With Endeavour now pulling triple duty for her Launch on Need (LON) flight for STS-119, her Hubble rescue mission STS-400, and her primary mission STS-127 (which is currently targeting launch in May or June or next year), the Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) has baselined Endeavour’s second to last mission – based on the current shuttle manifest, which is expected to be extended.
The mission, STS-130/20A, will see Endeavour deliver Node-3 with Cupola to the International Space Station (ISS) – thereby installing the final U.S. module and workstation to the ISS.
Node-3 and Cupola will be Endeavour’s primary payload, with various other 20A specific middeck payloads, as well as SIMPLEX, MAUI, and SEITE, rounding out the mission’s payload.
As part of the normal baseline, the PRCB concluded that Endeavour’s mission will be an 11+1 day mission – though this has since been amended to a 12+1 day mission – with three Extra Vehicular Activities (EVA’s), or spacewalks, with the option of adding one more EVA should mission or ISS Program requirements demand.
The reason for the mission’s one day extension has to do with the Space Shuttle Program’s desire to protect a one day gap between shuttle dockings and the mission’s first EVA.
“STS-130 should not perform the first EVA until FD-5 (Flight Day 5),” notes the PRCB presentation on L2. “Multiple Control Board recommendations have been made to delay the first EVA one day if possible. This 11 day flight should be designed to a 12 day mission, still retaining a day between each EVA.”
For launch, the Cupola will be installed to the forward Common Berthing Mechanism (CBM) on Node-3. Once Endeavour arrives at the ISS, and Node-3 is installed to the port CBM of Node-1, Cupola will be relocated to its permanent home on the Nadir CBM of Node-3.
After installation of Node-3, the Endeavour/ISS crew will relocate five ISS racks to Node-3.
These racks include the Air Revitalization System (ARS) from the Japanese Experiment Module, the Waste and Hygiene Compartment (WHC) from the U.S. Destiny Lab, the Water Recovery System (WRS) Racks #1 and #2 from the U.S. Lab, the Oxygen Generation System (OGS) from Destiny, and the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) from Node-1.
In addition to the internal activities, three spacewalks are planned during Endeavour’s mission, all of which are dedicated to the installation and outfitting of Node-3 and Cupola.
Some of the tasks for Endeavour’s spacewalkers include, “Prep tasks prior to Node 3 transfer to ISS, Node 3 avionics and ammonia utilities connections, Prep tasks prior to relocating Cupola, Removal of Cupola thermal covers and release of Cupola launch locks, and Node 3 and Cupola outfitting tasks,” notes the PRCB document.
There are no stage spacewalks scheduled for the ISS crew after Endeavour’s mission.
Also including in the baseline document is the targeted launch date for STS-130. According to the document, Endeavour’s mission is slated to launch in early December 2009. However, due to uncertainty in the upcoming shuttle manifest, mainly relating to the fluidity of Atlantis’ STS-125 mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope, it is unlikely that STS-130 will launch in 2009.
At this time, it appears Endeavour’s mission is heading for launch in January 2010, making it the first of at least four missions that year before the current Shuttle retirement date of September 30, 2010.
In addition to this likely slip to STS-130’s launch date, the mission is also constrained by a three minute launch window due to her payload’s weight and the fact that her ascent performance margin is severely impacted by a winter launch.
If Endeavour were to launch in December 2009, she would have an ascent performance margin of 1148lbs; however, the more likely launch date in January 2010 results in an ascent performance margin of only 708lbs.
In addition to this reduction, the extension of the mission to a 12+1 day flight further reduces Endeavour’s ascent performance margin by ~165lbs.
NASA has assigned the six crewmembers for STS-130. Commanding this mission is veteran Space Shuttle astronaut George Zamka whose previous flight experience includes STS-120 in October 2007.
Joining Zamka on STS-130 are veteran space flyers Robert Behnken (STS-123), Nicholas Patrick (STS-116), Kathryn Hire (STS-90), and Stephan Robinson (STS-85, STS-95, and STS-114).
Endeavour’s pilot for this mission will be Air Force Colonel Terry Virts who will be making his first trip to space.