As the International Space Station continues to orbit the Earth in good shape, its automatic docking system was tested twice this week without problems in an effort to verify that the system is ready to support the rendezvous with the Zvezda service module this summer. Meanwhile, Space Shuttle and Station managers formally approved the Shuttle visit to the Station to outfit Zvezda for occupancy by the first resident crew.
The Kurs system is the Russian automatic docking system located inside Zarya used to rendezvous with the service module for precise docking. The system encountered a minor problem in a self-test back in December which may have been caused by excessive electromagnetic interference. Yesterday’s tests reconfirmed that the system is working fine and needs no maintenance work during the next Shuttle visit to the Station on STS-101.
NASA managers today approved STS-106 as the flight which will follow the launch of the service module. Seven crew members will spend a week docked to the ISS, loading supplies in the new Zvezda module and activating some of its systems.
Battery management along with planning for, and carrying out, the testing of the Kurs automatic docking system occupied much of the time of flight controllers in Houston and Moscow during the last week. The test was similar to the one run in December, but this time was conducted twice – first with the Early Communications System inside the Unity module set to high power and second with the communication system on low power. The test was conducted with the purpose of exonerating or implicating the communications systems as the source of some low level of electromagnetic interference.
Controllers continue to evaluate the health of batteries on the Station used to provide electrical power to components. Though Battery 2 has failed, the remaining five are either fully usable or can be used for short periods of time to provide the required levels of electricity to Station systems. The ISS is capable of operating fully on as few as three of its six batteries and with fewer, if necessary, by managing electrical usage on board.
The International Space Station is in an orbit of 240 by 226 statute miles. Since the launch of Zarya in 1998, the ISS has completed more than 7,105 orbits. Space Station viewing opportunities worldwide are available on the Internet at: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/
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