The newest component for the ever-growing International Space Station, the Russian Zvezda Service Module, successfully linked up with the fledgling complex this evening as the two craft flew high over the northeast portion of Kazakhstan marking the arrival of the first living quarters for the permanent human habitation of the new outpost.
With the ISS' Zarya Control Module operating as the active vehicle, the two craft gently docked at 7:45 p.m. Central time (4:45 a.m. Moscow time on July 26), two weeks after Zvezda rocketed into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Zarya's jets controlled the final minutes of the approach for docking, as the ISS closed on Zvezda at a glacial rate of two-tenths of a meter per second.
Within minutes, hooks and latches on both sides of the docking interface between Zvezda and Zarya began to engage one another to form a tight seal between the two vehicles. The ISS had become a far larger complex at the moment of docking, now spanning 119 feet in length, or the size of an 11-story building. The ISS now weighs almost 60 tons.
Immediately after docking, the solar arrays on Zvezda, which had been locked "edge on" to prevent any impingement from Zarya's jet thrusters, began articulating again to follow the sun and Zarya's Motion Control System was deactivated. Upon command from Russian flight controllers, a valve in Zvezda will be opened to pressurize the vestibule, or passageway, between the two modules. On Sunday, U.S. time, flight controllers in Korolev will begin the critical transfer of commanding and attitude control of the ISS from Zarya's computers to those on Zvezda, part of the command and telemetry system in the Service Module supplied by the European Space Agency.
With tonight's successful docking, technicians at Baikonur were scheduled to begin fueling the first Progress resupply vehicle for the ISS, which is scheduled for launch on a Soyuz rocket on August 6. That Progress, carrying supplies for the first Expedition crew, is earmarked for docking to the ISS on August 8.
The next Mission Control Center status report will be issued on Monday, July 31. For more information, call the Johnson Space Center Newsroom at 281/483-5111.
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