With almost 2.5 tons of food, fuel and supplies for the station's Expedition 14 crew, the ISS Progress 23 automatically docked to Zvezda at 10:29 a.m. EDT as the spacecraft and the station flew 220 miles above Italy. The 23rd Progress to visit the station was launched Monday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Following the initial docking, the final latching of the Progress craft to the station was delayed by about three and a half hours as Russian flight controllers evaluated potential interference by an antenna on the spacecraft. At the time of docking, flight controllers could not confirm that the antenna used by the Progress' Kurs automated docking system had retracted as commanded. If the antenna had remained extended, it could have interfered with the final latching of the supply ship to the station.
After reviewing data, Mission Control Moscow commanded the Progress' docking probe to slowly retract, pulling the ship firmly into the port and aligning the hooks and latches that hold it secure. Latches for the craft on the station were secured at about 2 p.m. EDT. Flight controllers will command additional latches on the Progress to close Friday. This allows the operation to be completed in a normal manner over Russian communications sites.
During the hours between initial docking and final latching, the station's orientation was allowed to drift to avoid any disturbance of the softly docked cargo ship. The station's drift resulted in lower power generation by the solar arrays. The crew then powered off several pieces of non-critical equipment as outlined in a standard procedure that reduces power consumption. Soon after the latches were closed, however, the station's attitude control was restored and power generation was returned to normal.
Due to the long operations Thursday, Expedition 14 Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria and flight engineers Mikhail Tyurin and Thomas Reiter will open the hatch to the supply ship on Friday. Supplies on the Progress include food, fuel, oxygen and air, clothing, experiment hardware and spare parts, as well as personal items from the crew's families. The new Progress joins an older Progress supply ship that arrived at the station's Pirs Docking Compartment in June. Progress 22 will remain docked until mid-January. It will be used to stow trash, and its supply of oxygen will help replenish the station's atmosphere when required.
ISS Progress 23 holds 1,918 pounds of propellant for the Russian thrusters, 110 pounds of oxygen and almost 2,800 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware and life support components, including parts for the Russian Elektron oxygen-generation system. The system has been inoperable since last month, and Tyurin is expected to resume repairs on the unit next week.
Engineers continue to review data from the station's S-band communications system, which experienced dropouts late last week in the transmission link of one of two redundant channels used for voice and commanding capability. After collecting data last weekend from "string 1" of the S-band system, its transmitter was reactivated Wednesday, but the communications problem occurred once again.
"String 2" of the system is being used for voice and commanding with no impact to station activities. Flight controllers are analyzing the problem to determine if any procedural adjustments must be made for the upcoming flight of Discovery to the station on the STS-116 mission.
In other activities, the crew conducted sound level measurements in the station's modules and installed cables in the Russian segment of the station. They performed regular station maintenance and took time to chat with a reporter from the Orange County Register in California on Tuesday. Reiter continued his work with European plant growth experiments while throughout the week Lopez-Alegria did log entries for a sleep experiment.
In two weeks, the crew will begin preparations for a spacewalk Nov. 22 by Tyurin and Lopez-Alegria in Russian Orlan suits from the Pirs Docking Compartment to replace and retrieve several science experiments from the hull of the Zvezda Service Module. Tyurin also plans to hit a golf ball from a bracket on Pirs as part of a Russian commercial activity.