Category The International Space Station


Progress M-56 was launched from Baikonur at 12:03, April 24, 2006. The spacecraft docked automatically to Zvezda’s wake at 13: 41, April 26, bringing with it 2,597 kg of propellants, water, air, and dry cargo, including items from the crew’s families. The crew began unloading the new arrival the following day. During the week Vinogradov completed routine maintenance on the Elektron oxygen generator, which was deliberately powered off for the majority of the week. Williams dismantled his sleeping quarters in order to reach and replace a Remote Power Control Module in Destiny. The crew’s first month in orbit drew to a close with a series of routine tasks. Williams checked out the refrigerated centrifuge, sampled the potable water, and replaced the cooling water in the American EMUs. Vinogradov inspected the pressure hull in Zvezda and performed maintenance on the ventilation system. Both men installed new software in the station’s laptop computers and both also spent time packing unwanted items into Progress M-55. The week ended with a small reduction in nitrogen pressure in the Elektron unit. It was powered off and would remain off until after the Stage EVA planned for June 1. Additional oxygen from tanks in Progress M-55 was used to supplement the station’s atmosphere in the meantime. On May 4, Russian engineers fired Progress M-56’s thrusters to raise the station’s orbit. Four days later the crew had a day off, to celebrate Russia’s Victory Day. Williams trained with the SSRMS on May 11, using its cameras to return views of the station’s exterior. He left the SSRMS where its cameras could cover their EVA. Controllers in Korolev transferred propellant from Progress M-56 to Zarya on May 17.

The week had begun with a malfunction of the Vozdukh carbon dioxide removal system in the Russian sector. The carbon dioxide removal system in Destiny was activated while Russian engineers worked on the problem. Following its resolution, both systems were run in tandem until a new gas analyser was installed in the Vozdukh the following week. The remainder of the week saw Williams experimenting with a small satellite called Synchronised Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experi­ment Satellite (SPHERES) inside Destiny. The satellite, the first of three, was programmed to perform a series of manoeuvres in anticipation of “constellation’’ flying at a later date, after two more satellites had been delivered on STS-121. The manoeuvres, using small carbon dioxide thrusters, consisted of 15 ten-minute trials during which the satellite went through a series of pre-programmed flight manoeuvres, including object avoidance and station keeping. The technology might be developed in future as automated assistants for space crews. NASA reported:

“Each satellite is about 8 inches in diameter, weighs about 7 pounds, and has its own internal avionics, software and communications systems. They are powered by 2 AA batteries and will use carbon dioxide gas thrusters to manoeuvre through the Destiny lab. As the satellites fly through the station they will communicate with each other and the ISS laptop through a wireless link.’’

Elsewhere, Vinogradov reconfigured ventilation lines associated with the Elektron oxygen generator. The maintenance had been planned before the unit was powered off due to the nitrogen pressure drop. The crew spent time packing items for return to Earth on STS-121 when Discovery visited the station.

The last full week in May was spent preparing for the EVA planned for July 1. The crew gathered together the equipment they would use, charged the batteries in their Orlan suits, and checked out Pirs. During the week Vinogradov replaced a gas analyser in the Vozdukh system, returning it to full working order. They were also the first people to spot a new eruption of a volcano on the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Williams began using the InSPACE experiment, last used by the Expedition-7 crew, studying the behaviour of fluids that change their properties when subjected to a magnetic field.

At 18:48, June 1, Vinogradov and Williams opened the hatch on Pirs to begin their first EVA, the 65th devoted to the construction and maintenance of ISS, and the last planned to be completed by a two-person Expedition crew. After gathering their tools they used a Strela crane to place themselves at Zvezda’s ram, where Zvezda docked with Zarya’s wake. In that location, Vinogradov installed a new nozzle on a valve used to vent hydrogen overboard from the Elektron. The original valve had become clogged, causing Elektron to use the same vent line used by a contamination­monitoring device. Two weeks earlier Vinogradov had installed an internal line inside Zvezda as a precursor to fitting the new valve on the exterior. Elektron would be powered on, on July 7.

With that task complete, they moved to Zvezda’s wake, where they photo­graphed one of the antennae designed for use by the European ATV. The antenna’s cable was suspected of having been the cause of the thruster sunshade not fully opening during their third week of occupation, thus causing the aborting of a re­boost manoeuvre. Vinogradov then recovered the Kroma device, designed to collect thruster residue, from Zvezda’s exterior. Meanwhile, Williams collected the third Biorisk package from the exterior of Pirs, along with a contamination-monitoring unit, also from the exterior of Pirs. With those three units safely stored inside Pirs, the EVA was extended, before handing over control from Korolev to Houston. Using the Strela crane once more, they manoeuvred themselves to the area where the Russian and American sectors of the station met before moving past Quest and on to the ITS. Control of the EVA passed from Korolev to Houston. In that location, Williams installed a foot restraint and removed a video camera from the MBS replacing it with a new one. The original camera had failed in February 2005. Korolev resumed control of the EVA once more as the two men used the Strela to return to Pirs and re-enter the airlock. The hatch was closed at 01: 19, July 2, after an EVA lasting 6 hours 31 minutes.

On the same day Programme Manager Wayne Hale reviewed progress on the Shuttle’s foam-shedding problem for the media saying:

“We are on a road for continuous improvement… We are trying to eliminate the biggest hazards and work our way on down… We have found no showstoppers. We believe we have made significant improvements… There will continue to be foam coming off the external tank. What we have done in a very systematic manner is eliminate the largest hazards.’’


Figure 69. Expedition-13: Jeffrey Williams rides the exercise cycle [veloergometer] in Destiny.

The following week was spent cleaning, servicing, and storing the suits they had worn during their EVA, before concentrating on preparations to jettison Progress M-55, receive Progress M-57, and STS-121, Discovery’s Return to Flight mission, which was due to deliver an MPLM full of logistics to ISS. They also had to work on the Elektron unit, which only restarted after several attempts and then failed 7 hours later. Russian engineers decided that the unit had a malfunctioning power unit, which would require replacement with a spare already held on the station. The malfunction had no immediate impact on operations. The crew also ran their regular experiment programme. On June 9, Progress M-56’s thrusters were fired in a re-boost man­oeuvre, placing the complex in the correct altitude to receive Progress M-57.

The crew spent much of the second week of June preparing for Discovery’s arrival, practising the photography session during which they would take images of Discovery as she performed the new r-bar pitch manoeuvre prior to docking with the station. June 12 was a day off, celebrating Russia’s Independence Day. Two days later the last of the propellant was transferred between Progress M-55 and Zarya. Both men also spent time packing rubbish into Progress M-55 and sealed its hatches on June 16. It was undocked at 10:06, and commanded into the atmosphere where it burned up on June 19. Vinogradov spent time practising with the TORU manual docking equipment in case he might have to assume control of Progress M-57 during its final approach. The end of the week involved performing experiments. Vinogradov also replaced internal panels and smoke detectors inside Zvezda, while Williams trained with the SSRMS, practising the manoeuvres he would use to remove the MPLM Leonardo from Discovery’s payload bay and dock it to Unity.


With the Shuttle gone, the Expedition-15 crew was alone on ISS once more. They quickly adjusted their sleep pattern and returned to their daily routine of exercise, maintenance, and experiments. Anderson has described some of the experiments in which he would take part:

“You know, some of them are quite simple. For example, scientists on the ground want to know what I eat, how much I eat and drink, and how often I eat and drink, and they want to know my vitamin-D content. Well, vitamin-D is some­thing we get from sunlight on Earth, primarily, but we need it for strong bones and muscles, and so folks, elderly folks that have trouble with bones and osteoporosis and those kind of problems can benefit by the scientists that are doing experiments and gathering data on how a crew member in space that doesn’t get sunlight anymore and has to supplement his vitamin-D with either drugs—or vitamin tablets—and what he eats and what he drinks, and that’s a key experiment that’s pretty simple. They just have to gather the data. Another experiment that’s quite interesting to me is I’m going to wear a special watch, for the entire increment, and it’s called an actiwatch, and it’s a sleep watch: it knows when you move, it knows when you go to sleep, it knows when the lights go on and when the lights go out, and scientists will gather that data that we’ll downlink periodically through the mission. What they’re trying to do is try to figure out ways to benefit people on Earth that do shift work or that have trouble sleeping or that sleep too much, and ways to work with your circadian rhythm and your body and try to help you not go through these periods when you can’t stay awake or when you can’t go to sleep. So that’s quite neat. And those are simple experiments. The more complex experiments include things, we’re going to look at combustion on the station through an experiment that has… several samples that just rotate through a chamber and they look at the flammability and take the data and then they’ll evaluate it on the ground. We’ll grow some plants, we’ll grow some worms, and the key there, of course, is when you go on long duration, can you grow plants, can you eat those plants, how do physical things like worms adapt to zero-g in a long-duration mission, such that we can apply that to humans.’’

As to his spare time, Anderson had plans of his own:

“From a personal standpoint, I like to write music and I’m going to try to write a song when I’m in space. Now I don’t know how much time I’ll have, I don’t know how successful I will be. The other thing I’d like to do is there’s a guitar on board and I’ve always wanted to learn to play guitar and hopefully I’ll have enough time and there’s some software on our computers that will try to guide me through the learning process to learn how to play the guitar. I think what I want to do the most, though, is I want to try to absorb as much as I can, all that I experience and see while I’m there, and try to take as much of that with me as a memory either through video media or computer e-mails or what have you, but I want to try to take as much of that away as possible so I can relate it to people back here on Earth.’’

PMA-3 had been delivered to ISS by STS-92 in October 2000 and installed on Unity’s nadir. In December of the same year, STS-97 had docked to it in that location in order to install the P-6 ITS on the Z-1 Truss. STS-98 had also docked to PMA-3, in order to install Destiny, in February 2001. During the visit of STS-102, in March 2001, PMA-3 was moved from Unity’s nadir to Unity’s port CBM, thus allowing Unity’s nadir CBM to be used for the berthing of MPLMs carried by Shuttles docked to PMA-2 on Destiny’s ram. On August 30, 2007, the Expedition-15 crew relocated PMA-3 in preparation for the arrival of STS-120. Anderson operated the SSRMS from inside Destiny, while Yurchikhin operated the relevant CBM docking mechanisms on Unity. Kotov backed up both of his colleagues. After latching the end-effector of the SSRMS onto PMA-3, Yurchikhin commanded the docking system on Unity’s port CBM to release and Anderson removed the PMA at 09: 18. During the undocking a fault alarm sounded when one of the latching bolts registered zero load. The work was stopped to study the situation before continuing. During the relocation fault, alarms sounded intermittently on three securing bolts and work was stopped a second time to further review the situation. Finally, Houston gave the command to continue. After Anderson had manoeuvred PMA-3 next to Unity’s nadir CBM, Yurchikhin commanded Unity’s docking mechanism to close, holding the PMA in place at its new location. The move was completed at 10: 07.

The relocation of PMA-3 was required so that Harmony could be temporarily docked to Unity’s port CBM. This temporary installation on Unity was necessary because the SSRMS could not reach to install a PMA on Harmony’s ram if the new module was docked directly to Destiny’s ram when it was delivered by STS-120. When STS-120 had departed, the SSRMS would be used to undock PMA-2 from Destiny’s ram and move it to Harmony’s port. Next, the SSRMS would be used to move Harmony, with PMA-2 on one end, and docking, via its exposed CBM on the other end, to Destiny’s ram, leaving PMA-2 exposed on Harmony’s ram to receive visiting Shuttles. Zvezda’s thrusters were fired on September 24, to adjust the station’s orbit in advance of the launches of Soyuz TMA-11 and STS-120, planned for October 10 and October 23, respectively.

Anderson updated the software in the American navigation systems and installed new American computer hardware, and Kotov tested and upgraded the Russian computers before the two computer systems were integrated as one system.

The station was re-oriented on September 11, to reduce drag as it passed through the upper atmosphere. It was estimated that the manoeuvre would save the equivalent of the total amount of manoeuvring propellant for Zvezda’s thrusters delivered on two Progress flights. Onboard, both loops of the Russian thermal control system suffered a single pump failure, leaving both loops operating on just one pump each. Repairs made by Kotov on October 3 returned one loop to full operation, the second loop would have to await the delivery of a new pump on Soyuz TMA-11. Both men worked to replace Russian EVA support equipment in Zvezda and Pirs on September 19-20. The original equipment had passed its use-by date.

Even as preparations for the arrival of STS-120 continued, Yurchikhin and Kotov were also preparing for the end of the stay on ISS. Progress M-60 was undocked at 19: 37, September 18, but was not commanded to re-enter immediately. Rather, it was commanded to perform six manoeuvres as part of the “Plasma – Progress” experiment. Progress M-60 finally re-entered on September 25.

As the Expedition-15 crew brought their experiment programmes to an end, they also began packing to go home. Before that could happen they had to relocate Soyuz TMA-10. On September 27, having prepared the station for unoccupied flight, all three men donned their Sokol pressure suits and sealed themselves in the Soyuz, which was docked to Zarya’s nadir. Yurchikhin undocked his spacecraft at 14: 20 and manoeuvred clear of the station before flying along its length and manoeuvring to dock at Zvezda’s wake. Docking occurred at 14: 47 and the crew returned to the station after leak checks. They then began the task of reconfiguring the station for occupation once more. The move cleared Zarya’s nadir for the docking of Soyuz TMA-11, flown by the Experdition-16 crew. That launch was planned for October 10.

The following day, September 28, Zarya’s starboard photovoltaic array was retracted. This was required to prevent impact with the starboard radiator, mounted on the ITS, that would be deployed during the visit of STS-120. Zarya’s port photovoltaic array was retracted on September 29, to prevent impact with the port radiator, which would be deployed after STS-120 had left the station. Meanwhile, on September 30, STS-120 was transferred from the VAB to LC-39A, in preparation for its launch on October 23.

In Destiny, Anderson activated the American Oxygen Generation System and measured the sound levels that the machinery produced on October 2. The new oxygen generator was set at 50% and left running, while Houston monitored its performance. When running at full power the American system would provide sufficient oxygen to fill the entire station at “Core Complete’’ plus the International Partners’ modules. It would be capable of supporting the entire station, even when operated by six Expedition crew members.

The MT/MBS combination was moved to the port side of ISS on October 3, in preparation for the arrival of STS-120 and the relocation of the P-6 ITS. Moving the P-6 ITS from the Z-1 Truss and relocating it to the far end of the port side of the ITS, and the installation of the S-6 ITS on STS-119, represented the ultimate tasks that the SSRMS would be called upon to perform during the construction of ISS. The SSRMS would be operating fully extended and at the extreme limit of its reach.

On the same day, the crew reopened the hatch to Progress M-61, which they had sealed prior to relocating Soyuz TMA-10.

October 4, 2007 was the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik-1, the world’s first artificial satellite. Asked about the significance of the anniversary in a pre-launch interview, Expedition-16 crew member Yuri Malenchenko said:

“I believe we have achieved a considerable progress over such a short time period. We learned to live in space just a short 50 years ago, but didn’t live in space. We weren’t even thinking, or rather we were thinking, but weren’t sure if it is possible, to live in space constantly. Currently we have a continuous presence of humans in space, not only living in space but performing complicated activities and tasks, performing science experiments, and it has been going on for years. Of course, space exploration is unique. All steps, all achievements, regardless of where, which country and when, have been completed, are important, and each step is an important stage for subsequent steps.’’

The Expedition-15 crew marked the anniversary onboard ISS, but also had to continue with their own work as well as their preparations for the arrival of Soyuz TMA-11 and their own return to Earth. Meanwhile, Anderson worked with Kotov to use the Oxygen Uptake Measurement equipment to collect data as he exercised on the stationary bicycle. The Oxygen Generation System in Destiny continued to operate at 50%, waiting for the system’s water supply to be depleted. During the week before the launch of Soyuz TMA-11, the crew mounted the centreline camera in Unity’s port CBM, where it would be used in support of the initial docking of Harmony during the flight of STS-120. The three men also completed the medical experiments and extra exercise that all long-duration crews perform as their flight approaches its end. They also made room in Zvezda where the Soyuz TMA-11 spaceflight participant would perform his experiments during his short visit to the station.

On October 6 the TVIS treadmill in Zvezda failed during Kotov’s exercise period. The crew worked with engineers in Korolev to replace three roller bearings and return the vital unit to use. As they prepared for their return to Earth, Yurchikhin and Kotov continued to work with both Russian and American experiments.




Peggy Whitson


Yuri Malenchenko


Sheikh Muszapher Shukor (Malaysia)

(spaceflight participant)

When Soyuz TMA-11 launched towards ISS at 09:21, October 10, 2007, it contained an extremely experienced crew. Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko served 126 days on Mir and had commanded the 185-day occupation of ISS as part of the Expedition-7 crew. He had also visited ISS during the 12-day flight of STS-106. Whitson had made two Shuttle flights, serving as Pilot. Whitson had also served on ISS for 185 days as part of the Expedition-5 crew. Following the Soyuz TMA-11 crew’s transfer from Soyuz to the station, she would become the first woman to command an ISS Expedition crew. Sheikh Muszapher Shukor was a commercial customer of the Russian Federal Space Agency on his first flight. On launch day, Russian engineers presented Whitson with a ceremonial Kazakh riding whip and suggested that she might use it to keep her male colleagues in line while on the station. Asked about how she viewed being the first female Commander of ISS, Whitson replied:

“I think being a woman doesn’t really play too much into that. I think it’s special that I get the opportunity to play that role, but I think it’s also special to have an opportunity to demonstrate how many other women also work at NASA. So I’d like to be able to do that as well.’’

In answer to a different question she explained:

“Actually it’s going to be kind of exciting. During STS-120 Pam Melroy will be commanding that Shuttle mission; my lead flight director is Holly Ridings. I also have Lead Flight Directors for two different Shuttle missions during those phases, Dana Weigel and Sally Davis. And so we have a big team, which is consistent with any mission, but it happens this time around we have a number of females in the leadership roles. So I think it’s exciting.’’

Soyuz TMA-11 lifted off from Baikonur at 09: 22, October 10, 2007. As was the standard procedure, during the launch and solo flight, Malenchenko served as Soyuz Commander. Following a standard 2-day rendezvous, Soyuz TMA-11 docked to Zarya’s nadir at 10: 50, October 12. After leak and pressure checks the hatches between the two spacecraft were opened at 12: 22 and Whitson led the Expedition – 16 crew on to ISS. After the standard safety brief, Shukor and Anderson moved their seat liners and Sokol pressure suits between the two Soyuz spacecraft, Anderson thus becoming a member of the Expedition-16 crew and Shukor preparing for his return to Earth in Soyuz TMA-10 with the Expedition-15 crew. The next 9 days were spent in joint experiment programmes while the new crew, who were both ISS veterans, also took time to re-associate themselves with the station. Shukor performed his experiment programme in Zvezda. That programme consisted of five Malaysian experiments and three ESA experiments. In a Malayan press release, he was identified as the country’s first angkasawan (astronaut). Meanwhile, Anderson replaced a failed audio terminal unit in Quest on October 11. The new unit would lock up during the Soyuz TMA-11 hand-over period. Houston began an investigation.

On October 16, China expressed an interest in getting involved with ISS. Li Xueyong, a Chinese minister of science and technology, stated:

“We hope to take part in activities related to the International Space Station. If I am not mistaken, this programme has 16 countries currently involved and we hope to be the 17th partner… The Chinese government has always pursued a foreign policy of peace and consistently worked for the peaceful use of outer space.”

In Whitson’s first in-flight press conference, the subject of Russian cosmonauts’ attitude towards their female colleagues was discussed. The new station commander remarked, “Russian cosmonauts are very professional. Having worked and trained with them for years before we got to this point makes it better.’’ Yurchikhin added, “It’s not a problem, women running operations. The problem is whether we are professional or not. We are professionals. She is our friend and colleague.’’ On the same subject, Anderson joked, “I’m a little concerned about this whip. I’m kind of waiting for her to take it out and put me in line sometimes.’’


Figure 101. Expedition-16 crew (L to R): Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, Yuri Malenchenko, Peggy Whitson.

After a week of shared maintenance, experiments, and daily exercise, the official hand-over of command took place on October 19, at which time Whitson told Yurchikhin and Kotov, “It’s been a very impressive mission, and you guys have performed exceptionally.’’ Yurchinkhin, Kotov, and Shukor said their farewells the following day and sealed themselves in Soyuz TMA-10. They undocked from the station around 03: 14, October 21. Following the standard retrofire manoeuvre, Soyuz separated into its three parts. The descent module re-entered the atmosphere but soon deviated from its planned trajectory and followed a much steeper, ballistic trajectory. The course change had been commanded by the onboard computer. After a re-entry in which the crew pulled higher ^-forces than planned, the spacecraft’s parachutes deployed and lowered Soyuz TMA-10 to a safe landing in Kazakhstan, at 06: 37. The Expedition-15 crew had been in flight for 196 days 17 hours 5 minutes. Shukor’s flight had lasted 10 days 21 hours 14 minutes. Although the landing was 338 km south of the target, the recovery forces had tracked its descent and recovery helicopter crews had the descent module in sight as it descended on its parachute. After removal from the module by the recovery forces, the cosmonauts used the satellite phone, added to the Soyuz spacecraft after a similar re-entry trajectory switch by Soyuz TMA-1, to speak to Korolev. Talking about the re-entry afterwards, Yurchikhin stated:

“The overload was really powerful, but nobody fainted… I remember the overload going to 8.5 or 8.6 g.’’

Shukor was more descriptive, stating:

“I was not really scared, it happened so fast… It felt like an elephant pressing on my chest, but the Russians trained us very well.’’

On the subject of his flight he remained optimistic, saying:

“I hope to go back and inspire a generation of Malaysian youth… I hope other Muslims would be united, stay away from war and be peaceful.’’




Pam Melroy


George Zamka


Scott Parazynski, Douglas Wheelock,

Stephanie Wilson, Paolo Nespoli (ESA)

EXPEDITION-16/17 (up)

Daniel Tani

EXPEDITION-15/16 (down)

Clayton Anderson

In the days leading up to the launch of STS-120, a degradation of the outer protective coating was observed on the leading edge of both of Discovery’s wings. One RCC panel on one wing and two on the other showed the degradation, which had been present for the past three of Discovery’s flights. Launch managers decided that the problem fell within the limits of acceptable risk and decided not to roll STS-120 back to the VAB and replace the panels in question. A roll-back would have caused the flight to be delayed by a minimum of two weeks.

Rain threatened on the morning of launch, but in the end the weather held back. One technical problem that had threatened to delay the launch was a build-up of ice on a propellant line under the left wing. By the time the countdown reached its final stages, the ice had melted sufficiently to offer little threat to the Shuttle.

Discovery lifted off on time at 11: 38, October 23, 2007, after what Launch Director Michael Leinbach described as, “One of the cleanest countdowns we’ve had since I’ve been a Launch Director.’’ Discovery passed through a succession of cloud layers as it sped towards orbit. Melroy reported that several pieces of ice struck the orbiter’s forward windows during launch, but did no damage. All observed ice shedding from the ET took place after the critical first 2.5 minutes of flight, by which time Discovery was beyond the thick lower atmosphere, where the supersonic slipstream might slam the ice into the orbiter, causing damage.

On NASA’s website, Commander Pam Melroy had shared her enthusiasm for the flight, saying:

“STS-120 is such a cool mission. Node-2 is the expansion of the Space Station’s capability to bring international laboratories up. It’s the expansion of our capability to carry additional people. It has additional life support equipment that will allow us to expand out beyond a three-person crew. It’s this big boost in capability which is really exciting.’’

With lift-off behind them, the crew opened the payload bay doors to deploy their vital radiators and deployed the Ku-band antenna before spending several hours configuring their spacecraft for orbital operations, before settling down to their first eat and sleep period at 17 : 30.

On ISS, Whitson and Anderson worked on the TVIS treadmill, while Malenchenko serviced the toilet in Zvezda. The following day, Malenchenko serviced the KOB-1 and KOB-2 Thermal Control Loops performing a major plumbing overhaul that returned both systems to partial operation.

Up again at 01: 30, October 24, the STS-120 crew’s first full day in space was occupied by using the OBSS on the end of the RMS to inspect Discovery’s Thermal Protection System, including the RCC panels on the leading edges of both wings. An initial review of the data showed no immediate problems for re-entry at the end of the flight. They also prepared the EMUs stored in Discovery’s airlock as well as the equipment they would use during the rendezvous and docking the following day, including installing the centreline camera and extending the docking ring. Inside the orbiter, a high-speed computer modem presented the one difficulty of the day. The modem was due to be used to download the crew’s digital photographs to MCC-


Figure 102. STS-120 crew (L to R): Scott E. Parazynski, Douglas H. Wheelock, Stephanie D. Wilson, George D. Zamka, Pamela A. Melroy, Daniel M. Tani, Paolo A. Nespoli.


Figure 103. STS-120 approaches ISS with Node 2, Harmony, in the payload bay.

Houston. On ISS, Anderson was approaching the end of his 4.5-month occupation, and was undergoing an increased daily exercise regime, in preparation for his return to Earth. Anderson and Malenchenko also prepared the cameras they would use to photograph Discovery’s underside during the now standard r-bar pitch manoeuvre prior to docking. Whitson performed pressure leaks in PMA-2 in advance of Discovery’s docking. The Shuttle crew’s day ended at 17: 38.

Awake once more at 01: 39, October 25, Melroy’s crew ate breakfast together before making the final preparations for rendezvous with the station. Melroy began the rendezvous manoeuvres just before 03: 00. Two hours from docking Anderson told Discovery’s crew, “We can’t wait to see you. We welcome you with arms open. The towels are clean and laid out.’’ At 07: 32, at a range of 200 metres below the station, Melroy had Discovery perform a nose-over-tail pitch manoeuvre so that Anderson and Malenchenko could photograph the TPS on the Shuttle’s underside. Those digital images were sent to MCC-Houston, so that specialists could search them for evidence of any damage caused by the ice or foam shed from the ET during launch.

Docking, with Melroy at the controls, occurred at 08: 40, off the coast of North Carolina, and was greeted with cheers from both crews. On ISS, Whitson rang the ship’s bell and announced, “Discovery arriving.’’

Parazynski remarked, “Everyone here is ecstatic. We are so fired up to be here.’’ As usual, docking was followed by pressure and leak checks, before the hatches between the two spacecraft were opened 2 hours later. As the hatches opened, Whitson, the first female commander of ISS, greeted Melroy, only the second female commander of a Shuttle flight. Before launch Melroy had talked about this moment, saying, “The most important thing to me is the picture we take when our hands first meet across the hatches.’’ In Russia, before her own launch, Whitson had sounded less enthusiastic about the meaning of that handshake, saying, “I look forward to their arrival… She thinks it will be a special moment.’’

In reality, Whitson embraced Melroy as she entered Destiny. The media-hyped meeting, as the female commanders in charge of two separate spacecraft, was pure coincidence, caused by the delays in past Shuttle launches. Originally, STS-120 had been scheduled to launch before Whitson took command of Expedition-16.

The remainder of Melroy’s crew were greeted with handshakes and hugs. After the formal greeting onboard the station and the standard safety brief, Discovery’s crew began moving spacewalking equipment into the Quest airlock. At 12: 12, Tani installed his couch liner and Sokol launch and re-entry suit in Soyuz TMA-11, becoming part of the Experdition-16 crew, while Anderson moved his equipment into Discovery, transferring him to STS-120. As the day ended, Melroy’s crew were told that initial inspection showed no damage to Discovery’s Thermal Protection System. Melroy replied to the news, saying, “Oh, man. That is fantastic news. Obviously, that was a question that has been on our minds.’’ Parazynski and Wheelock spent the night “camped out’’ in Quest, in preparation for the first EVA the following day.

October 26 began at 01 : 39. After breakfast, Discovery’s crew commenced preparations for their EVA. Wheelock and Parazynski exited Quest at 06 : 02, half an hour earlier than planned, at the beginning of a planned 6.5-hour excursion. Italian astronaut Nespoli choreographed the EVA from inside Discovery. As the preparations came to an end and Quest was depressurised, Whitson joked, “We’ll open the hatch so you guys can go out and play.’’

Parazynski replied, “They call it work, but there is no better job, is there?’’ As the outer hatch swung open, Parazynski was awed by the view of Earth and remarked to Wheelock, “You’re not going to believe this.’’ Their first task was to remove a malfunctioning S-band antenna from its position on the Z-1 Truss and store it in Discovery’s payload bay for return to Earth. They also disconnected the final umbilicals running between the Z-1 Truss and the P-6 ITS, in preparation of the latter’s relocation later in the flight. Parazynski was subjected to a small ammonia leak while disconnecting the umbilicals and had to undergo cleaning procedures after returning to Quest at the end of the EVA. As they passed over the Gulf Coast, Wheelock remarked enthusiastically, “Oh, boy, look at that; Hello, Houston.’’ Returning to the payload bay, they put in place a payload and data grapple fixture that could not be mounted on Harmony during launch, due to lack of room within the closed payload bay doors. Their next task was to disconnect the umbilicals supplying electrical power and cooling fluids to Harmony. Tani, Anderson, and Wilson then grappled the new module with the SSRMS, lifted it out of the payload bay, and manoeuvred it to its temporary location on Unity’s port CBM. It was the first new pressurised module to be added to ISS in six years.

As the EVA drew to a close, Parazynski remarked, “Great day in outer space.’’ The ammonia decontamination procedures were first used on STS-98 and consisted of partially pressurising Quest, venting the airlock to vacuum once more, in an attempt to remove any residue ammonia crystals, before pressurising Quest to allow the other astronauts to briefly open the internal hatch, pass in wet towels, and close the hatch once more. The two EVA astronauts then wiped down the exterior of each other’s EMUs, before bagging the towels and finally leaving the airlock to return to the station. The EVA ended at 12: 16, after 6 hours 14 minutes.

Flight Director Dereck Hassaman described Harmony in the following terms:

“It’s the gateway to the International Partners. As the station is configured today, there’s nowhere to put the International Partner modules until we deliver and activate Node-2. That’s the piece that makes the rest possible.’’

Flight Director Rick LaBode added:

“We’re going to put it on the left side of Node-1 [Unity], and then, after the mission undocks, we’ll robotically remove the port the Shuttle docks to [PMA-2] from the end of the lab [Destiny] and put it on Node-2 [Harmony]. And then we’re going to take the Node-2 [with PMA-2] and put it on the end of the lab.’’

In orbit, with the job of delivering Harmony already completed, Parazynski stated, “Now the crews that are hot on our heels have a place to come.’’

As the day continued the Mission Management team in Houston decided to add an unplanned task to the second EVA, planned for October 28. The starboard SARJ had been experiencing increased friction over the previous 6 weeks. Parazynski and Wheelock would remove the thermal covers and make a 360° inspection of the joint.

