The 16-foot long Pirs, with a 20-foot instrumentation and propulsion segment still attached, is now docked to the Earth-facing port of the station's Zvezda service module. Pirs provides the station with an airlock for use with Russian Orlan space suits and a new docking port. The crew opened the hatch to Pirs on Sunday evening a few hours after it arrived and spent Monday and Tuesday unloading cargo and supporting equipment from the new module. On Wednesday, they removed automated rendezvous equipment, which will be returned to Earth for reuse on later missions.
So far this week, the crew has upgraded the station's Russian software to allow control computers aboard Zvezda to work with the Pirs' systems; installed and activated Pirs' caution and warning system; set up ventilation equipment and lighting in Pirs; and tested the new computer software. All of the activities have gone smoothly, and Pirs is in excellent condition. Later this week, the crew is planned to activate Pirs' communications equipment and conduct further systems tests on the new addition.
As well as working in Pirs, the crew has continued scientific investigations with experiments that study spinal cord reflexes during long-duration spaceflight; gauge the interactions between crewmembers and ground personnel; and characterize a system that isolates sensitive experiments from vibrations on the station. The crew also conducted physical examinations that are done periodically during the flight to gauge the effects of weightlessness.
Oversight of science investigations on the station from the ground is handled by the Payload Operations Center at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL. the Human Research Facility is managed by the Johnson Space Center.
A highlight of the work with Pirs will be the jettison of the compartment's instrumentation and propulsion segment. The segment is scheduled to be pyrotechnically detached from Pirs on Oct. 1, backed away from the station, and moved to an orbit that will have it reenter the atmosphere and burn up. That operation will set the stage for a space walk by Dezhurov and Tyurin planned for Oct. 8, the first of three space walks to be performed from Pirs using Russian space suits to continue hooking up and activating the module during Expedition Three.
Just a few days later, on Oct. 19, the crew will relocate its Soyuz spacecraft from its present location at an Earth-facing port on the Zarya module to the new docking port on Pirs. That clears the way for the arrival of a fresh Soyuz return craft with a taxi crew of Commander Victor Afanasyev, Flight Engineer Konstantin Kozeev and Flight Engineer Claudie Haignere. The new Soyuz will be launched Oct. 21 and will dock to the station Oct. 23 for an eight-day stay.
The International Space Station (ISS) is orbiting at an average altitude of 240 statute miles (385 km).