The crew, Commander Frank Culbertson, Pilot Vladimir Dezhurov and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin, will prepare the station for a period without human occupation before boarding the Soyuz for its relocation. That is done as a precaution, in the unlikely event the crew is unable to return to the station.
The move of the Soyuz will mark the first time the new Pirs, which arrived at the station Sept. 17, will serve as a docking port. The Soyuz will be shifted to prepare for the arrival of a new Soyuz return craft, to be launched Oct. 21 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz can serve as a crew return vehicle at the station for a maximum of about six months.
Today, the crewmembers reviewed relocation procedures and conducted a Soyuz communications check. On Thursday, they will prepare the station for their departure. Also on Thursday they will spend some time stowing items for return to Earth on the Soyuz.
The Soyuz taxi crew, Commander Victor Afanasyev, Flight Engineer Konstantin Kozeev and French Flight Engineer Claudie Haignere, will blast off from Baikonur on Sunday at around 3:59 a.m. CDT for their two-day flight to the station. Haignere is a European Space Agency astronaut carrying out a flight program for CNES, the French Space Agency, under a commercial contract with the Russian Aviation and Space Agency. They will arrive at the station Oct. 23 for an eight-day stay, riding the Soyuz currently docked to Zarya back to Earth on Oct. 31.
Two Expedition Three spacewalks conducted by Dezhurov and Tyurin linked Pirs with data and power cables to the Zvezda service module to which it is docked, and mounted experiment on Zvezda's exterior.
The third and final Expedition Three spacewalk by Culbertson and Dezhurov was moved from Nov. 5 to Nov 8 to give the crewmembers more time to prepare after departure of the Soyuz taxi crew. The spacewalk is designed to complete the exterior outfitting of Pirs that was begun by Dezhurov and Tyurin on their initial spacewalk Oct. 8.
Meanwhile, ISS officials in Moscow and Houston agreed to conduct a test of the solid-fuel oxygen-producing candles on the station on Oct. 29. The test is being performed as the final step in formally extending the expiration date of the candles. The test initially was scheduled to begin Oct. 11, but was postponed to refine procedures. The candles would be used in the unlikely event the Russian Elektron oxygen-generation system in Zvezda malfunctioned.
With systems operating normally, the station is orbiting at an average altitude of 247 statute miles (395 km).
The orbiting trio will continue its scientific investigations this coming week after the relocation of the Soyuz.