Meanwhile, October 27 began at 01: 39. After breakfast, Whitson and Nespoli worked together to prepare Unity’s port CBM, before the crew opened the hatch giving access to the interior Harmony. That happened at 08: 24, when the hatch was swung back allowing Whitson and Nespoli to become the first people to enter the new module. All crew members wore surgical masks during their first visit to the new module in case there was any loose debris floating around that might be inhaled. With Harmony only in a temporary location, their task was not to power up the module before preparing it for the arrival of Columbus and Kibo. Rather, they applied minimal electrical power and installed a temporary ventilation line to circulate air into Harmony’s interior. Later in the day the two crews used the new Node to host a press conference, during which Whitson remarked, “We think Harmony is a very good name for this module because it represents the culmination of a lot of International Partner work and will allow International Partner modules to be added on.’’ Melroy added, “This is a really special moment for the station. This kicks off the international science portion of the Space Station’s life cycle.’’ Flight Director Rick LaBrode told the media, “It’s beautiful; bright shiny. The report from the crew is that it’s as clean as can be. Perfect shape!’’ Melroy also praised the work of the other members of both crews during the previous day, saying, “I just sat around and made lunch for everyone, and watched them do a totally fantastic job.’’

During the morning Discovery’s OBSS was returned to its storage position along the orbiter’s payload bay hingeline. The second inspection of Discovery’s Thermal Protection System, planned for that morning, had been cancelled the previous day. During the remainder of the day, Tani reviewed the plan for him to inspect the SARJ during the second EVA, and he also spent time with Anderson, working on hand­over procedures. At 15: 23, as the crew’s day ended, Parazynski and Tani were locked inside Quest and the pressure was dropped, to allow them to “camp out’’ overnight, in preparation for their EVA the following day.

The crew’s wake-up call on October 28 came at 01 : 09. After breakfast, Parazynski and Tani donned their EMUs inside Quest, while Wilson and Wheelock manoeuvred the SSRMS to grasp the P-6 ITS, mounted on the Z-1 Truss. Exiting the airlock at 05: 32, Parazynski remarked, “It’s a beautiful day,’’ and Tani replied, “Awesome.’’ After collecting their tools they made their way to the base of the P – 6 ITS, where they disconnected the final electric cables and the bolts that held the structure in place. Wilson and Wheelock then lifted the P-6 ITS away from the Z – 1 Truss. The 15 m long P-6 was left hanging overnight on the end of the SSRMS. Meanwhile, the two EVA astronauts set about performing separate tasks. Parazynski moved to the exterior of Harmony, where he installed EVA handrails. Tani made his way to the starboard ITS, where he checked the CETA cart for sharp edges on its handrails and then moved on to the SARJ, where he removed the thermal covers and inspected the joint for friction points. He discovered the joint was covered in a black dust, which included metal shavings, and there was friction wear on the race ring, then he replaced the covers. Station managers decided to limit the amount of rotation that the joint was subjected to while the investigation into problem continued. Tani also reconfigured connections on the S-l ITS that would allow Houston to deploy the S-l cooling radiator at a later date. For their final task they worked together to install a second PDGF on the exterior of Harmony, by which it would be held during its transfer from Unity’s port side to Destiny’s ram. They also removed launch covers from the exterior of Harmony. The EVA ended at 12:05, after 6 hours 33 minutes. After the EVA, NASA’s Mike Suffredini commented to a press con­ference regarding the port SARJ, “I really don’t think we are in any situation we can’t recover from. It’s just a matter of time. We have an obligation to try and get our partners to orbit as quickly as we can.’’

October 29 was a day of robotic work, with astronauts inside ISS and Discovery moving the P-6 ITS around outside the station. The day began at 01: 39 and after breakfast the two crews set about their individual tasks. Parazynski and Wheelock had a relatively quiet day preparing Quest and the station’s EMUs for the third EVA, with Nespoli’s assistance. Meanwhile, the remainder of the two crews separated into their own work teams. Wilson and Zamka operated Discovery’s RMS while Anderson and Tani operated the SSRMS. At 04: 08 the RMS was manoeuvred to grapple the P-6 ITS, after which SSRMS was commanded to release it. Discovery’s RMS held on to the P-6 ITS while the MBS holding the SSRMS was commanded to travel to the far end of the port ITS, from where it would still be stretched to its limits to install the P-6 ITS in its final location. The MBS translation along the port ITS took 90 minutes.

Tani has described his activities during the 3 days of work required to relocate the P-6 ITS:

“Conceptually it’s not that difficult: It’s four bolts—very big bolts but four bolts—it’s about a dozen electrical connectors and, and some fluid connectors. During the first couple of EVAs we will disconnect the electrical connectors; on the second EVA I will help unbolt the actual element. We’ll have Doug Wheelock inside running the arm. He will initially move the P-6 out and away from the station. Now the difficulty here is that the arm is not long enough to take it from its initial position and move it out to its final position. So we have to do a juggling act. We move it out to the side of the Space Shuttle and I believe Stephanie [Wilson] or George [Zamka] will then grab the P-6 Truss so that the Space Station arm can let it go, and then we utilize the Mobile Transporter, which is this little rail car that’s on the truss, and they’ll drive this little rail car, with the Space Station arm on it, all the way out to the end of the truss as far as they can go. Then the next day, I’ll run that Space Station arm to go pick up the P-6 Truss again and hand it off from the Shuttle. On the next EVA, I’ll run the arm and we’ll do a final install during the EVA with Doug and Scott outside, to do its final install and bolt it to the end of the truss and then redo those electrical and fluid connectors… right now the P-6 solar arrays have been fully retracted. It’s a big element but at least it doesn’t have these huge wings hanging off them. It’s hard to think of an analogy, but we are adding a huge source of power to the Space Station, or we’re moving it, and the power reconfiguration to protect all the circuitry, once you hook that up, is very extreme. In fact, we’ll have to power down half the Space Station while we do this because you don’t want to do what we call a ‘hot mate’. You don’t want power in one connector and have arcing across these connectors. So we will be powering down half the Space Station while we do this. We mate the P-6 to the P-5 and then, as soon as we can, once the electrical connectors are made, the folks on the ground will start powering those channels back up and we will start attempting to deploy these solar arrays.’’

During the MBS translation, Whitson and Tani worked inside Harmony, installing avionics racks. The remaining crew members spent most of the day trans­ferring items from Discovery to the station. During the day, Houston informed them that an additional day had been added to the flight plan, giving them a day of additional light workload between EVA-4 and EVA-5. Also plans were added to try and clean the starboard SARJ during EVA-4. As a result of the last point an inspection of the port SARJ was added to EVA-3 in order to provide data with which to compare the descriptions of the starboard SARJ obtained during EVA-2. No attempt would be made to repair the port SARJ on this flight. The changes meant that plans to test a space age caulking gun, designed to be used to repair gouges in the Shuttle’s Thermal Protection System caused by foam or ice impacts during launch would be abandoned and moved to a later Shuttle flight. As the day ended, Parazynski and Wheelock were shut inside Quest and the pressure reduced, in preparation for EVA-3 the following day. Meanwhile the Mission Management Team had studied the effect of stopping the continuous rotation of the starboard SARJ, which was a reduction in electrical power production. The reduced electricity supply would be sufficient to support the launch of Columbus, then scheduled for December 2007, but might not support the addition of Kibo, due to be launched in early 2008. Work would continue to resolve the problem.

October 30 began at 00:38. After breakfast, Parazynski and Wheelock began dressing for their EVA while the RMS and SSRMS teams began their own prepara­tions for the hand-off of the P-6 ITS and its re-installation on the far end of the P-5 ITS. The two astronauts left Quest at 05 : 45. The P-6 ITS was offered up on the end of Discovery’s RMS towards the SSRMS, now positioned on the end of the port ITS. After the hand-off to the SSRMS, the P-6 ITS was manoeuvred and then offered up to the exposed end of the S-5 ITS. With few cameras in the area, Parazynski and Wheelock were there to give verbal instructions. Following a successful re-mounting, the two astronauts drove home the four bolts and completed the connections with the P-5 ITS and the station’s power system. This move and the similar installation of the S-6 ITS represented the design limits of the SSRMS, even so the two teams on ISS made the task look simple. As all astronauts are pleased to acknowledge, this was all down to the highly professional nature of their training and the dedication of their training teams.

Parazynski then moved to the port SARJ and removed the thermal covers. He described the joint as ‘‘pristine’’. The EVA ended at 12: 53, after 7 hours 8 minutes, but on getting out of his EMU, Parazynski discovered a small hole in the outer layer of the thumb on his right-hand glove.

As the EVA reached its final moments, controllers in Houston commanded the first SAW to deploy on the P-6 ITS. When it was fully extended, Discovery’s crew commanded the second SAW to deploy. When it had deployed to approximately 30 m, 80% of its full length, Melroy called a stop, “We’ve detected something that appears to be a wrap-around or some damage.’’ Houston replied, “We see it.’’

The live television pictures in the control room showed a tear in the SAW. Programme Manager Mike Suffredini later told a press conference, “This will take time and needs to be worked, but my personal opinion is we’ve got the time to work this issue, so we can be methodical about it, and we will.’’ The remainder of the day was spent discussing the new problem, transferring items from Discovery and talking to the press.

October 31 began at 00: 38. As breakfast ended, Parazynski and Wheelock began configuring a spare EMU to replace Parazynski’s original suit, which had suffered from cooling problems during the third EVA. Together with Nespoli, they would spend the day preparing for the fourth EVA, which was now planned for November 1, and would be dedicated to a thorough inspection of the starboard SARJ and sampling of the debris seen in the joint during the second EVA, as well as trying to identify the root cause of the friction. Meanwhile, Whitson and Tani worked inside Harmony, removing launch restraints and deploying the Zero Gravity Stowage Rack. On the subject of Harmony, Whitson explained:

“Node-2, Harmony, like Node-1 [Unity], has six different ports that we can add modules on to, to build the station. So it’s, it’s our next big connecting piece in our puzzle of putting this huge station together on orbit. Node-2 is required to power and provide the thermal heat rejection for the science laboratory modules that’ll be coming up, the one built by the European Space Agency and the one built by the Japanese Space Agency. So it’s a pretty key module for us, for the continued development of the station.’’

As the day proceeded, the priorities for STS-120 changed. Although the ripped SAW on the P-6 ITS was producing 98% of the electricity that it would if fully deployed, Houston decided to make it the priority for the remainder of Discovery’s flight. The fourth EVA would be slipped back 24 hours, to November 2, or even November 3, if more time was required for preparation, and would now concentrate on repairing the ripped P-6 ITS SAW before the damage got any worse. The Mission Management Team decided that the priority was to fully deploy the SAW and thus hopefully prevent further damage. Initial plans called for Parazynski to carry out the repair while riding the end of the OBSS mounted on the SSRMS, while Wheelock provided verbal instructions for Wilson and Tani operating the SSRMS. The repair itself would consist of threading wire through holes in the SAW blanket on either side of the tear and using an aluminium strip to support it from beneath, thus closing and supporting the tear in much the same way as a cuff-link works on a man’s shirt sleeve. Meanwhile, in Houston, Suffredini was blunt:

“I need this array. We believe over time we could tear the blanket further. If we do enough damage, we could potentially get into a configuration where we could not stabilise the array. If we can’t, we have to figure out what to do. We don’t have a lot of options, and the most likely option is that we would have to jettison it.’’

He continued:

“The station is a robust vehicle. We have many options with how to deal with the problems. It’s not a situation where anyone is particularly panicked. But on the other hand, we want to get this fixed to a point where we can continue with the assembly the way we planned… This is not about style points. It doesn’t have to look good. It just has to produce power.’’

Suffredini also paid a compliment to the team of engineers who had been working on the problem since the torn SAW was first identified:

“We give this team a little time to start thinking about creative solutions, and it doesn’t take them long to blow you away with what they come up with.’’

During the afternoon press conference with the crew, the President of Italy congratulated Nespoli on his flight, but predictably the conversation returned to the damaged SAW. Melroy described what she had seen as the second SAW deployed:

“It was a tough situation. The Sun was shining directly into our camera views. At one point, we did stop because we were concerned we had lost our big picture. We can second guess ourselves, and there may have been something we could have done, but I think we certainly aborted as soon as we saw something that was not right.’’

Parazynski added:

“My initial take was the guide-wires that became frayed earlier may have been the culprit. However, it looks to our eyes, via the binoculars and photos, like the guide-wires may be intact.’’

During the day the fourth EVA was pushed back to November 3, to give ground teams more time to come up with a work schedule and to give the astronauts additional time to prepare. Even so, Whitson, Commander of ISS, remained con­fident stating, “If there is a way to do this, we will figure out a smart way to come up with whatever workaround we need to make it happen.’’

The crew spent the remainder of the day making the hinge stabilisers that they would install when they repaired the SAW and preparing their EMUs. At one point Ex-President George Bush Senior and his wife Barbara visited the control room in

Houston and were able to talk to the crew. Talking to Melroy, he told her, “Good luck to you. Pam, we want to wish you well and all of your team. We’re so proud of your team… Barbara and I.’’

November 2 began at 01: 38 and was another day of preparation. During the morning, controllers moved the MBS back from the far end of the P-5 ITS to the centre of the ITS. There it was used to take hold of the OBSS and remove it from Discovery’s payload bay hingeline. The OBSS was then handed to Discovery’s own RMS, where it would stay overnight, while the MBS moved back to the far end of the port ITS.

In Houston, NASA made the media aware of some of the risks involved in making repairs to a SAW that was still actively producing electricity. Astronaut David Wolf, head of the EVA branch of the Astronaut Office, said, “We are faced with a difficult situation. At some point, we have to execute the plan we’ve got, as long as it’s very safe, instead of having a perfect plan and having it be too late to execute.’’ He added, “It’s a real test of the adaptability of this team, of our baseline knowledge of how to work in space … We have some risks here.’’

The two rips, one just under 1 m long and one 0.3 m long, would be repaired using five bracing straps made from 12-gauge wire with a 10 cm long aluminium strip at each end. The aluminium strips would be fed through existing holes in the SAW to hold the damaged areas together along a 5 m length. The straps, which the team that developed them had begun calling “cuff-links’’, varied in length from 1 m to 2m. To prevent an electrical discharge and possible injury to Parazynski, Kapton tape, an insulating material, had been wrapped around each of the straps, as well as the tools that would be used and the exposed metal parts on the outside of Parazynski’s EMU. The panel was “live’’, with up to 100 volts of electricity passing through it, and could not be turned off. As a result, the two EVA astronauts had been instructed in which parts of the P-6 ITS represented shock hazards. At the end of the day, Parazynski and Wheelock “camped out’’ in Quest under reduced pressure.

November 3 began at 01 : 38 and breakfast was followed by the hand-off of the OBSS from Discovery’s RMS to the SSRMS. The EVA started at 06:03. Melroy encouraged her two crew members as they left the airlock with the call, “Go out there and fix that thing.’’ Parazynski replied, “We will.’’ Even so, Houston warned, “Time is of the essence.’’

Having mounted the OBSS, Parazynski spent 90 minutes being swept through 180° of open space, taking him from the centre of the ITS to the worksite 30 m above Quest and 50 m out to the port side of the station. As he watched Earth sweep by below him, he told Houston, “This is just indescribable. Words just can’t do it justice. At least, not mine.’’

On arrival at the damaged area, he found that the guide wires used during the SAW’s deployment were damaged, but the wires carrying electrical current were not damaged. His helmet camera showed a view of the deployment guide wires that he described, “It appears severely frayed.’’

Melroy viewed the area with binoculars from Discovery and described it as a “furball’’. She added, “I’m sure that is causing shudders on the ground somewhere.’’ Tani told Parazynski, “You are a dot to us.’’


Figure 104. STS-120: damage to the P-6 photovoltaic array was stabilised with loops of wire referred to as “cufflinks” by the crew.


Figure 105. STS-120: Scott Parazynski rides the OBSS held in the SSRMS during the fourth EVA. During the EVA he installed six wire loops to stabilise damage to the P-6 photovoltaic array (see above).

