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SPACE FLIGHT 2004 - International Space Station

Goals and Objectives. Goals of the International Space Station (ISS) are to establish a permanent habitable residence and laboratory for science and research, and to maintain and support a human crew at this facility. Purposes of the ISS are to expand our experience in living and working in space, encourage and enable commercial development of space, and provide the capability for humans to perform unique long duration space-based research in cell and developmental biology, plant biology, human physiology, fluid physics, combustion science, materials science and fundamental physics. The ISS, part way in its construction, is already providing a unique platform for making observations of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, the sun, and other astronomical objects. The experience and results obtained from using the ISS will guide the future direction of human exploration of space, back to the Moon and on to Mars and beyond.

The ISS is the largest and most complex international scientific project in history. The completed station by about 2010 will have a mass of about 1,040,000 lbs. (470 metric tons). It will measure 356 ft (109 m) across and 290 ft (88 m) long, with almost an acre of solar panels to provide up to 110 kilowatts power to six state-of-the-art laboratories. Led by the United States, the ISS draws upon the scientific and technological resources of 16 nations: Canada, Japan, Russia, 11 nations of the European Space Agency (ESA), and Brazil.

Operations and Assembly. One of the continuing partnership issues in 2004 was the debate about the provision of assured crew return capability after the Russian obligation to supply Soyuz lifeboats to the station expires in April 2006. In NASA's space transportation planning, currently under revision after the unveiling of a long-range space exploration strategy by President Bush on January 14, which includes retirement of the space shuttle by 2010, a U.S. crew rescue capability would only be available by 2014. Efforts continue by the Partnership to work out a solution for dealing with the gap. Of much greater significance to the continuation of ISS assembly and operation proved to be Russia’s shouldering the burden of providing crew rotation and consumables resupply flights to the station after the loss of space shuttle Columbia in 2003 brought shuttle operations to a standstill that lasted until the end of the reporting year (and was expected to continue into Summer 2005).

Following the recommendations of an independent advisory panel of biological and physical research scientists called Remap (for "Research Maximization and Prioritization"), NASA in 2002 had established the formal position of a "Science Officer" for one crewmember aboard the ISS, responsible for expanding scientific endeavors on the station. After Flight Engineer (FE) Dr. Peggy Whitson of Expedition 5 became NASA’s first Science Officer (SO), Expedition 8 Commander (CDR) Michael Foale, Expedition 9 FE Michael Fincke, and Expedition 10 CDR Leroy Chiao were the fourth, fifth and sixth Science Officers in 2004.

After the initial major milestones for the ISS program since begin of orbital assembly in 1998 (which included the first crewed logistics/supply flight of a space shuttle in May/June 1999, the arrival of the first long-duration station crew of U.S. Commander William Shepherd and Russian Pilot/Flight Engineers Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev in November 2000 and the installation of the first set of U.S. solar array wings in December 2000), build-up and early operations of the permanently crewed station had continued through 2001 in rapid pace. During 2001, astronauts and cosmonauts added U.S. Laboratory module Destiny, the Canada-supplied Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) Canadarm2, the U.S. Airlock module Quest and the Russian Docking Compartment (DC-1) Pirs. In April 2002, the first of several truss elements, S0 (S-Zero) was attached on top of Destiny, becoming the centerpiece of the 109 m (356 ft) long truss for carrying the solar cell arrays of the station. In June 2002, the Expedition 4 crew of Russian CDR Yuri Onufrienko and U.S. FEs Carl Walz and Dan Bursch was "rotated" with the new station crew of Expedition 5 (Russian CDR Valery Korzun, U.S. FE/SO Peggy Whitson, Russian FE Sergey Treschev) and delivered cargo including the Mobile Service System (to provide mobility for the SSRMS) and the Italian-built Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) Leonardo for cargo and equipment transport.

The second truss segment, S1, arrived in October 2002 and was attached to S0 on the starboard side. Its counterpart on port, P1, followed in November and was also successfully mounted. The same shuttle mission brought the replacement crew of U.S. CDR Kenneth Bowersox, Russian FE Nikolay Budarin and U.S. FE/SO Donald Pettit (Expedition 6), and returned the Expedition 5 crew to Earth.

Early in 2003, further progress in ISS assembly was brought to a halt by the standdown of the space shuttles after the Columbia loss. As an immediate consequence of the unavoidable reduction in resupply mission to the station, which now could only be supported by Russian uncrewed automated Progress cargo ships, station crew size was reduced from three to a two-person “caretaker” crew per expedition (also known as Increment), except for brief 10-day stays by visiting cosmonaut/researchers arriving and departing on the third seat of Soyuz spacecraft. Operations procedures had to be revised accordingly, and such vital areas as onboard systems maintenance and spares provision had to be replanned carefully to continue crewed occupancy and a viable science research program on board despite the sudden constriction in logistics.

