LON dates slip – hope for Progress

by Chris Bergin

The next three Shuttle LON (Launch On Need) rescue flights have slipped in the latest mission manifest, adding pressure for a successful launch and docking of the next Russian Progress re-supply ship.

Progress M-58/23P is set to launch on Monday, arriving three days later with supplies and a vital spare part to repair the Elektron Oxygen Generator. All needs to go well, or STS-116 will certainly be delayed.

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The new manifest reflects the summit meeting that pushed back three flights in 2007 due to a struggling External Tank (ET) production flow. The manifest also pushed back supporting LON missions STS-317, 318 and 320 in alignment with their primary missions (STS-117, 118 and 120) – which we also delayed.

One of the defining factors for STS-116 to remain on track for launching on a NET (No Earlier Than) date of December 7 with Discovery is the status of her LON support, STS-317 with Atlantis.

The LON launch date is determined by the length of CSCS (Crew Shuttle Contingency Support) – or the amount of days a stranded STS-116 crew can be sustained on the International Space Station (ISS) before being rescued by the LON Shuttle.

The CSCS is evaluated by the level of consumables on the ISS, with oxygen an obvious vital consumable. With the troublesome Elektron out of action, the CSCS situation is being made worse – not better, as would be hoped with the LON dates slipping east. The LON-317 date being pushed further away from the NET launch of STS-116 not a desirable situation.

The only solution will be to get the Elektron working again, or ensuring there is enough O2 on board the ISS to support the CSCS at the time of STS-116’s launch. While other contingencies are being worked on, a working Elektron would relax a lot of the CSCS concerns.

At Baikonur in Kazakhstan, Progress M-58 is being prepared for launch. Today, the complete Orbital Module containing the loaded and fueled Progress spacecraft was mated and integrated with the Soyuz-U launcher in the Processing Facility. Technical management meetings, chaired by RSC Energia’s Nikolay Sevastiyanov, and the Russian State Commission gave the go-ahead for tomorrow’s rollout to the launch pad.

The Progress is carrying 2.5 tons of supplies, including 870 kg of propellants, 50 kg of gaseous oxygen, and 1263 kg of dry cargo, including food, crew provisions, CHeCS and maintenance gear (221 total items: 144 Russian, 75 NASA, 2 ESA). Water will not be delivered this time.

According to Friday’s On Orbit Status report: ‘(the) immediately-needed Elektron repair parts’ are being carried on the ship, noting that ‘a new Elektron BZh Liquid Unit is scheduled for (the next Progress launch – January 18, 2007).’

How the repair to the existing Elektron goes will be closely monitored, for the purpose of evaluating the CSCS ahead of Discovery’s launch in December. Current CSCS shows a stranded STS-116 crew can expect to stay on the ISS for 64 days, before Atlantis is ready to launch to rescue them.

Also noted by sources is the new expected launch date for the European Space Agency’s version of Progress, with the ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) set for a debut mission on June 18.

The Russians have themselves moved a launch date, with Soyuz TMA-10 now launching on April 9. The move is understood to be relating to the wish for the returning Expedition 13 crew being able to land in Kazakhstan during springtime.

Below is the current (October 17) manifest for STS, Progress, Soyuz and ATV.

October 23 – Progress M-58 (23P)
December 7 – STS-116 (12A.1) – Discovery – P5, Spacehab-SM, ICC

January 18 (TBD) – Progress M-59 (24P)
[February 21 – STS-317 (LON for STS-116) – Atlantis]
March 16 – STS-117 (13A) – Atlantis – S3/S4
April 9 – Soyuz TMA-10 (14S)
May 12 – Progress M-60 (25P)
[June 9 – STS-318 (LON for STS-117) – Endeavour]
June 18 (TBD) – ATV-1 ‘Jules Verne’
June 28 – STS-118 (13A.1) – Endeavour – S5, Spacehab-SM, ESP3
[August 24 – STS-320 (LON for STS-118) – Atlantis]
September 3 – Progress M-61 (26P)
September 7 – STS-120 (10A) – Atlantis – Node 2, PDGF
[September 28 (TBD) – STS-322 (LON for STS-120) – Discovery]
October 6 – Soyuz TMA-11 (15S)
October 17 (TBD) – STS-122 (1E) – Discovery – Columbus, ICC-Lite
November 15 – Progress M-62 (27P)
December 6 (TBD) – STS-123 (1J/A) – Endeavour – JEM ELM-PS, SLP-D1 with SPDM Dextre

January 29 – Progress M-63 (28P)
February 7 (TBD) – STS-124 (1J) – Atlantis – JEM PM with JEM RMS
April 8 – Soyuz TMA-12 (16S)
April 17 (TBD) – STS-125 (HST SM-04) – Discovery
June 19 (TBD) – STS-119 (15A) – Endeavour – S6
August 21 (TBD) – STS-126 (ULF2) – Atlantis – MPLM, LMC
October 30 (TBD) – STS-127 (2J/A) – Discovery – JEM EF, ELM-ES, SLP-D2

January 22 (TBD) – STS-128 (17A) – Endeavour – MPLM, LMC
April 30 (TBD) – STS-129 (ULF3) – Discovery – ELC1, ELC2
July 16 (TBD) – STS-130 (19A) – Endeavour – MPLM, LMC
[October 22 (TBD) – STS-131 (ULF4/CLF) – Discovery – ELC3, ELC4]

January 21 (TBD) – STS-132 (20A) – Endeavour – Node 3 with Cupola
[July 15 (TBD) – STS-133 (ULF5/CLF) – Endeavour – ELC5, ELC1]

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