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Space

Next Shuttle Launch Scheduled for August 7

27 July 2007

NASA investigates intentional damage to computer headed for space station

Washington -- NASA managers have cleared space shuttle Endeavour's August launch after a two-day flight readiness review that assessed mission risks and determined the shuttle's equipment, support systems and procedures are ready to fly.

The mission, STS-118, will be Endeavour's first flight in more than four years.

“Her last flight was STS-113," Space Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach said during a July 26 briefing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  Endeavour landed "at the Kennedy Space Center December 7, 2002, and [the spacecraft] has been in the orbiter processing facility undergoing major modifications since that date."

At the briefing, Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier announced that the NASA Inspector General's office is investigating an incident of "intentional damage" on equipment provided by an unnamed subcontractor for use on the International Space Station.

The device is a computer that downloads data from sensors on the space station's backbone, or truss. Gerstenmaier said wires were cut inside the unit, but that the damage would be fixed and the unit would fly on Endeavour.

"We won't discuss that much more at this point," he said, "but it's something we took very seriously. The subcontractor told us about it as soon as they found it, and we went and checked the flight unit and it had the same kind of damage inside. We will fix it and then go fly the unit."

More information will be available after the investigation is complete, he said.

FLYING BY COMPUTER

Endeavour spent 1,665 days in the orbiter processing facility -- most shuttle visits last about 115 days -- undergoing 194 safety modifications, including safety upgrades already added to shuttles Discovery and Atlantis.

"After a complete overhaul, coming out of what we call our orbiter maintenance down period, it's like a new space shuttle," said Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale. "It's been completely inspected from stem to stern for any defects in the wiring and structural corrosion, and it's come out clean. It's like driving a new car off the showroom floor."

Endeavour has a new station-to-shuttle power transfer system (SSPTS, pronounced "spits") that will allow the docked shuttle to draw electrical power from the station and extend its visit to the orbiting lab. (See related article.)

Future missions using this system could gain as many as six extra days once all the station's solar arrays are installed and providing power to the system.

Endeavour also has a new global positioning system, or GPS, that is integrated completely into the shuttle's navigation system. GPS is a system of satellites, computers and receivers that can determine the shuttle's position automatically. The new system reduces the number of different navigation aids on the orbiter, and reduces or eliminates the need for ground radar and other kinds of satellite tracking.

"The space shuttle flies completely by computer," Hale said. "If you don't have a computer driving, you don't fly anywhere on board the space shuttle. So it's imperative that the navigation system work properly and all the inputs to that system are integrated properly."

The GPS replaces 1950s-era tactical air navigation technology with new global positioning satellite technology, Hale added, "and we've got a far superior system, far safer, far more accurate, to fly our big glider back home now."

STS-118

Commander Scott Kelly and his six crew mates are scheduled to arrive at Kennedy Space Center August 3 for final launch preparations. The countdown is scheduled to begin August 4 for the August 7 launch.

Kelly's crew includes pilot Charles Hobaugh and mission specialists Tracy Caldwell, Richard Mastracchio, Alvin Drew Jr., Dafydd (Dave) Williams (a Canadian Space Agency astronaut) and Barbara Morgan, the first educator chosen as a mission specialist astronaut. (See related article.)

During their 11-day mission, Endeavour's crew will add another truss segment to the expanding station, install a new gyroscope on the complex and add an external spare parts platform.

The 3.2- by 4.6-meter truss segment will be the 10th of 11 total trusses to be attached to the station. The structure ultimately will extend 110 meters. The newest truss will provide clearance between sets of solar arrays on the right side of the truss structure.

The mission will include at least three spacewalks. If the new SSPTS works as expected, the mission will gain three days and another spacewalk, Gerstemaier said.

The shuttle will deliver 2.2 metric tons of supplies, including spare parts, food, clothing and scientific experiments, and then return to Earth with the same amount of garbage and space parts.

About 10 million basil seeds will launch and return with STS-118. While on station, the seeds will be exposed to microgravity. After the mission, the seeds will be distributed to students and educators as part of a comprehensive education plan.

More information about the STS-118 mission is available on the NASA Web site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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