STS-126 Ready For Home Improvement

Space Shuttle Endeavour is ready to chase down the ISS for a spot of home improvement on Friday. STS-126 marks the first return to spaceflight for the Itialian built Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) since the resumption of construction at the orbital complex.

STS-126 crew poses with Endeavour.

So, what are they adding this time?
Unlike regular assembly missions, STS-126 isn't actually adding anything to the outside of the station. The Leonardo MPLM is packed with all the goodies needed to turn what is now a three bedroom, one bathroom home for three into a five bedroom, two bathroom residence for six.

The heavy construction and outfitting work over the last couple of years has readied the station to fulfil its primary purpose - as a live-in science laboratory. Starting next year, a six-person crew will permanently occupy the orbital outpost allowing the international partners to begin utilising the laboratories that were recently added - the European Columbus, and Japanese Kibo modules - alongside the fully operational US Destiny laboratory that has seen the expansion of the station since its installation in February 2001.

Leonardo in the Shuttle

Leonardo is a reusable module that is launched in the cargo bay of the Shuttle and strapped to the station for the duration of the mission. Each MPLM can carry up to 10 tons of cargo packed into 16 standard Space Station equipment racks. Of the 16 racks, five can be furnished with power, data and fluid to support a refrigerator freezer.

The inside of Leonardo

So, where are the bedrooms and toilet?
Actually, the bedrooms take the form of one of the standard racks! Large enough to comfortably accommodate a human, two rack-sized sleep stations will be transferred from Leonardo to the recently added Harmony module, as well as a Waste and Hygiene Compartment - a new toilet, and a galley that will be located in the Destiny module -which could be called a new gourmet kitchen.

So, isn't there something broken outside that they need to fix?
Yes, the infamous SARJ - the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint - on the starboard side has been inoperative since the discovery of metallic debris in the rotating joint after vibrations were felt during its operation. The joint allows the massive solar arrays to track the Sun and provide full power during the daylight portion of an orbit, and there are several spacewalks planned during the mission to replace failed parts and hopefully get the joint working again.

So, is there anyone we know going up?
Two of the crew flew together on STS-115 in 2007, The Commander, Chris Ferguson, and Mission Specialist Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper. They are joined by former ISS Expedition 6 crewmember Donald Pettit, and rookies Eric Boe, Steve Bowen, and Shane Kimbrough. Joining the mission on the way up is Sandy Magnus, who flew in 2002 and will stay on the station for six months as part of the Expedition 18 crew, spending 6 months at the station. Magnus replaces Greg Chamitoff, who takes the final seat for the landing of STS-126.

That should be enough to get you Spacers all spaced up for the weekend. At the moment there is a 60 percent chance of favourable weather for the launch at 7:55 pm EST, so it's looking good for a spacey weekend.

Happy Spacing Spacers!
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