Space Station (ISS) Status 3/3/06
Entering the homestretch of a half-year mission, International Space
Station Commander Bill McArthur and Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev
monitored the departure of one of two Russian cargo ships today.
Filled with trash and items no longer needed, the Progress 19 vehicle
undocked from the Zvezda living quarters module at 5:06 a.m. EST.
Three hours later, Russian flight controllers commanded its engines
to fire to put it on course to plunge into the atmosphere and burn up
over the Pacific Ocean. The cargo ship was docked to the station
since September 2005.
The station's Progress 20 cargo vessel, which arrived in December
2005, remains attached to the Pirs Docking Compartment.
Also this week, McArthur replaced the trace contaminant control system
in the Destiny Laboratory. The system removes impurities from the
cabin air. It experienced a slightly degraded performance over the
past few months, but is operating normally.
On Monday, McArthur will attempt to reconnect and activate the major
constituent analyzer in Destiny. It is a mass spectrometer that
measures compounds in the station's atmosphere. Efforts to activate
the system two weeks ago were unsuccessful due to what is believed to
be damaged or bent electrical connectors.
Once the device is activated, plans can resume for a crew "campout" in
the Quest Airlock to test streamlined spacewalk preparation
procedures. The new procedures will shorten the time needed to
cleanse nitrogen from spacewalkers' bodies to prevent decompression
sickness. For the test, the crew will spend the night in Quest at a
reduced pressure, lessening the time needed to breathe pure oxygen in
advance of a spacewalk.
The "campout" technique will be used for the first time for spacewalks
on the STS-115 shuttle mission later this year. If the major
constituent analyzer is successfully activated, the campout test will
be scheduled around March 23, 2006.
McArthur continued preparations for the arrival of the next shuttle
mission. Discovery is targeted for launch no earlier than May on that
flight, designated STS-121. This week, McArthur put unneeded items in
racks earmarked for return to Earth aboard Discovery.
McArthur and Tokarev will soon begin preparations for a short trip
from the station. Managers have agreed on a tentative schedule on
March 20 for the crew to relocate their Soyuz TMA-7 spacecraft from
the Earth-facing docking port of the Zarya module to the aft docking
port of Zvezda. McArthur and Tokarev will undock from Zarya and
conduct a 37-minute flight to re-dock at Zvezda. The move will clear
the Zarya port for the April 1 arrival of the Soyuz carrying the next
station crew, Expedition 13.
Expedition 13 is commanded by Pavel Vinogradov. Jeff Williams is NASA
Flight Engineer. Brazilian astronaut Marcos Pontes will fly with them
to the station for a short stay, returning to Earth a week later with
McArthur and Tokarev.
Next week, McArthur will brush up on his robotics skills, operating
the Canadarm2 for engineering tests. The arm also will be remotely
commanded by flight controllers in Houston. They will operate the arm
to survey one of two integrated umbilical assembly mechanisms on the
mobile transporter rail car. The assembly's cutting blade system
malfunctioned Dec. 16, severing one of two umbilicals on the
transporter. The assembly will be replaced on the second of the three
spacewalks planned for Discovery's mission. Controllers also will use
the arm to survey a vent port for the carbon dioxide removal assembly
on the Destiny Laboratory.