The International Space Station continues to orbit quietly without any significant problems hampering its operation as it awaits the arrival of a Space Shuttle crew to perform maintenance tasks while delivering logistics and supplies for use by future astronaut crews.
The next Shuttle crew to visit the ISS was finalized last week and includes Jim Voss, Susan Helms and Yuri Usachev - the second crew that will live aboard the ISS next year. They now will take an early ‘peak’ at their home during the STS-101 mission that will be commanded by Jim Halsell and piloted by Scott Horowitz. Rounding out the crew will be Mission Specialists Mary Ellen Weber and Jeff Williams. Atlantis is being readied at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the launch scheduled for no earlier than April 13.
While vehicle processing continues, mission planners are working on stowage and maintenance tasks that will be carried out on the 11-day flight. A spacewalk by Williams and Voss will include checking the position of a small crane mounted outside Zarya in addition to other tasks. The crane was installed during a spacewalk on the most recent Shuttle visit to the ISS. Plans call for Williams and Voss to ensure the crane is properly secured in its mounting socket.
Meanwhile, battery cycling continues on orbit with two of the six batteries currently in restoration mode, which is a procedure periodically carried out to maintain the life and capacity of each unit. At present, three batteries are supplying all the electrical needs of Station equipment.
STS-101 is designed to not only supply the Station with more logistics for use by future crews, but also to replace some of Zarya’s aging batteries and other equipment in preparation for the arrival of the Zvezda service module in July. Presently, Zvezda is being readied for a launch between July 8-14.
Station managers plan to hold a meeting with the International Partners in the next week or two to finalize updates to the assembly sequence that will include launch target dates for the remainder of this year. That schedule will include Russian supply launches using the Progress resupply vehicles in addition to Shuttle logistics and assembly missions.
The first shuttle flight after the arrival of the Zvezda was approved to take place within a month after the service module’s arrival. That STS-106 crew will be commanded by Terry Wilcutt with Scott Altman serving as pilot. Mission specialists include Dan Burbank, Rick Mastracchio, Ed Lu, Yuri Malenchenko, and Boris Morukov.
The International Space Station is in an orbit of 237 by 226 statute miles. Since the launch of Zarya in 1998, the ISS has completed more than 7,227 orbits. Space Station viewing opportunities worldwide are available on the Internet at: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/
NOTE: The next International Space Station status report will be issued on Thursday, March 2, unless mission events warrant. For further information, please contact the NASA Public Affairs Office at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, 281-483-5111.
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