Parazynski cut one of the guide wires with an insulated tool, and Wheelock, working at the base of the SAW, used a pair of pliers to feed it into the relevant take – up reel. Parazynski then installed the five cuff-links, poking the aluminium straps through existing holes in the SAW. As the EVA ended, Parazynski sighed, “What an accomplishment?” Whitson complimented them, “Excellent work guys. Excellent.” With the repair complete, just past 11:00 controllers in Houston began com­manding the SAW to complete its deployment. Fifteen minutes and 13 computer commands later the SAW was deployed to its full extent. Meanwhile, it took an hour to sweep Parazynski back through open space to the centre of the ITS, from where the two men made their way back to Quest, closing the hatch at 13: 22, after an EVA lasting 7 hours 19 minutes.

Lead Station Flight Director Derek Hassman called it, “One of the most satisfy­ing days that I’ve ever had in Mission Control.” Suffredini was equally enthusiastic, “We are in great shape, fixing the array lets us get on with the assembly… This was just a fabulous effort. Our baby is still beautiful to us.’’

The remainder of the day was spent clearing up after the EVA and transferring equipment. While electricity from the P-6 ITS 2B SAW was integrated into the station’s main power supply, that from the repaired 4B SAW remained isolated while testing of the repaired SAW continued.

November 4 began at 02: 08, before the clocks were put back an hour for the change from edt to est. During the morning briefing, Houston told the two astro­nauts, “This will go down as one of the biggest successes in EVA history. Words cannot express how proud you made everyone with the execution by the entire team.’’ After breakfast the two crews completed the final transfer of items between the two spacecraft before beginning to get ready for Discovery’s undocking. 992 kg of new supplies were now on ISS, in addition to Harmony, while 916 kg of scientific samples and other items would be returned to Earth in Discovery. Anderson’s occupation of ISS was at an end, but like everyone else before him he was in two minds about how he viewed the prospect of leaving the station:

“I have a lot of blood, sweat and tears left aboard the International Space Station. What we are doing here is very important for all of human kind. It’s worth the risk. It’s worth the cost… Five months ago I was on my back preparing to launch and wondering what the heck I had gotten myself in to. Now, I’m poised to return to Earth after having served very proudly… Part of me is ready to go and part of me wants to stay.’’

After saying their formal farewells, the two crews locked arms and swayed back and forth to music, laughing together and some of them even shed a few tears. At 12: 28 Melroy led her crew, including Anderson, back to the Shuttle, closing the hatch between the two spacecraft at 12: 03. Whitson, Malenchenko, and Tani remained on the station to continue the Expedition-16 occupation.

A 02: 38 wake-up call on Discovery on November 5 was followed by a quick breakfast and final preparations for undocking. Zamka backed Discovery away from PMA-2 at 05: 32. In Destiny, Whitson rang the station’s bell to mark their departure.


Figure 106. STS-120 departs ISS. The RMS holds the OBSS, which lies across the empty payload bay.


Figure 107. STS-120: a nadir view of ISS as STS-120 completed its fly-around. Harmony is shown docked to Unity’s port CBM, opposite the Quest airlock. The P-6 ITS has been re­located from the Z-1 Truss to outboard of the P-5 ITS.

She told them simply, “Thanks, guys.” Zamka performed a full 360° fly-around of the station while the crew photographed and videoed its new configuration from all angles. Back opposite PMA-2, Zamka performed the separation burn at 07: 15. Discovery’s crew spent the day using the OBSS mounted on the end of the RMS to inspect the orbiter’s wing leading edges and nosecap for damage sustained while in flight. They found none, and Discovery’s TPS was cleared for re-entry. Anderson spent the day exercising in the mid-deck, in advance of his return to Earth.

Discovery’s last full day in space, November 6, began at the 02: 38. Melroy and Zamka undertook the standard test of the orbiter’s flight surfaces and thrusters. The remainder of the crew spent the day packing for re-entry. During the afternoon Anderson’s recumbent chair was set up on the mid-deck and the Ku-band antenna was stowed. As Discovery passed over KSC, Melroy noted, “We can see the runway from orbit. So, the weather is looking pretty good.’’ Discovery had been planned for a night landing, but Melroy had asked for the flight plan to be changed in favour of a daylight landing, due to the unintended length and complexity of the flight.

During the day, Melroy talked to the media about how she felt “extremely concerned’’ for Parazynski’s wellbeing during the EVA to repair the 4B SAW.

Parzynski recalled, “It was a phenomenal personal experience to be out on the end of the boom.’’

Anderson discussed his mental preparations for his return to Earth, “I’ve enjoyed my time up there immensely, and it’s kind of a bittersweet time for me to come home, but I’m ready.’’

The final day of STS-120 began at 02: 38 November 7. Following breakfast, preparations for re-entry began at 08 : 03. Discovery’s payload bay doors were closed at 09: 20. Melroy and Zamka began preparing for the de-orbit burn, turning Discovery to a tail-first attitude before igniting the rocket motors at 11: 59. When the burn was complete, Melroy turned the orbiter so that its flat underside faced the on-coming atmosphere. Following the standard radio blackout caused by the sheath of ionised air surrounding the vehicle, Melroy flew a series of large, sweeping S-turns in the sky to bleed off energy. Finally, approaching Florida she flew the spacecraft across the state and headed out over the ocean as Discovery turned around the heading alignment circle to line it up with the end of the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC. Melroy put the rear undercarriage on the runway at 13 : 01, after a flight lasting 15 days 2 hours 23 minutes. Anderson had been in space for 152 days.

After the flight, Melroy described the mission emotionally, saying, “What you saw is who we are at NASA.’’ NASA’s Administrator Michael Griffin watched the landing from alongside Runway 33, KSC. He took a similar tone when he described the flight to reporters as, “NASA at its best.’’


Progress M-57 was launched at 11: 08, June 24, 2006 and entered orbit a few minutes later. Following a standard 2-day rendezvous, the new Progress docked to Pirs’ nadir at 12:25, June 26. Unloading of the 2,578kg of cargo, including 1,161kg of dry goods, began the following day. With Progress in place, the last week of June was spent preparing for Discovery’s arrival. The crew flushed the pipes in Quest, in preparation for the Shuttle crew’s planned EVAs. Progress M-57 would be unloaded after Discovery had returned to Earth; its pressurised compartment would then be used as a temporary storage area, to hold many of the items delivered in Discovery’s MPLM.


With Discovery gone and the P-6 ITS relocated, Whitson, Malenchenko, and Tani settled down to the remainder of their occupation. They continued their daily routine of experiments, maintenance, and exercise, but beyond that they would oversee the


Figure 108. Expedition-16: Daniel Tani poses in his sleeping bag mounted between two EMUs inside the Quest airlock.

transformation of ISS into a truly International Space Station. The Expedition-16 crew had a quiet day on November 5, in the wake of Discovery’s departure and in advance of a busy period during which Harmony would be moved to Destiny’s ram. That work began on November 8, when the crew spent the day preparing their EMUs and the Quest airlock for a Stage EVA.

At 04: 54, November 9, Whitson and Malenchenko exited Quest to carry out work that should have been completed by the STS-120 crew, but had been resched­uled because of the urgent need to repair the P-6 ITS SAW. Making their way to Destiny’s ram, their first task was to disconnect the SSPTS cables from PMA-2, before disconnecting eight other cables between Destiny and the PMA. Whitson also removed a CETA light on Destiny, to clear the area for equipment trays to be installed at a later date. Their third task was to disconnect the rigid umbilicals on the side of Destiny. Both astronauts covered the receptacles left open by the de-mated umbilicals with dust caps as they worked. Separating, Whitson completed connec­tions for the PDGF that would be used when Harmony was relocated. Malenchenko moved up to the Z-1 Truss’ wake face to remove and replace a failed RPCM. Working together once more, they made their way back to Harmony, on Unity’s port CBM. On the new module’s exposed end, they removed a dust cover that had protected the CBM in that area. As they removed the dust cover, Tani observed from inside the station. Looking through the window here, all I can see is a big aluminium foil. It looks like turkey cooking in the oven.’’ Whitson and Malenchenko recovered the dust cover for disposal on a Progress spacecraft. Malenchenko’s next task was to re-route an electrical cable at the wake of the Z-1 Truss, while Whitson moved to the “rats’ nest’’, the area between the Z-1 Truss and the S-0 ITS, where she made changes to the electrical connections in that region. Next, Whitson recovered a base-band signal processor and returned to the airlock with it. It would be returned to Earth and refurbished. Finally, Malenchenko redistributed EVA tools between two storage bags and then moved one of those bags to the S-0 ITS. The EVA ended when they returned to Quest, at 10: 49, after 6 hours 55 minutes exposed to vacuum. Even as Whitson and Malenchenko completed their EVA, STS-121 Atlantis was moving out to the launchpad where the European Columbus Science Laboratory was already waiting in its payload container.

In orbit, Whitson and her crew began preparations on November 13, for the arrival of Columbus. On that date, Tani commanded the SSRMS from inside Destiny and used it to grapple the PDGF on PMA-2. At 04: 35 Whitson commanded the first of four mechanical bolts holding the PMA in place to unwind. The final bolt was released at 05 : 02, and Tani moved the PMA away from Destiny’s ram 10 minutes later. The SSRMS was used to manoeuvre the PMA to a position below Destiny where the station’s cameras were used to inspect its mating surfaces. When the survey was complete, Tani moved the PMA to its new position on Harmony’s outboard CBM, at which time Whitson commanded the four bolts to secure it in place. The final bolt was secured at 06: 29. Later that same day, Houston placed a ban on EVAs. A ground test of an EMU on Earth had resulted in a smell of smoke. Subsequent testing of the suit revealed no signs of burning.

The following day, Tani and Whitson repeated their roles, using the SSRMS to grapple Harmony and release the CBM bolts holding it in place. Whitson released the first bolt at 03:58 and the last at 04:21.Tani then used the SSRMS to move Harmony from its temporary position on the side of Unity and relocated it on Destiny’s ram. The relocation manoeuvre was completed at 05: 45, much earlier than planned. Capcom Kevin Ford told them, “You guys are really cooking with gas.’’ During the manoeuvre the station had passed over the Atlantic Ocean; Whitson looked out of Destiny’s window and remarked, “It’s amazing. I love my job!’’

On November 15, the P-1 radiator was deployed, increasing the area available to the station’s ammonia cooling system. On the same day, NASA cleared the EMUs on the station for future EVA work. NASA’s Lynett Madison stated, “There is no indication of combustion or an electrical event. We’ve been cleared to conduct spacewalks.” The smoke odour detected in the suit test earlier in the week was thought to have been caused by a canister of metal oxide used during ground tests of the suit.

Whitson described the two EVAs that she and Tani had originally been expecting to make to outfit Harmony, in the following terms:

“The EVAs that have to be conducted between the arrival of Node-2 [Harmony] and before arrival of Columbus are critical. We can’t accept the new module without the completion of those EVAs… [T]he two EVAs that Dan and I will conduct actually will lay what we call the umbilical trays, and they are the fluid lines that will connect the Thermal Control System that’s based in the truss. We have to run them along the laboratory module and then connect [them] to the Node-2. [T]he reason that’s important is the Node-2 has six different heat exchangers; some of those will be providing the thermal heat rejection for each of the new modules that come up later. So it’s got a big thermal job, and we have to connect all those lines that will allow it to happen. Obviously we also have to do the electrical and the data connections as well, so that we’ll be able to transmit data and receive telemetry back and forth throughout not only the Node-2 module but then later, through the laboratory modules on Columbus and the JEM … We do some mating on the inside: the internal Thermal Control System’s mated on the inside. We also have power and data connections that are done on the inside.’’

The first of those two EVAs began at 05: 10, November 20, 2007, when Whitson and Tani left the Quest airlock wearing American EMUs. Exiting the airlock as the station passed over the Atlantic Ocean, Tani remarked, “A nice day at the office here.’’

After preparing their tools, they set about individual tasks to maximise their time outside. Whitson removed an ammonia jumper, part of a temporary cooling system, on the outside of the station, vented it, and then stowed it securely in place. The jumper’s removal allowed for the establishment of the new Loop-A, one of two loops in the permanent cooling system. As she worked Whitson reported that frozen ammonia crystals were escaping from the open end of the system, “They appear


Figure 109. Expedition-16: Peggy Whitson makes a Stage EVA following the departure of STS – 120. In the background Harmony has been relocated to Destiny’s ram, and PMA-2 is on Harmony’s ram.

frozen and just bouncing off me.’’ Houston replied, “Not a problem at this time. We’re ready to press on.’’

At the same time, Tani retrieved a bag of tools left outside the station during the EVA on November 9. He then removed two fluid caps, as part of the preparation of the permanent cooling loop. His next task was to reconfigure an electrical circuit that was used to fire a pyrotechnic during the deployment of the P-1 cooling radiator on November 15. Both astronauts then made their way to the centre of the S-0 ITS where they co-operated to unbolt the 6.5 m long Loop-A fluid tray from its storage position. In order to move the tray, they took it in turns to move ahead of the tray and secure lines to ensure that it did not drift away if they lost control of it. The tray was then moved forward and the next set of lines attached to it before the previous set of lines were released. In that manner they moved the tray to the exterior of Harmony, where they secured it in place. Next, they secured six fluid connections, two at the tray, two on the S-0 ITS, and two inbetween those two locations. Tani’s final planned task was on the port side of Harmony, where he mated 11 avionics lines, meanwhile Whitson configured heating cables and connected electrical harnesses linking PMA-2 and Harmony. With time to spare they were also able to complete a number of “get-ahead” tasks. Tani connected five avionics lines on Harmony’s starboard side, before joining Whitson to connect a series of redundant umbilicals and connect the SSPTS cables to PMA-2 in its new location. The EVA ended at 12: 26, after 7 hours 16 minutes.

Whitson and Tani’s next EVA took place on November 24 and was for all intents and purposes a mirror image of the EVA completed four days earlier. Where the earlier EVA had set up Harmony’s primary cooling loop (Loop-A), the second EVA would establish the back-up cooling loop (Loop-В). Ammonia, circulated through the umbilicals installed during these two EVAs, would take up the heat produced by Harmony’s electrical equipment and transport it to the large radiators on the ITS, where the heat would be radiated to space and the ammonia recirculated. The EVA began at 04:50, with the crew exiting from Quest wearing American EMUs. They worked together to prepare their tools, before Whitson removed, vented, and stowed the ammonia lines associated with the original, temporary cooling loop. Tani disconnected two fluid caps in preparation for the establishment of Loop-В of the permanent cooling loop. His next task was to relocate an articulated portable foot restraint from its location on the port side of Harmony, to its new position on the lower portion of the module’s ram endcone. The two astronauts then joined together to move the Loop-В cooling tray from the S-0 ITS to its permanent location on the port avionics tray on Destiny’s zenith, where they bolted it in place. They used the same method to move the fluid tray as they had during the previous EVA. With the Loop-В fluid tray in place, they made the same six connections that they had made on the Loop-A fluid lines: two on the fluid tray, two on the S-0 ITS, and two inbetween. Whitson then made her way to Harmony’s starboard side where she removed the launch restraints from the petals on the CBM that would provide soft-docking for Columbus when STS-122 delivered it. That delivery was planned for December 2007. At the same time, Tani made his way to the starboard SARJ, removed one of the thermal covers, allowing him to photograph the joint and recover samples of the metal shavings contaminating the joint. It was a repeat of the work he had carried out during the visit of STS-120. During the inspection, Tani reported, “I see the same damage that I saw before… I would say there is more damage than I saw before.’’ Tani took the thermal cover back to Quest, leaving the joint open to the video cameras on the SSRMS. The video survey would be completed after the visit of STS-122 and would include at least one full rotation of the SARJ. The EVA ended at 11: 54, after 7 hours 4 minutes. The crew had light-duty days on November 25 and 26 following their week of hard work.

