Atlantis has only two missions remaining – STS-122 and STS-125 – according to a new FAWG (Flight Assignment Working Group) manifest, which shows the orbiter is once again set for retirement in 2008.
The rationale for the U-turn is unclear, given Atlantis is no longer required to enter an OMDP (Orbiter Maintenance Down Period) in 2008. The move will see Atlantis cannibalized for spare parts, and could lead to an early reduction in numbers of the United Space Alliance workforce.
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Several baseline documents clearly stated that Atlantis would be able to fly to the end of the shuttle program – currently 2010 – with engineers carrying out various key elements of what would normally be carried out during her OMDP, in-between flights inside the OPF (Orbiter Processing Facility).
This OMDP refinement was subsequently approved by the PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board) – leading to the decision to manifest Atlantis with two flights previously scheduled to Discovery and Endeavour. In turn, this eased some of the pressure off Discovery and Endeavour, which was also noted in the documentation relating to OMDP requirements.
Atlantis returns to the previous plan of keeping her ‘near flight ready status’ inside her OPF (Orbiter Processing Facility), whilst becoming a parts donor for her two sisters. The validity of this role for Atlantis related to the previous requirement of an OMDP, a near two year process which – given the retirement of the fleet is activated by the time she would be ready to fly again – was deemed pointless.
The new manifest reflects the reversal of this decision – despite the news being omitted from recent shuttle program memos – leading to a number of sources believing the move relates to a wish to cut some of the United Space Alliance workforce ahead of 2010, partly for lack of a better reason for this U-turn. The resulting financial savings would likely be fed into the Constellation program
However, rationale relating to the workforce isn’t documented and should be classed as rumor, especially when all FAWG manifests are fluid and classed as planning documents, rather than set in stone schedules.
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However, the previous manifest – which showed Atlantis flying STS-122, STS-125 and twice more after the Ares I-X test flight – made no reference to the schedule being an ‘option’, as opposed to several ‘optional schedules’ which were published around the time of the repairs to ET-124 were being carried out, which subsequently moved the shuttle schedule to new launch dates.
Moving back to the state of play with the new manifest, a number of changes have been added to the shuttle schedule, ranging from the minor – a slip of three days for Discovery’s STS-120 launch date – to the important scheduling of STS-119 with Discovery at the end of 2008. Atlantis’ STS-125 mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope has also moved up nearly a month to August 7, 2008.
Other notes of interest in this new manifest include the implementation of the JAXA (Japanese Space Agency) flights – the first two being STS-123 and STS-124 – being constrained to a 60 degree Solar Beta Angle. More information on addition of Beta Angle notes is expected in the coming days.
Run down of the latest manifest of flights to the ISS follows (changes denoted in red):
– Progress M-61 (26P)
August 7 – STS-118 (13A.1) – Endeavour – Spacehab-SM, S5, ESP3
[October 5 – STS-322 (Rescue STS-118) – Discovery]
October 10 – Soyuz TMA-11 (15S)
– STS-120 (10A) – Discovery – Node 2 ‘Harmony’
[December 2 – STS-320 (Rescue STS-120) – Atlantis]
December 6 – STS-122 (1E) – Atlantis – ICC-Lite, Columbus
– Progress M-62 (27P)
January 15 (TBD) – ATV-1 ‘Jules Verne’
[January 31 – STS-323 (Rescue STS-122) – Endeavour]
February 12 (TBD) – Progress M-63 (28P)
February 14 – STS-123 (1J/A) – Endeavour – SLP-D1 with SPDM ‘Dextre’, JEM ELM-PS
April 8 – Soyuz TMA-12 (16S)
[April 10 – STS-324 (Rescue STS-123) – Discovery]
April 24 – STS-124 (1J) – Discovery – JEM PM with JEM RMS
[July 13 – STS-326 (Rescue STS-124) – Endeavour]
– STS-125 (HST-SM4) – Atlantis
[August 14 – STS-400 (Rescue STS-125) – Endeavour]
– STS-126 (ULF2) – Endeavour – MPLM, LMC
November 6 – STS-119 (15A) – Discovery – S6
March – TBD – Endeavour – TBD
April – TBD – Discovery – TBD
August – TBD – Endeavour – TBD
October – TBD – Discovery – TBD
February – TBD – Endeavour – TBD
April – TBD – Discovery – TBD
July – TBD – Endeavour – TBD
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