SPACE FLIGHT 2003 -- 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 2003 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, a U.S. crew rescue capability (other than via space shuttle) will only be available in 2010. Efforts continue by the Partnership to work out a solution for dealing with the four-year 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 on February 1 brought shuttle operations to a standstill that lasted until the end of the reporting year (and was expected to continue well into Spring 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 6 FE Don Pettit, followed by Expedition 7 FE Ed Lu, and Expedition 8 Commander (CDR) Michael Foale were the second, third and fourth Science Officers in 2003.

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). 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 logistirecs.

After appropriate training for the new emergency situation in the U.S. and Russia, Expedition 7 was launched to the ISS in April with Russian CDR Yuri Malenchenko and U.S. FE Ed Lu on a Soyuz TMA spacecraft, while the three members of Expedition 6 returned on the previous Soyuz that had served as a contingency crew return vehicle (CRV) for the duration of its certified lifetime of about 200 days. The replacement crew, Expedition 8, came six months later in a fresh Soyuz TMA, consisting of U.S. CDR Michael Foale and Russian FE Alexander Kaleri, to continue station operations into 2004. By end-2003, 38 carriers had been launched to the ISS: 16 shuttles, two heavy Protons (FGB/Zarya, SM/Zvezda), and 20 Soyuz rockets (12 uncrewed Progress cargo ships, the DC-1 docking module, and seven crewed Soyuz spaceships).

Progress M-47. Designated ISS-10P, the first of three uncrewed cargo ships to the ISS in 2003 lifted off on a Soyuz-U rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on February 2, one day after the Columbia accident. 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-2. Soyuz TMA-2 (#212), ISS Mission 6S (April 26 – October 28), was launched on time at 9:54am local time (11:54pm EDT on 4/25), another flawless success of the Soyuz launcher. The first crew rotation flight by a Soyuz, it carried Expedition 7, the two-man "caretaker" crew of Malenchenko and Lu, to stretch out ISS consumables during the current Shuttle stand-down. TMA-2 docked to the ISS on 4/28 (1:56am EDT), replacing the previous CRV, Soyuz TMA-1/5S, which, when it undocked on 5/3, had reached a stay time of 186 days. In it, Expedition 6 crewmembers Kenneth Bowersox, Donald Pettit and Nikolai Budarin returned to Earth, experiencing an unexpected switch of their onboard computer to the backup reentry mode of pure ballistic descent, which almost doubled their peak deceleration (~9g) and missed the primary landing site by an “undershoot” of ~480 km (300 mi.), landing on 5/3 at 10:07pm EDT (8:06am local, on 5/4). Recovery forces in helicopters, including NASA personnel, reached the landing site after a delay of 4.5 hrs, finding the crew in good health outside the capsule, which had fallen on its side. Expedition 6 had spent 162 days in space (160 days on board the ISS).

Progress M1-10. ISS-11P was the next uncrewed cargo ship, launched in Baikonur on a Soyuz-U on June 8 and arriving at the station with fresh supplies on June 10.

Progress M-48. ISS-12P, the third automated logistics transport in 2003, lifted off on its Soyuz-U on August 28, docking at the ISS two days later.

Soyuz TMA-3. Soyuz TMA-3 (#213), ISS mission 7S (October 18 – April 29, 2004) lifted off on time at Baikonur at 1:38am EDT (11:38am local). The second ISS crew rotation flight by a Soyuz, its crew comprised Expedition 8, the second “caretaker” crew of Foale and Kaleri, and visiting European Space Agency (ESA) crewmember Pedro Duque from Spain. With its perfect liftoff, the Soyuz-U launch vehicle racked up another success in its history of - at that point - 430 flights (420 successes). On 10/20 at 3:16am 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 6:19am, followed by crew transfer. Ten days later (10/28), the previous CRV, Soyuz TMA-2/6S, undocked from the FGB nadir port at 6:14pm EST, where it had stayed for 182 days (184 days in space), and landed safely in Kazakhstan at 9:41pm EST (7:41am on 10/29 local) with Yuri Malenchenko, Ed Lu and Pedro Duque. Expedition 7’s total mission elapsed time (MET), from launch to landing, was 184 days 22 hr. 47 min.