The final pieces of what will become the longest structure in space, the International Space Station's football-field-long backbone, are being shipped to Florida next week.
The 11th and final piece of the Station's Integrated Truss Structure (designated Starboard 6 (S6) truss segment) leaves Houston for the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), on Monday, Dec. 9, weather permitting. S6 will be shipped in two segments. The first shipment will be the Integrated Equipment Assembly (IEA), and the second shipment the truss Long Spacer.
The two pieces are too large to be shipped together, but they will be joined together prior to launch. The S6 shipments mean virtually all the U.S. core structure of the Station has left the factory and is either in orbit or being readied for launch. Only one major Station core component awaits shipment. The second connecting module, Node 2, is completing construction in Italy.
When launched in early 2004, the S6 truss will weigh 26,000 pounds and measure 45 feet long. Its assembly in orbit will complete a 356-foot-long span across the Space Station. The span will support a half-acre of solar arrays, massive station cooling systems and a railway to allow a robotic arm to relocate for Station maintenance.
"The shipment of this segment signals that the fabrication of all U.S.-built International Space Station core components has been completed," said ISS Program Manager Bill Gerstenmaier. "But the most complex and challenging work is ahead as we continue to assemble the truss segments in orbit, multiplying and expanding the Station's power system. When this final truss segment is attached in 2004, we will be in the home stretch of Station assembly," he said.
The S6 will include the fourth and final set of Station solar arrays, batteries and electronics. The truss IEA and Long Spacer have been in Houston for about a year undergoing final construction. The segment began as a qualification article for other truss segments before being renovated to flight status. It will spend a little over a year in KSC's Space Station Processing Facility being readied for launch.
While at KSC, the truss IEA and Long Spacer will be inspected. Orbital Replacement Units will be installed to the IEA and undergo verification tests in order to ready them for flight. Kennedy will perform final integration of the Long Spacer truss segment to the IEA and final verification and testing. More than 390,000 pounds of Station components are in orbit. Approximately 110,000 additional pounds, including S6, are being readied for launch aboard Space Shuttle flights during the next 14 months.
The S6 will be flown from Houston's Ellington Field to Kennedy aboard NASA's Super Guppy cargo airplane. The customized four-engine aircraft has a 25-foot-diameter fuselage and a foldaway nose enabling it to load and transport oversize cargo.
Media are invited to view shipment of the S6. For information on departure viewing opportunities, contact the newsroom at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, at (281) 483-5111. For information on arrival viewing, contact the Kennedy Space Center newsroom at (321) 867-2468. The recorded message on Johnson Space Center's Broadcast News Service at (281) 483-8600 will be updated during the weekend if weather threatens the planned shipment of the S6 on Monday.
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