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ISS News

Service Module IPT Update

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
November 21, 1996
Filed under ,

[email protected]’s note: I attended the Service Module IPT yesterday (11/21/96). The following is a summary of some of the discussion.
A team of “senior NASA management” has been in Moscow to “discuss options” regarding the slip in the SM schedule. Randy Brinkley, Kieth Reilly, and Charlie Lundquist were present. They are due to come back today, and will be briefing Dan Goldin on Monday.
Five options were discussed. The Russians wanted to reopen the possibility of using the currently on-orbit MIR as the core of the ISS. Mr. Brinkley dismissed that option out of hand for several good technical and political reasons.
The Russians want to immediately and officially announce an eight month SM slip. Our management wants to delay any announcement until after Goldin’s trip to Moscow in early December; and possibly wait until after Vice President Gore goes to Moscow in January.

Of the five options, two remain: The first option is to modify the FGB so that it could “handle” a 3A, 4A, and maybe even a 5A ISS configuration without the SM being present. This would involve beefing up the Motion Control System, adding some cables, and adding plumbing to provide an on-orbit refueling capability.
The second option is to provide additional U.S. hardware called the “Interim Control Module.” The ICM would likely replace both the FGB and the SM. The ICM may be something entirely new; but the upper stage of the soon to be retired Peacekeeper ICBM is being touted as an option, probably only because it already exists. If chosen, the ICM option would drastically reduce, perhaps even end, the ISS partnership with Russia. Apparently the Lockheed Bus-1 is no longer under consideration due to cost.
Bus-1 was considered back in 1993. It is a very robust spacecraft designed to remain on orbit for a number of years, but is also rather expensive. From a technical standpoint, there were some challenges, but it probably could have been made to work either by refueling or swapping them out periodically. Because Bus-1 was designed for a spacecraft much smaller than ISS-Alpha or the current ISS, two or three Bus-1 vehicles would have been required to control the ISS-Alpha configuration. How the Peacekeeper upper stage (designed for an even smaller vehicle and flight times on the order of thirty minutes) could be expected to control ISS for months or years, remains a mystery.
For either option, it is clear that more American dollars will be needed. It is unclear how either option could be implemented in time to meet the 11/97 FEL launch date. Either option implies a man-tended phase lasting anywhere from one to three years.
As an aside, it was noted that the LTV was officially put “on hold” as of yesterday. The common (though unofficial) interpretation of this is “cancelled.” The Progress will have to suffice for resupply and refueling. Roughly fifty percent of the SM has been completed – as measured by weight.
But most of the critical systems, such as star trackers and computers, have not been built. Also, there are no technicians to install the hardware that is complete.
If the Russians suddenly recieved a large amount of money, they may be able to make up at least some of the eight month SM slip. But the eight months is probably an optimistic estimate. A year or more seems likely. Since recent news reports are saying that the Russians don’t even have money to pay their army, it seems that any money for ISS would come from the U.S. – provided that the Congress is willing. It’s anybody’s guess as to how Congress would vote on additional money for Russia – or for more money to be spent on ISS in the U.S. by NASA, for that matter.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.