Shuttle mission may be extended further due to ISS computer failure

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Space Shuttle Atlantis approaches the International Space Station during STS-117 on June 10.

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Space Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis is one of the fleet of space shuttles belonging to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It was the fourth operational shuttle built. Following the destruction of Columbia, it is one of the three fully operational shuttles remaining in the fleet. The other two are Discovery and Endeavour. After it completes STS-125, the final Hubble Space Telescope service mission, Atlantis is scheduled to be the first shuttle retired from the fleet.

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NASA has stated that they may extend the STS-117 Space Shuttle Atlantis mission by another two days to assist in the repair of 4 of the 6 computers that control the position, oxygen and water levels of the International Space Station (ISS) which failed, and have not come back on. As a result of the computer's failure, the thrusters on the station and the shuttle have been stabilizing the station's orbit.

So far, only partial restoration has been made to at least some of the computer that controls the station's position, oxygen and water, but NASA says that some of the system still needs to be cleaned up.

"They've made a lot of progress. There are some cleanup steps to do still and some investigation," said space station flight director for NASA, Holly Ridings.

Earlier NASA stated that, "Russian flight controllers will be working overnight to resolve a problem with the Russian segment computers that provide backup attitude control and orbital altitude adjustments. For now, the station’s control moment gyroscopes are handling attitude control, with the shuttle’s propulsion providing backup."

It is not known what caused the computers to fail, but Russian engineers say that it could be a problem with power supply. This type of failure has not been observed before on the space station as re-booting the computers have fixed any problems that occurred in the past, but today, that did not work.

"We have plenty of resources, so we have plenty of time to sort this out," said manager of the space station program at NASA, Mike Suffredini.

NASA officials state that there is an "option to depart" if at least one of the station's stabilizing computers cannot be fixed and the three member crew that is currently there, will have to be taken back to Earth in Atlantis. Without the computer that controls the oxygen levels, there is only 56 days of oxygen left available.

NASA had already extended the shuttle's mission by two days on June 11 to repair a tear of at least four inches in the shuttle's Thermal Protection System (TPS), which occurred during liftoff on June 8.