A Russian Progress resupply ship docked to the aft docking port of the station's Zvezda service module at 8:49 a.m. CST Tuesday, delivering a ton of food, fuel, clothing and other materials that should sustain Commander Ken Bowersox, Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin, and NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit through the end of June. The hatches into Progress were opened Tuesday afternoon, and unloading of supplies began Wednesday morning.
Among the equipment inside the Russian cargo ship were two power modules critical to the recovery of the science operations in the Microgravity Science Glovebox, located in the U.S. laboratory module Destiny. MSG, developed by the European Space Agency in cooperation with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., had been inoperative since late last November when a power distribution controller and an exchangeable electronics module failed. The units were returned to Earth by the last shuttle to visit ISS, sent to ESA for repair, and after certification testing at MSFC were loaded on the Progress for delivery.
Flight controllers are discussing a possible reboost of the ISS with the Progress engines on Tuesday. If the reboost is agreed to, it would increase the stations average altitude from 239 statute miles to 246 statute miles. That would leave the ISS at the proper altitude for the launch of a new Soyuz return craft in April.
Pettit installed the new components in the glovebox Wednesday, but when he activated the science rack a circuit breaker tripped. Payload controllers reported that the response to activation was similar to what was seen shortly before the MSG failed back in November, and they had Pettit shut down MSG to protect the new components. Troubleshooting by specialists from ESA and the Payload Operations Center at MSFC will continue over the weekend.
Due to the hold on NASA's space shuttle launch schedule, mission managers are studying how best to provide supplies to the crew on board ISS until the shuttle returns to service. To aid that effort, Bowersox and his crew spent time this week conducting a thorough audit of supplies on board, while the flight control teams in Houston and the Russian mission control center outside Moscow began charting statistics on actual usage. Both sets of data will be reviewed in developing the manifest for the next Progress ship, targeted for launch to the International Space Station in June.