ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang from Sweden has been assigned as a Mission Specialist on board the 11-day STS-128 mission, currently scheduled for launch with Space Shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station (ISS) on 30 July 2009.
This will be Fuglesang's second flight after being a Mission Specialist on the 13-day STS-116 mission to the ISS in December 2006 in which he undertook three spacewalks for ISS assembly and additional duties as part of the European Celsius mission.The STS-128 mission holds some similarities for Fuglesang when compared to his previous mission. When he arrives at the ISS on Space Shuttle Atlantis, he will again be meeting up with an ESA astronaut (Frank De Winne from Belgium) who will be a member of the ISS Expedition Crew. In December 2006, ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter was on the ISS as the first ESA astronaut to be a member of an ISS Expedition Crew and returned with Fuglesang on the return leg of the STS-116 flight.
For the STS-128 mission Fuglesang will also undertake two spacewalks as part of his mission responsibilities. Three spacewalks are planned in total and the tasks include removing and replacing a materials processing experiment outside ESA's Columbus module and returning an empty ammonia tank assembly.
The STS-128 Shuttle Atlantis will transport a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) in its payload bay, which will carry science and storage racks to the Station. The Italian MPLMs are pressurised cargo containers that travel in the Shuttle's cargo bay. Once at the Station the MPLM is transferred by robotic arm from the cargo bay and attached to the ISS as a pressurised module.
The mission also includes the rotation of an ISS Expedition Crew member. NASA astronaut Nicole Stott who joins the up leg of the Shuttle flight will replace NASA astronaut Timothy Kopra, who returns to Earth with the Shuttle crew. As this will be the first time that the Shuttle will be greeted on its arrival at the Station by a six-person ISS Crew, it will also mark the record number of astronauts that will have been on the Station at one time, a total of 13 astronauts.
"This is yet another mission that highlights the increasing profile that Europe has in human spaceflight", said Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA's Director of Human Spaceflight. "A mission that Europe can be proud of with a Swedish ESA astronaut helping to transport an Italian cargo module to the Station where a Belgian ESA astronaut will be serving as a member of an Expedition Crew. I am also glad to see that the ISS will have developed a truly international feel, befitting its name, with the six-person ISS Crew being made up of astronauts from four different space agencies: ESA, NASA, Roscosmos and the Canadian Space Agency. I think this is a shining example the great cooperation that ESA has with its international partners that shows the way forward also for the exploration of Moon and Mars."
In addition to Christer Fuglesang, the STS-128 mission crew consists of NASA astronauts Frederick Sturckow who will command Space Shuttle Atlantis, Kevin Ford who will serve as the pilot and mission specialists John Olivas, Patrick Forrester and Jose Hernandez.
Source: European Space Agency