DATE=5/18/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=SHUTTLE OVERVIEW NUMBER=46342 BYLINE=DAVID MCALARY DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= INTERNET= VOICED AT: INTRO: The U-S space shuttle Atlantis has lifted off for a rendezvous [scheduled for 12:32 a.m. Sun., May 21] with the International Space Station. As V-O-A Science Correspondent David McAlary tells us, six Americans and a Russian are on the supply, repair, and rescue mission. TEXT: The shuttle is carrying more than a ton of hardware including smoke detectors, cooling fans, a computer, and the rest of a Russian crane already partially assembled on a previous mission. But the supply aspect of the mission is not the most important. The primary task is maintenance. Shuttle flight director Phil Engelauf says the Atlantis team will fix technical problems such as malfunctioning batteries and a failed communications antenna that have arisen since the a U-S "Unity" and Russian "Zarya" modules were first mated in 1998. /// ENGELAUF ACT /// We have some hardware that has degraded with time with its operation in orbit and we have some normal maintenance that has to be done in order to keep the vehicle (Eds: space station) flying. Because the vehicle has been operating in orbit, this hardware would have had to be replaced as a normal course of maintenance over time. /// END ACT /// The astronauts are also carrying earplugs, a ventilation fan, and carbon dioxide monitors for their visit to the station. The fan is to improve air circulation in the Russian Zarya module. The last crew to go there found that the air was stale and nearly got sick. The C-O-two monitors will check for possible C-O-two contamination. U-S space station official Bob Kabana says the ear plugs are a temporary measure to protect the crew from noisy fans and other equipment on Zarya. /// KABANA ACT /// We're looking at improved fans that will be installed, retrofit, later on in the assembly once those fans are checked out and pass inspection. In the meantime, we're going to have to provide hearing protection for the crew. /// END ACT /// A highlight of the flight is a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk. That is necessary to complete the installation of the Russian crane and for the antenna repair. In addition, the shuttle will lift the space station into a 45-kilometer higher orbit. The orbit is dropping about two-and-a-half kilometers a week because of friction with particles in the upper atmosphere. The boost is necessary to keep the outpost from crashing back to Earth. A second Russian module originally scheduled to be in orbit by now could have been helping maintain the station's proper altitude. But the unit - called the Service Module -- is two-and-a-half years overdue because of the Russia's financial problems and failures of the Proton launch rocket. Bob Kabana says the Service Module is now expected to take off from Kazakhstan in mid-July on a Proton rocket with an improved engine. /// SECOND KABANA ACT /// Everything is on track so far for a launch of the Service Module this July. We have seen nothing that would indicate otherwise. Now, we do have those Proton launches with the modified engines yet to go. There's currently one scheduled in the 5-6 June time frame and another one toward the end of the month. We'll be watching closely to see the success of those rockets. But barring any unforeseen circumstances, we're on track for a July launch of the Service Module. /// END ACT /// When the module is finally in place, the first research crews can inhabit the station, because the unit also provides living quarters and scientific research facilities. /// THIRD KABANA ACT /// This is our year to get a functional space station or orbit with a crew living on board doing science. I know there has been a lot in the media lately about problems with the space station and all I can tell you is they have all been identified, we've got a plan in place, and we're ready to go. /// END ACT /// Full time occupation of the space station is scheduled for October. (SIGNED) NEB/DEM/KBK 18-May-2000 10:35 AM EDT (18-May-2000 1435 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .