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Station Crew Transfers Cargo, Preps for Robotics Competition

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:30 am via: NASA
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The International Space Station’s Expedition 30 crew – Commander Dan Burbank and Flight Engineers Don Pettit, Andre Kuipers, Anton Shkaplerov, Anatoly Ivanishin and Oleg Kononenko – focused Tuesday on transferring cargo, performing experiments and setting up equipment for a robotics competition.

Burbank and Pettit, both NASA astronauts, configured bowling-ball-sized free-flying satellites known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES, for a student competition scheduled for Monday, Jan. 23. During the Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge Finals at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, students will remotely operate the satellites through a series of maneuvers and objectives. Station crews beginning with Expedition 8 have operated these robots to test techniques that could lead to advancements in automated dockings, satellite servicing, spacecraft assembly and emergency repairs.

Burbank later inspected Portable Fire Extinguishers and Portable Breathing Apparatuses to ensure that the station’s emergency equipment is in good working order.

The commander also removed components of an internal communications system inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory for return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship. That spacecraft was scheduled for launch Feb. 7, but SpaceX has informed NASA that it will need to delay the demonstration flight to make sure that the vehicle is ready and Dragon can safely and successfully execute its mission.

Meanwhile in the Destiny module, Pettit conducted a leak test on the Microgravity Science Glovebox. That facility offers a sealed work area accessible through glove ports for the crew to handle experiment hardware and samples without the danger of small parts, particulates, fluids, or gasses escaping into the open laboratory module.

Kuipers, a European Space Agency astronaut, spent part of his day in the station’s cupola observing and recording the Earth’s atmosphere for an educational video on convection. Later, with assistance from Pettit, he served as the subject for the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment, which measures the atrophy of the heart muscle that appears to develop during long-duration spaceflight.

Kuipers wrapped up his workday unpacking additional cargo from the Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft docked to the Rassvet mini-research module. That Soyuz brought Kuipers, Pettit and cosmonaut Kononenko to the station Dec. 23.

In the Russian segment of the station, cosmonauts Shkaplerov and Ivanishin worked with the BAR experiment, which looks at methods and instruments for detecting the location of a loss of pressure aboard the station.

Kononenko stowed additional trash and unneeded equipment aboard the ISS Progress 45 cargo craft, which is set to undock from the Pirs docking compartment Jan. 23 for a destructive re-entry in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Not everything aboard that Progress will be trash destined for quick disposal. The Progress will depart the orbital complex with its hatch open in order to deploy a small 88-pound nanosatellite called Chibis-M. The deployment will occur about 1 hour and 13 minutes after the Progress separates from the station. Chibis-M will remain in orbit for at least four years studying the interaction of plasma waves with the ionosphere.

The next Russian supply ship, ISS Progress 46, is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Jan. 25 at 6:06 p.m. EST (5:06 a.m. Baikonur time on Jan. 26). Docking of the new resupply vehicle to Pirs is slated for Jan. 27.

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