Spaceflight Now: STS-106 Mission Report

Shuttle astronauts give up on fixing faulty station battery

Posted: September 15, 2000

Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko works aboard the Zvezda service module of the international space station. Photo: NASA
After more overnight inspections by the Atlantis astronauts, Russian engineers decided to forego any additional work with a balky battery aboard the international space station's command module, deferring further troubleshooting until the lab's first full-time crew arrives in early November.

Early today, the astronauts double-checked connections between battery No. 5 and its charge-discharge controller, called a PTAB, but there were no apparent problems that would explain the powerpack's failure to charge.

To save weight, Zvezda was launched with just five of its eight batteries and associated control electronics. Atlantis's astronauts installed the final three, including battery No. 5, earlier this week.

Engineers discussed the possibility of having the crew remove an adjacent battery - No. 3 - to gain access to battery No. 5's control computer, called a BUPT. It is possible a bent pin or debris of some sort in a connector could be causing the problem.

But in the end, Russian flight controllers decided to simply disconnect the battery for now and to defer additional troubleshooting until the Expedition One crew arrives later this fall.

"Yuri, as far as the battery is concerned, unfortunately from the telemetry we see that it's still non functional and the decision has been made to troubleshoot it when Expedition One is there," Moscow radioed shortly before 7 a.m. "Once you've (disconnected the battery), we will consider that battery 5 operations for you are complete."

"Understand," replied cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko.

A few moments later, Atlantis and the space station sailed over Houston just before sunrise, giving flight controllers a spectacular view of the 13-story station-shuttle combination shining in the morning sunlight.

"Atlantis, Houston, we're back with you," astronaut Ellen Ochoa radioed. "Both the station and shuttle flight control teams had a terrific view of you passing overhead, a really bright, big, beautiful satellite."

"Oh, that's great to hear!" Atlantis pilot Scott Altman replied. "We were at the windows looking down awful hard at the same time and we had a good look at you going by."

In parallel with the battery inspections earlier today, the astronauts pressed ahead with a full slate space station outfitting work, including the installation of four U.S.-to-Russian power converters in the Zvezda module that will enable Russian components to use power generated by U.S. solar arrays.

Astronaut Ed Lu follows printed guidelines as he assumes the role of an electrician inside the Zvezda service module. Photo: NASA
Working in a maze of wiring beneath the module's floor panels, the astronauts had initial problems identifying the proper cables for installing the converters. But after consulting with engineers in Moscow they pressed ahead and completed the work.

Other tasks completed today included tests of Zvezda's voice downlink circuits and work with the Russian packet communications system, which will be used to send data files to and from the station.

The packet system had problems, but engineers believe that was due to a misconfiguration problem and additional tests are planned this evening to confirm that.

The astronauts wound up their day in space by partially assembling a Russian Elektron oxygen generator. Once activated by the station's first full-time crew, the Elektron will use electrolysis to break water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen will be dumped overboard while the oxygen will be used by the crew.

Sharon Castle, the STS-106 launch package manager, said the astronauts have now transferred 2.5 tons of hardware, supplies and other gear into the station from the shuttle and an attached Progress supply ship.

Of that total, some 3,737 pounds came from shuttle Atlantis while another 1,300 pounds came from the Progress-251 vehicle. Another 730 pounds of equipment and trash has been moved from the station back to the shuttle for return to Earth.

Eight bags of fresh water have been transferred to the station along with all of the food, office supplies, environmental monitors and medical kits that will be needed by the station's first full-time crew.

"Things are going extremely well," Castle said. "We're very, very happy."

The major items on the agenda this evening will be the battery No. 5 troubleshooting; assembly of the station's high-tech treadmill; and an inspection of a cable used to route telemetry from the Progress vehicle into the Zvezda module for downlink to Earth.

The full STS-106 crew poses for a group photo aboard space station. Photo: NASA
Assembling the treadmill will take most of the crew's day. Unlike the typical exercise machines familiar to health club enthusiasts, the station's treadmill is equipped with a vibration isolation system to prevent a jogging astronaut from disturbing sensitive microgravity experiments.

"They have to construct kind of an isolation cage that they build down into the floor of the Zvezda," said station flight director Mark Ferring.

"This treadmill was designed so that it's got an active isolation system so that when we reach the point where we're flying a lot of these complicated payloads that want a microgravity environment, that when a crew member runs on this treadmill, it doesn't transmit any of the vibration or forces into the structure of the station.

"The treadmill fits inside this cage and then it has isolating members that allow it to kind of free float within this cage and not transmit its forces to the structure.

"It isn't really that complicated, but it takes a lot of steps to get it in the floor," Ferring said. "It's essentially going to take all day."

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