The second element of the new International Space Station is set to be launched on Thursday 3 December aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, less than two weeks after the first element was placed in orbit by a Russian Proton launcher from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (on 20 November).
The two elements will be connected together in space to create the foundation for the new Space Station. More than 100 elements will be added over the next five years, requiring a total of 45 assembly flights using the Space Shuttle and two types of Russian launchers.
Europe, as one of the five partners in the International Space Station (together with the United States, Russia, Japan and Canada), will take part in 19 of the 45 planned assembly flights. In addition to supplying much technical and scientific equipment, ESA is contributing two major elements - the multi-purpose Columbus laboratory and a vehicle to be launched by Europe's Ariane 5 to transport supplies to the Space Station. The first element of the Space Station in orbit, the Russian-built control module named Zarya, has been circling the Earth since its launch on 20 November while flight controllers checked out the performance of its systems in preparation for the arrival of the second element.
The second element, a U.S.-made connecting module named Unity, will be carried into orbit in Endeavour's cargo bay. It has six docking ports and will serve as the basic building block to which all future U.S. modules will be attached.
On the third day of the flight, Endeavour will catch up with Zarya and, using the Shuttle's robotic arm, the astronauts onboard will capture Zarya and join it to Unity. Two crewmembers will then perform three 'spacewalks' on subsequent days to complete the connections between the two modules. Endeavour will then separate and return home, leaving the new and as yet unpiloted station in orbit.
Endeavour's crew of six will include Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev. On the day before the final spacewalk, he and another crewmember will enter Unity-Zarya through the Shuttle's docking mechanism for the first time to transfer spare equipment and complete assembly work. Krikalev will return to the Space Station in early 2000 when the first crew of three moves into the new station.
Endeavour is scheduled to be launched at 03:59 EST (09:59 Central European Time) on 03 December. The exact launch time will be determined during the final hour of the launch countdown as NASA and Russian mission controllers identify Zarya's exact orbital position.
Note to editors:
ESA will provide an 80-minute programme about the Unity launch, live by satellite from the astronaut training centre in Cologne, Germany, with a correspondent and guests reporting live from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. TV moderators Klaus Kr(sken and Baie Netzer will host the show in English and German.
The feed will be transmitted in analog PAL mode. Broadcasters are welcome to use the feed.
Satellite: Eutelsat 2F2 Position: 10 degrees East Transponder: 22 Polarisation: Horizontal Frequency: 11,16333 GHz Sound subcarrier: 6.6 MHz (English) 7.2 MHz (German) Transponder up: 08:45 CET Start of programme: 09:00 CET Scheduled lift-off: 09:59 CET End of programme: 10:20 CET
For further information, visit:
http:/www.estec.esa.nl/spaceflight For further information, please contact : ESA Public Relations Division Tel: +33(0)18.104.22.16855 Fax: +33(0)22.214.171.12490