US shuttle to bring Tranquility to space station

February 6, 2010 by Jean-Louis Santini

The US space shuttle Endeavour and its crew of six astronauts are preparing for a weekend mission to deliver a space module dubbed Tranquility to the International Space Station (ISS).

The mission comes as NASA begins to reevaluate its future after President effectively abandoned the US space agency's plan to send astronauts back to the moon by 2020.

The Constellation program was intended to develop a successor spacecraft to the shuttle, which could be used to carry astronauts to the moon where they would use a to launch manned missions to Mars.

Constrained by soaring budget deficits, Obama submitted a budget to Congress that encourages the agency to instead focus on developing commercial transport alternatives to ferry astronauts to the ISS after the shuttle program ends.

There are just five missions scheduled for NASA's three shuttles before the program is scheduled to wind down later this year. The first shuttle launch was in 1981.

The Endeavour mission's main goal is the delivery of the Tranquility module, also known as Node 3, which comes with a multi-window cupola attached.

The cupola, built for NASA by the European group Thales Alenia Space in their Turin factory, will allow for panoramic views of Earth, space objects and spacecraft arriving at the ISS, the US space agency said.

Endeavour is scheduled to takeoff early Sunday at 4:39 am (0939 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"Everything thus far is going exceeding well. We're right on schedule where we're supposed to be and we'll continue to work through the day on our preparations," NASA test director Jeff Spauling told journalists during a press conference.

Countdown began as scheduled at 0700 GMT on Thursday and by Friday the weather forecast had improved to an 80 percent "go" for launch.

Mike Leinbach, the shuttle launch director, reported that his team had not encountered any technical problems and everything was on track for loading of the external fuel tank with propellants at around 7:15 pm Saturday (0015 GMT Sunday).

"The team is energized and excited about the countdown... looking forward to getting Endeavour off the ground Sunday morning," said Leinbach.

With Endeavour's delivery of Tranquility and its attached cupola, the will be 90 percent complete, NASA said.

Tranquility, which weighs in at 18 tonnes, is seven meters long and has a 4.5 meter diameter, while the cupola dome weighs 1.9 tonnes, and measures 1.5 meters with a 2.9 meter diameter.

Installing the module is expected to require a team of two astronauts to undertake three spacewalks lasting 6.5 hours each.

Tranquility, named after the lunar sea where Apollo 11 landed, has the most sophisticated life support system ever flown into space.

It has air revitalization, oxygen generation and water recycling systems and also contains a waste and hygiene compartment for the crew.

The cupola attached to Tranquility boasts six windows arrayed along its sides as well as a central window -- all built with protection against the impact of tiny meteorites -- that will offer an unprecedented panoramic view for those onboard.

But the cupola will also serve an important work function, accommodating two crew members at a time, and is equipped with portable workstations that can control station and robotic activities.

The view will allow the crew to monitor spacewalks and docking operations, NASA said.

The ISS, a joint project involving 16 countries, has cost around 100 billion dollars, mostly provided by the United States.

Under Obama's new budget, the floating research station could see its life extended by five years until 2020.

Meanwhile, NASA will work on sponsoring commercial development of new US spacecraft that can ferry astronauts to the ISS after the shuttle program ends.

Astronauts will have access to Russia's Soyuz craft for transport to the station, but the US agency will be called upon to help a US private sector alternative.

Explore further: European-built Node 3 starts its journey to the ISS

Related Stories

Space Station Room With a View

June 29, 2009

The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) is about to get a new "eye-pod." The Tranquility node headed for the space station early in 2010 will feature a viewing dome unlike any other window ever flown in space. The ...

Space shuttle Endeavour readies return to Earth

July 28, 2009

The space shuttle Endeavour undocked from the International Space Station on Tuesday to take photographs of the orbiting research facility before final maneuvers to prepare its return home.

Space shuttle Atlantis, 7 astronauts back on Earth

November 27, 2009

Space shuttle Atlantis and its crew of seven astronauts ended an 11-day journey of nearly 4.5 million miles with a 9:44 a.m. EST landing Friday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Space shuttle moved to launch pad on freezing morn

January 6, 2010

(AP) -- Space shuttle Endeavour is on the launch pad after a freezing three-and-a-half-mile trip. NASA moved the shuttle out of its hangar before dawn Wednesday. The temperature was bitterly cold, getting as low as 29. As ...

Endeavour to bring high-tech 'sunroom' to ISS

January 29, 2010

The US space shuttle Endeavour will carry the last major component needed to complete the International Space Station and a high-tech "sunroom" called a cupola next week, officials said Friday.

Recommended for you

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...

Researchers find a new way to weigh a star

October 5, 2015

Researchers from the University of Southampton have developed a new method for measuring the mass of pulsars – highly magnetised rotating neutron stars formed from the remains of massive stars after they explode into supernovae.

NASA selects investigations for future key planetary mission

October 1, 2015

NASA has selected five science investigations for refinement during the next year as a first step in choosing one or two missions for flight opportunities as early as 2020. Three of those chosen have ties to NASA's Jet Propulsion ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 06, 2010
3 / 5 (2) Feb 06, 2010
Why are these fools sending up more and more multi-billion dollar components to a station they plan on "de-orbitting" in just 8 years?

Hey, why don't they just burn the money instead? It would be a much more efficient way of increasing the debt.
not rated yet Feb 08, 2010
Why are these fools sending up more and more multi-billion dollar components to a station they plan on "de-orbitting" in just 8 years?

Hey, why don't they just burn the money instead? It would be a much more efficient way of increasing the debt.

I wonder if it will be de-orbited. I wonder how much it would cost to boost the station into a high-earth orbit and leave it for posterity. Perhaps an ion engine could be attached to it for a long term boost.
We'll have to wait and see.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.