Commander Bill Shepherd, Pilot Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev conducted biomedical and engineering experiments, Station systems maintenance and exercise this week, reporting that everything is proceeding smoothly more than halfway through their stay aboard the ISS.
The only technical issue being addressed by Russian flight controllers involves a minor problem with battery three in the Zvezda Service Module, which was temporarily taken offline to enable Krikalev to check connector pins from the battery itself to a current converter unit behind one of the panels in the Station's living quarters. The battery experienced a small drop in current flow, but has no impact on Station operations. All other batteries in Zvezda and the Zarya module are functioning normally as they draw power from the U.S. P6 solar arrays mounted on top of the Station's Unity module. The huge U.S. solar arrays are providing more than ample power for all Station systems.
Because the sun is shining obliquely to the Russian module solar arrays this week due to its angle relative to the Earth, Russian controllers decided to reduce the power output of the Elektron oxygen generation system in Zvezda to conserve electricity. One or two solid fuel oxygen generation canisters will be activated today and tomorrow to augment the output of oxygen on board the ISS until the Elektron is returned to full power Friday when the sun is in a more favorable angle to the solar arrays of both Zvezda and Zarya. All environmental systems on the ISS are functioning normally.
Later this week, Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev will review flight plans for the upcoming mission of Atlantis to the ISS to deliver the U.S. Laboratory Destiny, the cornerstone of scientific research for years to come on the Station. Today, Atlantis was transported to Launch Pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center for final prelaunch preparations leading to liftoff in about three weeks on the first Shuttle mission of 2001.
Atlantis' five astronauts, Commander Ken Cockrell, Pilot Mark Polansky and Mission Specialists Bob Curbeam, Marsha Ivins and Tom Jones will conduct a variety of countdown dress rehearsal procedures later this week at the Cape, culminating in a simulated launch countdown Saturday morning with the crew on board the Shuttle.
Launch of Atlantis to bring Destiny to the ISS is targeted for no earlier than January 19. Next week, NASA Shuttle and ISS managers will hold their traditional Flight Readiness Review to set a firm launch date for Atlantis' mission to the Station.
The International Space Station continues to operate in excellent shape as it orbits the Earth every 90 minutes at an altitude of 230 statute miles.