ISS Readies for Spacewalk; Next Shuttle Launch Date Remains Uncertain

ISS Readies for Spacewalk; Next Shuttle Launch Date Remains Uncertain

In a briefing held today at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA officials discussed the January milestones for the International Space Station (ISS) in preparation for the installation of the Tranquility (or “Node 3”) module during the upcoming STS-130 space shuttle mission.

David Korth, Expedition 22 lead flight director, gave a walk through of the spacewalk that will be conducted by Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Maxim Suraev on January 14. The main objective of the almost six-hour-long spacewalk is to configure the Russian Poisk module, launched in November 2009, to serve as a vehicle docking module and as a backup airlock. The cosmonauts will also retrieve the last of three “biorisk” canisters installed on the outside of the station. On January 21, ISS crew members will move the Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft from its current location — docked at the Zvezda Service Module — to Poisk. NASA TV will cover both events.

On a related issue, Pete Hasbrook, Expedition 22 increment manager, provided additional information on the steps being taken to address the ammonia hose problem encountered last week that could potentially delay the launch of STS-130. During testing, engineers found that the 14 foot long metal-braided hoses did not meet pressure requirements: “they saw the metal braids start to separate from the connector at the end of the hose.” Hasbrook reiterated that NASA has been considering all options to address this problem.

Over the weekend, NASA worked with the California-based company that made the hoses to “beef-up” the hoses to see if they can withstand the pressure. Alternatively, the Marshall Space Flight Center is looking into assembling “functionally equivalent hoses” from spare parts of those already used in the ISS. A third alternative would be to launch Tranquility as is on February 7 and fly replacement hoses up to ISS during a later mission.

NASA subsequently announced the rescheduling of STS-130 mission briefings in order to “allow more analysis of engineering data” with respect to the ammonia hose problem. Whether the launch date or the mission will be affected remains unclear.

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