Boost For Russia`s Space Programme
Russian rocket engineers said on Tuesday they were confident the mysterious fuel pressure loss during last week’s test launch of a Proton rocket was a one-off event and were confident that there was nothing to worry about prior to the crucial launch of the ISS’ cornerstone – Zvezda Module.
The only thing the Russian space engineers were worried about before the launch was Wednesday morning’s weather forecast. “It was not really good, there is a chance of thunderstorms,” they told reporters. However, the sun was shining and the sky was clear blue when the Proton rocket carrying the Zvesda ISS module bound for the International space station was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Chief of the U.S. space agency NASA Dan Goldin attended the launch together with Yury Koptev of Russia's Space Agency. Later Goldin said the event was a triumph of Russia's will and commitment to ISS project.
“The Russians have gone through all sorts of difficulty with their economy, political changes and many other problems and they came through and did what they said they were going to do,” said Goldin and added: “Of course there will be more problems. It is not Disneyland we are going to, it is space.”
This is 10 years work and the success of this launch will determine to a large extent whether the Russian space programme continues or not, said Yuri Koptev.
The first scheduled manned flight to Zvezda has been preliminarily set for October this year, although a U.S. crew did visit the ISS in May to boost its flagging orbit.
The first crew to inhabit the station will include Russians Sergei Krikalyov and Yuri Gidzenko and American Bill Shepherd. The men have been training in Baikonur since May to acquaint themselves with the Zvezda module where they will live.
The 20-ton Zvezda will join the two ISS modules already orbiting the Earth — the Russian Zarya (''Dawn'') and the U.S.-built Unity. Space officials at Baikonur said the link-up would take place by remote control on July 26. The ISS complex is expected to be completed in 2005. It will weigh 418 tons, loom seven stories high, and, reportedly, will be visible at night with the naked eyes.
Russia faced much criticism for more than two years of delays in completing the module, caused mainly by a chronic lack of funding. U.S. officials had said they made a mistake by authorizing Russia to build the station’s primary module, despite the unmatched experience in long-term manned space flight Russia gained through operating its Mir orbiter. Mir has been in space since 1986. The U.S. Congress’ general accounting office warned that ISS crews will face risk and noise because of Russia’s failure to meet American safety standards. Also, American space officials have alleged that the module’s aluminum and magnesium shell does not offer strong enough protection against collisions with space junk and its equipment will fail if cabin pressure is lost, jeopardizing the entire station.
Zvezda (Star in Russian), is the fundamental Russian contribution to the ISS project. Zvezda module was launched on Wednesday morning at 8:54 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Zvezda will serve as the primary station living quarters and will be the main docking port for Russian Progress cargo supply vehicles. It also will provide early propulsive attitude control and reboost engines for the station. A remote-controlled, unpiloted Progress resupply module will follow on a logistics and reboost mission, with docking to the ISS scheduled for early August.
When Zvezda reaches the International Space Station, the station will have completed more than 9,300 Earth orbits since the first the first two components were joined in December 1998, beginning the largest and most complex international project ever undertaken. Today, 16 countries are members of the International Space Station Team: the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, France, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Brazil. The Zvezda service module is the first fully Russian contribution to the International Space Station and will serve as the station’s first living quarters. Zvesda is to be docked by remote control with the already orbiting Zarya and U.S. Unity modules at an altitude of about 394 x 371 kilometers (245 by 230 statute miles).
The 19-ton module, similar in layout to the core module of Russia’s Mir space station, will provide the life support system, electrical power distribution, data processing system, flight control system and propulsion system. It also will provide a communications system that includes remote command capabilities for ground flight controllers.
Living accommodations on Zvezda include personal sleeping quarters for the crew; a toilet and hygiene facilities; a kitchen with a refrigerator-freezer. The module will have a total of 13 windows, including three 9-inch diameter windows in the forward Transfer Compartment for viewing docking activities, one large 16-inch diameter window in the Working Compartment, an individual window in each crew compartment. Additional windows are positioned for Earth and intramodule observations
The European Space Agency (ESA) provided the Data Management System, which serves as the brain of Zvezda. This computer system not only will control service module functions, but will also provide control of Russian station elements as well as the guidance and navigation for the station until the launch of the U.S. Destiny laboratory on the STS-98 mission. Destiny contains the systems which will assume management and control of ISS operations.
Once in orbit, Zvezda will be the passive vehicle for a rendezvous with the already-orbiting International Space Station. As the passive target vehicle, Zvezda will maintain a station-keeping orbit as Zarya performs the rendezvous and docking, controlled from the ground using the Russian automated rendezvous and docking system (Kurs).
In the event the ISS cannot dock automatically with Zvezda, a three-man Russian cosmonaut crew (‘zero crew’) will be launched on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in about 15 days after the launch to complete the docking manually.