NASA may be forced to use the Space Shuttle as a temporary International Space Station (ISS) research module to compensate for the reduction of the ISS crew from seven to three and the loss of research and habitation space due to budget cuts.

The Shuttle would be equipped with a modified Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) oxygen-hydrogen fuel cell system allowing it to operate in space for 30 days. Ten crew members - seven Shuttle crew and the resident ISS expedition crew - would be able to work at the orbital outpost.

The EDO has already been used on several independent missions, including one that lasted 17 days. Further upgrades to the EDO will be required to extend duration. To save money, NASA is also considering more ISS experiments that could be monitored remotely from the ground.

Alliant Techsystems subsidiary Thiokol Propulsion performed a successful 123.2s test firing of a Space Shuttle solid rocket motor at its Utah facility late last month. The test was primarily conducted to qualify a new insulation design on the motor's nozzle case joint that will fly in 2004. This will improve flight safety and cut costs.

Source: Flight International