The Space Shuttle may be used to deploy two US Air Force Defence Support Programme (DSP) missile-early-warning satellites as part of a NASA/US Air Force programme which is designed to save costs and share technology.

The two organisations will study the feasibility of flying the TRW-built DSP satellites on the Shuttle - instead of the Titan 4 - in 1999, as well as the expanded use of the Shuttle for technology payloads and the consolidation of future space-transportation plans.

The last Shuttle flight to deploy a DSP satellite was the STS44 in 1991, while what was described as the final military Shuttle mission, the STS53, was launched in 1992. These, and the STS4 and STS39, were the only unclassified Shuttle missions to be flown for the military. There have been seven classified missions.

NASA has confirmed, meanwhile, that the Space Shuttle Columbia will be launched on 1 July for a reflight of the $500 million STS83 microgravity-laboratory mission, aborted four days into a planned 16-day flight by a fuel-cell failure earlier this month (Flight International, 16-22 April).

The unprecedented reflight, designated the STS83R, will be the first with the same crew, who will be making another flight a record 88 days after their previous launch.

The 84-day turnaround by the Columbia will be the fastest in the post-Challenger phase of the Shuttle programme. NASA says that the plan is "ambitious, aggressive - but 'do-able'."

The decision will mean delaying three other Shuttle missions by between two and four weeks, but it will not affect the planned launch on 15 May of the STS84 Atlantis, which will be used to conduct the sixth Shuttle Mir Mission.


Source: Flight International