April 2, 2004
International Space Station Status Report Ss04-003
Plans for the next crew rotation on the International Space Station are on schedule this week, as the Expedition 8 crewmembers move into their final month in orbit and Expedition 9 to within weeks of their scheduled launch.
On Thursday, Space Station managers conducted a Stage Operations Readiness Review and found no constraints to the planned April 18 (EDT) launch of the eighth Soyuz mission to the International Space Station, that will carry Expedition 9 Commander Gennady Padalka of Russia and Flight Engineer Mike Fincke of the United States, along with European Space Agency astronaut André Kuipers of the Netherlands. Kuipers will be aboard the Station for eight days to conduct his own science program during the handover to the new permanent crew.
Preparations for the Expedition 9 flight will be further evaluated next week during a Flight Readiness Review. Meanwhile, the crew received its final certification for flight from the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia this week.
Aboard the Station, Commander Mike Foale of the United States and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri of Russia successfully completed the initial maintenance and some functional testing of two new Russian Orlan spacesuits delivered in January's Progress supply ship. Those suits replace three older Orlan units on the complex. Padalka and Fincke plan to use the new suits on the first spacewalk of Expedition 9.
On Friday morning, Kaleri reported hearing a noise to Mission Control in Moscow. He and Foale heard a metallic sound from Zvezda's Instrument Compartment, a sound they said was very similar to a noise they reported coming from the same area on Nov. 26, 2003. Russian controllers told the crew that the fact that the noise has apparently repeated itself would likely indicate the cause is the operation of a system on the Station or some other activity. Russia and U.S. controllers will continue to evaluate the report. All systems on the complex continue to operate normally.
Foale solved the mystery of another unexplained noise this week. During an external survey of the Station using cameras on the Canadarm2 robotic arm, Foale reported to Mission Control that the grinding sound he has heard from outside of the Destiny laboratory module was being caused each time he commanded the Lab's external camera to tilt up and down.
Space Station systems continue to operate well. Russian specialists are evaluating plans to replace a cooling fan motor in the Soyuz spacecraft's descent module. The fan, which stopped functioning during the trip to the Station last October, helps maintain a proper level of humidity inside the Soyuz.
Mission Control completed a successful test of software that will operate the Thermal Rotary Radiator Joints on the Station's truss. The large rotating joints will be used to position the Station's radiators as the dissipate heat from the complex. Ground controllers ran the check of programs that will automate the positioning of the Station's radiators as they dissipate heat in the future when the Station's full cooling system is activated.
Foale, who also serves as NASA/International Space Station science officer, began the new Binary Colloidal Alloy Test-3 or BCAT-3 experiment. This experiment involves Foale using magnets to mix samples of colloids, a system of fine particles suspended in a fluid such as paint, milk or ink. Then, using a digital camera with a flashlight, Foale will photograph the samples as they begin to separate over the next few weeks.
Possible future applications of the colloidal alloy experiments are photonic crystals for telecommunications and computer applications and extremely low threshold lasers, as well as improved use of fluids for food extractions, pharmaceuticals, dry cleaning, and rocket propellants.
Foale and Kaleri took time to discuss the progress of their mission with students twice during the week. The crew answered questions from a group of Houston-area middle school students and demonstrated how some common tools, such as a wrench and hammer, function in space during a talk with elementary school students from the Center for Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio.
Information on the crew's activities aboard the Space Station, future launch dates, as well as Station sighting opportunities from anywhere on the Earth, is available on the Internet at:
NASA's payload operations team at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Ala., coordinates science activities on Space Station. Details on Station science operations can be found at:
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