Three crews lived on the station during 2004 as ISS entered its fifth year of operations as a staffed facility, Each two-person crew, working with ground teams, did its part to keep the station safely operating while accumulating knowledge ("lessons learned") for future deep-space missions of the new Vision for Space Exploration. Crews made unprecedented repairs to an oxygen generator, a crucial piece of exercise equipment and a U.S. spacesuit. They also performed an extravehicular activity (EVA, spacewalk to restore power to a gyroscope.

After appropriate training for the temporary two-man situation in the U.S. and Russia, Expedition 9 was launched to the ISS in April with Russian CDR Gennady Padalka and U.S. FE Michael Fincke on a Soyuz TMA spacecraft, while the two members of Expedition 8, Michael Foale and Alexander Kaleri, plus visiting cosmonaut/researcher André Kuipers (ESA/Netherlands) returned on the previous Soyuz that had served as a contingency crew return vehicle (CRV) for almost the duration of its certified lifetime of 200 days. The replacement crew, Expedition 10, came six months later in a fresh Soyuz TMA, consisting of U.S. CDR Leroy Chiao and Russian FE Salizhan Sharipov, to continue station operations into 2005. All three U.S. crewmembers had personal milestones in 2004: With a total endurance time of 374 days 11 hours 19 minutes accumulated in his six space flights, Foale now has become the first U.S. astronaut to exceed one year of “space time”, breaking Carl Walz’ record of 231 days (4 flights) and moving to position #16 of the overall record list of international space flyers. FE Fincke became the first U.S. astronaut to have a child born while he was in orbit, and CDR Chiao is the first U.S. citizen to vote from space in a presidential election.

By end-2004, 44 carriers had been launched to the ISS: 16 shuttles, two heavy Protons (FGB/Zarya, SM/Zvezda), and 26 Soyuz rockets (16 uncrewed Progress cargo ships, the DC-1 docking module, and nine crewed Soyuz spaceships).

Progress M1-11 (no. 260). Designated ISS-13P, the first of four uncrewed cargo ships to the ISS in 2004 lifted off on a Soyuz-U rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on January 29 (6:58am EDT). As all Progress transports, it carried about 2 tons of resupply for the station, including maneuver propellants, water, food, science payloads, equipment and spares.

Soyuz TMA-4. Soyuz TMA-4 (#214), ISS Mission 8S (April 19 - October 24), was launched on time at 9:19am local time (11:19pm EDT on 4/18), once again a flawless success of the Soyuz launcher. The third crew rotation flight by a Soyuz because of the shuttle standdown, it carried Expedition 9, the two-man station crew of Gennady Padalka and Michael Fincke, plus visiting cosmonaut/researcher André Kuipers from Netherlands who flew for the European Space Agency (ESA). TMA-4 docked to the ISS on 4/21 (1:01am EDT), replacing the previous CRV, Soyuz TMA-3/7S, which, when it undocked on April 29, had reached an in-space time of 194 days. In it, Expedition 8 crewmembers Foale and Kaleri plus Kuipers landed in Kazakhstan in the morning of 4/30, at 6:11am local (8:11pm EDT on 4/29). Recovery forces in helicopters, including NASA personnel, reached the landing site soon after. Expedition 8 had spent 194 days 18 hours 35 minutes in space (192 days on board the ISS).

Progress M-49 (No. 249). ISS-14P was the next uncrewed cargo ship, launched in Baikonur on a Soyuz-U on May 25 (8:34am EDT) and arriving at the station with fresh supplies on May 27 (9:55am EDT).

Progress M-50 (No. 250). ISS-15P, the third automated logistics transport in 2004, lifted off on its Soyuz-U on August 11 (1:03am EDT), docking at the ISS on August 14 (1:01am EDT).

Soyuz TMA-5. Soyuz TMA-5 (#215), ISS mission 9S (October 13 - April 24, 2005) lifted off on time at Baikonur at 11:06pm EDT (9:06am local on 10/14). The fourth ISS crew rotation flight by a Soyuz, its crew comprised Expedition 10, the fourth “caretaker” crew of Chiao and Sharipov, plus visiting Russian cosmonaut/researcher Yuri Shargin. With its perfect liftoff, the Soyuz-U launch vehicle racked up another success in its history of - at that point - 436 flights (426 successes; there was one more in 2004 for a total of 7 launches). On 10/16 at 12:16m EDT, TMA-3 docked smoothly to the ISS at the DC-1 docking compartment’s nadir (downward)-pointing port, achieving successful contact and capture. Hatch opening took place at 3:13am, followed by crew transfer. Seven days later (10/23), the previous CRV, Soyuz TMA-4/8S, undocked from the FGB nadir port at 5:05pm EDT, where it had stayed for 186 days (187 days in space), and landed safely in Kazakhstan at 8:36pm EDT (6:36am on 10/24 local) with Padalka, Fincke and Shargin. Expedition 9’s total mission elapsed time (MET), from launch to landing, was 187 days 21 hours 17 minutes in space (186 days on board the station).