Status Report

Columbia to Begin Third Decade in Space with Feb 28 Liftoff

By SpaceRef Editor
February 14, 2002
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America’s first Space Shuttle, Columbia, will return to orbit fresh
from two years of work that have left it safer and more capable than ever

Columbia is set to launch no earlier than Feb. 28 at 6:48 a.m. EST
on mission STS-109, pending review of data on the Space Shuttle’s hydraulic
pump attach bolts. The mission is dedicated to maintaining and enhancing the
Hubble Space Telescope, the fourth such flight since its launch in 1990.

“This year will be as challenging, complex and exciting as any we
have ever had,” said Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore. “We have
more spacewalks planned in the next 12 months than we have ever done in a
single year. We are going to fly diverse missions, dedicated to satellite
maintenance, research and Space Station assembly, showcasing capabilities
unique in the world. The shuttle team has done a great job in preparing for
this mission. Returning Columbia to orbit to improve the Hubble Space
Telescope is a fitting start to what will be a busy and vital year in

A maintenance and upgrade period completed last year installed a new
“glass cockpit” in Columbia, increased its cargo capacity, strengthened its
crew cabin and enhanced the protection of its cooling system from orbital
debris. Columbia’s new cockpit replaced mechanical instruments with 11
full-color, flat-panel displays. The new cockpit is lighter, uses less
electricity and sets the stage for the next generation of improvements — a
“smart cockpit” under development that will make the cabin even more
user-friendly. Columbia is the second of NASA’s four Space Shuttles to be
fitted with the new “glass cockpit.” Technicians also performed
comprehensive inspections of Columbia’s more than 200 miles of electrical
wiring, installing protection to prevent future damage in high-traffic
areas. Intensive structural inspection of Columbia also was performed as
well as 133 modifications and upgrades.

Columbia will fly under the command of Scott Altman (Cmdr., USN).
Duane Carey (Lt. Col., USAF) will serve as pilot. Mission specialists will
be John Grunsfeld, Nancy Currie (Lt. Col., USA), Richard Linnehan, James
Newman and Michael Massimino. Grunsfeld, Linnehan, Newman and Massimino will
work in alternating teams of two to perform the five planned spacewalks.

Columbia’s flight is scheduled to end with landing back at the Kennedy Space
Center on March 11. STS-109 marks the 27th mission for Columbia and the
108th in Shuttle program history.

SpaceRef staff editor.