Space Shuttle Discovery Launch May Move From Oct. 20 To Oct. 23
Liftoff of Space Shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station (ISS) may slip from Oct. 20 to Oct. 23, according to LeRoy Cain, NASA launch integration manager.
He spoke at a news conference following the launch last week of Space Shuttle Endeavour. (Please see separate story)
Officially, the STS-120 launch of Discovery still is scheduled for Oct. 20, but NASA soon may announce the shift to Oct. 23 if some conflicts can be resolved, he said.
Later, on Dec. 6, Space Shuttle Atlantis is set for launch.
Preparations for those two missions are going well, according to shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach. He and Cain spoke in a joint news conference.
“They are in good shape,” Leinbach said. “They are well on their way to meeting their roll-out milestones.”
And odds of Discovery and Atlantis being readied for flight on schedule will be even better, thanks to the prompt departure of Space Shuttle Endeavour on its mission to the International Space Station last week, Leinbach said.
NASA now can send the droves of technicians who were working on the STS-118 Endeavour mission over to work on Discovery and Atlantis, to help keep the remaining 2007 planned shuttle missions on schedule.
Leinbach added, however, that Discovery and Atlantis missions wouldn’t have been delayed even if the Endeavour liftoff had been postponed.
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said it still is undecided whether the December mission will be the last for Atlantis and it will be retired, or whether Atlantis will continue to fly on later missions. “I don’t think there are any final decisions yet,” Griffin said. “We need to keep our options open.”
Another pending mission, set for next year, will head aloft to service the Hubble space telescope.
Whether it will be Atlantis or some other vehicle, a space shuttle may launch Sept. 10 next year on a mission to service the Hubble, NASA announced earlier.
During the 11-day flight, seven astronauts will repair and improve Hubble capabilities so they are in top form through 2013.
The repair and rescue mission was decided after many scientists and others said Hubble provides priceless new knowledge about origins and formation of the universe.
Mission planners have been working since last fall, when the flight was announced, to determine the best time in the shuttle manifest to service Hubble while minimizing the impact to the space station assembly job that can be done only by the remaining space shuttle fleet before it retires Sept. 30, 2010.
One issue with the Hubble mission is that if there is a serious problem with Atlantis while it’s in orbit, the crew members won’t be able to use Hubble the way a troubled space shuttle crew can if they fly to the ISS. If there is trouble on a shuttle mission to the ISS, shuttle crew members can use the ISS as a life raft until another spacecraft can be sent aloft to give them a taxi ride to Earth.
So here’s the solution for any shuttle problems on the Hubble mission. NASA will support a “launch on need” of a rescue shuttle flight if trouble arises. In the unlikely event a rescue flight becomes necessary, Space Shuttle Endeavour currently is planned to lift off from Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
That still is the plan, Leinbach said. “Our plans are to have another vehicle out on the launch pad on 39B, ready to support in case we need … a contingency flight,” he said.
He cautioned that details of the plan remain to be set.
Assuming the shuttle isn’t sent aloft on an emergency rescue mission, then “that [orbiter] vehicle will then be used for the next [ISS] assembly mission that we plan to launch off [pad] 39A,” he said.
And there are other major launches on the manifest that are required to continue construction of the space station, Griffin noted.
Space shuttle missions will hoist a component known as Node 2, and separately the European Columbus module. “This is a major scientific laboratory, one of four on the space station,” he said, when its construction is completed.
Then, next spring, NASA will loft to the space station the first of the Japanese laboratory elements. Ultimately, he noted, the space station will boast four laboratories: one European, one Japanese, one Russian and one American.
“If you don’t find that exciting, then, you know, maybe tune in and watch “Desperate Housewives” or something,” he chuckled.
ILS, Inmarsat, Plan 4-F3 Satellite Launch On Proton Early Next Year
International Launch Services (ILS) and Inmarsat Plc announced a contract for launch of the Inmarsat 4-F3 satellite on a Proton Breeze M vehicle early next year.
This satellite, third in the constellation, will enable Inmarsat to offer global coverage with its BGAN mobile broadband service, as well as existing services.
Launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is planned for the March-April time period. Financial terms were not disclosed.
ILS will provide an enhanced version of its Proton Breeze M vehicle, which is built by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Moscow. The Enhanced Proton has the capability to lift payloads exceeding 6 metric tons.
The F3 satellite, weighing more than 5900 kilograms, will be one of the heaviest commercial payloads to date for Proton. The Inmarsat 4 series of satellites are Eurostar E3000 models built by Astrium, 60 times more powerful than their predecessors.
ILS is an American-based joint venture of Space Transport Inc. and Khrunichev. Headquartered in McLean, Va., ILS has exclusive rights to market the Proton vehicle worldwide to commercial satellite operators. As of the first half of this year, the company brought in more than $1 billion in new business and has a backlog of 22 missions.
EADS Astrium Sees Automated Transfer Vehicle Launch Early Next Year
EADS Astrium plans to launch its first Automated Transfer Vehicle freighter ship on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) early next year, according to EADS Astrium, a unit of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.
The ATV will be the first European spacecraft to carry out an automatic rendezvous and docking with a space station, according to EADS Astrium.
Under contract to the European Space Agency ESA, EADS Astrium is industrial prime contractor for the Automated Transfer Vehicle ATV.
A lifeline to Earth, the ATV will ferry propellants, food, water and equipment to the ISS. Once docked, it will use its own engines to correct the station’s orbit, compensating for a regular loss of altitude due to drag, and will contribute to collision and debris avoidance.
At the end of its mission, lasting up to six months, it will be filled with waste from the space station and burn up as it heads back into the atmosphere.
This first ATV, dubbed Jules Verne, will be launched by an Ariane 5 next year. A total of five missions are planned for the period up to 2013.