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By | April 23, 2007

      NASA Announces New 12-Month Schedule For Space Shuttle Launches

      NASA announced a new manifest for space shuttle launches, listing the starting date of the window for each launch for the next 12 months.

      The list begins with STS-117 Space Shuttle Atlantis lifting off no earlier than June 8. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, April 16, page 6.) Also, the list shows three launches where Discovery will be used instead of Atlantis, or vice versa.

      The International Space Station program agreed to the changes. Shuttles to be used for STS-120, 122 and 124 were exchanged to best meet the demands of the missions and to have the least amount of impact on the flight schedule, NASA announced.

      Those new dates were posted after a months-long delay caused by hail from a passing storm putting thousands of dings in the Atlantis external fuel tank and its foam insulation.

      Upcoming target launch dates, which are subject to change, at this point are:

      • STS-117 lifting off no earlier than June 8 on Atlantis
      • STS-118, no earlier than August 9 on Endeavour
      • STS-120, no earlier than October 20 on Discovery instead of Atlantis
      • STS-122, no earlier than December 6 on Atlantis instead of Discovery
      • STS-123, no earlier than February 14 on Endeavour
      • STS-124, no earlier than April 24 next year on Discovery instead of Atlantis

      Then, two years later, in 2010, the space shuttles fleet is slated to retire, leaving the United States in a years-long gap where it will be unable to attain low Earth orbit, much less space exploration, until the Orion-Ares next generation space vehicles appear in the middle of the next decade.

      Flights beyond April 2008 have not been assessed, according to NASA.

      Both shuttle and station program officials will continue to consider options for the remainder of the shuttle flights.

      Soyuz Lands Safely On Earth With ISS Crew Members And Space Tourist

      A Soyuz space vehicle landed safely on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 8:31 a.m. ET Saturday, returning to Earth the Expedition 14 crew of the International Space Station (ISS) that had spent seven months on the artificial moon.

      Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin wrapped up more than half a year in space, and also brought back to Earth a space tourist, spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi, a wealthy American who paid some $20 million to $25 million for the trip to the ISS.

      Simonyi, who worked with Xerox and Microsoft before founding his own company, spent 12 days aboard the station under a contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency.

      (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, April 9, 2007, page 6.)

      During the Expedition 14 mission on the ISS, records were set:

      • Lopez-Alegria completed five spacewalks, which gave him a total of 10 for his career. This set a U.S. record for not only number of spacewalks, but also cumulative spacewalk time, 57 hours, 40 minutes.
      • He also set a U.S. record for a single spaceflight’s duration with more than 215 days. This tops the 196-day mark, previously set by station crew members Dan Bursch and Carl Walz in 2001 and 2002.
      • During the mission Flight Engineer Sunita Williams set the record for number of space walks and total time spent on spacewalks by a woman. She participated in four space walks for a total of 29 hours and 17 minutes. Williams will remain on the station for the first part of the new mission.
      • Three of the crew’s spacewalks were conducted over the course of nine days, an unprecedented schedule for a station crew. Starting from scratch, it takes about 100 crew-member hours to prepare for a spacewalk. By doing them a few days apart, considerable crew time can be saved by not having to repeat some of those preparatory steps.

      Lopez-Alegria, Tyurin and Simonyi left behind on the space station the crew of the new Expedition 15, Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Oleg Kotov who rode to the ISS aboard the Soyuz that launched April 7, and Williams

      Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin will now spend several weeks in Star City, near Moscow, for debriefing and medical examinations. Their return to Earth originally was scheduled for Friday, but was delayed due to wet ground conditions which could have precluded helicopter operations. The one-day change allowed for touchdown in a landing zone farther to the south.

      As for Williams, there was an unusual story:

      She was going 17,500 miles an hour, but she didn’t win the foot race.

      Still, a marathon time of four hours, 23 minutes and 10 seconds ain’t shabby.

      Williams became the first human to run the Boston Marathon in space. She finished the race on a specially designed treadmill.

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