Sunday, 21 January 2007 05:08

Russian spacecraft docks to replenish space station supplies

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New supplies arrived at the International Space Station Friday night as an unpiloted Russian cargo spacecraft docked to the Pirs Docking Compartment. The cargo spacecraft will refill the larders and gas tanks for the international crew with more than 2.5 tons of food, fuel and supplies.

The ISS Progress 24, launched Wednesday night from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, automatically docked to Pirs at 8:59 p.m. CST on Friday as the station flew 220 miles above the South Atlantic off the southeast coast of Uruguay.

Unlike its predecessor, Progress 24 linked up to the station after its automated rendezvous antenna retracted as planned in the final 50 meters prior to docking. On Oct 26 the automated navigation antenna on the Progress 23 failed to retract. Expedition 14 Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin will conduct a spacewalk in late February to manually retract and tie down the antenna before the older Progress undocks from the aft port of the Zvezda service module in early April.

The crew will open the hatch to the new Progress overnight and deactivate the systems of the newly arrived craft before its cargo is unloaded over the next few weeks. Progress 24 holds 1,720 pounds of propellant for the Russian thrusters, 110 pounds of oxygen and almost 3,300 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware and life support components.

In addition to preparing for the cargo ship's arrival, the Expedition 14 crew worked this week on a variety of station maintenance tasks and science experiments. Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Suni Williams reported what they ate and drank, and collected blood and urine samples as part of an experiment know as Nutrition. The experiment looks at how the human body processes nutrients in microgravity.

Lopez-Alegria replaced limited life components in the Volatile Organic Analyzer (VOA), part of the Crew Health Care System. The VOA is a gas analysis system used to assess the levels of organic compounds in the station atmosphere, some of which could become harmful to the crew in high concentrations. The old components will be returned to Earth on the next shuttle mission.

Williams focused on work with lentil seedlings as part of an experiment called Threshold Acceleration for Gravisensing, or "Gravi." The experiment uses a European Modular Cultivation System centrifuge to document the effects of varying levels of gravity on the development of plant roots with an eye toward growing edible plants for future, long-duration spaceflights.

Tyruin worked with a number of Russian experiments, including an instrumented workout on a stationary bicycle to collect data on ways to limit bone and muscle density loss associated with long-duration spaceflights.

All three crew members also spoke with experts on the ground planning the upcoming Expedition 14 spacewalks. Lopez-Alegria, Tyurin and Williams will begin on-board preparations for those spacewalks along with a fourth to remove the navigation antenna from Progress 23. The first three spacewalks by Lopez- Alegria and Williams are designed to continue outfitting the newly activated cooling systems for the station's truss and to continue preparations for the relocation of the P6 solar array truss structure.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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