Following two days of free flight since its launch Sunday, an unmanned Russian Progress spacecraft automatically docked to the back end of the International Space Station's Zvezda module at 7:24 p.m. Central time today. It is the fourth Progress dedicated to the resupply of the orbiting outpost. The Progress is carrying 3,100 pounds of supplies, including food, spare computer parts, and other logistical items which Expedition Two Commander Yury Usachev and Flight Engineers Jim Voss and Susan Helms will begin to unload on Wednesday.
The Progress joins a Russian Soyuz craft that is linked to the earthward facing docking port of the Zarya module of the ISS, and paves the way for the arrival in three weeks of the Shuttle Atlantis with a five-person crew on the STS-104 mission to install the huge Joint Airlock to complete the second phase of the assembly of the station.
While awaiting the arrival of the Progress, Voss and Helms spent Monday operating the Canadian-built station robotic arm to gather additional data as to the cause of the intermittent problem seen during last week's checkout activities in the backup, or redundant string of arm software. The test yesterday repeated some of last week's tasks and the redundant system worked perfectly. While the arm work was underway, Usachev tested the automatic and manual docking systems on the station in preparation for the Progress vehicle's arrival.
The stage now is set for a complete "dry run" Thursday of the robotic arm movements required for installation of the Airlock. The station's robotic arm is the only means for attaching the Airlock on the Unity module since the shuttle's robot arm cannot reach the installation location. In preparation for that task, Thursday's checkout will mirror the movements planned in June as if the Airlock were attached to the arm. This test not only will validate the arm's operational capability, but also will be conducted on the redundant string of software and hardware. The primary string was tested nearly two weeks ago with no problems.
If this week's checkout is successful, Friday's meeting of the ISS Mission Management Team will reassess the need for replacement of one of the arm's computer units, which is mounted on the arm itself. If required, the change out of the Computer Unit would be added to a previously scheduled "internal" spacewalk June 8 to reposition a docking cone in the cylindrical transfer compartment of the Zvezda module which is linked to the Zarya module. That docking cone will serve as the target and initial contact point for the Russian Docking Compartment set to arrive at the station in late August or early September.
While on-orbit activities continue, Space Shuttle Atlantis is being readied for launch shortly after 3 p.m. Central time on June 14. The orbiter will be moved to its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center next week.
Science investigations continue onboard under the guidance of the Payload Operations Center at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, except for the Human Research Facility, which is monitored and controlled from the Telescience Support Center (TSC) at the Johnson Space Center, Houston. For details on ISS science, visit the following website:
A status briefing on Expedition Two activities will be broadcast on NASA Television on Friday, May 25 at 1 p.m. Central time. The briefing will include multi-center question and answer capability from NASA centers.
The International Space Station is operating in excellent shape at an altitude of 250 miles (401 km). The next ISS Status Report will be issued Wednesday, May 30, or earlier, if mission events warrant.
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