Destined to soon transform the International Space Station into a new home in orbit, the Russian-built Zvezda living quarters module lifted off flawlessly from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, at 11:56 p.m. CDT Tuesday.
Only 15 minutes after its launch aboard a Russian Proton booster, the new module was safely in orbit, with its antennas, solar arrays and other exterior equipment perfectly extended. The module is now operating well in an orbit with a high point of about 221 statute miles and a low point of 115 statute miles. During the next two weeks, flight controllers at the Russian Mission Control Center in Korolev, Russia, will continue to activate and check out the module's systems, fire its engines periodically to adjust its orbit, and prepare for a docking with the International Space Station.
On July 25, the International Space Station will begin a final rendezvous with Zvezda, culminating in a docking planned at about 7:45 p.m. CDT. The launch of Zvezda begins a rapid series of flights to the station, and a rapid expansion of the orbital outpost. A Russian Progress cargo spacecraft is next targeted for a launch to the station on Aug. 6 with a docking on Aug. 8; the Shuttle Atlantis is targeted for launch on Sept. 8 to open the doors to the new living quarters for the first time; and the Shuttle Discovery is targeted for a launch Oct. 5 on a mission that will begin the heart of station construction, carrying aloft an exterior framework and third mating adapter. The first three-person resident crew is targeted to begin a four-month stay aboard the station a month later, bringing the new outpost to life.
Those flights, among the most complex and difficult missions NASA has ever attempted, and the ones that will quickly follow in 2001 -- U.S. solar arrays, the first U.S. laboratory, a new generation of space robotics built by Canada, logistical modules built by Italy, and a station airlock from the U.S. -- will turn the station into the largest, most powerful and most sophisticated spacecraft ever built by the end of next year.
NOTE: The next Mission Control Center ISS Status Report will be issued as needed according to ongoing mission activities. For further information, please contact the NASA Public Affairs Office at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, 281-483-5111.
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