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Diverse Space Shuttle Flights to Set Records, Continue Challenges in 2002

The information on this page is based on press release H01-256, which was released Dec. 31, 2001.

Fresh on the heels of making space history in 2001 by completing the first phase of International Space Station assembly in orbit, the Space Shuttle will continue a string of space firsts during six missions in 2002.

"In the past 12 months, we've completed some of the most challenging space flights in history," Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore said. "In the next year those challenges will continue with missions just as complex. The team continues to excel safely and successfully, and 2002 promises to be just as rewarding as the past year."

The coming year will be marked by the shuttle fleet matriarch Columbia's return to space on the first non-station shuttle flight in more than two years. Flights by Atlantis and Endeavour will begin the expansion of the International Space Station. Discovery will remain on the ground in 2002 for standard maintenance and inspections.

"We have simultaneously been planning, training and flying the most complex shuttle missions we have ever done, and the results have been truly awe-inspiring," Chief Flight Director Milt Heflin said. "The team has tremendous reason to be proud of its accomplishments, but not much time to bask in them because the year ahead holds more of the same. But it is exactly that challenge on which I think Mission Control, the planners, the trainers, the crews and the entire team thrive. These kinds of missions are why they work here."

During 2002, shuttles will add more than 50 tons of additional components to the station. They also will service the Hubble Space Telescope and conduct an extended research mission. NASA will break a record set only last year for the most space walks ever conducted in a single year.

"Space walks will never become routine, but we have entered an era of space exploration now where they will continue to become more common," Heflin said. "But no matter how many or how often crews leave their spacecraft, each EVA remains just as exciting to prepare and conduct and just as rewarding to complete."

From space shuttles alone, 15 space walks are planned in 2002. Coupled with seven space walks that are planned by crews from the International Space Station, the record for annual space walks will be shattered. In 2001, 18 space walks were conducted -- 12 from the shuttle and six from the station -- the most by far of any year to date. The year 2002 also will see the shuttle carry more than three dozen new experiments to the International Space Station and two new laboratory experiment racks.

Columbia will start out the new year's shuttle missions with a flight to the Hubble Space Telescope on STS-109, the fourth mission to service the space telescope since its launch in 1990. Five space walks will be conducted during the flight to install an advanced new camera system, attempt to reactivate an existing infrared instrument system, install new solar arrays and install a new power controller. The mission will extend the lifetime and capabilities of the now-famous orbiting telescope.

"Columbia's flight to service Hubble, as we continue to oversee station operations, signals a return for us in 2002 to conducting two distinct activities in space, completely independent of one another," Heflin added. "That's something we haven't done in awhile, and it adds yet another element of complexity to the year ahead."

When Columbia launches, it also will become only the second shuttle ever to fly with a new "glass cockpit" which was installed as part of maintenance and modifications completed in 2001. Atlantis was the first shuttle orbiter to debut the new cockpit in May 2000 on mission STS-101. The new cockpit has 11 full-color, flat-panel displays that replace 32 gauges and electromechanical instruments and four cathode-ray tube monitors in the old cockpit. The new cockpit is lighter, uses less power and sets the stage for a future "smart cockpit" for the shuttle, a cockpit that will feature new, more intuitive displays to reduce pilots' workloads during critical periods.

In mid-spring, Atlantis will lift off on STS-110, the second mission of the year, to begin the shuttle fleet's expansion of the station. Atlantis will deliver the first of three giant truss segments to be launched in 2002. The truss will form the central segment of what will eventually become a more than 300-foot cross-beam for the station to support future solar arrays, radiators and external experiments. Atlantis also will carry the first part, called the mobile transporter, of a system that will provide a mobile base for the station's robotic arm to allow it to move up and down the eventual football-field-long truss. Four space walks will be conducted from Atlantis to install the new station components in one of the most complex station flights of the year.

Endeavour is scheduled to launch in late spring on STS-111, a flight that will carry a fifth resident crew to the station as well as the Leonardo logistics module filled with experiments and supplies. Endeavour also will deliver the mobile base system to the station, the second part of the mobile platform for the station's innovative Canadarm2 robotic arm. Two space walks will be conducted while Endeavour is at the station to hook up the arm's base and perform other assembly tasks.

Columbia will fly again in mid-summer 2002 on STS-107, an international mission dedicated to microgravity science that will carry a double Spacehab module filled with 32 experiments involving 59 separate investigations. A suite of eight additional investigations in Columbia's payload bay, together called FREESTAR, will include studies ranging from fluid physics to a student satellite. The mission's scientific work will involve the fields of materials science, combustion, fundamental physics and biology. The mission will be an extended flight with a duration of 16 days.

In late summer, expansion of the International Space Station will resume as Atlantis makes its second visit of the year to the complex on STS-112, carrying the first starboard side truss segment. The new segment will be attached to the end of the central segment delivered in March. The connections will be finalized during two space walks.

The final mission of 2002 will see Endeavour visit the station again in the fall, attaching a port side truss segment to the station, completing almost half the length of the final truss. Endeavour also will deliver a sixth crew to the station. Two space walks will be performed to connect the new truss segment, and the truss will measure about 133 feet long by the end of the year.

Space Station Assembly
IMAGE: Artist's concept of International Space Station after Flight 11A.
Four International Space Station missions are planned for 2002. Three of those flights will add large truss segments to the station's exterior.
Hubble Servicing
IMAGE: Artist's concept of the Hubble Space Telescope.
In February 2002, the space shuttle will make its third rendezvous with the Hubble Space Telescope in space. Crewmembers will conduct five space walks to maintain and upgrade the orbiting observatory.
Related Links
*2002 Shuttle Launch Manifest
*2002 Station Assembly Missions
*Hubble Servicing Mission

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 06/23/2003
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