Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Space Station work continues during Shuttle Delay

While space shuttle program mangers access whether or not to fly Discovery during March or wait until April, the three person crew aboard the international space station continue their daily work on orbit as they prepare for the arrival of two manned spacecraft soon.

Shuttle program manages late yesterday gave technicians here at the Cape the go ahead to replace Discovery's three gaseous hydrogen (GH2) flow valves which are located in the aft compartment of the orbiter. This work will take possible two weeks to perform and test, thus delaying Discovery's flight to the space station. The "suspect" GH2 valves aboard Discovery show signs of slight cracks at the lip of the valves, thus the need to replace them with newer, less flown valves.

On March 26th, a Russian Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft will carry a new crew to the station to replace current station commander Mike Fincke and cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov. The new Expedition 19 crew of Cosmonaut Gennady Padalkawill (commander), astronaut Mike Barratt (flight engineer), along with spaceflight participant Charles Simonyl, will dock to the outpost in space two days later.

Padalkawill & Barratt will stay in space until mid-October, when they will return home aboard a Soyuz and a thud in southwestern Russia.

Simonyl, who will stay aboard for about 10 days, will ride home with Fincke & Lonchakov around April 5th. Back in April 2007, Simonyl - a former chief at Microsoft - made his first trip to the space station following his launch from Russia.

You can have fun following Charles' prelaunch and flight activities via his personal Web site.

The current third station crew member, Sandy Magnus, was due to come home aboard Discovery this month, however that flight's delay until March or April will see her possibly become a member of Expedition 19, if Discovery cannot launch until April.

Charles Note: Based on current discussions here at the Cape, I feel it is very likely that Discovery will not fly until after April 8th. Due to the hydrogen flow valve change out and the Soyuz mission to the station in four weeks, an April 8 launch attempt will likely be the earliest option.

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