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Hurricane Ike Delays Space Station Delivery

September 11, 2008

The impact
of Hurricane Ike has reached out into space and delayed the planned Friday
arrival of Russian cargo ship at the International Space Station.

The unmanned Russian
space
freighter Progress 30
was slated to arrive at the space station tomorrow at
5:01 p.m. EDT (2101 GMT), but flight controllers at NASA’s Mission Control at
the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston had yet to move the orbiting
laboratory’s expansive solar arrays into position for the docking before
closing down
Thursday to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Ike.

“The
Russians and [NASA] came to an agreement today to postpone docking until Wednesday,”
said John Yembrick, a NASA spokesperson at the agency’s headquarters in
Washington, D.C.

NASA has
set up backup space station Mission Control teams near Austin, Texas and in Huntsville,
Ala. Yembrick said that the main Mission Control room at JSC is preferred to
feather the space station’s U.S. solar arrays into an edge-on position to
incoming spacecraft to avoid damage from thruster firings.

If
required, the agency could command the solar array movement from a backup
center, but mission managers preferred to wait until Wednesday and allow time
for NASA personnel to evacuate, Yembrick said.

As of 5:00
p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) today, Hurricane Ike was a Category 2 storm centered about
400 miles (645 km) east-southeast of Galveston, Texas, and expected to
strengthen into a major hurricane before making landfall on the Texas gulf
coast
, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Progress 30
blasted off on Wednesday from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur
Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan laden with more than 2 tons of fresh food, equipment
and other vital supplies for the space station’s three-man crew 220 miles (354
km) above Earth. The spacecraft will dock at the aft end of the space station’s
Russian-built Zvezda module.

Awaiting
the orbital delivery at the station are Expedition 17 commander Sergei Volkov
and flight engineer Oleg Kononenko, both of Russia, and flight engineer Gregory
Chamitoff of NASA. The astronauts have taken several photographs of Hurricane
Ike
from orbit as it crossed the Atlantic Ocean earlier this week.

Flight
controllers at Russia’s Mission Control center outside Moscow will command the
unmanned Progress 30 to maneuver into an orbit that will keep the cargo ship at
a safe distance from the space station until next week’s planned rendezvous.

Yembrick said
the closure of Johnson Space Center for Hurricane Ike has also suspended
astronaut training activities for the next two space shuttle missions. Astronauts
there are preparing for an Oct. 10 launch to the Hubble Space Telescope on the
STS-125 flight, while another crew is gearing up for a planned Nov. 12
launch toward the International Space Station on the STS-126 mission.

The crew of
NASA’s shuttle Atlantis plan to overhaul the Hubble Space Telescope one last
time during their STS-125 mission. NASA’s STS-126 astronauts plan to ferry new
supplies and equipment to the space station aboard the Endeavour orbiter. But
Ike’s impact on both those launch targets remains uncertain.

“Really, it’s
difficult to assess how, or if, it’s going to affect the launch of STS-125,”
Yembrick said, adding that mission managers will have a better idea once
Hurricane Ike passes.

Earlier
today, NASA’s space shuttle program manager John Shannon delayed the start of a
planned two-day readiness review for the STS-125 mission to Hubble until next
week due to the hurricane.

Meanwhile,
engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., successfully
moved Endeavour from its hangar to the massive Vehicle Assembly Building today to be
attached to its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters. The shuttle
is slated to roll out to its seaside Pad 39B launch site on Sept. 18, where it
will be readied to serve as a rescue ship for Atlantis’ October flight to
Hubble until time for its own mission to the space station.

 

 


Source: imaginova



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