On November 28, NASA announced that they feared Harmony may have developed a pressure leak, although the overall pressure leakage rate for the whole station had not increased. (All pressurised modules leak. The rate of leakage is included in the module’s design stage and confirmed during manufacture and pre­launch testing. Under normal operations the gases used to pressurise the module are supplied at a rate that will maintain the correct internal pressure in addition to the known leakage rate.) That evening, Whitson was instructed to secure the area between Harmony and Unity’s hatches, so that the internal pressure could be monitored. The fact that the overall pressure leak rate had not increased suggested that the problem might actually lie in one of the measuring instruments and might not be a leak at all. The test was repeated and again showed no loss of pressure in the space between the two hatches. As a result, preparations went ahead on the station for the arrival of STS-121, in early December, while Houston continued to monitor the “pressure leak” problem.

With Harmony now on Destiny’s ram and PMA-2 on Harmony’s ram, ISS was finally configured to receive the next few Shuttle flights, which would deliver the European and Japanese modules to the station. The astronauts from those two nations would begin flying to the station in greater numbers and with increasing regularity. Following the delivery of Node-3, with its extra sleeping facilities, the station’s crew would be increased to six people, increasing its capacity to perform first-class orbital science. The last two items of American ISS hardware, the S-6 ITS and the Cupola, would also be launched and installed. In time the European ATV and the Japanese HTV would begin delivering consumables to the station alongside the Russian Progress spacecraft.

As the STS-122 launch was delayed in November 2007, the future schedule for ISS through the end of the Shuttle programme was mapped out:




ENDEAVOUR: JEM ELM-PS (placed in temporary position) and Canadian Dextere robotics system. Four EVAs to install equipment

Soyuz TMA-12

Expedition-17 crew up.


ATLANTIS: Kibo, two EVAs to install lab and Japanese RMS. Relocate JEM ELM PS to permanent position


ENDEAVOUR: MPLM. Establish six-person Expedition crew





Soyuz TMA-13

Expedition-18 crew up.






DISCOVERY: EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 1 & 2






ENDEAVOUR: Node-3 and Cupola


ENDEAVOUR: EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 5 & 6

As the Shuttle approaches the end of its career, the Russian Soyuz will become the principal vehicle for crew delivery and recovery including the astronauts from all of the ISS International Partners. Given the support of Congress and the new President (the Presidential election is in 2008) the American Project Constellation spacecraft, Orion, and its Ares-1 launch vehicle will be developed and flight-tested. As 2007 drew to a close, only Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had made positive statements on Orion during her campaign. Clinton’s spokesperson, Isaac Baker, had stated, “Senator Clinton does not support delaying the Constellation Programme and intends to maintain American leadership in space exploration.’’ Meanwhile, Senator Barack Obama had called for Project Constellation to be delayed for 5 years and the money spent on education and social programmes.

If they are built, Orion and Ares-1 will assume the role of American crew delivery and recovery in the ISS programme, but flying to ISS is not the principal role for which Orion is being built.

As America prepares to return to the Moon, hopefully taking their International Partners with them, what role does that leave for ISS? During the pre-launch interview for his Expedition-11 flight, Sergei Krikalev voiced his view of the impor­tance of the ISS programme to Project Constellation and the future of human spaceflight in general:

“[The International Space] Station is not the ultimate goal. It’s an intermediate goal. That may be the significance of this Station. This is an intermediate step you have to make before you go any further. Life science experiments can be con­ducted on the Station to understand how far we can go with the configuration we have right now and what else we need to do to provide more efficiency of human beings on this long-duration mission, and long-distance mission. We continue to conduct technological experiments to see how materials change and how they behave inside, and outside, the Station, to know how to build new vehicles. We are even learning how micro-organisms change inside the Station, and some of these organisms might be a biological hazard for materials inside. Certain micro­organisms can destroy insulation on wires and create big trouble. We have to be prepared especially if we are to go on long-distance missions. On these long­distance missions (not only long-duration missions, as we are flying on the Station right now) you have to be much more autonomous. Even small things that people don’t think about very often can change the quality of our development. Being [a] participant on Mir flights and now [on an] ISS flight I see that [the] experience of people, on the ground, operational experience, is very important. Unless we gain this experience, unless we do this step, we will never be able to move any farther from the Earth. It needs to be done on the Station before we can make any further steps.’’


Recovery and restructuring




Steven Lindsey


Mark Kelly


Michael Fossum, Lisa Nowak, Stephanie Wilson,

Piers Sellers

EXPEDITION-13 & 14 (up)

Thomas Reiter (ESA)

STS-121 was the first Shuttle flight since the fleet had been re-grounded in the wake of STS-114. The flight would carry 4,000 kg of cargo to the station in the MPLM Leonardo, to re-stock the supplies that had been used during the intervening period. It would also deliver Thomas Reiter, the third member of the Expedition-13 crew, to the station. Reiter was the first ESA astronaut to serve on an ISS Expedition crew. The agreement to fly Reiter was signed in May 2003. Director of Human Spaceflight at ESA Daniel Sacotte explained:

“It covers the ESA astronaut’s flight in a crew position originally planned for a Russian cosmonaut. He will perform all the tasks originally allocated to the second Russian cosmonaut on board the ISS and, in addition, an ESA experimental programme.’’

Reiter added:

ESA is making important contributions to the ISS and its scientific capabilities. We are assuming significant operational responsibilities in this programme and I am confident that this mission will give Europe valuable

operational experience and scientific results which will further prepare us for the exciting and challenging times ahead.”

STS-121 would be the first launch to be controlled from the new Firing Room 4 in the Launch Control Centre, at KSC. The new Firing Room would become the principal launch control room for the remainder of the Shuttle programme, while the original Firing Rooms were converted for use in Project Constellation.

The first attempt to launch STS-121 was made on July 1, 2006. On that occasion the countdown reached the planned hold at T — 9 minutes, when it was held due to anvil clouds, potential thunderstorms, in the area. The launch was subsequently scrubbed and recycled to the following day. On July 2 the countdown was scrubbed for a second time, due to anvil clouds in the area and recycled for a further 48 hours. The new launch date was set for July 4.

On July 4 a crack in the insulating foam on the Shuttle’s ET had to be filled and an investigation was required when a triangular piece of foam fell away from the ET while Discovery stood on the launchpad. It was decided that the launch could proceed as planned. In February, Lindsey had warned the media, “We will lose foam on this flight, just like every other. The key is to make sure that any foam we do lose is of a small enough size so it can’t hurt us if it hits the vehicle.’’

Discovery finally lifted off at 14: 38, July 4, 2006 and was in orbit a few minutes later. Film from the numerous cameras on the vehicle showed that the ET had continued to shed foam and the crew were even informed that MCC-Houston thought that one piece might have struck the underside of the orbiter. The crew began their sleep period at 20: 38.

Eight hours later, they were awake and ready for their first full day in space. Beginning work shortly after 07: 00, Nowak and Wilson used the RMS to lift the

Recovery and restructuring

Figure 70. STS-121 crew (L to R): Thomas Reiter, Michael E. Fossum, Piers J. Sellers, Steven W. Lindsey, Mark E. Kelly, Stephanie D. Wilson and Lisa M. Nowak.

OBSS from the opposite edge of the payload bay and manoeuvred it so that the Laser Dynamic Range Imager, the Laser Camera System, and the Intensified Television Camera mounted on the end could image the leading edge of both wings and the orbiter’s nosecap. Meanwhile, Sellers set up Discovery’s computers and Reiter prepared the mid-deck for the transfer of equipment and stores to ISS. Sellers and Fossum were assisted by Kelly as they checked the EMUs they would wear on two, or possibly three EVAs.

On ISS, Vinogradov and Williams prepared cameras, with the 400 mm and 800 mm lenses, that they would use to photograph Discovery during its approach to the station. They also pressurised PMA-2 in preparation for Discovery’s docking.

As Discovery approached ISS, Lindsey commenced station-keeping at a distance of 200 metres, he then performed a nose-over-tail pitch manoeuvre so that Vinogradov and Williams could photograph the underside of the orbiter. The photo­graphs were down-linked to Houston for scrutiny. The rendezvous then continued and Lindsey docked Discovery to PMA-2 at 10:52, July 6. Following pressure checks the hatches between the two vehicles were opened and Discovery’s crew entered the station at 12: 30. Vinogradov and Williams greeted them and then issued the standard safety briefing. Williams told Houston, “It’s a full house. The climate has changed significantly.” The first action after that was to transfer Reiter’s couch lining and Sokol pressure suit from Discovery to Soyuz TMA-8, thereby signalling his transfer from the STS-121 crew to the Expedition-13 crew. For the first time since the Expedition-6 crew, who had been in orbit when STS-107 was lost in February 2003, the Expedition crew on ISS now consisted of three people. Vinogradov had the following to say about the arrival of the European astronaut:

“I think that it is a very important milestone… at this stage we can support a crew of three or more. But from the human standpoint, it’s important because we do have to notice that over the last two years the ISS program is kind of slowing down and the interest is not what it used to be on the part of the Russian government and Congressmen in the United States. There are certain notes of dissatisfaction on the part of the people who are working on the science and experiments on board the station because unfortunately the rate of station assembly and deployment is quite different from what they expected. And so the arrival of the third person, Thomas Reiter in our case, greatly improves the capability of the crew in terms of performing science program and experiments. The other thing is that Thomas Reiter is a representative of Europe. Europeans are important and we are working with them very closely. The European Space Agency contributes considerable effort from the standpoint of research.’’

Williams was equally keen to see Reiter join the crew:

“We’re really looking forward to the Shuttle arriving, and Thomas joining us as a crew of three. It’s obviously very significant. Since Expedition 7 we’ve been flying and sustaining the Space Station with a crew of two. Those who track that sort of thing say that it takes more than two people just to run the station, so it leaves no excess crew time for the other things. Getting back to a crew of three will help us accomplish more. It’s also significant in that we will be continuing with the assembly of the Space Station, to get it up to its full capability with the resuming of regular Space Shuttle flights, which is important, of course, to meet the vision of space exploration.”

The EMUs that Fossum and Nowak would use during their planned EVAs were also transferred, from Discovery to Quest. In preparation for the first EVA, Williams and Wilson used the SSRMS to lift the OBSS from its storage position and hand it over to Discovery’s own RMS. With Discovery docked to ISS there was insufficient clearance for Discovery’s RMS to retrieve the OBSS. During the EVA, the 33-metre long combination would undergo tests as a work platform giving access to areas of the Shuttle that were previously inaccessible.

The following day, Nowak, Wilson, Fossum, and Sellers used the SSRMS to lift Leonardo out of Discovery’s payload bay and dock it to Unity. Docking occurred at 08:15, July 7, following an initial concern that straps on Unity’s CBM might prevent a perfect air-tight seal. Following pressure and leak tests Lindsey, Wilson, and Reiter opened the hatches between the two modules and began several days of equipment transfer. Vinogradov was in no doubt of the importance of the arrival of Leonardo at the station:

“That period of joint flight with the Shuttle is quite busy in terms of the crew of the station and the Shuttle crew working together. It’s quite intense work. First you have to move a very considerable amount of cargo, you have to get it out of the MPLM and stow it on the station. It’s quite important—extremely important, I would say—because that provides the supplies for our continued flight.’’

Williams has said:

“It’s also important to get a lot of the equipment that is no longer required on station off and packed into that empty MPLM so it can come home. The station’s getting pretty crowded here in recent months and years… It’s going to be important for both crews to be very disciplined in the transfer of equipment, both to the station and returning to the Shuttle. To do that, we have a flight plan onboard. Part of that flight plan is a transfer plan. It’s a detailed choreography of all of the transfers, everything that goes across the hatches between the Shuttle and the Station, developed by the folks on the ground and trained by both crews.’’

Nowak, Kelly, and Wilson also used the RMS/OBSS combination to carry out further inspections of Discovery’s exterior, finding six areas requiring further inves­tigation, although none of them were areas of major concern. Areas of particular attention were parts of the nosecap that had been missed on July 5, and a piece of fabric near the orbiter’s nose. Fossum and Sellers spent the day preparing for their first EVA. During the day, mission managers made the decision to extend Discovery’s flight by one day, including a third EVA. Engineers in Houston also reviewed the initial photographs and laser scans of Discovery’s exterior.

EVA-1 began at 09:17, July 8, when Sellers and Fossum left Quest. Their first task was to repair the MT mounted on the S-0 ITS. The emergency cable cutter had malfunctioned and cut one of two cables that moved the MT along the truss. During a Stage EVA the Expedition-12 crew had removed the second cable from the cutter after failing to install a bolt to prevent the blade from falling and cutting it. After collecting their tools together, Sellers and Fossum made their way to the S-0 ITS, where they installed a device to block the cable cutter blade on the MT, thereby denying the ability to sever the cable in an emergency. After installing the block, they reinstalled the cable in the cutter, thereby repairing the MT and making it available to move the SSRMS along the truss during EVA-2. The second portion of EVA-1 included simulating the use of the RMS/OBSS as a workstation. Nowak and Wilson operated the RMS from Discovery’s aft flight deck, while Kelly served as intra­vehicular officer, the EVA astronauts’ guide, offering whatever assistance he could from inside Discovery. With Sellers standing on the foot restraint mounted on the end of the OBSS the combination was put through a series of pre-planned manoeuvres while sensors recorded the forces involved. Sellers remarked, “Just a general comment. It gets easier as you go along doing all the tasks on the end of a skinny little pole. A little practice makes perfect.’’ In Houston the Flight Director com­mented at his end-of-shift press conference, “The arm damped a lot quicker than we thought, based on our analysis… That gives us very good confidence we could use this as a platform for repairs.’’ In space, Fossum joined Sellers at the end of the OBSS, which was then manoeuvred to three different simulated work positions. The last of these lifted Fossum to a position where he could push up with his hands against the P-1 ITS. The EVA ended at 16:48, after 7 hours 31 minutes.

While the EVA was taking place, Vinogradov and Reiter began unloading Leonardo and transferring stores to the station, including a new sample freezer and a new oxygen generator. When installed in Destiny, at a later date, the generator would upgrade the station’s oxygen capacity to the point that it could support up to six people on long-duration Expedition crews.

As the day’s activities came to an end mission managers cleared Discovery’s heatshield for re-entry. The following day, July 9, was spent unloading stores from Leonardo and preparing items on Discovery for return to Earth. Sellers and Fossum spent the day cleaning their EMUs and preparing their tools and Quest for their second EVA, on July 10.

With the crew awake at 02: 08, preparations for the second EVA began immedi­ately after breakfast. Sellers and Fossum left Quest at 08: 14, and climbed down into Discovery’s payload bay. There, they lifted the pump module from its stowage location so that Nowak and Wilson could grapple it with the SSRMS and lift it into position. Meanwhile, Sellers and Fossum remained in the payload bay preparing for the primary task of the EVA, replacing the Mobile Transporter’s Trailing Umbilical System (TUS), the power and data cable that had been cut during the Expedition-12 occupation. Both men made their way to the S-0 ITS, where Fossum disconnected electrical cables, and Sellers then replaced the Interface Umbilical Assembly (IUA) with a new one, without a cutting blade. By that time the SSRMS had manoeuvred the pump module to External Stowage Platform 2. Sellers and Fossum made their

way to that location and secured the module to the platform, thus allowing the SSRMS to release it. The pump module was a spare, now available if it should be needed in the future.

Sellers and Fossum returned to their work on the TUS. Now working from the end of the SSRMS, Fossum removed the TUS reel assembly and carried it down to the payload bay. While he was doing that, Sellers worked in the payload bay to unpack and prepare the new reel assembly. While Fossum returned to the work site Sellers stowed the old reel assembly in Discovery’s payload bay. Back on the S-0 Truss, Fossum was joined by Sellers and they worked together to install the new reel assembly and routed it through the IUA. The work ensured that the MT would have the required redundancy to enable it to support future assembly flights. Having stowed their equipment, both men returned to Quest and the EVA ended at 15: 01, after 6 hours 47 minutes. During the EVA Fossum had to twice stop working and secure a loose connection on Seller’s SAFER. While the work was taking place outside, Vinogradov, Williams, and Reiter continued to unload Leonardo, and Lindsey transferred two bags of water from Discovery to ISS.

