Spaceflight Now STS-110

Mission to install keystone truss to station expansion
Posted: April 3, 2002

The seven Atlantis astronauts will ride the shuttle to space for an 11-day mission to install a massive truss to the International Space Station. Photo: NASA
NASA resumes assembly of the international space station this week and next with launch of the shuttle Atlantis on a four-spacewalk flight to attach a 27,000-pound truss, the central component of a massive solar array-carrying beam that eventually will stretch the length of a football field.

"We'll launch 50 tons of hardware to the station this year," said Tommy Holloway, space station program manager at the Johnson Space Center. "We're now at 300,000 pounds, about a third of the way there. Sometimes we think we're about done, but we really have a lot of work left to do in the next two years to get to a point where we'll then be ready to deploy (modules built by) the international partners."

The $600 million S0 (pronounced S-zero) truss aboard Atlantis is equipped with four computers, two laser ring gyros and GPS antennas for on-board navigation, a maze of ammonia coolant lines, miles of electrical cabling, hundreds of connectors and complex power control and conditioning equipment.

The completed truss eventually will carry four huge sets of solar arrays, two at each end. Power from the arrays will be routed into the station through the S0 truss and the ammonia coolant needed to keep the station's electronics from overheating will be routed through S0 to giant radiators mounted on outboard truss elements.

The 44-foot-long S0 truss also is equipped with a $190 million Canadian-built rail car that will roll along tracks running the length of the completed truss, carrying the station's Canadarm 2 robotic crane to various work sites as required to install new equipment or to help spacewalking astronauts make repairs.

"Once we add the mobile berthing system to the mobile transporter on the next flight (in early June), it will allow the robotic arm to travel the length of the truss," said space station flight director Robert Castle. "So we can actually grapple things, roll along the length of the truss and install things at the end of it."

In fact, the solar array wings - all two acres of them - and other critical outboard power and cooling systems cannot be installed without using the Canadarm2 on its mobile platform. And the first step on the road to completing the station's initial assembly is installation of the S0 truss.

"The truss element has been called a spacewalker's playground and we've nicknamed the underwater mockup of it the 'jungle gym,'" said Dina Barclay, lead spacewalk officer at the Johnson Space Center. "It's 44 feet long, it has more than 150 astronaut hand holds, almost 50 sockets for foot restraints, has more than 1,000 spacewalk actuated connections and has more than 50 (electronics) boxes that can be changed out.

"The truss plays a vital role in the space station's future," she added, "because future truss segments will attach to either side of it and all the avionics and ammonia cooling that go up to and come in from the other truss segments go through S0 for power distribution and cooling for the modules, which is where the astronauts live and work.

"The mobile transporter also plays a key role," Barclay said. "On the next mission (in late May), the next part of the mobile servicing system will come up and it will mount on top of the mobile transporter to give Canadarm2 a mobile platform to finish the space station assembly."

If all goes well, the 109th shuttle mission will begin around 5:13 p.m. Thursday with a launch from pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center. Under a post Sept. 11 security plan, NASA managers decided not reveal the exact launch time until 24 hours before liftoff. Until then, the agency said only that Atlantis would take off between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

But to reach the space station, a shuttle must be launched within about five minutes of the moment Earth's rotation carries the launch pad into the plane of the station's orbit. As a result, amateur satellite trackers had no problem determining Atlantis' launch time to within a few seconds, well in advance of NASA's 24-hour announcement.

To protect the launch times for future flights, NASA managers are considering whether to halt official distribution of space station two-line elements, the widely available numbers used by satellite tracking programs to determine the station's orbit and when it might be visible from a viewer's location.

Atlantis' crew is made up of commander Michael Bloomfield, pilot Stephen Frick, robot arm operator Ellen Ochoa and spacewalkers Steven Smith, Rex Walheim, Jerry Ross and Lee Morin.

"Jerry and Lee are both grandfathers," Barclay noted. "And performing a spacewalk is no easy feat, it requires mental and physical stamina. And these guys have it. To our team, it's just a fun piece of trivia and the only time it even comes up is when these proud grandpas pull out the photos."

Said Bloomfield: "I can't verify it, but I believe this will be the first time two grandfathers will perform a spacewalk together. Steve Smith likes to refer to them as the 'Silver Team.'"

Ross also is the first man in history, U.S. or Russian, to make seven space flights, an achievement that comes 41 years after Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space and 21 years after the first flight of a space shuttle.

"I know what to expect and I can't wait to do it again," Ross, 54, said before launch. "I think I must be addicted to spaceflight because I love every aspect of it. ... Obviously, I'm looking very much forward to the launch, the launch is an incredible experience, something that you cannot put into words other than just smile and think about it a lot.

"I think the Lord above has been taking care of me all through this. It's hard to understand how I've been able to be so fortunate as to do this, but I can tell you I certainly have appreciated every minute of it."

Astronaut John Young, an Apollo moonwalker who commanded the first shuttle mission in April 1981, was the first man to reach the six flight milestone. In an interview with CBS Radio, Young said "records are made to be broken and I'm really proud of old Jerry."

"He's a hard worker," Young said. "He's been in this business a long time, he's done all these (spacewalks) and he's a great fellow. I think it's just great that people get to fly in space more than we used to. I'd like to go back, but if I did it'd be very dangerous because my wife said if I went back up there she'd kill me."

For his part, Ross said no astronaut will ever eclipse the accomplishments of Young, a veteran of two Gemini flights, two voyages to the moon - including one lunar landing - and two space shuttle missions.

"John Young is my hero," Ross said. "There's nobody who will ever surpass what John Young has been able to achieve in his lifetime as an astronaut. I don't care how many times anybody ever flies in space, they won't be able to outdo what he's done because of what he did and how he did them."

If Ross's resume is impressive, consider Morin's.

"You've probably never met anybody like Lee Morin," Ochoa said. "He has an impressive number of degrees, he has a bachelor's, two masters, an M.D., a Ph.D., and has done residencies in surgery, in aerospace medicine. He has an array of Navy certifications as a diving officer, undersea medical officer, a submarine officer and as a flight surgeon. He's been involved in special ops in Desert Storm, he's done jungle guerrilla warfare training, I think he's done Samurai training."

Grandfathers indeed.

"I'm not only the most senior member of the silver team, but also the most underachieving member of the silver team," Ross joked.


Now showing
For Spaceflight Now+Plus service (subscribers only):

An update on the status of the International Space Station project is provided by Program Manager Tommy Holloway and Mike Suffredini, manager of ISS operations integration, in this briefing from Johnson Space Center. (53min 07sec file)
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Watch a comprehensive preview of Atlantis' flight to deliver the S0 truss segment to the International Space Station with presenters Bob Castle, lead station flight director, Jeff Hanley, lead STS-110 shuttle flight director and John Uri, station increment scientist. (59min 44sec file)
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Learn more about the S0 truss structure that Atlantis is launching to the space station with this detailed briefing by Ben Sellari, the STS-110 launch package manager. (55min 27sec file)
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Dina Barclay, the lead STS-110 EVA officer, presents a detailed preview of the four spacewalks to be performed during the shuttle Atlantis mission and takes questions from reporters. (51min 52sec QuickTime file)
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Meet the seven astronauts of shuttle Atlantis' mission during the traditional pre-flight news conference from the Johnson Space Center. (59min 09sec QuickTime file)
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