damage.

      Launch could be in May or June.

      Engine Contamination

      Shuttle program managers also decided to inspect the main propulsion system on Space Shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour for contamination, after a small amount of material was found during routine post-flight inspections in one engine that flew on the STS-116 mission of Discovery in December and one engine that flew on the STS-121 mission of Discovery in July.

      The contaminant is a substance called RepliSet, which is a material used to make a mold of the flow liner surface. It is used to check for cracks and imperfections. The inspections can be accomplished within the time frame of the hail damage recovery effort, with no impact to the launch schedule for STS-117, according to NASA.

      During the STS-117 11-day mission, the six-member crew will install a new truss segment, retract a set of solar arrays and unfold a new set on the starboard side of the station. Lessons learned from two previous missions will provide the astronauts with new techniques and tools to perform their duties.

      Atlantis Commander Rick Sturckow, Pilot Lee Archambault and Mission Specialists Jim Reilly, Patrick Forrester, Steven Swanson and John “Danny” Olivas will continue training at Johnson Space Center in Houston as they await a new target launch date.

      Astra 1L Satellite Arrives For Arianespace Ride Into Orbit Early Next Month

      An Astra 1L satellite arrived at the spaceport in French Guiana and began pre-launch preparations before being lofted into orbit by Arianespace in a launch early next month.

      The SES Astra spacecraft was flown to Rochambeau International Airport at Cayenne aboard a Russian Antonov AN-124 heavy lift aircraft.

      The Astra 1L then moved to the spaceport S5 satellite preparation facility.

      When the Ariane 5 lifts off, it will carry into orbit not only the Astra 1L, but also an Intelsat Galaxy 17.

      Raytheon Poised To Burnish Ballistic Missile Defense Record In 2007

      Raytheon Co. [RTN] hopes to add luster to the ballistic missile defense record of successful tests as new trials are held this year, a leading company official said.

      Four tests are set for this year, Dean T. Gehr, director of business development for missile defense with Raytheon Missile Defense, said in an interview with Space & Missile Defense Report.

      Those tests will feature the Raytheon Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) family, with a hit-to-kill kinetic warhead, guided by data from the Aegis weapon control system by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT].

      Thus far, the success score is an impressive seven out of nine attempts, and by the end of 2007 that could improve to a glittering 11 out of 13, depending on results of tests at the Pacific Missile Range Facility near Hawaii.

      Next up will be a test at the end of this month that will repeat a test last year in which a target missile failed to perform because of incorrect system settings.

      The trial this month will involve a dual match-up: an SM-3 interceptor taking out a short-range ballistic missile, and an SM-2 versus an air-breathing target, or cruise missile.

      In this trial, operators will be using the solid divert and attitude control system (SDACS), the first time that the full SDACS will be used, Gehr said.

      After that, the next test will be held in the summer time frame, featuring an SM-3 interceptor going after a single medium-range target missile that spits out two objects.

      Finally, the last two tests will be held in the fall.

      In the first contest, there will be a dual engagement, with two SM-3s attacking two ballistic missile targets.

      The second match-up will involve Japan, which has obtained the SM-3. This test will involve one SM-3 interceptor against a target missile.

      “We’re very confident” that 2007 will see more successful tests, Gehr said.

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