Station Commander and NASA Science Officer Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov are in the fifth month of a six month stay in orbit. The cargo craft now attached to the Station, ISS Progress 16, will be undocked, reenter the atmosphere and burn up on Feb. 27. A new supply craft, ISS Progress 17, is set to launch on Feb. 28 from Baikonur, Kazakstan, and dock to the complex on March 2.
This week, several steps were taken to ensure all supplies are used from aboard the current supply craft before it is jettisoned. On Tuesday, Russian flight controllers used fuel from the attached Progress craft to fire its engines for about seven and a half minutes, boosting the Station's orbit by about two miles. Later in the week, additional propellant was transferred from that craft into tanks aboard the Station.
Oxygen from tanks aboard the Progress is the primary method at present for refreshing the Station cabin air. Several repressurizations of the cabin using that oxygen are planned to deplete those tanks before the craft is jettisoned. The Elektron system, a system that normally generates oxygen for the cabin by recycling wastewater, has been intentionally turned off.
On Friday, Sharipov removed equipment associated with the Kurs automatic docking system from the Progress craft and stored it aboard the Station for reuse. Next week the crew will spend several hours stowing unneeded gear and trash aboard the cargo ship.
Other tasks completed by the crew this week included a semi-annual, thorough inspection of the special exercise treadmill. Over the course of several days, the crew partially disassembled the treadmill, which includes a special vibration isolation system to prevent exercise from disturbing sensitive experiments on the Station, to inspect its components. All was found in good condition, except for the loss of one small, non-essential battery used to operate a timer.
Mission Control powered up the Mobile Base System, a type of rail car base for the Station's robotic arm that allows it to move up and down the truss, to check its operation. Controllers found that they could not receive video from a television camera mounted on a mast on the base system, nor would the camera respond to pan and tilt commands. Engineers are evaluating the problem and planning possible troublehsooting. The camera is among several exterior Station cameras planned to be used next week during a test of ground-commanded remote control of the robotic arm from Mission Control. Chiao and Sharipov took time out from their activities to speak with attendees at the European Space Agency Conference on Space in Brussels, Belgium, this week.