AMS is ‘go’ for launch!

President Bush has approved extra funding for one more Space Shuttle launch to take the AMS experiment to the International Space Station.

Artist’s impression of the AMS experiment on the International Space Station.

On 15 October President Bush signed the NASA authorization act which will allow an extra Space Shuttle flight to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2010.

AMS is a CERN recognised experiment designed to search for antimatter and dark matter by measuring cosmic rays. It is being assembled in clean rooms here at CERN (see Bulletin No. 40/2007).

In 1995 NASA agreed to launch AMS on a shuttle flight to the ISS, but constraints resulting from the Columbia accident in 2003, including a two-and-a-half year suspension of flights, pushed AMS off the NASA manifest.

It was uncertain if AMS would ever be launched, but after years of speculation and a considerable amount of effort from the AMS team, one extra shuttle flight has been added to NASA’s manifest before the fleet’s scheduled retirement.

The experiment has wide support from members of Congress, who have frequently asked NASA to try and find a way to fit AMS in. It was finally passed unanimously by the full Senate on 25 September 2008, and was passed by the House on 27 September 2008.

President elect Barack Obama has also issued a statement in favour of the increase in resources to NASA for the extra shuttle flight for AMS.