Heads of Agency ISS Press Conference (Transcript)

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Wednesday, January 24, 2007


A Panel Consisting of:

MICHAEL GRIFFIN, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
KEIJI TACHIKAWA, President, Japanese Space Agency (JAXA)
ANATOLY PERMINOV, Director, Russian Space Agency
JEAN-JACQUES DORDAIN, Director-General, European Space Agency (ESA)
CAROLE LACOMBE, Acting President, Canadian Space Agency (CSA)

[Moderated by Franco Bonacina, Media Relations, ESA]

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

European Space Agency Headquarters Paris, France

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, good evening, and welcome to the European Space Agency for this Heads of Agency's International Space Station press briefing.

I will introduce the heads of agencies, starting with Carole Lacombe, from left to right; Carole Lacombe who is the Acting President of the Canadian Space Agency. Anatoly Perminov will come in a while, and he is the head of Roskosmos for Russia. Then we have Michael Griffin who is the NASA Administrator, followed by Jean-Jacques Dordain who is Director-General of ESA, and Keiji Tachikawa who is the president of JAXA. I am Franco Bonacina, head of Media Relations and spokesperson at ESA.

English translation is on Channel 2, French translation is Channel 1, and Russian on Channel 3. This is for logistics.

I leave the floor directly to Dr. Griffin for a general statement of introduction, and we only have half an hour. So we will go ahead with questions and answers immediately after Dr. Griffin's opening.

DR. GRIFFIN: My opening statement will be short and to the point.

We had a very good meeting. We were able to review the progress made over the last year, which I think you know what substantial. After 3-1/2 years of, I would say, very great difficulty in the Space Station program as we worked hard to return the Space Shuttle to flight and then return the Space Station to assembly, the partnership held together. We found a way to keep the Space Station going, and now we are going to find a way to finish it, to staff it with a permanent crew of six as soon as possible, and to complete this investment that we have made as a partnership and begin to generate returns from it.

It was a good meeting. Within the next year, you will see the European Columbus module attached to the Space Station and the first piece of the Japanese module attached to the Space Station. So we look forward to all of that.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. That was very short and down to the point. For questions, please raise your hand, so that I can identify you, and introduce yourself. Speak into the microphone, please.

First question?

QUESTIONER: I would like to ask, any kind of delay for the schedules which have been already put forward. So, if you have any kind of delay, could you tell us why it has happened? This is on schedule. I would like to know like what you can update, the level of construction.

DR. GRIFFIN: Well, we have published the planned schedules for our Space Shuttle launches. There are five planned for this coming year.

We don't anticipate any delays at the moment, but I think you know, if you have watched Space Shuttle launches at all in the past, that the actual launch dates can be uncertain and can sometimes be delayed. If that happens, we will tell you, but we are not at this point anticipating any problems.

MODERATOR: Please introduce yourself before you ask questions. Thank you.

QUESTIONER: Frederick Gardend [ph], AFP News Agency. Did you discuss the problems which could -- because to the International Space Station by the debris left by the explosion of the Chinese satellite?

DR. GRIFFIN: We did not.


QUESTIONER: Peter de Selding, SpaceNews. Two questions. Well, I can't let you go with that. So has NASA performed orbital analysis to determine whether the Station is going to have to perform a collision avoidance maneuver because of the Chinese FY1C debris problem? That is the first question.

The second question is: What is under current planning, the point at which you get to a crew of six on the Station?

Thank you.

DR. GRIFFIN: We perform debris analysis all the time in recognition of the possibility of collision avoidance maneuvers, and so there has been no change there and at this point no requirement for a collision avoidance maneuver. So that is not different.

And current planning, the crew of six capability arrives in April of 2009.

MODERATOR: Further questions?

QUESTIONER: Mike Taverna from Aviation Week. Could you give us the schedule done for the first ATV launch, the Columbus and Node 2 and the first JAXA module?

MR. DORDAIN: The first ATV launch is scheduled on the 25th of July, this year. The launch of Node 2, I think that this is in August, if I am right, but this is on Space Shuttle, but I think it is August this year. So this is the current schedule.

