Preparations stepped up this week for the launch and docking of a new unmanned Progress spaceship carrying about 5,300 pounds of supplies for the Space Station crew. Today, Malenchenko and Lu reconfigured stowed items in the Pirs Docking Compartment to which the Progress ship will link up next Wednesday. Malenchenko also completed a successful test of a backup docking system that would allow him to manually control the Progress' docking from inside the station in the unlikely event the primary automated docking system was not available.
Early this morning, the Soyuz rocket carrying the new Progress resupply vehicle was moved to its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for its scheduled launch Sunday.
The 11th Progress supply ship destined for ISS is set to lift off Sunday at 5:34 a.m. CDT (1034 GMT) and is scheduled to dock at the Pirs at 6:17 a.m. CDT (1117 GMT) Wednesday. NASA Television coverage of the docking will begin at 5:30 a.m. CDT on Wednesday.
Another Progress vehicle is currently docked to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module, and the crew's Soyuz TMA-2 return craft is docked to the nadir port of the Zarya Module.
Lu conducted additional operations with the InSPACE experiment (Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions) this week and had a conference with the experiment's principal investigator to provide her with a first-hand report on recent activities as well as discuss future experiment runs. Located in the Microgravity Sciences Glovebox in the Station's Destiny Laboratory, the InSPACE experiment investigates how particles capable of being magnetized react to a pulsed magnetic field. The results are hoped to provide insight that will contribute to the development of better fluids for systems that are exposed to such conditions on Earth, such as automobile braking systems and vibration damping systems.
On Wednesday, both crewmembers had an opportunity for some hands-on experience flying the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Malenchenko and Lu each guided the 58-foot-long, double-ended arm through the capture and release of a fixture on the exterior of the Destiny lab. The operations served not only as training for the crew but also as a successful test of an adjustment made to the arm's software to improve its grappling procedure.
Tomorrow, the crew, on a request from engineers involved with planning for the Space Shuttle's return to flight, will calibrate and focus cameras aboard the Station on several ISS locations to test lighting and imagery capabilities for future inspection of the Shuttle's thermal protection system as the vehicles approach the ISS for docking. Imagery will be downlinked to flight controllers for analysis. The inspection procedures are expected to be included in return to flight requirements being developed for future Shuttle missions to the Station.