Representatives of all nations involved in the International Space Station have agreed to officially target a November 1998 launch for the first station component and to revise launch target dates for the remainder of the 43-flight station assembly plan.
In meetings of the Space Station Control Board and the Heads-of- Agency on May 30 and 31 at the Kennedy Space Center, all station partners agreed to target launch dates of Nov. 20, 1998 for the Control Module (FGB) -today named Zarya (Russian word for sunrise)- and Dec. 3, 1998 for shuttle mission STS-88 with Unity (Node 1). Changes in the construction schedule for the third station component, the Russian-provided Service Module, led the partners to reschedule the first assembly launches. The Service Module will house the first station occupants and the European Space Agency provided Data Management System.
Although the new dates move the launch of the first station component, Zarya, from June to November, the target dates agreed upon for many major station milestones during the latter portions of the five-year assembly plan are little changed. In addition, several enhancements to the station's assembly have been made, including an exterior "warehouse" for spare parts and a Brazilian-provided carrier for exterior station components that are launched aboard the Space Shuttle.
The International Space Station partners set an April 1999 target launch date for the Russian Service Module. The first station crew - Commander Bill Shepherd, Soyuz Commander Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev - will be launched aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in summer 1999 to begin a five-month inaugural stay. Launch of the U.S. Laboratory module is set for October 1999. Launches of other laboratory modules, provided by Europe, Japan and Russia, will take place later in the assembly sequence. The Canadian-provided station robotic arm, or Space Station Remote Manipulator System, will be launched in December 1999. The scientific research will commence aboard the station early in the year 2000.
The expansion from a three-person crew to a six-person capability is planned in November 2002. And the final launch in the assembly sequence is set for January 2004, only one month later than in the previous assembly plan. Some issues in this assembly sequence remain under review and will be resolved at a Space Station Control Board meeting in September.
NASA continues the development of an Interim Control Module (ICM) as a contingency against further delays in the Service Module and as a potential additional propellant capability for a more robust space station. A decision concerning the configuration of the ICM will be made later this year.
During the Heads-of-Agency meeting, the Russian Space Agency (RSA) stated that the Russian government has made the International Space Station its number one civil space priority. RSA noted that progress on the Service Module continues to meet a launch in April 1999. RSA is also working to deorbit Mir as early as is safely possible, with a goal of developing a potential to deorbit by July 1999. The international partners expressed their concern with delays to the International Space Station program to date and brought to the attention of RSA that it is critical to all participating nations that the station program schedule is met. The agencies' leaders also acknowledged the atmosphere of cooperation, the accomplishments and the successful achievements of the Shuttle-Mir Program (Phase 1) and look forward to the smooth transition to Phases 2 and 3 of the International Space Station. In addition, they highlighted the ongoing International Space Station training currently under way for the first four station crews.
Full details of the current International Space Station Assembly Sequence, Revision D, are available in a NASA fact sheet. The fact sheet may be obtained from the internet at the International Space Station Web at http://station.nasa.gov. 3