And for the JAXA module, Mr. Tachikawa.

MR. TACHIKAWA: Okay. The first module of JAXA will be launched in December of 2007, but I am not sure. Dr. Griffin told us the schedule is still not decided yet and might be changed in some days.

DR. GRIFFIN: The current launch date scheduled for the first element of -- the first of three elements of the Japanese module is December 9th of this year, and again, I think you all appreciate that Shuttle launch schedules move around.

We are more interested in preserving a solid smooth operational tempo than we are in holding onto a particular launch date. So we are working through the flow, one flight at a time. The most important flight is always the next flight.

MODERATOR: Frederick?

QUESTIONER: Frederick Gastell [ph], BBCN on TBF.

Mr. Griffin, we have the opportunity to have you on this side of the Atlantic. Can you explain to us what is the strategy for NASA from 2010 on to take down payloads from ISS?

Thank you.

DR. GRIFFIN: Well, from the retirement of the Shuttle at the end of 2010 until we can deploy or Orion Crew Vehicle which will replace the Shuttle, we have very limited opportunities for payload return.

Return of trash, if you will, or other things that we are not trying to save will come down in Progress ATV and HTV to destructive reentry, but we don't have a lot of opportunity for payload return in that period.

Now, if our COTS program, Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, that we have initiated in the United States, if that is successful, then that will provide payload return capability.

QUESTIONER: Excuse me. A follow-on. What is the schedule for Orion according to the NASA program?

DR. GRIFFIN: According to our program, Orion will reach operational capability not later than 2014.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

There was a question back there. There is a walking microphone which is coming up. Introduce yourself, please.

QUESTIONER: Jessica Mazzeray [ph] from Russia Today.

I would just like to know if the time scheduled for completion of the ISS is still the same, and also what do you estimate the final cost of its construction to be?

DR. GRIFFIN: I can't give you a cost number. The completion date will be prior to the end of 2010, with some margin. We will fly our last assembly flight.

MODERATOR: More questions?

QUESTIONER: Kio Chiando [ph] of Japanese Newspaper Nikkei.

This is not directly to construction itself, but have you discussed about the possibility of hitting some of the objects that came out on the Chinese experiment that might hurt International Space Station?

DR. GRIFFIN: That question was just asked, and it was answered, and the answer was that we are always doing debris analysis with the best ground observational capability that we have. That has not changed, and so far we have not seen any need for a collision avoidance maneuver.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

Further questions?

Frederick, go ahead.

QUESTIONER: To Mr. Perminov and perhaps Mr. Griffin, during this gap between 2010 and 2013, what are the -- what's the deal with the program is about buying some Soyuz and Progress? Do you have any agreement for this gap where you won't have any U.S. capability?

DR. GRIFFIN: Well, I will start. Our current agreement extends through -- I forget exactly the date, but sometime in 2009, and we are working jointly on the follow-on agreement to take us out further into the gap between Shuttle retirement and Orion capability. So, when it is done, I am sure we will announce it.

MODERATOR: More questions?

MR. PERMINOV: [via interpreter] I agree that we are discussing this issue right now. It is a rather complex one, and, therefore, I think that this year, we will arrive at some kind of a positive outcome, and indeed, between 2010 and 2013 season, Progress will be operating, working, and we have discussed this point, and at some point during this year, we will be coming back to this issue and discussing it further.

Thank you.

QUESTIONER: Have you discussed in any more detail the acquisition of more ATVs? And Mr. Dordain, did you give us a date for Columbus? I didn't notice.

MR. DORDAIN: The date for Columbus is 11 October of this year, the launch by the Space Shuttle, and for more ATV acquisition, I prefer to wait for the first launch of ATV. After the first launch of ATV, I should be able to say something, not before.

MODERATOR: Further questions?

[No response.]

MODERATOR: Doesn't look like.

Any of our speakers wish to add and conclude?

[No response.]

MODERATOR: No. It looks as if [speaking French language].

Thank you very much for coming to this press conference, and see you soon at the European Space Agency.


[End of Heads of Agency ISS press conference of January 23, 2007.] - - -

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