NASA readies diverse 2002 shuttle flights
Washington, D.C. - Having completed the historic first phase of the International Space Station (ISS) assembly in 2001, NASA's space shuttles are targeting a string of more space firsts during six missions planned in 2002.
"In the past 12 months, we've completed some of the most challenging space flights in history," said space shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore. "In the next year those challenges will continue with missions just as complex. The team continues to excel safely and successfully, and 2002 promises to be just as rewarding as the past year."
The coming year will be marked by the shuttle fleet matriarch Columbia's return to space on the first non-ISS Shuttle flight in more than two years. In addition, flights by Atlantis and Endeavour are expected to haul more than 50 tons of additional components to the ISS and more than three dozen new experiments and two new laboratory racks. Discovery will remain on the ground in 2002 for standard maintenance and inspections.
In 2002, NASA plans to break 2001's record for the most space walks during a single year. From space shuttles alone, 15 space walks are planned, coupled with seven space walks planned by crews aboard the International Space Station. In 2001, 18 total space walks were conducted – 12 from the shuttle and six from the station.
"Space walks will never become routine, but we have entered an era of space exploration now where they will continue to become more common," said Milt Heflin, chief flight director. "But no matter how many or how often crews leave their spacecraft, each EVA remains just as exciting to prepare and conduct and just as rewarding to complete."
Columbia will begin the new year with a flight to the Hubble space telescope on mission STS-109, the fourth mission to service the space telescope since its launch in 1990. Five space walks will be conducted during the flight to install an advanced new camera system, attempt to reactivate an existing infrared instrument system, install new solar arrays and install a new power controller. The mission will extend the lifetime and capabilities of the now-famous orbiting telescope.
When Columbia launches it also will become the second Shuttle ever to fly with a new "glass cockpit," installed as part of maintenance and modifications completed in 2001. The new cockpit has 11 full-color, flat-panel displays that replace 32 gauges and electromechanical instruments and four cathode-ray tube monitors in the old cockpit. The new cockpit is lighter, uses less power and sets the stage for a future "smart cockpit" that will feature new, more intuitive displays to reduce pilots' workloads during critical periods.
Other flights planned in 2002 are:
- STS-110, mid spring: Atlantis will deliver to the ISS the first of three giant truss segments to be launched in 2002.
- STS-111, late spring: Endeavour will carry to the ISS the fifth resident crew, the Leonardo logistics module filled with experiments and supplies, and a mobile base system -- the second part of the mobile platform for the station's innovative Canadarm2 robotic arm.
- STS-107, mid-summer: Columbia will fly an international mission dedicated to microgravity science that will carry a double Spacehab module filled with 32 experiments involving 59 separate investigations.
- STS-112, late summer: Atlantis will make its second visit of the year to the ISS carrying the first starboard side truss segment.
- STS-113, early fall: Endeavour will deliver the sixth resident crew and a port side truss segment to the station, completing almost half the length of the final truss.
Additional information about upcoming space shuttle missions can be found at NASA's web site.
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