April 27, 2007

John Yembrick
Headquarters, Washington

John Ira Petty
Johnson Space Center, Houston



HOUSTON - The Expedition 15 crew aboard the International Space
Station completed its first week of station orientation as the crew
worked with experiments and hardware maintenance.

Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineers Oleg Kotov and Suni
Williams began the week with a couple light duty days after the busy
handover operations with the former crew. Expedition 14 Commander
Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian crewmate Mikhail Tyurin,
accompanied by spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi, returned to
Earth on Saturday, April 21, and are at the Gagarin Cosmonaut
Training Center in Star City, Russia, for several weeks of
post-mission debriefing and rehabilitation.

This week, the station crew members participated in several drills to
maintain their medical and emergency proficiency. Yurchikhin and
Kotov began sessions throughout the first two weeks of their
residence to orient themselves with the station’s operating systems.
Williams, who served as an Expedition 14 crew member, is aiding
Expedition 15 with their station orientation.

On Thursday, Williams was told that she will return to Earth aboard
space shuttle Atlantis, targeted for launch June 8. That shuttle
mission, STS-117, will carry astronaut Clay Anderson to the station
to join Expedition 15 in progress. This rotation originally was
planned for STS-118, targeted for launch Aug. 8.

NASA managers approved the crew rotation after a more detailed review
determined it would not impact station operations or future shuttle
mission objectives. Since an earlier crew rotation was possible, they
decided it would be prudent to return Williams and deliver Anderson
sooner rather than later. Upon Williams’ return, she will have
accumulated more time in space than any other woman.

Williams spent some of her off-duty time completing additional test
runs for the Capillary Flow Experiment. Capillary flow is the key
process used to move fluids in a microgravity environment. It uses
the low-gravity environment aboard the station to understand the
special dynamics of capillary flow and will aid in the design of
fluid transport systems on future spacecraft.

On Monday, Williams set up cameras for the Earth Knowledge Acquired by
Middle School Students, or EarthKAM, education experiment. Middle
school students program a digital camera on the station to photograph
a variety of geographical targets from the unique vantage point of
space. Undergraduate teams at the University of California at San
Diego manage the images and post them on the Internet for the public
and participating classrooms around the world to view. Nearly 4,000
students from 66 schools in seven countries are participating in this

On Friday, Williams performed a series of test flights with small
free-flying satellites. The Synchronized Position Hold, Engage,
Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) experiment uses 8-inch
diameter spherical satellites that fly within the station cabin. The
satellites test the basics of formation flight and autonomous docking
that could be used in future spacecraft. The battery-powered
satellites use carbon dioxide to fuel 12 thrusters as they fly in the

In addition to general station orientation, Yurchikhin and Kotov also
performed maintenance work on life support hardware in the Russian
segment. The water separator in the air conditioning system was
replaced. The separator dispositions condensate water and air
collected from the station’s atmosphere that forms through the air
conditioner, maintaining optimum humidity levels onboard.

Flight controllers and mission managers test fired the two main
engines on the Zvezda Service Module in a Wednesday reboost, raising
the station’s altitude. It was the first time the engines were fired
since initial arrival of Zvezda in 2000. Another reboost using
International Space Station Progress 24 engines is scheduled for
Saturday to finish placing the station in its correct position for
the arrival of the International Space Station Progress 25 cargo
vehicle May 16 and the space shuttle Atlantis in June.

For more about the crew’s activities and station sighting
opportunities, visit: