Crew shifts Soyuz capsule to new station docking port
BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: January 21, 2010
Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and space station commander Jeff Williams climbed into their Soyuz lifeboat Thursday and moved the vehicle to a brand new docking port on the top side of the complex.
The Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft undocked from the aft end of the station's Zvezda service module at 1003 GMT (5:03 a.m. EST) and backed away to a distance of about 100 feet from the complex.
"I confirm the physical undocking," Suraev radioed Russian flight controlllers.
Undocking occurred as the station flew about 213 miles high off the southwest coast of Africa.
Suraev fired the Soyuz maneuvering thrusters to fly halfway around the orbiting lab and line up with the Poisk module for a docking at 1024 GMT (5:24 a.m. EST) over Kazakhstan.
"We have a contact," Suraev said at the point of docking.
The relocation frees the coveted Zvezda aft location to receive the next automated Progress cargo freighter in early February.
Thursday's docking to Poisk also marked the first use of that module, which is bolted to Zvezda's zenith, or space-facing, docking port. A Russian spacewalk by Suraev and cosmonaut Oleg Kotov last week finished outfitting Poisk for the job.
Poisk arrived at the station in November. The egg-shaped module will also be used as an airlock for future spacewalks.
Suraev and Williams boarded the Soyuz overnight and put on their Sokol launch and entry spacesuits for the brief relocation. They plan to board the station again later Thursday morning.
The Soyuz will stay docked at Poisk until around March 18, when Suraev and Williams will use the spacecraft to return to Earth.
The other three Expedition 22 crew members, Kotov, Timothy Creamer and Soichi Noguchi, stayed aboard the station during the 21-minute relocation.
On Saturday, Creamer and Williams will use the station's robotic arm to move a U.S. docking adaptor called PMA-3 from the port side of the Unity module to the zenith location on the Harmony module.
The move will make room for astronauts to install the Tranquility module on Unity during the shuttle Endeavour's flight next month. After Tranquility is added to the station, the crew will position PMA-3 on the new module.
The PMA-3 relocation will wrap up a hectic two weeks aboard the space station. Besides the Soyuz flyaround, this month also included last week's spacewalk and the move of an outdoor storage depot from one side of the complex to the other.
Next up for the five station residents will be the Feb. 3 launch of an unpiloted Progress logistics carrier with a fresh batch of supplies. Liftoff is scheduled for 0345 GMT (10:45 p.m. EST on Feb. 2) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Once the Progress successfully docks, Endeavour is set for blastoff at 0939 GMT (4:39 a.m.) on Feb. 7.