NASA's STS86/Atlantis mission is scheduled to be launched on 25 September, to dock with the Russian Mir space station during the seventh Shuttle Mir Mission (SMM).

The Atlantis will retrieve NASA astronaut Michael Foale from the Russian space station and leave a new US resident, Dr David Wolf.

The SMM 7 will feature a joint US/Russian spacewalk outside the Mir by astronaut Scott Parazinsky and cosmonaut Vladimir Titov, conducting his second Shuttle mission. Titov and Parazinsky will not be involved in Mir repair work, but will leave a cover on the outside of the station.

The cover will be used during a later spacewalk by the Mir crew, which could include Wolf, to cover sealant placed into an orifice at the base of the strut of the damaged solar array of the Spektr module, where a small puncture which caused the module to depressurise is located.

NASA is testing an unmanned robotic submersible to evaluate its ability to assist divers in plugging the aft nozzles of the Space Shuttle solid-rocket boosters (SRBs) after they splash down in the Atlantic Ocean after a launch.

Two ships being used for SRB recovery will also be used to ship the Shuttle's external tank from Michoud, Louisiana, to the Kennedy Space Center, as part of an initiative by United Space Alliance to reduce operating costs.

Source: Flight International