Wednesday, November 26, 2008

950a 11/26 Update: Progress launched; antenna glitch may force manual docking; Endeavour cargo module move on tap

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CBS NEWS STS-126 STATUS REPORT: 70
Posted: 9:50 AM, 11/26/08

By William Harwood
CBS News Space Analyst

Changes and additions:

   SR-68 (11/25/08): SARJ tested; urine processor tests continue
   SR-69 (11/25/08): SARJ operation smoother than expected; NASA may be able to forego building replacement bearing race; urine processor now operating well; water samples collected from processor, dispenser
   SR-70 (11/26/08): Progress cargo ship launched; antenna glitch may force manual docking; Endeavour cargo module move to shuttle on tap

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9:50 AM, 11/26/08, Update: Progress cargo ship launched; antenna glitch may force manual docking; Endeavour cargo module move to shuttle on tap

An unmanned Russian Progress supply ship, loaded with rocket fuel, water, oxygen and nearly 3,000 pounds of cargo, was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today at 7:38 a.m. EST, bound for a docking with the international space station Sunday. The climb to space was uneventful and shortly after reaching orbit, the spacecraft's solar panels unfolded as planned. But officials said one of two proximity antennas, part of the vehicle's automated docking system, failed to deploy, raising the prospect of a manual linkup by remote control.

Docking at the station's Pirs module is scheduled for 7:23 a.m. Sunday, about six hours before the shuttle Endeavour's landing at the Kennedy Space Center to close out a marathon assembly mission. Progress cargo ships normally fly fully automated approaches, but a manual "TORU" system also is available as a backup. If the stuck antenna cannot be coaxed into its normal deployed position, station flight engineer Yury Lonchakov, operating controls in the Zvezda command module, will have to manually guide the Progress through the final 65 feet or so to the station.

"We have the first maneuver done and everything is well except for one thing," Russian flight control called around 9:45 a.m. "One of the antennas did not get deployed. It is still folded. ... We will ask you to use the TORU in the manual mode for bringing Progress to docking. Copy? That's why TORU (training) today is very important. The instructors are in here, please make sure you refresh everything so that everything is clear. Because the probability for the use of this mode is very high."

"I copy," Lonchakov replied.

The Progress 31 spacecraft is loaded with 1,808 pounds of propellant, 108 pounds of oxygen, 463 pounds of water and 2,963 pounds of cargo. It also is equipped with new navigation equipment being tested for use in upgraded Soyuz crew ships.

"The arrival of a Progress is always something the crews look forward to because there will always be some type of fresh food on there for them as well as some care packages and also the items that maybe aren't quite as interesting but certainly necessary for sustaining the ISS," station Flight Director Brian Phillips said earlier today.

Aboard the space station today, the Endeavour astronauts face a busy day of work to close out the Leonardo cargo module and, using the station's robot arm, move it from the Harmony module's downward facing port back to the shuttle's cargo bay for return to Earth. Also known as a multi-purpose logistics module, or MPLM, Leonardo was launched with more than 14,000 pounds of cargo, including new water recycling equipment, a new toilet, a galley and two crew sleep stations that are part of NASA's push to expand crew size from three to six next May.

The water recycling equipment, designed to convert condensate and urine into fresh water, is critical to those plans. The astronauts resolved startup problems with the urine processing assembly by removing rubber vibration dampers and firmly bolting it to its mounting shelf. Since then, Smith said, the system has operated smoothly and the astronauts will be able to bring the required samples home to help engineers assess the system's performance.

"Last night, we completed what will be the final run of the urine processor assembly for this docked phase of the mission," Smith said. "So that was excellent news, we were happy to see it made it all the way through the run and we have as much processing out of it that we need to to collect the proper samples that are scheduled for return. We're still going to run the water processing assembly later on today. And then the crew's going to ... take different samples for us and by the end of the day, they'll have them all complete. So the urine processing assembly performed well over the last few days and we got what we need out of it."

Reflecting on the startup trouble with the UPA, Smith said "it's pretty amazing to see that we've made it all the way to this point where we actually have in the plan the last water sample to be collected."

