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June 26, 1997

Michael Braukus
Headquarters, Washington,
(Phone: 202/358-1979)

James Hartsfield
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
(Phone: 713/483-5111)

George Diller
Kennedy Space Center, FL
(Phone: 407/867-2468)

Greg Shell
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL
(Phone: 205/544-0034)

Release: 97-145

First U.S. Space Station Component Begins Launch Preparations

The Internatonal Space Station Program passed a major milestone this week as the first U.S.-manufactured component began a year of launch preparations at the Kennedy Space Center, FL.

A connecting module, called Node 1, was shipped by cargo aircraft to Florida on Sunday from the Marshall Space Flight Center's Space Station Manufacturing Facility in Huntsville, AL. The node will be the first U.S-built segment for the station to reach orbit when it is launched in July 1998 aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on the STS-88 mission.

"The International Space Station has begun moving from the factory floor to the launch pad," program manager Randy Brinkley said. "By the time Node 1 is launched next year, pieces of the station will be leaving factories in locations worldwide to be readied for launch, and the first piece already will be in orbit. From now through the turn of the century, the processing of station components will be a major focus at the Kennedy Space Center."

The crew of Endeavour will use the Shuttle's robotic arm to dock Node 1 with the Functional Cargo Block as the node sits atop the orbiter docking system in the Shuttle's cargo bay. The Functional Cargo Block is a component that supplies early power and propulsion systems for the station. It will be the first element to be placed in orbit and will be launched two weeks before the STS-88 mission on a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. After the two components are linked together, three spacewalks will be performed from the Shuttle to connect power, data and utility lines and install exterior equipment.

Node 1 is now in Kennedy's Space Station Processing Facility, a new facility completed in 1994 and designed specifically for preparing International Space Station elements for launch. The node will be joined by two pressurized mating adapters, the first arriving at Kennedy in July from the McDonnell Douglas manufacturing facility in Huntington Beach, CA. Prior to launch, the two conical mating adapters will be attached to either end of the node at Kennedy. In orbit, the two adapters will serve as the connecting point for the U.S. and Russian station segments and as a docking location for the Space Shuttle.

"The Kennedy team at the Space Station Processing Facility has been preparing for several years for this occasion," said Glenn Snyder, Kennedy payload manager for STS-88. "We are looking forward to getting started with the processing of the first element as well as the others that will follow."

Work on Node 1 at Kennedy will include the completion of assembly and checkout tasks; acceptance testing of the node and mating adapters; communications testing with Mission Control; leak testing; and toxicology testing. Also, optical targets will be installed on the node that will assist the Shuttle's robotic arm operator during the docking in orbit.

The Functional Cargo Block, a U.S.-funded and Russian-built component, is currently undergoing modifications and enhancements at the Krunichev State Research and Production Space Center in Moscow. It is scheduled to be shipped to Kazakhstan via a special rail car in January 1998 to begin final launch preparations.

This news release, accompanying imagery, background information on the International Space Station Program and an International Space Station First Flights press kit can be obtained electronically via the Internet from the International Space Station Home Page at URL:


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