USA: US SPACE SHUTTLE PLAN TO RETRIEVE JAPANESE SATELLITE
NASA is preparing a rescue mission - to retrieve a Japanese satellite launched in March.
The crew of the shuttle Endeavour, including Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, plan to bring the Space Flyer Unit safely back to earth next month.
Another space shuttle mission is getting underway at mission control in Houston.
This time it's to retrieve this Japanese satellite launched last March.
The satellite, also known as the Space Flyer Unit, or S-F-U, is equipped with a telescope, and is expected to shed new light on the beginning of the universe as well as the structure of our galaxy. It has also been conducting a number of gravity experiments.
Weighing in at 4 tons, the satellite has been orbiting at an altitude of 257 nautical miles, or 476 kilometers.
"It's been there, since then, almost 9 months, and has actually completed its entire science planned mission. The science mission was planned to be about 6 months long. The life of the spacecraft itself though is considerably longer. The systems are capable of maintaining normal operations for up to 18 months."
SUPER CAPTION: Bill Jordan, SFU Payload Integration Manager
If all goes well, Endeavour will approach the S-F-U from underneath, and grab it with its mechanical arm.
Five astronauts will be aboard the shuttle, including Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata from the Japanese Space Agency.
Mission directors say the crew will do whatever it takes to retrieve the S-F-U.
"Primarily, our primary objective is to retrieve the S-F-U, and we're going to do whatever it takes to retrieve them. We've got the capability to use the additional propellant budgeted in the mission, if we need to, for the other payloads, if that has to be sacrificed. If for any event we have a kind of under speed performance, that we need to use some additional propellant, we're still going to do whatever we can to get up to their retrieval altitude, which is 257 nautical miles."
SUPER CAPTION: Bryan Austin, Orbit 1 Flight Director
The Endeavour mission is also an opportunity to test hardware and tools that will be used in the construction of the space station in late 1997.
Endeavour is scheduled to launch January 11, 1996.
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