One set of fuel and oxidizer tanks aboard Zvezda is now full following the unloading of propellants from the cargo craft. Propellants will be transferred from the Progress tanks to a second set of tanks on Zvezda this week. The transfer of propellants was interrupted last week due to a sensor problem that was quickly resolved.
Also in preparation for the rendezvous by Atlantis in a few weeks, station controllers in the United States and Russia completed two firings of engines on the Progress craft last week. The firings raised the station's average altitude by about 4.5 statute miles. Another engine firing is planned in early September to further adjust the station's orbit in preparation for the shuttle's launch. The seven-member crew of Atlantis, currently targeted for launch Sept. 8, will open the doors to the station's new Zvezda living quarters for the first time in space and prepare the outpost for the arrival of the first resident crew later this fall.
Early Monday, Station flight controllers noted irregularities in the charging and discharging of one of five batteries aboard Zvezda and are now troubleshooting the problem. The other four batteries on Zvezda are operating well and the single battery problem has no impact on the station's normal operation. Three additional batteries are currently planned to be installed in Zvezda during Atlantis' mission next month.
Station managers are continuing to evaluate and plan the possibility of manually deploying a docking target on the aft end of Zvezda during a space walk to be conducted by astronauts Ed Lu and Yuri Malenchenko when Atlantis visits. The target is positioned near where Lu and Malenchenko are already scheduled to work on other tasks during the planned space walk
Meanwhile, International Space Station partners agreed this week to update the station's planned assembly sequence launches, adjusting the launch schedule for some elements in the latter years of station assembly. Target launch dates for the first phase of assembly in orbit, missions planned through the end of 2001, remain basically unchanged. The launches of remaining missions were, for the most part, adjusted later than the previous schedule. The final station assembly flight is now planned for April 2006.
At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, preparations of Atlantis for a Sept. 8 launch on mission STS-106 continue at Launch Pad 39B. Space Shuttle managers are planned to meet Tuesday for a review of all mission preparations called the Flight Readiness Review, following which an official launch date will be announced. Also next week, the Canadian-built Mobile Base System is scheduled to join the quarter million pounds of station components now at KSC's Space Station Processing Facility undergoing preflight testing and launch preparations. When launched in 2002, the Mobile Remote Servicer Base System will provide a base for the Canadian Space Station Remote Manipulator System robotic arm as it moves along the eventual 300-foot long station truss structure.
Now in an orbit with a high point of 228 statute miles and a low point of 222 statute miles, the 67-ton, 143-foot long International Space Station can easily be viewed from the ground under proper lighting conditions.