Station crew takes Soyuz for 'spin around the block'
BY JUSTIN RAY
Posted: June 28, 2010
The International Space Station's docking module added by the shuttle Atlantis astronauts in May received its first vehicle Monday when the outpost's crew relocated a Soyuz capsule there.
Their approach and docking used the Russian KURS autopilot system for the rendezvous. But after getting acclimated to space over the past couple of weeks, the two Americans and one cosmonaut climbed back into their Soyuz TMA-19 and manually flew it around to the Rassvet module's Earth-facing port Monday.
Rassvet hasn't been outfitted with the ability to support automated dockings yet. That work will be performed during a Russian-based spacewalk on July 26.
Soyuz relocations occur occasionally aboard the International Space Station, and now the Zvezda's port is ready to receive a Russian Progress resupply ship later this week.
Rassvet was carried to orbit inside Atlantis' payload bay, then attached to the lower side of the Zarya module using the robotic arm. Our live coverage of Rassvet's attachment to the outpost can be read here.
Also known as the Mini Research Module 1, Rassvet is a multi-purpose compartment to support visiting Russian vehicles and an added area to house science investigations run by the cosmonauts. Now that the station has grown, Rassvet gives a lengthy extension away from other structures when spacecraft fly in for dockings.
The space shuttle delivery for the module was arranged through an international bartering agreement, which enabled NASA to pack 3,000 pounds of equipment, spare parts, food and provisions inside Rassvet for shipment to the station. It's the only large Russian module launched by the Americans during the International Space Station construction effort.
For Monday's brief trip, Wheelock, Walker and Yurchikhin floated inside the TMA-19 vehicle, closed the hatchway, got suited up and then undocked at 3:13 p.m. EDT.
A camera on the capsule's nose afforded the crew the chance to inspect the docking port and ensured it's clear of obstructions or debris for the next user of the parking spot.
The move was delayed 75 minutes after controllers encountered a problem getting one of the solar wings on the Port 4 truss latched in the proper orientation for the Soyuz relocation.
A motor in the system tripped offline and forced Houston engineers to reset a circuit breaker. The array had to be turned to the "feathered" or edge-on position relative to the capsule's path and locked in place before the undocking was allowed to proceed.
With Yurchikhin at the controls, the capsule backed a safe distance away from the station's backside while flying over the South Pacific, completed a roll maneuver, then flew around to the underside of the complex to face the Rassvet module.
Russian flight controllers outside Moscow assessed the alignment and gave the cosmonaut approval to begin final approach at 3:33 p.m. EDT. The spacecraft flew a tight corridor to successfully latch ahold of the station again at 3:38 p.m. EDT just off the western coast of Africa.
Lasting just 25 minutes from beginning to end, NASA's mission control commentator affectionately dubbed the trip a "spin around the block."
Leak and pressure checks will take a couple of orbits to complete before the hatchway can be opened around 7 p.m. EDT for the crew to float back inside the station.
The capsule is scheduled to remain at the Rassvet port until Wheelock, Walker and Yurchikhin depart the station in late November for return to Earth.