Expedition One crewmembers are busily preparing the International Space Station for its next visitors – the five astronauts of the STS-98 mission of Atlantis – set to launch at 2:11 a.m. EST on January 19 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Atlantis’ precious cargo is the U.S. Laboratory Destiny, which will provide the orbiting outpost with its first science facility. STS-98 marks the seventh shuttle mission to the station and twelfth overall devoted to the assembly of the ever-growing international outpost in low Earth orbit.
Shuttle and station managers selected the target launch date following Wednesday’s traditional Flight Readiness Review to assess the readiness of the shuttle, station, crew, payloads and flight control teams. Based on a Friday early morning launch, Atlantis is scheduled to dock to the ISS just before 9 p.m. Eastern on January 20.
In preparation for the shuttle’s arrival, Expedition One Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev conducted a thorough inventory of items onboard and began stowing equipment and supplies to clear passageways that will be used by the two crews throughout the seven days of joint operations.
Remaining work for the Expedition One crew in preparing for Atlantis’ arrival includes reviewing documentation for the laboratory’s activation, conferences with various technical specialists and the STS-98 crew, and a mid-tour debrief with flight controllers.
Destiny’s attachment and activation is the highlight of the 11-day mission along with the relocation of a shuttle docking port and three spacewalks designed to complete final connections between the laboratory, docking port and the station. The third spacewalk will mark the 100th in U.S. spacewalk history and the 60th based out of the shuttle.
In preparation for the relocation of the shuttle docking port, known as Pressurized Mating Adapter 2, flight controllers in Houston attempted to cycle four latches on the Common Berthing Mechanism to which the PMA currently is attached. The first latch cycled properly, but the second apparently was obstructed by a piece of the air ducting used to circulate air throughout the station while a shuttle is docked. Shepherd visibly detected the obstruction and a plan is in place to pressurize the volume of the PMA so that he can float in, move the vent and watch as flight controllers cycle the latch once again. This procedure sets the stage for the removal of the PMA to free the location for Destiny’s installation.
The only technical issue on the station at present is an apparent faulty current converter unit on one of eight batteries inside the Zvezda module. It has no impact on the station’s electrical generation capability, especially in light of the ample power available from the solar arrays installed on the STS-97 mission of Discovery in December. All station life support systems are working fine.
Atlantis’ five astronauts, Commander Ken Cockrell, Pilot Mark Polansky and Mission Specialists Bob Curbeam, Marsha Ivins and Tom Jones conducted a countdown dress rehearsal last weekend as technicians were installing the Destiny lab in its payload bay at Launch Complex 39B.
The International Space Station continues to operate in excellent shape as it orbits the Earth every 90 minutes at an altitude of 230 statute miles.
The next Expedition One status report will be issued on Wednesday, Jan. 17, or sooner, if developments warrant.
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