Spaceflight Now: Space Station/STS-98

The moment of truth: Destiny comes to life

Posted: February 4, 2001

A view inside Destiny as it was packed up for launch. Photo: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now
Destiny's initial activation is primarily the responsibility of the shuttle crew members, who have received more recent training than Shepherd and his crewmates. But all eight space fliers will participate in one form or another.

"It's really a housewarming party for the whole second day, where we open up the closets, we turn on the lights, we enable the fan and air-conditioning systems to come on," Jones said.

"And by the end of that day, we should have laptop (computer) control of the lab systems from inside. We should have all the air circulating. We should have the thermal control (system) activated so that everything's humming for making that a habitable space for the crew. And that doubles their working space.

"So I think they're going to be as motivated as we are to get it going," Jones said.

The interior of the Destiny laboratory module is rectangular and divided into four zones called "rack faces." Each rack face can accommodate six racks of science gear or systems equipment.

Each refrigerator-size equipment rack pivots at its base to rotate outward for access to the interior. The racks can be removed and replaced by on-board crews as required to support new experiments or maintenance.

Because of shuttle weight limitations, Destiny will be launched with just five of its two dozen racks in place, all of them devoted to support equipment. Eight empty rack bays are equipped with flexible curtains to provide 288 cubic feet of temporary stowage space.

The first science rack, a package of medical experiment hardware, is scheduled for delivery during the next shuttle mission in March.

"They can be anything," Jones said of the racks in his NASA interview. "They can be life support setups. They can be racks full of avionics and computers. They can be research facilities. And anything from a microgravity furnace to a biological containment facility for small laboratory animals."

While Atlantis is launching with just five systems racks in place, each one is critical to lab operation.

"There are a couple of thermal control racks which cool the interior of the lab and exchange heat from the inside of the laboratory out to the radiators on the outside of the station," Jones said. "They also condition the air that flows through the lab and cool it at the right temperature, for example.

"We have a couple of avionics racks, which contain the command and control computers that establish this attitude and motion control function."

But the control moment gyroscopes in the Z1 truss will not be turned on, spun up and tested by flight controllers until the next day, during the crew's second spacewalk.

Other systems will, however, be tested during initial lab activation. The avionics systems, Jones said, "deliver commands down to the lower tiers of computers that will monitor the various subsystems on the space station, from photovoltaic power to life support to some of the laboratory data handling equipment."

One rack is particularly valuable: The Air Revitalization System. The ARS equipment "will scrub carbon dioxide out of the air and then condition it and blow it to the rest of the laboratory," Jones said. "We make use of the lab's power and command and control capabilities to sort of make it a habitable volume that's a good place to work."

For launch, the ARS rack was mounted in a specific rack bay capable of handling the vibrationss of ascent. One of the first items on the agenda for the crew during initial activation will be to move the rack to its proper location in a different bay.

"It doesn't take over this life support function of scrubbing CO2 and conditioning the air and filtering it until it moves to its actual orbital location," Jones said. "That's one of the major tasks inside that activation day.

"We also have some mundane chores, like swapping out valves that were needed only for the launch phase that now are needed for later connections to the front of the laboratory that permit the pressure to be equalized on either side of the hatch.

"We have to make some electrical connections inside that deal with providing the laboratory users, the astronaut crew, communications capability back to the Russian segment comm system so that they can talk to mission control through the Russian segment and even just use intercom throughout the length of the station.

"The stack's going to be 160 feet long or so by then, and you can't shout down the hallway. So this jumper connection will enable Sergei, using the U.S. lab audio terminal unit, to talk to somebody back in the service module."

In addition, Jones said, "we've got some set up to do on the stowage racks in the laboratory that enable the crew to actually put things in there and keep them stowed in an orderly fashion."

Lab activation will be filmed by the station crew using a large-format IMAX camera. The shuttle crew also plans the first in a series of rocket firings to boost the station's altitude by 15 miles or so, fuel permitting.

At the end of the day, the hatches between Atlantis and the station will be closed again and the shuttle's cabin air pressure will be lowered to 10.2 psi, setting the stage for the crew's second spacewalk the next day.


Mission preview
Station's destiny rides on laboratory attachment
Orbital rendezvous more art than science
Lab installation a complex ballet for man and machine
The moment of truth: Destiny comes to life
Two more spacewalks, more lab outfitting on tap
A final visit before undocking and journey home

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