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11-04-2008

Clarkson University Alumnus is Lead Flight Director for Nov. 14 Space Shuttle Mission

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/sarafin2.jpg]

Clarkson University alumnus Michael L. Sarafin is the lead shuttle flight director for the Endeavour space shuttle mission STS-126, scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center on November 14. Sarafin graduated from Clarkson in 1994 with a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering.

For years, STS-126 has been planned as the mission that will give the International Space Station the ability to support twice the crew currently living there. But since the most recent inspection of the station’s solar alpha rotary joint, it’s also become the mission that will ensure the station can generate the power those extra crew members will require.sarafin2

Endeavour will carry a reusable logistics module that will hold supplies and equipment, including additional crew quarters, additional exercise equipment, equipment for the regenerative life support system and spare hardware.

"We’re going to use up a lot of the new space that we’ve brought up on the past few missions, with Node 2 and Columbus and the Kibo module," said Sarafin.

In addition to fully utilizing the space station, the equipment brought up will allow the space station to start depending less on the space shuttle. A new regenerative environmental control and life support system will give the station the ability to recycle urine and the condensation that the crew breathes into the air into pure water that can be used for drinking or to cool the station’s systems.

That will be important when the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010, and its water deliveries dry up.

"Up until this point, the majority of the station’s drinking water was coming up from the shuttle or the Russian’s Progress vehicle," said Sarafin. "This sets us up for long-term sustainability of the station without the shuttle."

Leading a team of flight controllers, support personnel and engineering experts, a flight director has the overall responsibility to manage and carry out space shuttle flights and International Space Station expeditions. A flight director also leads and orchestrates planning and integration activities with flight controllers, payload customers, International Space Station partners and others.

Through his resident advisor at Clarkson, Sarafin met someone working in the engineering directorate at the Johnson Space Center. He took a co-op job at Johnson Space Center, leading to a position, after graduation, as a space shuttle software engineer. He became a guidance, navigation and control officer in 1995, supporting 30 shuttle flights in Mission Control, and was named a flight director in 2005.

In an interview with Clarkson magazine, Sarafin said that he appreciated both the co-op and classroom experiences, which he had as a Clarkson undergraduate. "The opportunity to work at NASA as part of the co-op program and the engineering knowledge I accumulated at Clarkson provided the foundation for my career at NASA," he said. "All those hours spent studying engineering and poring over physics and structural dynamics at Clarkson really paid off."

Sarafin’s brother, Jim, trains astronauts at NASA. The Sarafin brothers are Herkimer, N.Y., natives and graduates of Richfield Springs Central School.

Read more about Space Shuttle Mission STS-126 at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/sts126.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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