NASA intends to reveal in May changes to the design of the International Space Station (ISS) that will allow it to keep within its budget.
The ISS is $4 billion over budget this year and the estimate for its completed costs in 2006 is $96 billion. The schedule could be pushed back even further to save costs, says NASA ISS programme manager Tommy Holloway, adding that the ISS will not have to go through the drastic redesign and downscaling experienced in 1993.
President George Bush ordered cuts to be made to keep the project within budget and these are likely to include cancellation of double-module habitation quarters, a propulsion module, a winged X-38 crew rescue vehicle, science equipment and a reduction in crew from seven to three (Flight International, 6-12 March). Another option would be to delete one of the solar arrays which generate electricity.
NASA staff have been asked to concentrate activities on the ISS and Space Shuttle, while other programmes that could be deferred are being reviewed.
Meanwhile, the STS 102 Discovery mission to the ISS has completed the docking and unloading of equipment from the Italian Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, Leonardo. Two spacewalks were made to support the docking and to prepare the exterior of the station to receive components of the Canadian remote manipulator system on a later mission. Leonardo, loaded with equipment and rubbish, was to return to Earth after 20 March with the ISS Expedition 1 Crew. The second crew, delivered by STS 102, will return in June.
Source: Flight International