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NASA reconsiders satellite servicing missions

Following a review requested by members of Congress, the National Academy of
Science and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have agreed to
reconsider NASA's earlier decision to forgo further servicing of the Hubble
Space Telescope. Following the publication of the review panels findings, NASA
has therefore agreed to resume its satellite servicing program.

The review panel has also recommended that because of the long down time
between Space Shuttle missions, crew members will need additional
opportunities to practice their EVA skills prior to carrying out the ambitious
Hubble Service Mission 4. The panel members suggested that astronauts should
practice their repair skills on a smaller satellite while preparations for the
HST service mission are being revived. Accordingly NASA has directed shuttle
program managers to identify additional satellite servicing opportunities to
allow astronauts to obtain the experience they so urgently need after being
grounded for the past year.

One such mission opportunity was immediately apparent, the recently defunct
Amsat-Oscar 40 satellite. According to NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe,
"Repairing Oscar 40 is a challenging and difficult mission that will provide
NASA and all Americans with the renewed confidence and inspiration that are
needed for the ambitious space missions that lie ahead for us."

An all-ham shuttle crew has been selected to fly this important training and
repair mission. 

Astronaut Mike Foale, KB5UAC, said yesterday "We are thrilled to be selected
to fly this important and historic satellite servicing mission. AO-40 is a
much loved satellite and we are looking forward to returning it to service for
the worlds radio amateurs."

A total of 5 EVAs will be needed to repair the failed main battery, all of the
failed transmitters from 2 meters up to 10 GHz, and the damaged antennas.
Spacewalking astronauts will also repair AO-40's fuel system valves, external
sheet metal and thermal blankets. Following completion of all mechanical and
electronic repairs, the monomethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide tanks will
be refilled with a fresh load of fuel and the satellite will be released back
into orbit to complete the series of rocket burns that were intended to place
AO-40 into its high inclination Molynia orbit. 

To prepare for this mission, an Amsat furnished AO-40 satellite mockup has
been shipped to the Weightless Environment Training Facility (WETF) at the
Johnson Space Center in Houston where astronauts will practice their repair
procedures in the underwater training facility. AO-40's command stations will
soon begin a series of Joint Integrated Simulations (JIS) with the Mission
Control Center in Houston to practice the complex interactive satellite
command sequences that will be needed to conduct aliveness and functional
tests of each new module as astronauts complete each phase of the repair

Prior to starting their repair work, astronauts will restore power to the
satellites' Integrated Housekeeping Unit and telemetry beacon, using a special
Amsat-approved pair of automobile jumper cables. In keeping with Amsat's low
cost satellite philosophy, a suitable set of cables was found in the
automotive section of the Orlando Florida Wall-Mart for $8.95. A new
Thermometer was added to the Amsat Web site today to track fund raising
efforts for the purchase of these cables, which are currently on lay-away. The
jumper cables are considered to be the key to the success of the entire AO-40
servicing mission. A special President's Club pin is available to those who
contribute $1 or more to this purchase. 

In other space related news today, President Bush has announced that future
manned missions are in work to retrieve and repair the Mars Polar Lander and
Beagle 2. A mission to install a new battery aboard AO-7 is also under

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