Zvezda, the Russian service module, was making its final approach to the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday evening. Once docked to its Zarya sister module and the attached US node module named Unity, a series of Space Shuttle missions will be freed to continue the assembly of the orbital space base.

Three-time Shuttle astronaut Brewster Shaw, who leads Boeing's space station programme, knows a thing or two about the hazards of space and work on the ground and he has a realistic outlook of the problems ahead for the ISS. The NASA-led ISS has had its fair share of critics and Earthbound problems, including the Russian delays that stopped its construction for more than a year. But, even before it docked, Shaw was excited. Zvezda's launch on 12 July "was an extremely significant event...we are all very pleased...I am elated....we are up and running", he told Flight Daily News.


Ten Space Shuttle flights from now to the end of 2001 are ready to continue the assembly schedule for the ISS, the most complex and largest international co-operative venture ever attempted.

Just because Zvezda kept NASA waiting since April 1998 doesn't mean if it had been launched on time there would not have been delays on the US side. Blaming the Russians and thinking all will be okay now Zvezda is up in orbit is incorrect, says Shaw.

Delays can sometimes be an advantage. When you establish a schedule, you draw a line in the sand. When you change the line, good engineers come up with more ideas to make things better." Looking to the future, Shaw says: For us to think that we can get through the next five years without a hiccup is na´ve. There is some flexibility in the Shuttle assembly schedule but the toughest mission to pull off will be on the ISS flight 4A/STS 97 Endeavour this December. The first of four giant solar arrays have to be erected on the ISS. "Something will happen," Shaw adds. "Overcoming problems, however, is one of the things the aerospace industry does best."

Source: Flight Daily News