The two-element International Space Station already in orbit docked successfully with the Zvezda service module early this morning, at 02:45 Central European Summer Time as planned. Zvezda's European computer system is set to take over control of the now three-element ISS.
The state-of-the-art computer system was supplied by ESA and is the first European hardware to be delivered to the Space Station.
Over the coming days, flight engineers will test the mechanisms holding the elements together and ensure that all seals are tight. About three days after the docking, the European computer - the "Data Management System" - will be connected to the Space Station systems and Zvezda will be commanded to assume control of the Space Station.
A team of engineers from ESA and European industry is currently at the Russian Control Centre (TsUP), outside Moscow, preparing for the hand-over of operations to Zvezda and its Data Management System. "All DMS data received to date, including this morning just after the docking, indicate that we are ready", said Jochen Graf, head of system integration and operations for ESA's Space Station programme.
The Data Management System was developed and manufactured in Europe by an industrial consortium led by Astrium Space Infrastructure (formerly DaimlerChrysler) of Bremen, Germany. ESA supplied the system to Rosaviakosmos, the Russian space agency, in return for two flight-unit docking systems for use with ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle, a supply craft bound for the Space Station to be launched on Ariane-5 as from 2004.
ESA will use similar data management systems on later elements that Europe is currently preparing for the Space Station, including the European space laboratory Columbus and the Automated Transfer Vehicle, in the continuing drive to minimise development and maintenance costs.
The addition of Zvezda to the two elements already in orbit - Zarya and Unity - sets the stage for the start of human habitation and scientific research aboard the orbiting outpost. A Russian Progress resupply mission planned for August and two US Space Shuttle flights scheduled for September and October will ready the Space Station for the arrival of the first crew who will begin living and working on board. That three-member mission is expected to be launched on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in late October.
ESA is one of five international partners in the International Space Station project. The others are the United States, Russian, Canada and Japan. ESA represents 10 European countries in this endeavour: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
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