Atlantis crew to prepare ISS further for the European Columbus laboratory
Space Shuttle Atlantis is due to lift off late tonight on its way to the International Space Station. Mission STS-117 will deliver and install components to increase the Station's electricity generating capability and prepare for the arrival of new laboratory modules from ESA and the Japanese Space Agency.
Lift-off from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is scheduled for 01:38 CEST (23:38 UTC/GMT) in the early hours of 9 June. The mission is planned to last 11 days with spacewalks scheduled on flight days four, six and eight. STS-117 is the 21st Shuttle flight to the Station, the 28th flight for Atlantis and the first of four flights planned for 2007.
For launch status reports, visit NASA's STS-117 mission updates.
New Space Station components
The Shuttle is delivering a new segment for the starboard side of the Station's backbone, known as the truss. The work to be performed during the spacewalks includes installing the 14-metre long, 15.9-tonne truss segment, deploying a set of solar arrays attached to the truss and preparing them for operation.
Each solar array is 35 metres long and 11.6 metres across. The total span of the arrays is just over 73 metres. The addition of these solar arrays will increase the Station’s electricity generating capacity to about 60 kilowatts – enough to power 1000 average domestic light bulbs. This increase in power generation is essential for the assembly of the ISS. Upon the arrival of Node 2 and Columbus, the Space Station needs to be able to supply the additional power required by these two elements and those still to come.
Two days and one spacewalk may be added to the mission if difficulties are experienced when another solar array is folded back into its box to make room for the new arrays to rotate and track the Sun.
The Shuttle will also deliver a new crew member to the Station and bring another one back after a six-month mission. NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson begins his duty as an Expedition 15 Flight Engineer and Sunita Williams will return to Earth with Atlantis. Sunita Williams, also a Flight Engineer, had replaced ESA Astronaut Thomas Reiter, who had spent six months on board the ISS, when Space Shuttle Discovery dropped her off on mission STS-116, and brought back not only Thomas Reiter but also ESA astronaut Christer Fugelsang.
Future shuttle missions for ESA astronauts
The STS-120 mission with ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, which will also carry the Italian-built Node 2 connecting module into orbit, is scheduled to depart on 20 October 2007.
Flight STS-122, which will be carrying ESA’s Columbus laboratory, is due for launch on 6 December 2007. The crew of the STS-122 mission will include ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts.
Eyharts will fly onboard the International Space Station as a member of the Expedition 16 crew during the commissioning of the Columbus laboratory. He will return home with the STS-123 crew some two months later.