Expedition Three Commander Frank Culbertson, Pilot Vladimir Dezhurov and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin are in the fourth week of a four-month stay aboard the station. Much of their time was devoted to experiment work this week, uninterrupted by any station system problems. Some minor repairs were accomplished by the crew and included a check of wiring that proved a treadmill is usable for exercise sessions onboard; tightening of a connection in a station air conditioning system that stopped a minute freon leak; and the installation of a new videotape recorder in the Destiny Laboratory, replacing a recorder that had failed.
Early this morning, flight controllers assisted the crew as the station's orientiation was changed slightly to allow the Sun to continue to fully shine on the complex's solar arrays. As the seasons change, the angle of the sun relative to the station also changes. The sun had previously been fairly low to the southern horizon relative to the station, and the complex was oriented so as to point the arrays south toward the sun. The sun has grown higher in the sky relative to the station now and the complex today was moved back to an orientation that has the arrays perpendicular to the station's direction of travel, a more naturally stable orientation that is preferred for the complex when possible. Such orientation adjustments are performed regularly to optimize power generation. Later today, Culbertson maneuvered the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm into position to allow its television cameras to focus on a dump of waste water from vents on the Destiny Lab that is planned to be performed on Friday. About five gallons of water will be dumped overboard in 10 minutes, and the behavior of the expelled water crystals will be recorded. The crew also will document station surfaces with both television and still photography both before and after the water dump. Water has been dumped from the Destiny vents before, but Friday's activities will allow engineers to better characterize how well the jettisoned water clears the vicinity of the station.
Scientific work on the station this week has been highlighted by the completion of a human cell culture experiment that has grown colon, kidney and ovarian cancer cells in space to be used in medical research when returned to Earth late this year. The crew also installed equipment in preparation for a series of tests to characterize a vibration isolation system that will dampen disturbances to very sensitive experiments aboard the station. In addition, the crew continued to gather data from a host of investigations of the radiation environment in orbit and monitored the status of other studies.
Flight controllers and the crew are preparing for the continued assembly of the station next week with the planned launch of a new Russian station component from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Liftoff of a Soyuz rocket carrying the Pirs Docking Compartment, a Russian airlock and docking port, is planned for about 6:35 p.m. CDT Sept. 14. The Pirs compartment, which is the Russian word for pier, is planned to dock with the station at about 8:08 p.m. CDT Sept. 16, attaching to an Earth-facing port on the station's Zvezda living quarters module.
The International Space Station (ISS) is orbiting at an average altitude of 240 statute miles (385 km).