All is ready at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan for tomorrow's launch of a Russian Proton rocket to deliver the first component of the International Space Station to orbit, inaugurating a new era of space exploration.
With everything on track for liftoff at 1:40 a.m. EST tomorrow (9:40 a.m. Moscow time, 11:40 a.m. Baikonur time), the Russian State Committee prepared to meet later today (early Friday Baikonur time) to give final clearance for the launch of the 180-foot long Proton. Encapsulated in the rocket's nose fairing is the 42,000-pound Zarya Control Module, which will provide the initial propulsion, orientation capability and commanding for the fledgling station.
The weather forecast calls for clear skies and unusually balmy temperatures at the time of launch, perfect conditions for an unmanned Proton launch vehicle. Top officials from the international project's Partner agencies including NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin, Russian Space Agency General-Director-Yuri Koptev, Canadian Space Agency President Mac Evans, European Space Agency Director-General Antonio Rodota, and NASDA President Isao Uchida as well as International Space Station Program Manager Randy Brinkley, will be on hand in Baikonur to view the maiden liftoff of station hardware.
At the Asian launch site, Russian officials planned to be at their stations at about 4:30 p.m. EST today to begin final prelaunch preparations. Following a final meeting of Russian space managers, similar to NASA's Mission Management Team, the Proton's three stages will be fueled with asymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide, at about 7:40 p.m. EST.
At 12:30 a.m. EST Friday, the gantry surrounding the Proton will be retracted and final checks of the Proton and the Zarya's systems will be conducted. It will take less than 10 minutes from launch to spacecraft separation, triggering a series of computer commands to deploy Zarya's antennas and its large solar arrays. The arrays should be unfurled and locked in place a little over 13 minutes after Zarya's launch.
| Russian and American flight
controllers at both the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow
and the Johnson Space Center in Houston will continue to checkout Zarya's systems over the next two weeks in preparation for the launch of the Shuttle
Endeavour on Dec. 3 to carry the Unity connecting hub to orbit. Unity
will be mated with Zarya during the 12-day flight by five U.S. astronauts
and a Russian cosmonaut to complete the first station assembly mission.
The next International Space Station status report will be issued on Friday, November 20 following the launch of the Zarya Control Module, unless developments warrant.
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