Monday, February 09, 2009

Shuttle to upgrade ISS delayed

A space shuttle flight which will carry the fourth and final set of solar panels to the ISS, preparing it for an expansion from three crewmembers to six, has been slipped to February 22 to inspect valves controlling gaseous hydrogen flow. The shuttle Discovery will take seven astronauts, including one from Japan, up to install the new equipment.
COMMENT: NASA is doing the right thing, making shuttle safety the appropriate priority. For all the problems with the shuttle, there is no other vehicle in the world that can carry huge structures into orbit in relatively benign conditions. Still, this and other delays point up that the retirement by 2010 is likely to be feasible only if missions are cut, rather than added, to the manifest. NASA and the Administration - if it ever gets around to picking a nASA Administrator - should plan the rest of the manifest by number of missions needed, not schedule, even though this will require either more money or the umpteenth slip in Constellation.

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