The following day, July 11, was spent transferring equipment and rubbish from ISS to Leonardo, for return to Earth. Wilson served as loadmaster, ensuring every­thing was secured in the correct place, thereby retaining Discovery’s correct centre of balance for re-entry and landing. Sellers and Fossum cleaned their EMUs and prepared them for their third EVA.

That EVA began at 07: 20, July 12. Sellers and Fossum left Quest, made their way into the payload bay, collected their tools, and installed a foot restraint on the SSRMS. After Sellers had mounted the SSRMS, Nowak and Wilson manoeuvred him to a point close to Discovery’s starboard wing’s leading edge, where he recorded several seconds of infrared imagery. The imagery, which recorded temperature differences, would help to identify any internal damage to the area. The manoeuvre simulated lifting an astronaut to a position where he could try to repair damage to the wing’s leading edge, as suffered by STS-107. Returning to the payload bay, Sellers joined Fossum at a workstation where both men trialled a variety of methods for repairing damage to 12 samples of Reinforced Carbon-Carbon, similar to the panels on the wing’s leading edge. Using a space-cleared caulking gun and a series of spatulas, they pumped a carbon-silicon polymer called NOAX into the simulated damaged tiles in an attempt to repair them. Over almost two hours they repaired three gauged tiles and two cracked tiles. They also imaged four of the repair samples with the same infrared equipment that Sellers had used of the starboard wing. An additional get-ahead task was added to the EVA: Sellers used a pistol grip tool to remove the fixed grapple bar used to move the pump module during the second EVA, moved over to the S-1 Truss, and installed it on an ammonia tank that was due to be moved during the Expedition-15 occupation. The EVA ended at 14: 31, after 7 hours 11 minutes. As usual, the remainder of the crew spent the day loading Leonardo.

Following their hectic first eight days, Discovery’s crew were given July 13 off, with the exception of a few interviews. July 14 was also spent in interviews and completing the final loading of Leonardo. The MPLM was de-activated and was undocked from Destiny at 09: 32, and lowered into Discovery’s payload bay, where it

Recovery and restructuring

Figure 71. STS-121: A view from the station’s wake, as STS-121 completes its fly-around, shows the station as it was before construction was resumed.

was secured at 11:00. Lindsey and Reiter then used the RMS, with the OBSS attached, to view Discovery’s heatshield and search for any damage that had occurred during orbital operations. None was found.

July 15 was the final day of joint operations as Discovery’s crew prepared for their departure. Undocking took place at 06: 08 and was followed by the crew imaging the leading edge of the starboard wing and the nosecone. Discovery per­formed station-keeping while mission managers reviewed the new images and cleared the heatshield for re-entry. The Shuttle fell behind and above ISS with the minimum of manoeuvring. Discovery’s crew spent the following day preparing for re-entry, while, on ISS, Williams depressurised PMA-2 and Vinogradov and Reiter continued the station’s maintenance and experiment programmes.

Discovery’s payload bay doors were closed at 05: 27, July 16, and retrofire occurred at 08: 07. Thereafter, Lindsey turned his vehicle so the nose was forward and high, until gravity pulled it out of orbit. The orbiter glided to a perfect landing at KSC, at 09: 15, after a flight lasting 12 days 18 hours 38 minutes. It had six astronauts onboard, one less than at launch; the seventh, Reiter, was still in orbit, as part of the now three-person Expedition-13 crew.

At the landing site Michael Griffin told the press, “Obviously this is as good a mission as we’ve ever flown… But we’re not going to get overconfident.” The Shuttle was finally back in business and the construction of ISS was set to continue. Mean­while, NASA was already busy defining the vehicle that would replace the Shuttle when it retired in 2010. When the crew returned to Houston, Lindsey told the waiting crowd, “In terms of human spaceflight… we’re back.’’ The crowd applauded loudly. Lindsey was more sombre, “I think it’s more like the beginning of the next phase… I don’t think we ever want to put Columbia behind us.’’

As Discovery landed, the published flight programme for the completion of ISS looked like this:

Launch date



Flight details

August 28, 2006




• Second port truss segment (ITS P-3/P-4)

• Second set of solar arrays and batteries

December 14, 2006




• Third port truss segment (ITS P-5)

• SpaceHab Single Cargo Module

• Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC)

February 22, 2007




• Second starboard truss segment (ITS S-3/ S-4) with Photovoltaic Radiator (PVR)

• Third set of solar arrays and batteries

June 11, 2007




• SpaceHab Single Cargo Module

• Third starboard truss segment (ITS S-5)

• External Stowage Platform 3 (ESP3)

Under review


Ariane 5

• European Automated Transfer Vehicle

August 9, 2007




• Node 2

• Sidewall, Power and Data Grapple Fixture (PDGF)

September 27, 2007




• Columbus European Laboratory Module

• Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure, Non-Deployable (MPESS-ND)

November 29, 2007




• Kibo Japanese Experiment Logistics Module, Pressurized Section (ELM-PS)

• Spacelab Pallet, Deployable 1 (SLP-D1) with Canadian Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, Dextere

February 7, 2008




• Kibo Japanese Experiment Module Pressurised Module (JEM-PM)

• Japanese Remote Manipulator System (JEM-RMS)

June 19, 2008




• Fourth starboard truss segment (ITS S6)

• Fourth set of solar arrays and batteries

August 21, 2008


Atlantis (last flight) STS-126

• Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM)

Under review




• Multipurpose Laboratory Module with European Robotic Arm (ERA)

Launch date



Flight details

October 30, 2008




• Kibo Japanese Experiment Module, Exposed Facility (JEM-EF)

• Kibo Japanese Experiment Logistics Module, Exposed Section (ELM-ES)

• Spacelab Pallet, Deployable 2 (SLP-D2)

January 22, 2009




• Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM)

• Lightweight Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure Carrier (LMC)

• Three crew quarters, galley, second treadmill (TVIS2), Crew Health Care System 2 (CHeCS2)

Establish six-person crew capability

Under review



• Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle

April 30, 2009







• EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 1 (ELC1)

• EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 2 (ELC2)

July 16, 2009




• Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM)

• Lightweight Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure Carrier (LMC)

October 22, 2009


Discovery STS-131 (if needed)

• EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 3 (ELC3)

• EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 4 (ELC4)

January 21, 2010




• Node 3 with Cupola

July 15, 2010




(if needed)




• EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 5 (ELC5)

• EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 1 (ELC1)

ISS assembly complete

Under review




Research Module

* Two Shuttle-equivalent flights for contingency.

Notes’. Soyuz flights for crew transport schedule at approximately 6-month intervals beginning in September 2006. Additional Progress flights for logistics and re-supply are not listed.

At the Farnborough International Air Show, in England, held during July 2006, ESA Director Jean-Jacques Dordain stated at a press conference, “I have a wish that Europe participate in one of the two next-generation transportation systems [the American Orion, or Russia’s Kliper]. If we don’t, I fear we will always be a second – class partner.” America had already made it clear that NASA intended to develop Orion as an all-American spacecraft, so ESA had agreed to undertake a 2-year feasibility study on crewed spacecraft architecture, for a spacecraft to be launched by a Soyuz launch vehicle from Baikonur, or from the new pad for such vehicles at ESA’s launch site in Kourou. Meanwhile, Energia had to admit that Kliper would cost more than the entire Russian space programme budget for the period 2006-2015. Therefore, the new spacecraft would not be built. Rather, the Russians would update Soyuz yet again, making it capable of Earth orbital and lunar orbital flight. At the same meeting NASA Administrator Michael Griffin explained to the audience, “Our plan is to have one more daylight [Shuttle] launch before resuming night operations … We do need to resume night operations to complete the Space Station, we’ve always known that.’’

In America, NASA had named the two new Shuttle-derived launch vehicles that would be used to support Project Constellation. The Crew Launch Vehicle would be called Ares-1 and the Heavy Lift Launcher would be Ares-5. The numerical designa­tions were salutes to the Apollo Saturn-class launch vehicles. Meanwhile, the CEV had been named “Orion”. Lockheed-Martin was named as prime contractor for the development of the Orion spacecraft in August 2006. It would be a ballistic capsule, superficially similar to the Apollo Command Service Module, and would carry a crew of up to six people. It would be launched by an Ares-1 launch vehicle consisting of a first stage derived from a Shuttle SRB and a new liquid propellant second stage. The new vehicle would use the old Apollo/Shuttle facilities at LC-39, KSC.

NASA had also launched a quest for commercial cargo access to ISS, the Commercial Orbital Transportation Service (COTS). Two industry partnerships, led by SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler, would use NASA funding, along with private funding to develop an automated vehicle to deliver cargo to ISS and to carry away rubbish. The new vehicle would be heated to destruction during re-entry. The selected developer would be open to sell space on their vehicles commercially, and NASA would be nothing more than a commercial customer. Flight demonstrations would begin in 2008. Phase-1 development would concentrate on an uncrewed cargo vehicle, with the option to progress to Phase-2, a vehicle for delivering humans to ISS.

Project Constellation

As the Shuttle returned to flight following the loss of STS-107, initial definition was well under way on the new Project Constellation space vehicles, intended to fulfil President Bush Junior’s vision of returning humans to the lunar surface and then moving on to a human landing on Mars. The Constellation hardware consisted of two launch vehicles and two spacecraft. The Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), later named the “Orion” spacecraft, would be launched by the Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV), renamed the “Ares-I”. The Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM), “Altair”, and its heavy-lift launch vehicle, called “Ares-V” are currently of no relevance to the future ISS flight programme and are therefore not reviewed in this volume.


Following Discovery’s departure, the extended Expedition-13 crew settled down to work. Williams and Reiter installed the ESA experiment rack, which had been delivered by Discovery, in Destiny. They activated the Minus Eighty-degree Labora­tory Freezer for ISS (MELFI), which Discovery had delivered and had been set up in Destiny. The freezer was supplied by ESA and contained four compartments offering a total of 300 litres of storage capacity. It would be used to store biological samples


Figure 72. Expedition-13/14: European astronaut Thomas Reiter served with the Expedition – 13 and 14 crews. He is shown working with the SWAB experiment.

prior to their return to Earth. On July 19, Vinogradov took three attempts to restart the Elektron unit and succeeded only after the bubbles had been driven out of the system. The crew also completed a check of the oxygen generation system that Discovery had carried to the station. When activated the new system would supple­ment the Elektron oxygen generator, in anticipation of future Expedition crews consisting of up to six people. Oxygen from the tanks in Progress M-56 was pumped into the station’s atmosphere on a daily basis throughout the latter half of July. The crew also began preparations for Williams and Reiter’s Stage EVA, by flushing the cooling loops in Quest and the American EMUs. On July 26, Russian controllers fired thrusters on Progress M-56 to raise the station’s orbital parameters and place it in the optimum position for the STS-115 launch, in August 2006. The Expedition-14 crew were due for launch in September 2006, on Soyuz TMA-9. The following day, Vinogradov removed the KURS system from Progress M-56 and stored it in Zarya. The last day of July was spent in maintenance of the American Common Cabin Air Assembly in Destiny. The new month began with Vinogradov transferring water from tanks in Progress M-56 to tanks in Progress M-57 and performed other maintenance tasks on the Life Support System in the Russian sector.

Williams and Reiter left Quest wearing American EMUs at 10: 04, August 3, 2006, for a Stage EVA that was planned to last 6 hours 20 minutes. Their first task was to install a Floating Potential Probe (FPP) on the S-1 ITS and extend its three sensor arms, to measure the electrical potential of the station as it orbited Earth. They quickly began to get ahead of their planned timeline for the EVA. Their second task was to install two suitcase-size Materials on International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) containers. The MISSE-3 container was installed on one of Quest’s high – pressure gas tanks while MISSE-4 was mounted on Quest’s outboard end. Following their individual installations the containers were opened to expose the material samples held inside to the space environment. Following these joint tasks, the two men set about individual tasks. Williams installed a controller for a Thermal Radiator Rotary Joint on the S-l ITS, before installing a starboard jumper and spool positioning device (SPD), also on the S-l ITS. Meanwhile, Reiter installed a Multiplexer/De-multiplexer, a computer, on the S-l ITS, replacing one that had failed in 2004, before examining a radiator beam valve module at a site where an SPD was already installed.

He then installed an additional SPD at that site. Finally, he installed an SPD on the port cooling line jumper. The jumpers were designed to assist the flow of ammonia in the radiators once the coolant was installed.

Williams then began the installation of a light to assist future EVA astronauts using the MBS to move along the assembled ITS. Following that work, he removed a malfunctioning GPS antenna. Elsewhere, Reiter tested an infrared camera designed to image the RCC thermal protection on the nose and leading edge of the wings of the Shuttle Orbiters. The camera was designed to show damage by highlighting the difference in temperature within the RCC sections. When he had completed these tasks he installed a vacuum system valve on the exterior of Destiny for use with future scientific experiments. That was the last of the planned EVA tasks, but, as the astronauts were so advanced on their timeline, Houston found a number of “get – ahead’’ tasks for them to perform. Williams relocated two articulated foot restraints in preparation for the EVAs planned for the visit of STS-115. He then photographed a scratch on the exterior of Quest. Reiter made his way to the exterior of PMA-1 to inspect and retrieve a ball-stack, used to hold equipment during EVAs. With no further tasks the two men returned to Quest and took photographs of each other. In Houston, astronaut Steve Bowen joked, “We will never let this happen again.. .Wait ’til you see next week’s schedule.’’ The pair re-entered Quest and closed the hatch at 16: 58, bringing their EVA to a close after just 5 hours 54 minutes. For the first time since 2003 a third Expedition crew member, Vinogradov, had been available to remain inside ISS and monitor systems, thereby doing away with the necessity to place the station’s systems into un-crewed mode during the EVA.

The day after the EVA, August 4, Reiter broke the ESA endurance record. When his time on Mir and ISS were combined he had broken the previous ESA combined record of 209 days 12 hours 25 minutes, set by French astronaut Jean-Pierre Haignere. Reiter’s position as the first International Partner on an ISS Expedition crew and the first International Partner to make an EVA from the station was seen by many in Europe as a forerunner of European activities following the launch of the Columbus laboratory module, then planned for September 2007. Reiter’s flight activities were being run from the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich, Germany. By the time he returned to Earth, at the end of his 5 months on ISS, Reiter would have spent more than a year in space. By that time he would have completed 23 experiments in 6 disciplines in the ESA “Astrolab” programme.

In the same week, the crew prepared for the arrival of STS-115. The Shuttle would deliver the P-3/P-4 ITS, and would see the resumption of construction on ISS. The Expedition-13 crew began packing up items that Atlantis would carry back to Earth. They also performed 2 days of routine maintenance. On August 10, controllers in Houston moved the SSRMS to allow its cameras to view markings on the exterior of ISS as part of the Space Vision System (SVS), which would be used to assist in the correct alignment of the new components that Atlantis would deliver to the station. The following day, Williams walked the SSRMS from the exterior of Destiny on to the recently repaired MT, and then used its cameras to view the exposed end of the P-1 ITS, where the new P-3/P-4 ITS would be mounted.

In the second half of August the Expedition-13 crew continued to pack items for return to Earth on Atlantis. The Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly was tested in advance of the Shuttle’s arrival and the station’s orbit was raised by a burn of the Progress M-56’s thrusters, on August 23. The crew also continued their experiment programme, routine maintenance, and exercise regimes.

