Today Mike Suffredini, the Manager of the International Space Station made several announcements today during a teleconference aired live on NASA’s web site. Here is a summary of them.
Computer Hardware/Software Upgrade
Mike confirmed today that they had just completed a comprehensive upgrade of the Computer Software and Hardware used to control the space station systems. These upgrades included process and memory upgrades as well as changes to the software to utilize the new hardware. The upgrades where performed by the crew over the last couple of months and where completed after the docking of the latest Progress vessel last weekend.
Soyuz mishap during testing and delay’s to next scheduled launch
During testing of the next Soyuz crew vehicle the craft was exposed to significantly higher pressures than planned which resulted in significant damage to the craft, after investigation it was deemed unusable for flight. As a result of this failure the next flight to the station has been delayed until May, similarly to ensure that station is only reduced to a three man crew for two weeks the return of Dan Burbank, Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin has been moved to the end of April. These delays will also impact the other crew rotations this year but they expect to be back to normal by the end of the year.
The Russians have created a commission to look into what happened and what changes are needed to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Mike expressed confidence that they would quick identify the cause and correct it.
Dragon Tentatively Scheduled for March 20th Mission
Mike also announced that they were tentatively looked at March 20th for the SpaceX Dragon launch to the space station, however he did explain that this was still a very tight scheduled and felt that it may end up being in early April. Mike explained that during testing a number of issues had been found and all of them had to be addressed before SpaceX would be allowed to fly.
When asked about impact on station Mike explained that they still had plenty of margin with what was on the station into 2013 and if it because necessary they would look to utilize Progress and other vehicles to transport payload until Commercial deliveries where ready. They were not going to rush this and none of the partners would be flying until all parties where confident that they were ready.
Mike also explained that Orbital were addressing issues and believed that there first launch would slip, he wasn’t able to say by how much and didn’t go into details about what issues where being addressed.
More Soyuz Seats
During Q&A after the announcements Mike was asked about the potential of having to buy more seats on Soyuz due to the reduced funding for Commercial Crew, he explained that they were looking into the impact of this and working with the partners to determine when they believed they would be ready to fly. Once they had that information they would then know what if any additional seats where needed after the end of the current contract. Negotiations for these if needed would have to start in 2013 but only after the necessary legal blocks where handled, they have already started the process of dealing with these so that if needed they could proceed with the negotiations if needed.
The full teleconference can be heard here.