5 Jan 2000



NASA considering extra shuttle mission to space station

Plagued by unending delays, NASA may fly an unplanned shuttle mission to the International Space Station this spring to give the stalled project a sense of momentum.

The flight would involve sending Atlantis to the outpost so astronauts could perform maintenance work on the two segments that are linked in orbit, NASA officials said Tuesday.

"It is something we're evaluating, yes," said NASA Johnson Space Center spokesman James Hartsfield.

The mission would take place if the launch of the station's Service Module by the Russians is delayed beyond late spring or early summer, which now seems almost certain.

The module - which will provide living quarters to early station crews - has already been delayed for more than a year because of money problems in Russia and the failure of a Russian Proton rocket.

A Proton is to carry the Service Module into orbit, but the rocket must make several successful flights before it will be cleared to lift off with the station segment.

Last week, Yuri Grigoriev, deputy president of the the company that is the major Russian contractor for the station, said the Service Module likely would not be launched until summer.

Atlantis is scheduled for launch March 16 to outfit the Service Module, but clearly that mission will not happen.

As a result, "It may be prudent to go to the station this spring to do some maintenance. Everything is still waiting until the Russians tell us a probable launch date," Hartsfield said.

Among the things Atlantis crew could do would be to replace batteries and avionics components that are now nearing the end of their usable life. The first two pieces of the station were launched in late 1998.

BBC News Online

October 5, 1999

By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Crawaford

US and Russian space officials have postponed the launch of the next component of the International Space Station (ISS) by several weeks.

The decision is not a surprise as it has been clear for some time that the Russian-built service module, which will be the station's living quarters, was not going to make its launch from Kazakhstan in mid-November. It is is already 17 months late.

Officially Nasa and the Russian Space Agency are aiming for a launch between 26 December and 16 January but many experts think that even this date will slip.

Full story here.

Mission Control Center
Houston, Texas

July 1, 1999

ISS Report # 24

International Space Station components continue to operate in good health with the exception being one of six batteries used to store solar energy in order to provide electrical power to the complex when it is in darkness.

ISS flight controllers in the United States and Russia began the first scheduled full charge and discharge of the six batteries on the Zarya module as part of a twice-yearly procedure to maintain as long a life on the electrical storage units as possible. Battery number six was completed as scheduled, but the same procedure on battery number one did not discharge fully as expected.

Though not an issue in terms of electrical power consumption by Station components, it is a ‘lifetime’ issue related to the onboard batteries, which under normal circumstances would be replaced routinely every five years or so. A procedure currently is being evaluated to assist in ‘training’ battery one prior to the full discharge of the remaining units.

The Station’s current systems can actually operate on as few as three batteries if electrical usage is managed diligently. This would be similar to turning off lights, fans, or equipment in rooms of a house that weren’t being used. This maintenance of "training" the batteries is similar to what one would do with a cellular phone or cordless tool battery here on the ground.

This procedure is performed on each battery every six months and is the first time to be done on Zarya’s batteries. The next opportunity to perform this procedure will be after the Zvezda service module’s arrival scheduled for November.

Here on the ground, the structural test article for one of the 40-foot-long truss segments arrived at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, to undergo acoustical vibration testing. This simulation will verify the launch environment for the actual hardware that will be delivered to space. The testing will continue through the summer and fall.

Meanwhile, the review continues of policies and procedures related to maneuvers of the Station in situations where a close approach with space debris is possible. This is in response to the recent predicted close pass of a spent Russian rocket upper stage. The debris ultimately passed 7 kilometers from the Station.

Though this procedure review continues, managers have elected to plan for possible future Station maneuvers by preparing uplink commands in advance to reduce the time required to build commands, called flight assignments.

This will allow a quicker response time to future close approaches to the Station that may require attitude maneuvers.

The International Space Station’s orientation in space is the same as previously with Unity pointed toward Earth and Zarya pointed toward space. The Station is spinning very slowly about its axis to conserve fuel and maintain even temperatures on all surfaces.

The next shuttle flight to visit the ISS is scheduled for December following the launch, docking and checkout of the Zvezda living quarters in November. Updates on the status of shuttle launch preparations are available on the Internet .

The International Space Station is in an orbit with a high point of 257 statute miles and a low point of 237 statute miles, circling the Earth once approximately every 92 minutes. The Station has completed more than 3,486 orbits of Earth since its launch. As it passes overhead at dawn or dusk, the Station is easily visible from the ground.

Space Station viewing opportunities for locations worldwide are available on the Internet..

The next International Space Station status will be issued July 8.


Paris, 25 June 1999

New dates set for assembly of the International Space Station

New dates were announced for the remaining 43 missions required to build the International Space Station, when the heads of the space agencies representing the project's five international partners met at the European Space Agency's headquarters in Paris on 18 June. The partners are the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe, represented by ESA.

Two elements of the Station - the Russian-built Zarya module and the US's Unity module - are already in orbit. The third element, the Russian service module named Zvezda ("star" in Russian), will now be launched in November from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. It is currently undergoing testing at the Baikonur cosmodrome. "Zvezda" will serve as the crew living quarters over the next four years while the Station is being assembled.

