Press Release

NASA Updates Space Shuttle Return to Flight Plans

By SpaceRef Editor
February 19, 2004
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Members of NASA’s Space Flight Leadership Council, which is charged with the oversight of the agency’s Return to Flight efforts, today moved the target window for the next flight of the Space Shuttle to March 2005.

The decision was made at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston after an extensive review of activities surrounding plans to return the orbiter fleet to safe flight.

The council also decided that the Space Shuttle Discovery will carry Commander Eileen Collins and a six-person crew into orbit for the Return to Flight mission, which is designated as STS-114.

Media will be able to ask questions about the latest Space Shuttle decisions during a telephone conference Friday, Feb. 20, at 10 a.m. EST. William Readdy, Associate Administrator for Space Flight and Michael Kostelnik, Deputy Associate Administrator for International Space Station and Space Shuttle Programs, will be available to brief reporters.

The teleconference phone number is 888/810-6755. The passcode for access to the conference is the word “Shuttle.” Reporters should dial into the teleconference no later than 9:45 a.m. Media representatives who do not want to ask questions but would like to listen to the conference can use the following “monitor only” phone lines: 321/867-1220, 321/867-1240 or 321/867-1260.

Several issues factored into the decision to adjust the planning window for the mission.

More time is needed to:

  • assess the condition of the Rudder Speed Brake Actuators on the Shuttle orbiters;
  • research, analyze and test a larger area of the Space Shuttle’s external fuel tank for potential foam insulation loss;
  • and design and build a new camera/laser boom that would be used by the Space Shuttle’s robotic arm to help inspect for possible damage while in orbit.

The new STS-114 launch-planning window, which extends from March 6 to April 18, is designed to focus the efforts of Space Shuttle employees working toward Return to Flight.

“We’ve said for months that we’d be driven by milestones, not a calendar. When we successfully reach those milestones, that’s when the Space Shuttle will return to safe flight,” Readdy said. “The reports we got from the Space Shuttle Program today indicate to us we need to change the launch planning window for STS-114. This decision reflects our commitment to taking the time we need to make the Space Shuttle safer.”

NASA is working with its international partners to assess the possible impact of the launch window change on the International Space Station. The Station program plans to continue safe two-person crewed operations while preparing for and supporting Space Shuttle Return to Flight. NASA also will discuss plans for an April 2005 Soyuz launch with its Russian Space Station partners, Rosaviakosmos.

The Space Flight Leadership Council is co-chaired by Readdy and Dr. Michael Greenfield, Associate Deputy Administrator for Technical Programs. It also includes the directors for NASA’s four space flight centers, the Associate Administrator for Safety and Mission Assurance, Bryan O’Connor and Kostelnik.

Today’s changes will be incorporated in the next update to NASA’s Implementation Plan for Space Shuttle Return to Flight and Beyond.

For more information about NASA’s Return to Flight efforts, including the current version of the Implementation Plan visit:

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SpaceRef staff editor.