"The sampling plan has changed from what it was pre-flight and it's changed so it'll put the ISS program in a better posture for making a decision about their readiness for six-person crew early next year," he said. "So we were glad ... we were able to find a way to get the equipment working and come up with a plan that would accommodate all the samples that had been requested."

Starting shortly after 1 p.m., the astronauts plan to depressurize the vestibule between the Harmony module's nadir port and Leonardo's hatch. Astronauts Don Pettit and Robert "Shane" Kimbrough, operating the space station's robot arm, plan to detach the cargo module around 4:50 p.m. and carefully move it back to its mounting point at the rear of Endeavour's cargo bay for return to Earth.

"Everything that's going into the MPLM is in," Smith said. "We have a few items that, by design, come out at the very last minute and the crew will retrieve those out of the MPLM today and then we'll go through the operations to close it out, depressurize the vestibule between the node 2 and the MPLM and the crew will place the MPLM back into the payload bay. So all those operations are going well, we don't expect any issues.

"The crew did a fantastic job of staying on track and getting everything in and out of the MPLM that we needed. And the ground team responsible for the transfer has done a tremendous job pre-flight and also during the flight, maintaining a list of every single item that needs to move in and out of the MPLM and exactly where it goes on the space station and exactly where items go inside the MPLM. That is a really tough task and these guys have done a fantastic job."

Endeavour's original flight plan called for undocking on Thanksgiving day. But the flight was extended one day to permit additional troubleshooting to fix the UPA and the combined shuttle-station crews plan to enjoy off-duty time and a joint Thanksgiving dinner Thursday.

"The first half of the day is going to be some well-deserved off-duty time for the crew and we were able to manage the shuttle and the station crew to have that jointly, and that's going to be very important for them," Smith said. "They can enjoy some time together without being bugged by the flight directors, the flight controllers and the CAPCOMs asking them to do all kinds of things. So they'll have some time to themselves."

Here is an updated timeline of today's activity (in EST and mission elapsed time; includes revision L of the NASA television schedule):

EST........DD...HH...MM...EVENT

11/26/08
07:55 AM...11...12...00...Crew wakeup
08:30 AM...11...12...35...Flight director briefing replay
08:30 AM...11...12...35...Flight day 12 HD highlights (HD channel)
09:55 AM...11...14...00...Daily planning conference
10:30 AM...11...14...35...Departure preps
10:10 AM...11...14...15...Russian Progress systems training
11:15 AM...11...15...20...Middeck transfers
11:10 AM...11...15...15...Cargo module (MPLM) egress
11:25 AM...11...15...30...MPLM deactivation
11:45 AM...11...15...50...MPLM vestibule demate
01:15 PM...11...17...20...Tool stow
01:15 PM...11...17...20...MPLM vestibule depress
02:35 PM...11...18...40...Crew meals begin
03:30 PM...11...19...35...Mission status briefing on NASA TV
03:35 PM...11...19...40...Station arm (SSRMS) grapples MPLM
04:05 PM...11...20...10...Harmony module berthing mechanism demate
04:50 PM...11...20...55...MPLM demate and move to shuttle
06:10 PM...11...22...15...MPLM locked in payload bay
06:20 PM...11...22...25...SSRMS ungrapples MPLM
06:40 PM...11...22...45...Water recovery system sample collection
08:00 PM...12...00...05...Evening planning conference
10:25 PM...12...02...30...ISS crew sleep begins
10:55 PM...12...03...00...STS crew sleep begins
11:00 PM...12...03...05...Flight day 13 highlights

11/27/08
06:55 AM...12...11...00...Crew wakeup
07:30 AM...12...11...35...Flight director update
08:30 AM...12...12...35...Flight day 13 HD highlights (HD channel)

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Quick-Launch Web Links:

CBS News STS-126 Status Reports:
http://www.cbsnews.com/network/news/space/current.html

CBS News STS-126 Quick-Look Page:
http://www.cbsnews.com/network/news/space/currentglance.html

NASA ISS Expeditions Page:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/index.html

NASA Shuttle Web: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/index.html
NASA Station Web: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/index.html
Spaceflight Now: http://spaceflightnow.com/index.html
GoogleSatTrack: http://www.lizard-tail.com/isana/tracking/

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