Everything is set at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for Wednesday's launch of the ISS Progress 48 cargo ship to the International Space Station. Loaded with 1,962 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen and air, 925 pounds of water and 2,817 pounds of supplies, spare parts and experiment hardware, the unpiloted Russian resupply craft is scheduled to lift off from the launch pad at Baikonur at 3:35 p.m. EDT (1:35 a.m. Thursday, Baikonur time) on a novel four-orbit, six-hour expedited transit to the station.
With this launch, Russian officials are testing a modified rendezvous plan designed to reduce the typical two-day flight to the station. If applied to the crewed Soyuz vehicles, this would increase crew comfort and provide for additional contingency time at the end of the spacecraft's mission.
If all goes as planned, docking by the Progress to the Pirs docking compartment will occur at 9:24 p.m. Russian flight controllers retain the option to revert to a two-day rendezvous if something unexpected occurs in the first three hours, or two orbits, of the mission. In that case, docking would take place late Friday afternoon.
NASA Television coverage of the launch begins at 3:15 p.m.
To accommodate the long day in space, the Russian cosmonauts aboard the station began a 4-hour nap at 10 a.m. Prior to that, Commander Gennady Padalka performed some troubleshooting on a communications system in the Zvezda service module. The commander also participated in an experiment known as Vzaimodeystviye, which is studying the group dynamics of a diverse, international crew during long-duration spaceflight.
Meanwhile, Flight Engineer Sergei Revin set up an incubator for biological experiments, while fellow Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko participated in a Russian cardiovascular study known as Pneumocard.
On the U.S. side of the station, Flight Engineer Joe Acaba spent much of his day with the Capillary Flow Experiment, taking a close look at how fluids flow across surfaces in a weightless environment. Results from this experiment will improve computer models used to design fluid transfer systems and fuel tanks on future spacecraft.
With assistance from Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide, Acaba also participated in the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment, which measures the atrophy of the heart muscle that appears to develop during long-duration spaceflight. Investigators use the data from these tests to develop countermeasures to keep the crew healthy. The research may also have benefits for people on Earth with heart problems.
Flight Engineer Suni Williams focused her attention on the Advanced Colloids Experiment, a microscopic imaging investigation of colloids - very small particles suspended in another substance. This experiment will provide important data not available on Earth, leading to a better understanding of crystallization and phase separation. This in turn could have an enormous commercial impact in terms of quality, production, and longevity on products ranging from paints, motor oils, food, and cosmetics, while further offering insights into microfluidics and cell biology processes.