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January 16, 1997

Brian Welch
Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1600)

Rob Navias / Ed Campion
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
(Phone: 281/483-5111)

Release: 97-11

Space Shuttle Atlantis Modification Work to be Performed at Palmdale Facility

The United Space Alliance (USA) has recommended, and NASA managers have concurred, that upcoming major modification and normal inspection work on Space Shuttle Atlantis be done at Boeing North American's facility in Palmdale, CA.

Over the past several months, USA, the Shuttle prime contractor, has been evaluating whether the next Orbiter Maintenance Down Period (OMDP) on Atlantis, which includes major modifications, would be done at the Palmdale facility or in an Orbiter Processing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

In making the decision to have the work done at Palmdale, several factors were considered.

First, the major modifications planned for Atlantis are extensive and will require a long and uninterrupted stay in a processing facility. If this work were performed at KSC, the long stay would represent a threat to the Shuttle flight schedule for Fiscal Year 1998, which includes the first two International Space Station assembly flights and the final two Shuttle-Mir missions for the Phase One program.

Secondly, the modifications planned for Atlantis are similar to those performed on Discovery and Endeavour while those two orbiters were at Palmdale. Using Palmdale's resources will allow the program to take maximum advantage of the experience gained during the maintenance and modification work performed on the other two vehicles.

Managers also believe the extent of modifications required on Atlantis can better be accomplished in a manufacturing operation than in a mission turn-around processing effort. NASA concluded that, as with Discovery and Endeavour, these modifications should be performed by a dedicated team instead of the shared resource approach used at KSC. The manufacturing environment and a dedicated team are both available at Palmdale.

Finally, with the modification work done at Palmdale, the KSC workforce can devote its attention to the principal activity of vehicle processing for launch and landing operations.

Atlantis will begin its OMDP session following completion of Shuttle Mission STS-86 in September 1997. Modification work will include the installation of an external airlock in the payload bay.

The location for future OMDPs will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Following Atlantis, the next planned OMDP will be performed on Shuttle Columbia in November 1998. A site recommendation from USA is planned in early 1998. Managers will examine many factors when making their decision, including the complexity of required modifications and programmatic considerations, such as work schedules and planned Shuttle flight operations.


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