STS-115 was due for launch on August 27, but was delayed, ultimately until September 9. The crew on ISS used the extra time to complete their preparations for the Shuttle’s flight. They worked on cosmic ray studies that involved Williams spending a complete orbit in the prone position wearing a helmet with sensors to monitor his brain activity and visual perceptions. Vinogradov spent much of the time maintaining the Elektron unit.




Brent Jett


Christopher Ferguson


Joseph Tanner, Daniel Burbank,

Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Steven MacLean


As July turned August 2006, the American press began to fill with stories of STS-115, Atlantis, and how its six-person crew would restart the construction of ISS. The Shuttle would deliver the combined port-3 and port-4 (P-3/P-4) ITS. The inward end of the P-3 ITS would be permanently attached to the exposed end of the P-1 ITS. The P-3 ITS contained a Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (SARJ), which would allow the three outer segments of the port ITS (P-4 and the P-5/P-6) to rotate, in order to keep their SAWs directed towards the Sun. The construction would require three EVAs from Quest.

STS-115 stood at Launch Complex 39 in late August. The weather on August 25 was abysmal, rain; low, dark clouds; and thunder. At one point lightning struck the conductor on the top of the launch structure tower, causing a spike in several electrical systems. When the weather had passed the launch was delayed for 24 hours, from August 27 to August 28, in order to carry out thorough systems checks in the wake of the lightning strike. Even as the checks were completed Hurricane Ernesto was in the Caribbean, approaching Cuba. If it continued on its present course and regained strength over the open sea it might strike KSC with storm winds in excess of speeds in which it was safe for the Shuttle to remain on the launchpad. Two parallel plans were put in place. First, work continued to prepare Atlantis for launch, if the winds abated. Second, work began in preparation to roll Atlantis back to a safe haven constructed in the VAB.

Further difficulties were placed on the launch by the lighting requirements of the cameras that would film the ET during launch and the requirement to jettison the ET on the daylight side of Earth. These requirements had been placed on the first two launches after the loss of STS-107 by the CAIB. Although the current launch window ran until September 13, NASA wanted to launch before September 7, rather than delay the launch of Soyuz TMA-9 carrying the Expedition-14 crew, planned for September 14. The Expedition-13 crew were due to return to Earth in Soyuz TMA-8 on September 24, and any delay in the launch of Soyuz TMA-9 would result in a night-time recovery for Soyuz TMA-8.

Programme manager Mike Suffrendi told the media, “This flight has to occur for the next flight to occur and then the next flight and the next flight… Even though we say we take them one at a time, this one is a key. This is clearly in the critical path for assembly.”

On August 30, NASA began the 12-hour-long roll-back of Atlantis to the VAB. Four hours later, Hurricane Ernesto had altered course, having lost much of its energy over Cuba. The decision was made to stop the roll-back and return Atlantis to the launchpad. Lift-off was rescheduled for September 8.

With the countdown proceeding, an electrical short circuit caused the failure of a coolant pump in one of four power generators in one of Atlantis’ three fuel cells. The problem was that the fuel cell might fail in flight, causing Atlantis to return to Earth early, without installing the P-3/P-4 ITS. Despite everything, NASA managers decided that the risk of failure was minimal and the launch preparations continued. The crew were suited up, transported out to the launchpad, and installed in the spacecraft. As the countdown continued, a new problem arose with one of four fuel cut-off sensors within the ET. The sensor was responsible for sensing the amount of propellant in the ET’s liquid hydrogen tank and ensuring the three Space Shuttle Main Engines shut down if the main computer failed. There were similar sensors in the liquid oxygen tank. Mission Rules dictated that all the sensors be working before the launch could go ahead. On this occasion flight managers decided that the launch could not continue. The launch attempt was scrubbed and the crew removed from the spacecraft.

The following day, September 9,2006, the whole procedure began again. Follow­ing a near perfect countdown, at 11: 15 Atlantis climbed into the blue Florida sky on her first flight since 2002. Although the launch events appeared to go well, review of the numerous video tapes showed that four or five small pieces of foam shed from the

ET. These events all occurred after Atlantis had left the thick lower atmosphere and, therefore, mission managers were sure that the foam did not have enough energy to cause major damage to the orbiter. All launch events passed off as planned and video cameras on the ET captured both the SRB and ET separation. Tanner and MacLean shot hand-held video and still images of the ET as it drifted away. Programme Manager Wayne Hale remarked, “The bottom line is we are looking at nits, nothing of remote consequence. Of course, we will inspect the entire heatshield with a fine – tooth comb.” As Atlantis lifted off, ISS was over the Atlantic Ocean, between Iceland and Greenland. The Expedition-13 crew watched the launch on a NASA television link. Once in orbit the crew prepared Atlantis for sustained spaceflight. On the ground, astronaut Mike Fincke told the media, “The logjam behind is huge… We have a very solid end date for the Space Shuttle, so each mission has to happen one after another in the sequence.”

On September 10, Jett and Ferguson began the manoeuvres that would result in rendezvous with ISS. Meanwhile, Ferguson, Burbank, and MacLean used the RMS to lift the OBSS and view Atlantis’ right and left-wing leading edges and the carbon – carbon nosecone, before returning the OBSS to its stowed position. Initial reviews of the images obtained showed no damage to Atlantis from the foam shed from the ET during launch. In one place on Atlantis’ underside a shim and a tile spacer were seen protruding out from between the TPS tiles. Tanner and Stefanyshyn-Piper prepared the EMUs and EVA tools they would transfer to ISS for the three planned EVAs. On the station, Vinogradov and Williams pressurised PMA-2 in preparation for the Shuttle’s arrival.

Rendezvous with ISS took place on September 11, Flight Day 3. Houston joked, “Atlantis is headed your way with a brand new piece of the Space Station in its trunk.’’ As the Shuttle approached the station, Jett and Ferguson performed the r-bar pitch manoeuvre, to allow the station crew to take high-resolution photographs of the Shuttle’s underside. In Houston, Pam Melroy was Capcom and remarked, “Station, we see you have visitors. Tell them to give us a wave.’’

Atlantis docked to PMA-2 at 06: 48. Even as the pressure and leak checks between the two vehicles were taking place, Ferguson and Burbank activated the RMS and used it to lift the 17.5-tonne P-3/P-4 ITS out of Atlantis’ payload bay and manoeuvred it to the position where it could be handed over to the SSRMS, leaving it in that location. The hatches between the two vehicles were opened at 08 : 30, and the Shuttle crew transferred to ISS. The visitors were greeted enthusiastically by the three-man Expedition-13 crew before receiving the standard safety briefing. MacLean then joined Williams at the SSRMS station in Destiny and used it to complete the hand-over of the P-3/P-4 ITS from the Shuttle’s RMS, at 10: 52. The new ITS element was left hanging on the SSRMS overnight to become thermally stabilized in the space environment. The day continued with the EMU’s and EVA tools being transferred to Quest. It ended with Tanner and Stefanyshyn – Piper locking themselves in Quest for the program’s first use of the new “camp-out” procedures. The two EVA astronauts slept in Quest, with the pressure reduced, in order to reduce the pre-breathing time required to remove the nitrogen from their bloodstream before an EVA.


Figure 73. STS-115 crew (L to R): Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper, Brent W. Jett, Jr., Joseph R. Tanner, Daniel C. Burbank, Christopher J. Ferguson, Steven G. MacLean.


Figure 74. STS-115 approaches the ISS carrying the P-3/P-4 Integrated Truss Structure.

Construction of ISS resumed on September 12, 2006. At 05:17, Tanner and Stefanyshyn-Piper transferred their EMUs to internal battery power, thereby offi­cially starting their first EVA. After collecting their tools the two astronauts made their way to the P-3/P-4, which had previously been moved to its deployed position at the exposed end of the P-1 ITS and held in place by the SSRMS, while motorised bolts were driven home. The pair quickly got ahead of their timeline as they worked their way through a series of tasks including connecting power cables on the ITS, releasing launch restraints on the Solar Array Blanket Box and the Beta Gimbal Assembly. They also configured the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (SARJ), which would allow the deployed photovoltaic arrays to track the Sun. Having completed their schedule they began a series of “get-ahead” tasks in preparation for the flight’s second EVA. They removed the covers that would allow them to access and remove the launch lock bars from the SARJ. As Tanner removed one of the covers a bolt and washer detached from the SARJ and drifted away. The pair returned to the Quest airlock at 11: 43, ending the EVA after 6 hours 26 minutes. During the morning, MCC-Houston had informed Jett that additional inspections of Atlantis’ heatshield were not required. Meanwhile, the two crews spent the remainder of the day transfer­ring equipment and supplies between the two spacecraft. The day ended with Burbank and MacLean “camping out’’ in Quest.

Burbank and MacLean commenced their EVA at 05: 05 September 13. The entire EVA was devoted to activating the SARJ, with Stefanyshyn-Piper operating the SSRMS in order to use its cameras to video the activities. Both EVA astronauts released the launch locks, but had to overcome several small difficulties, including a stuck bolt and a faulty EMU helmet camera. Next, they prepared the new P-3/P-4 ITS for the MBS, which would be used to transport the SSRMS along the completed ITS. With the major tasks completed, they turned their attention to additional “get – ahead” tasks, including the removal of a keel pin and drag link. They also removed a Space Vision System target, used to align the RMS and SSRMS in order to remove the P-3/P-4 ITS from Atlantis’ payload bay. Finally, they installed a temporary rail stop for the CETA.

With Burbank and MacLean back inside at 12: 16, after an EVA lasting 7 hours 11 minutes, MCC-Houston began a 4-hour activation and checkout of the SARJ, designed to ensure all systems were working. They engaged Drive Lock Assembly 1 (DLA-1) and rotated the car-sized joint through 180°. When they engaged DLA-2 later in the day they received no talk-back indication to indicate that it had engaged properly. A back-up procedure also failed to result in the required indication of successful engagement. Deploying the P-4 SAWs was delayed while the problem was investigated overnight, and was overcome by a software work-around sent up from the ground in the early hours of the next morning.

At 04: 00, September 14, MCC-Houston commanded the SAWs on the P-4 ITS to deploy, a procedure that was not completed until 08: 44. For the STS-115 crew the day was a rest-day, while the Expedition-13 crew continued transferring equipment and stores between the two spacecraft. The 66 kilowatts of electrical power produced by the new SAWs was directed to the P-3/P-4 ITS’ own systems. It would not be distributed to the remainder of ISS until the system was rewired and the cooling system activated during the flight of STS-116, then planned for December 2006. During the day the SSRMS underwent a “walk-off”, from the MBS to the exterior of Destiny.

During preparations for the third EVA a remote power controller tripped out resulting in the loss of power to Quest’s depressurisation pump. Tanner and Stephanyshyn-Piper left the airlock and moved to the adjacent Unity module, while still pre-breathing oxygen through face masks. The problem was found to be a momentary power spike and, following checks to ensure there was no short circuit, the breaker was reset, the pump reactivated, and the two astronauts returned to the airlock to continue preparations for their EVA, which was delayed by 45 minutes.

Tanner and Stefanyshyn-Piper began their EVA at 06: 00, September 15. Once outside they separated in order to complete individual tasks. Tanner installed bolt retainers on the P-6 Beta Gimbal Assembly, which assisted in the pitch orientation of the SAWs. He also attempted to re-engage a four-bar hinge, which had failed to engage during the flight of STS-97. Meanwhile, Stefanyshyn-Piper recovered the MISSE-5 materials science experiment. Working together, the two astronauts next prepared the Space Radiator on the P-3/P-4 ITS for deployment by removing hardware installed to protect the radiator during launch. With that task completed, they deployed an S-band antenna support assembly on the S-1 ITS. They also deployed a shroud on the failed S-band antenna support assembly, which would be returned to Earth on a later Shuttle flight. Separating again, Stefanyshyn-Piper replaced a base-band signal processor and transponder on S-1, while Tanner installed a heatshield on an antenna group interface tube to help prevent overheating in the area when ISS was placed in particular attitudes in relation to the Sun. Their final tasks included installing an external wireless TV antenna and performing infrared video of Atlantis’ wing leading edges. The EVA ended at 12: 42, after 6 hours 42 minutes. After their EVA, the two astronauts joked together, “Kind of nice up there on top,’’ Tanner remarked. “Yes, but I didn’t get to look around much. At least, I can say I’ve been there,’’ replied Stefanyshyn-Piper. Tanner added, “Not too many people have.’’

September 16 was a light day for the STS-115 crew; they had the morning off after their hectic work schedule so far. After lunch they joined the Expedition-13 crew for a joint crew photograph, a press conference, and personal interviews. Jett told the media, “We are off to a good start… We have a lot of complex missions ahead. We had a few small problems, but the team did a wonderful job of resolving them. I think it bodes well for the future.’’ The two crews also performed the final transfer of equipment between the two spacecraft, as well as moving some of the items of debris, produced during the last EVA, to Progress M-57.

The two crews said their farewells on September 17. The hatches between the two vehicles were closed at 06 : 27 and, following pressure checks, Atlantis undocked at 08: 50. Twenty minutes later Ferguson began the first full fly-around of ISS since 2002. During the fly-around the crew were able to view and photograph the results of their hard work over the past few days. Atlantis manoeuvred away from ISS at 10: 30. In Russia, final preparations were underway for the launch of Soyuz TMA-9, with the Expedition-14 crew.


Figure 75. STS-115: Atlantis departs the station with an empty payload bay.


Figure 76. STS-115: construction has resumed. The station displays the new P-3/P-4 Solar Array Wings and ammonia radiator at right. Meanwhile, the Solar Array Wings and ammonia radiator are still deployed on the P-6 Integrated Truss Structure, mounted on the Z-1 Truss.

During the morning of September 18 the Expedition-13 crew, Vinogradov, Williams, and Reiter, were faced with a malfunctioning Elektron oxygen generator in Zvezda, which had been powered off for the visit of STS-115. At a request from Korolev, Vinogradov attempted to restart the Elektron, but it soon shut down again on its own. Following several other attempts the unit was finally restarted. Vinogradov was working on it when it overheated, causing smoking from a melted rubber seal, a strong odour, and the possible release of a small amount of the chemical irritant, potassium hydroxide. The crew were instructed to manually acti­vate a fire alarm to allow the station’s software to shut down the air circulation fans. They were also told to don surgical masks, goggles, and gloves. Vinogradov cleared up and bagged a clear liquid that had leaked from the unit. The Elektron was ultimately restarted and the air circulation fans powered on within the hour. On the same day the crew of STS-115 made a final inspection of Atlantis’ heatshield, nosecap, and wing leading edges. In the words of Shuttle Programme Manager Wayne Hale, “You can call it anxiety, or you can call it smart. But it’s what we do these days. We have no reason not to go look and put every concern to rest.’’

At 03: 00, September 19, Houston linked the crews of ISS, STS-115, and Soyuz TMA-9, which had been launched the previous day, to allow them to talk to each other. Williams told the Soyuz crew, “It’s a little crowded in the sky today… We look forward to having you guys onboard.’’ Jett told the Expedition-13 crew, “We’ll see you back on Earth sometime soon.’’ Following the conference Atlantis’ crew tested the orbiter’s flight control surfaces and RCS thrusters. They spent the day packing up for re-entry, but during the day the flight was extended by one day, to allow for further inspections of the Shuttle’s exterior after video cameras showed debris drifting away from the vehicle. The decision to extend was also based on deteriorating weather forecasts for the landing site. TMA-9 continued its approach to rendezvous, while the Expedition-13 crew watched the undocking of Progress M – 57 at 20: 30. The spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere and burned up just after midnight.