The module will be equipped with the first piece of European hardware on the Station, an ESA-developed onboard computer that will act as Zvezda's "brain". Zvezda will also carry the antenna for the European Global Time System, the first experiment on the Station. It will broadcast experimental chronometric signals whose proposed uses range from automatic adjustment of clocks and watches between time zones to remote immobilisation of stolen vehicles.

In total, Europe will deliver hardware for 20 of the 46 missions needed to fully assemble the Station. All elements are already under development and are expected to be ready according to the previous assembly schedule.

The Columbus laboratory, Europe's main contribution to the Station, is now scheduled for launch on board the US Space Shuttle in February 2004, although the international partners are studying earlier launch dates. Work on the laboratory, however, is proceeding as planned, with the first system test well underway.

Another key European system, the European Robotic Arm, built for the Russian Science and Power Platform, is set to be launched in November 2001. The 10-metre arm will be used to assemble the Russian segment of the Station. It is currently undergoing flight qualification.

The first European, ESA astronaut Umberto Guidoni, is now scheduled to set foot on the Station in June 2000. His Space Shuttle crew will deliver up to 10 tons of equipment, experiments and supplies to the Station, transporting the material in a multipurpose logistics module developed by the Italian space agency ASI.

In the meantime, ESA is making preparations for the scientific and technical utilisation of the Station. It has selected the first experiments which will be attached to structures on the outside of the Station and exposed directly to space's unique environment. They range from a special infrared sensor to detect and monitor "hot spots" on the Earth, such as volcano eruptions and forest fires, to an atomic clock that will be 10 to 100 times more accurate than the most accurate clock on Earth, and even include experiments looking at life in outer space.

The new assembly sequence can be viewed at:


Further information on:

Europe and the International Space Station

European Space Agency (ESA)



June 18, 1999

Bad command causes station to lose guidance for one orbit

The International Space Station escaped a potential close call last weekend when Russian controllers sent a bad command to the outpost, which made them unable to steer it away from a piece of space junk.

At the time, controllers outside Moscow thought a piece of rocket debris could pass within six-tenths of a mile from the station. Ultimately, the junk flew by at a distance of more than 4 miles, posing no harm.

But the mistake is making NASA and its Russian partners take stock of their ability to move the station out of danger - should a real one arise.

"We learned a lot from it, and we're evaluating all the procedures to make sure it doesn't happen again," said NASA spokesman James Hartsfield.

The problem occurred Saturday, when officials at Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colo., informed NASA the remnants of a Russian rocket might come close to the outpost.

The rocket debris is among the 7,000 pieces of orbiting junk that Space Command tracks around-the-clock.

Officials could not estimate the size of the debris, but even a small object could decimate the station by piercing its metal skin and exposing the outpost to the harsh environment of space.

Russian controllers inadvertently issued a bad command to fire the station's steering jets. As a result, its on-board computers rejected the command and shut down the outpost's guidance control system.

The station made one orbit of Earth without guidance control before the system was restored.

Once crews start living on the outpost next year, officials say they will be able to steer the station themselves and avoid similar problems.

ISS status report # 22, 1999

Thursday, June 17, 1999

Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

International Space Station flight controllers prepared to maneuver the station slightly last weekend to avoid a possible close pass by orbital debris, but the maneuver was not carried out and ultimately was not required as the debris passed a harmless distance from the station early Sunday morning.

While monitoring the health of systems on board through Russian ground stations and the newly repaired early communications system, flight controllers were notified by the U.S. Air Force Space Command of a possible close approach of a spent Russian rocket body upper stage. While this is not a routine occurrence, it is an event that flight controllers deal with from time to time, as has been the case infrequently during the Space Shuttle program.

Early predictions showed the closest approach of the debris to the ISS would be within 1 kilometer, but the actual distance at the time of its closest approach on Sunday morning was 7 kilometers.

Flight controllers planned to maneuver the station Saturday night, but the uplinked procedure for maneuvering had one of the Zarya module's engines firing longer than is permitted by the module's onboard computer program. Therefore, Zarya's motion control system correctly canceled the burn automatically and the maneuver was not performed. Though the debris was ultimately not a problem, all of the procedures for debris avoidance maneuvers are being evaluated by both Russian and American flight controllers as a result.

The station's systems remain in excellent shape with maintenance work conducted by the last shuttle crew proving a total success. The complex's orientation is the same as before with Unity pointed toward Earth and Zarya pointed toward space conducting a slow spin about its axis to maintain even temperatures on all surfaces.

Meanwhile, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the multi-element integrated test (MEIT) continues on components scheduled for launch to the ISS next year. This test connects components on the ground via cabling as they will be in space to verify they work together as well as they do individually. Additionally, the station's robotic arm -- the Space Station Remote Manipulator System -- supplied by the Canadian Space Agency has arrived at KSC for flight processing. The first piece of truss segment also arrived at KSC for pre-flight checkouts.

The next shuttle flight to visit the ISS is scheduled for December following the launch, docking and checkout of the Zvezda Service Module living quarters in November. Updates on the status of shuttle launch preparations are available on the Internet.

The International Space Station is in an orbit with a high point of 254 statute miles and a low point of 238 statute miles, circling the Earth once approximately every 92 minutes. The Station has completed more than 3,250 orbits of Earth since its launch. As it passes overhead at dawn or dusk, the station is easily visible from the ground. Space station viewing opportunities for locations worldwide are available on the Internet.

The next International Space Station status will be issued June 24.

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