Tim Furniss/LONDON


This year's first Space Shuttle mission - the 11-day STS99 Shuttle Radar Topography Mission by the orbiter Endeavour (left) - will not be launched before 31 January, according to NASA's preliminary Space Shuttle schedule. This will be followed by STS101 Atlantis on an International Space Station (ISS) logistics mission, on or after 16 March.

Mission STS101 will equip the ISS after the arrival of the Russian Zvezda service module, planned for March/April. NASA is concerned, however, that the launch of Zvezda may be delayed until the summer due to concerns about the status of the Russian Proton booster after failures last year. Mission STS101 is to be followed by an ISS assembly mission on STS92 Discovery, on or after 14 June.

Even if the Zvezda launch is delayed, NASA may be forced to fly the STS101 mission in March as planned to ensure that the Zarya and Unity modules are in good enough condition to receive the Zvezda module. Zarya and Unity have been in orbit unmanned for almost a year, longer than planned.

Once Zvezda is in orbit, the STS101 mission would be repeated to prepare the ISS for the arrival of STS92 and the first crew, which is to arrive on a Russian Soyuz craft.

NASA ended 1999 with the completion of the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission 3A on the Space Shuttle STS103 Discovery. The prime objective was achieved on 22 December when the Hubble was fitted with six new gyroscopes during the second longest spacewalk in history - 8h 15min - by astronauts Steve Smith and John Grunsfield. The duo also installed battery voltage regulators and opened valves on an infrared instrument. On 23 December, Michael Foale and Claude Nicollier installed a new computer and replaced one of the three fine guidance sensors. Then Smith and Grunsfield installed a new antenna and data recorder and replaced insulation around the telescope.

Source: Flight International