While the crew worked in space, Russian flight controllers with assistance from counterparts in Mission Control, Houston, continue to troubleshoot why navigation computers in the Russian segment are not operating.
Commander Rick Sturckow, along with Pilot Lee Archambault, Mission Specialist Suni Williams and Flight Engineer Clayton Anderson, meticulously retracted the solar array blanket atop the P6 truss another three bays worth of panels.
In parallel, Jim Reilly and Danny Olivas completed a review of procedures for Friday’s spacewalk, with the first task being to restore a thermal blanket on the shuttle’s left Orbital Maneuvering System pod to its preflight condition using hands, medical staples, and pins to secure it in place. That spacewalk is set to begin at approximately 12:38 p.m. CDT.
After completing that task – timelined to take about 2 hours – the two astronauts will turn their attention to assisting with the retraction of the remaining paper-thin panels of a solar array, which provided early power to the station’s pressurized modules, life support and avionics equipment.
Throughout Thursday, the crew carefully sent commands to retract the array as much as possible ahead of Friday’s spacewalk. By last count, 15˝ of the 31˝ bays remain to be folded into a 20-inch-deep protective box.
As the crew headed into the final hours of Flight Day 7, the seven shuttle and three station crewmembers reviewed procedures for Friday, focusing on the blanket repair task of the spacewalk. Olivas will perform the repair while in a foot restraint on the end of the shuttle’s robotic arm. The thermal blanket pulled loose during launch a week ago and was first noticed during a standard vehicle inspection by the crew shortly after launch.
The repair procedure will involve pressing down on the blanket and stapling one side of the 4-by-6-inch raised corner to an adjacent blanket. Olivas then will pin the other side of the blanket to a thermal tile. Engineers on the ground are conducting tests of the repair on mockups created to mirror the damaged blanket in space. The test articles are being subjected to heat loads and wind effects similar to what is expected for that part of the shuttle during reentry.
Flight controllers also stayed busy on the ground troubleshooting a problem with Russian computers that provide backup attitude control and orbital attitude adjustment for the station’s control moment gyroscopes. Russian specialists are working closely with United States teams, concentrating on troubleshooting and restoring computer capabilities. They were able to get the computers working intermittently during the day and will continue working on the problem overnight. The station remains in a safe configuration, with attitude control handled by its control moment gyroscopes.
Before going to sleep just after 11 p.m., the crew also will talk about the mission with radio and television stations. That interview on NASA TV from the station’s Destiny laboratory is set to begin at 8:58 p.m. Reilly and Olivas then will head into the Quest airlock to begin their campout prebreathe protocol designed to reduce the amount of nitrogen in their bodies, thus shortening the time required Friday to breathe pure oxygen ahead of the start of their second spacewalk of the mission.