(Cape Canaveral, FL) UPDATED Jan. 18 — An extremely busy first quarter of
the new year is planned for the crew of the International Space Station
which will pave the way for new transportation and growth as humankind
lives and works in earth orbit.

Several flights to the
International Space Station by both manned and unmanned craft will be
the focus during the first 90 days of the year.

The
station’s crew of six known as the Expedition 26 will balance the
arrival of several ferry flights of supplies; perform two spacewalks by
two Russians and two by Americans; and prepare for the arrival of the
six visitors and a new storage module aboard the much delayed space
shuttle Discovery.

Two
Russian cosmonauts on January 21 will don their Orlan MK spacesuits
and set out for an orbital walk in space to begin a multi-hour job
outside Russia’s Zvezda service module.
The spacewalk should get underway just after 9 a.m. EST.

Cosmonauts
Oleg Skripohcka and Dmitry Kondratiev will perform several tasks
including the removal of “the impulse plasma injector from Zvezda’s
outer surface, and installation of Russia’s high-speed data
transmission equipment Photon-Gamma intended to study gamma-bursts and
optical radiation during thunderstorms”, the Russian space agency
stated to this reporter.

A second Russian-based spacewalk is planned for one month later.

Japan’s space agency JAXA will kick off a series of space craft arrivals on January 22 with the launch of their unmanned resupply craft KOUNOTORI, or “white stork” in Japanese.

The
ten-meter long KOUNOTORI craft will lift-off a top the H-IIB rocket
from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center at
12:37 am EST (2:37 pm Japan ST). It will mark the second time a
supply craft from Japan will fly to the station.

Seven
days later, the craft, loaded with some 16 tons of fresh supplies and
hardware, will be captured by the space station’s robotic arm and then
berthed. The hatches into the KOUNOTORI will not open for nearly three
weeks by the crew due to the busy nature of the first quarter.

The
crew will undock the trash filled old Progress 40P from the Russian
Piers docking module on Jan. 23 for it’s fiery return to earth.

This
will make room for Russia to then launch their freshly supplied
Progress M-09M craft to dock with the Russian side of earth’s orbital
outpost in space.

Lift-off
of the Soyuz U rocket with the Progress 41P unmanned craft is
scheduled for January 27 at 8:30 pm EST ( 01:30 GMT on the 28th), from
the Baikonur Cosmodrome in western Kazakhstan.

The Progress will dock three days later to the Russian Piers docking module.

South
of Florida and into the northern jungles of South America lies the
European spaceport in French Guiana — home to the Arianespace’s Ariane 5
heavy lift rocket.

An
Ariane 5 is scheduled to launch after Discovery’s lift-off on an
unmanned cargo supply flight to the European Columbus module on the
station.

Launch of the Ariane 5 with the automated transfer vehicle nicknamed Johannes Kepler is currently set for February 15 at 5:09 pm EST (2209 GMT), from Kourou.

Kepler is currently scheduled to dock with the Russian side of station on February 26.

In the United States, the space
shuttle Discovery will be poised to lift-off on her 39th and final
space flight. Delayed due to a gaseous hydrogen leak and a half-dozen
cracks on the ship’s external fuel tank, the current target launch date
of no earlier than February 24 is under view as technicians strengthen
the tank.

Discovery’s brief February launch window closes on March 6, and reopens again on April 1.

When
Discovery does fly, the orbiter will dock to the space station to
begin eight days of off loading supplies; install a new permanent
storage module; and perform two spacewalks.

On
March 16, three of the station’s crew members will depart for their
return to earth. Alexander Kaleri, outgoing station commander Scott Kelly and Skripochka will
undock aboard the Soyuz TMA-01M craft and land several hours later in
Kazakhstan.

Once the
Soyuz departs, the remaining crew of three — new station commander
Dmitry Kondratiev and flight engineers Catherine “Cady” Coleman and
Paolo Nespoli — will form the core of the new Expedition 27.

The
first quarter of 2011 will conclude with the launch of a new crew of
three to the space station to begin a nearly six month stay.

Russian
Soyuz 26 commander Alexander Samokutyaev and flight engineers Andrei
Borisienko and Ron Garan will lift-off aboard a Soyuz rocket on March 29
at 8:43 pm EST (0043 GMT on the 30th), on a two day journey to the
space station.

Of special interest to this reporter is what Garan will carry with him into earth orbit — a Space Tweep Society patch.

In
talking with Garan last spring, I asked him if he could represent
those of us who write and discuss aerospace activities via Twitter and
in blog form by flying the nearly 4-inch patch.

“Sure
I’d be happy to take a patch with me”, the NASA astronaut told me on
May 26. “It will probably be a one way trip though since we will have
retired the Shuttle by then.”

The
black circular patch features the society’s logo of a bird named Meco
high above a celestial object, and was created by the society’s
co-founder Jen Scheer.

Everyone involved with STwS would just as soon see the Meco patch stay in earth orbi

 

(Twitter: @CAtkeison – Follow my aerospace news: http://spacelaunchnews.blogspot.com)