Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Live in Orbit: Key Station Tests Continue

Two tests critical to the planned crew expansion next year aboard the International Space Station continue to proceed without significant problems this morning as the outpost and visiting shuttle Endeavour soar 220 miles above the planet.

A planned four-hour run of a newly delivered urine processing system is nearing completition, and if all continues to go well, it will mark a big milestone for a decade-old station assembly project.

"This is very significant," said NASA station flight director Brian Smith.

The assembly is designed to convert urine to potable drinking water -- a capability key to plans to double station crew size to six next May. It had shut down prematurely the first three times it was run and the joined shuttle-station crew have made two attempts to repair the device.

A separate test of a repaired solar wing rotary mechanism also is continuing without significant problems. The starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint now is in its second full revolution and engineers on the ground are gathering data.

Smith said it would take months to determine whether spacewalking repairs worked as intended, but initial smooth operations are a good sign.

"The joint appeared to be functioning well," NASA mission commentator John Ira Petty said.

The 10 astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the shuttle-station complex will wake up around 9:25 a.m. EST and NASA's Mission Control is expected to send up an update at that point.

The crews will spend much of the day packing up the Leonardo cargo carrier that's mounted to the Earth-facing port of the U.S. Harmony module. The Italian-built moving van will be closed up Wednesday and returned to Endeavour's cargo bay for the trip back to Earth.

You can check out the crew's schedule in this latest revision -- Rev K -- of the
NASA TV Schedule.

You can watch all the action unfold here in The Flame Trench. Simply click the NASA TV box on the righthand side of this page to launch our NASA TV viewer and round-the-clock coverage of Endeavour's mission to the station.

Be sure to refresh this page, too, for periodic updates.

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