After Atlantis departed a little more than a week ago, station flight controllers returned to the routine of cycling the many electricity-generating batteries to maintain their health. Also, controllers have already begun preparing for Discovery's visit to the station scheduled to begin with launch from the Kennedy Space Center a week from now at 8:38 p.m. CDT on Oct. 5.
With no time to spare in the processing of Discovery, managers okayed the inclusion of additional electronics equipment for the batteries. Those components include two charge-discharge units and one current converter. These items will be stored aboard the station and will serve as extra inventory in the event they are needed.
Carrying a mass of almost 70 tons now, the ISS is nearly fully outfitted with all the creature comforts required by the first expedition crew scheduled to launch Oct. 30 atop a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ahead of that, however, Discovery's seven astronauts will deliver 25,000 pounds of external hardware that will be installed using the shuttle's robotic arm with final connections to be completed during four space walks.
The STS-92 mission, labeled 3A, will carry the Z1 Truss and a second shuttle docking port that will be used for the first time on the next visit of a shuttle in late November. The Z1 will add the capability for the station's position in space to be controlled by gyroscopes rather than propellant, and deliver communications equipment that eventually will allow conversations, data, voice and television to be transmitted through NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite network.
As with all shuttle visits to the station, controllers soon will begin turning on heaters to begin warming up the Unity module in anticipation of the seven-member crew's arrival. With a launch on Thursday, Atlantis is scheduled to dock with the station at about 3:30 p.m. CDT on Oct. 7.
Now in an average orbit 236 statute miles (380 km), the 70-ton, 143-foot long International Space Station can easily be seen from the ground under proper lighting conditions.