Having left the RMS/OBSS positioned above the payload bay overnight, so that controllers could use its video cameras to inspect the area, it was used to inspect Atlantis’ underside on September 20. A shim and a tile spacer seen in an earlier inspection were found to be gone. When no issues with the Shuttle’s heat shielding were revealed, flight managers cleared Atlantis for landing in the early hours of the following morning. Meanwhile, Soyuz TMA-9 had docked to Zvezda. The crew entered the station later that morning. Atlantis’ crew went to bed at 21:45, waking again at 21:45 to face the final hours of their flight. Atlantis landed at KSC, Florida at 06: 21,21 September, after a flight lasting 11 days 19 hours 6 minutes.

On September 22, Michael Griffin told a press conference, “It’s obvious to me we are re-building the kind of momentum that we have had in the past and that we need if we are to finish the Space Station… We have an awesome task in front of us. I think we will make it.’’




Michael Lopez-Alegria


Mikhail Tyurin


Anousheh Ansari (spaceflight participant)

When the Soyuz TMA-9 crew were originally named, the spaceflight participant involved was Japanese entrepreneur Daisuke Enomoto, but he was grounded for undisclosed medical reasons that caused him to fail his final medical examination. Enomoto was replaced by his back-up Anousheh Ansari, the Iranian-born daughter of an adventure capitalist, supporter of the X-Prize (won by Rutan’s SpaceShipOne) and business partner to the Federal Space Agency of Russia in attempts to develop commercial access to space. Following her late allocation to the flight Ansari would perform many of Enomoto’s experiments, rather than those with which she had already begun practising, for her own flight.

Ansari flew without an Iranian flag on the sleeve of her Sokol pressure suit, and had promised her American and Russian programme managers that she would make no political speeches while in orbit. Before her launch she had remarked:

“I believe when you see the Earth without boundaries, without borders, without race, that you can see how important it is for us, everyone, to be more under­standing of our neighbours, our friends, other people’s beliefs, religions, race and not make issues to start wars… One thing that I’m hoping is that I’d like for people all over the world to see a different face of an Iranian-born individual, something different than what they see on TV and in the media… Also, I think my flight has become sort of a ray of hope for young Iranians living in Iran, helping them to look forward to something positive, because everything that they’ve been hearing is all so very depressing and talks of war and talks of bloodshed.’’

Soyuz TMA-9 was launched from Baikonur at 00:09, September 18, 2006. Following a standard rendezvous it docked to Zvezda’s wake at 01: 21, September 20. The hatches were opened at 03:34, allowing Lopez-Alegria, Tyurin, and Ansari to enter ISS. The Expedition-13 crew greeted their reliefs before giving them the standard safety briefing. The intense hand-overs of previous Expedition crews were lightened somewhat by the fact that Reiter had been on the station as part of the Expedition-13 crew since July 2006 and would remain as the third member of the Expedition-14 crew until December 2006.

Lopez-Alegria described his flight:

“The goals, first of all, are to continue the assembly of the Space Station, which has sort of been on hold for a while since the Columbia accident, so in general our mission is going to be to receive a couple of Shuttle flights, do some construction while they’re there. After they’ve gone, we’re going to be receiving three Progress vehicles, which means a lot of cargo, loading, unloading. In general, the focus is going to be construction and assembly… [E]very time something comes, you’ve got to unpack it, and that takes time. And time is going to be a significant challenge for us. The second thing is, when we unpack that stuff there’s got to be some place to put it, and the station is already pretty full of stowage. The challenge is going to be to find where to stow the stuff that’s brought up.’’

During the hand-over period, Ansari performed two ESA experiments, while the two Expedition crews worked together to ensure a smooth transition. Reiter trans­ferred his couch liner and Sokol pressure suit from Soyuz TMA-8 to Soyuz TMA-9, while Ansari took hers in the opposite direction. Throughout the period the Elektron oxygen generator remained powered off and the astronauts burned four SFOG candles each day to produce the required amount of oxygen. Despite now having 120 new SFOGs onboard the crew continued to burn the 40 out-of-date candles in order to use them up. By the end of the hand-over period only four old SFOGs remained. Vinogradov and Tyurin replaced the liquids unit in Elektron and powered it on. It failed shortly thereafter and was designated to be “hard-failed’’ by Korolev. New spare parts would be delivered by Progress M-58, in October 2006. Throughout the period both Expedition crews participated in ongoing experiments in both sectors of the station. Vinogradov has described the hand-over period saying:

“[T]here also is a bit of a symbolic significance, when the commanders shake hands and say, here, you accept the station and I hand the station over to you and have a successful flight and all. This is quite an important moment associated with a lot of responsibility, and it’s quite busy. Then the previous crew leaves and you stay there alone; it’s kind of sad, actually. And in a way it’s a little bit worrisome. You’re there, and you don’t have anyone to ask or clarify things. When you part, it’s quite an emotional moment. I don’t think that there is a single crew that leaves with joy saying, oh fine, it’s finally over and I’m going to be home. It’s always a sensation that you’re leaving your home because always it’s that time that evokes a certain amount of sadness. Of course you understand the landing, your family, your kin and friends and all the joys of living on Earth, but it does make you want to go back and it’s quite a sad time when you have to leave the station.’’

Williams explained:

“The plan in the future is to rotate two out of three crewmembers on Soyuz every six months, as we have been doing for the last few years. The third crewmember will rotate on Shuttle; and by default that means that there’s a phased rotation. So Thomas gets there after we’ve been there a little while, and when we get ready to depart, with the next Soyuz, and its crew arrival in the fall, when we depart Thomas will stay on board. He’ll be the experience and help with the hand-over of the beginning of… Expedition 14.’’


Figure 77. Expedition-14: American/Iranian spaceflight participant Anousheh Ansari flew to the ISS on Soyuz TMA-9 with the Expedition-14 crew. She returned to Earth with the Expedition-14 crew.

On September 24, Vinogradov and Williams completed systems checks in Soyuz TMA-8 before a full dress rehearsal of the undocking and re-entry procedures, with Ansari the following day. The official hand-over took place on September 27. After a week-long hand-over, followed by fond farewells, Vinogradov, Williams, and Ansari shut themselves in Soyuz TMA-8. Undocking occurred at 17: 53, September 28. After a routine re-entry, Soyuz TMA-8 landed at 21: 13, the same day. Vinogradov and Williams had been aloft for 182 days 22 hours 43 minutes. Ansari’s flight had lasted 10 days 21 hours 5 minutes. Following standard recovery procedures the crew was flown to Kustani for the official welcome home ceremony and then to Zvezdny Gorodok for their 45-day rehabilitation and debriefing. Vinogradov had reviewed his definition of success before launch:

“First of all I would say it’s this internal feeling that you’ve done everything that you could. The satisfaction with the flight actually comes later, after some evaluations are performed and it’s all kind of reviewed and summed up. But the most important thing I would say is the appreciation of your work, of the crew, is when the next crew comes in and can tell you, guys, thanks for doing this and that, it’s because of you that we were able to, sort of standing on your shoulders, continue this work. I would say that this is probably the most important assess­ment of your work on the station that those who are coming after you would be using your experience, would stand on the basis of the results of your work.’’

By those standards Expedition-13 had been a great success.

On September 26, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin visited Chinese space facilities. He told a press conference:

“This is an exploratory visit. This is a first date—if you will. I think we need to let it evolve. There are differences between our nations on key points. One of the major points is the control of missile technology. We have been very firm on that in the past, and I believe we will continue to be firm on the importance of appropriately controlling missile technology. China has clearly made great strides in a relatively short period of time… I have been very impressed with the capabilities, experience and intellectual quality of the people we have met. The facilities we have seen have been first rate.”

Griffin made it clear that there were no plans to invite China to join the International Space Station partnership in the near future.

Meanwhile, Russia had increased the cost of their spaceflight participant flights to ISS on a Soyuz taxi flight from $20 million to $21 million. Elsewhere, Space Adventures, the company that markets spaceflight participant flights on behalf of the Russian Federal Space Agency, had also begun talking about an option for their customers to perform a 90-minute EVA whilst docked to ISS. Training for and performing an EVA would cost the customer an additional $15 million on top of the new $21 million fee. Meanwhile, Russian space officials told the media that their country could expect to fall behind “irreparably” if they failed to develop the six – person Kliper spacecraft. Russia and Europe were also considering the development of a new heavy-lift launch vehicle, the Oural programme, as a possible replacement for the Soyuz-2 and Ariane-V launch vehicles at some point in the 2020s.


The Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV) had been named Ares-I. Ares being the Greek god of Mars, and the “I” designation being given in recognition of the Saturn-I/IB, America’s first heavy-lift launch vehicles developed specifically for spaceflight. Ares-I will consist of two stages.

First stage

The Ares-I first stage will be constructed at Lockheed’s Michoud facility, where the Orion spacecraft will also be constructed. It is derived from a single five-segment SRB similar to those used on the Shuttle. Five segments is one more segment than a Shuttle SRB. This will burn the standard Shuttle-shaped charge solid propellant called polybutadiene acrylonitride. The first stage will burn for 2.5 minutes, raising the CLV to an altitude of 59,000 m and a velocity of Mach 6.1. When the propellant is consumed the SRB will shut down and will be jettisoned. It will make a controlled fall into the ocean under a single parachute and will be recovered, and returned to the

manufacturer for breakdown, cleaning, re-fueling, and re-use, in a similar manner to the present Shuttle SRBs. The Ares-I first stage will be manufactured by Alliant Techsystems, who produce the current Shuttle SRBs. The first two tests of the new pilot parachute were made in August 2007. A test subject was dropped from beneath a US Army Chinook helicopter at Yuma Proving Ground. The first in a series of drop tests for the new main recovery parachute for the longer SRB took place in October 2007. The parachutes used to recover the solid rocket boosters on both Ares launch vehicles and the Orion spacecraft will be refurbished in the existing Parachute Refurbishment Facility.

A new inter-stage adapter will mate the top of the first stage to the bottom of a new second stage. The adapter will carry separation rockets to ensure positive separation from the first stage when it is jettisoned. After completing that task, the interstage ring will also be jettisoned and will fall into the Atlantic Ocean. It will not be recovered. The interstage will be manufactured from composite materials, by Boeing, as part of their contract to produce the Ares-I second stage.


Lopez-Alegria, Tyurin, and Reiter quickly settled into a daily routine of performing experiments, housekeeping, maintenance, and exercise. Lopez-Alegria described some of his increment’s experiments:

“We’re trying to understand better the effects of long-duration spaceflight on humans, because our goal is to extend our presence not just in low Earth orbit but to go back to the moon with some kind of a longer-term presence, and hopefully on to Mars someday. So, a lot of the science is dedicated to human physiology. We are studying, everything… on a very small level. There’s an experiment called SWAB, which measures bacteria levels on surface[s], water, and air; it’s sort of an environmental thing—what actually grows up there and how do we have to worry about reacting with it. Another sort of related idea is something called Epstein – Barr virus. We see how our immune system reacts over time while we’re up there. We have a nutrition experiment that will, through taking blood and urine samples, track our intake and how we metabolize the food that we’re eating up there, because, in general, people tend to lose weight in space. In space they lose weight, but when they come back they’re usually a little bit lighter and over a lot of time, that obviously can be debilitating. [C]ertainly muscle function, bone loss are very important. We’re doing an experiment called TRAC [Test of Reaction and Adaptation Capabilities], which is pretty interesting neuron – reaction time—it’s an experiment [where] we’ve got to have a tracking task in one hand, where you’re trying to get a ‘pipper’ to stay over a target, and in the other hand you’re reacting with a keyboard, trying to do things as quickly as possible. Unfortunately because of the assembly and because of the stowage, time challenges, we don’t have as much science as we’d like. I guess it’s an investment. We’re investing the time now to build the Space Station, so that we can have a lot more science time available in the future.’’

The crew spent their first solo week onboard ISS preparing to move Soyuz TMA-9. They also practised an emergency egress from the station, checking all safety equipment in the process. Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin also completed their first medical experiments. Reiter completed loading unwanted items into Progress M-57 and carried out the standard off-loading of liquid waste from the ISS toilet to the empty water tanks in the Progress. The hatches between the two spacecraft were sealed on October 5. The following day, all three men completed monthly fitness evaluations on the station’s stationary bicycle. Tyurin also spent some time during the week troubleshooting the Elektron and replacing components of the instrument panel. The Elektron continued to intermittently malfunction and further repairs were delayed until replacement parts could be delivered on Progress M-58. Meanwhile, the station drew additional oxygen from the tanks mounted on the exterior of Quest. The last of the old design SFOGs had been burned and the igniters in Zvezda were changed out for new ones matching the design of the new SFOG candles now onboard.

CMG-3 began vibrating on October 9 and was shut down, leaving three CMGs to maintain the station’s attitude. This was a normal fall-back configuration and had no knock-on effect on the flight. The CMG would be replaced during the visit of STS-118, planned for August 2007. The malfunctioning gyroscope would be stowed on the station before its return to Earth on STS-122. In the meantime the station continued to function normally.

Having set ISS up for unoccupied flight, the three men sealed themselves in Soyuz TMA-9 and undocked from Zvezda’s wake at 15: 14, October 10, and re-docked to Zarya’s nadir at 15: 34. They then re-entered the station and reconfigured its systems for human occupation once more. The relocation manoeuvre cleared Zvezda’s wake for the arrival of Progress M-58, later in the month. The crew performed routine medical experiments and maintenance while continuing to load Progress M-57 with unwanted items. On October 23, Houston began a 5-day workout of the Thermal Radiator Rotary Joint (TRRJ) on the S-1 and P-1 ITS. NASA explained that the joints would, ‘‘… enable the radiators to auto-track, or revolve, when required to dissipate heat from the Truss’ avionics equipment…’’

Second stage

The new second stage will be developed specifically for the Ares-I launch vehicle and will be powered by a single J-2X rocket motor burning liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to produce 1,300 kN of thrust. The second stage will lift its payload to an altitude of 116km before shutting down and being jettisoned. The Orion spacecraft’s service module propulsion system will complete the climb into a circular orbit at an altitude of 340 km. Boeing has been awarded a $515 million contract to support the NASA-led development of the Ares-I second stage and then produce the stage once definition is complete. Under the contract, Boeing will produce a single Ground Test Article, three Flight Fest Articles, and six production stages.

The second stage will be manufactured in the standard pattern, with the pro­pellant tanks positioned one on top of the other and joined by an aluminium skirt. The main stir-welded aluminium stage structure and propellant tanks will be covered by insulating foam similar to that currently employed on the Shuttle’s External Tank. The Shuttle’s ever-present risk of damage from insulation foam falling off of the External Tank is negated by the fact that at launch the Orion spacecraft will sit at the top of the Ares-I launch vehicle. As a result any insulation foam shed from the exterior of the second stage during launch will already be beneath the spacecraft and should therefore be carried away by the launch vehicle’s slipstream and not impact on the Orion spacecraft.

The J-2X is derived from the original J-2 re-startable rocket motor used on the Saturn-V’s S-IVB third stage. The original motor could not be used because the aluminium alloy employed in its construction is no longer available, and some com­ponents used in the J-2 motor have since been banned for environmental reasons. The J-2X was originally part of a dual study with the J-2XD. The J-2X was to have served on the Ares-V launch vehicle and the J-2XD on the second stage of the Ares-I. The decision to use the J-2X on both vehicles was made in July 2007. On July 17, 2007, NASA awarded Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (P&WR) a $1.2 billion design and development contract to develop, produce, and test the first eight J-2X rocket motors. Only one will be a flight engine, with another serving as the motor for the Ares-I second-stage Propulsion Test Article, and six ground test articles. The contract runs through the end of December 2012.

In June 2007, NASA announced a contractor competition for the Ares-1 guidance avionics package, with bids to be submitted by July 30, and the contract expected to be awarded in November. The guidance package would prove inflight guidance to both Ares-I stages during the power flight phase. The package would be mounted on the second stage at Boeing’s Michoud facility, where that stage will be manufactured.