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Station Crew Focuses on Mission as Dragon Nears Station

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu May 24, 2012 4:11 am via: NASA
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Expedition 31 is waiting for the first commercial cargo vehicle, the SpaceX Dragon capsule, to visit the International Space Station. After a successful launch Tuesday at 3:44 a.m. EDT, the vehicle met several demonstration objectives including testing its absolute GPS system, going into free drift and performing abort procedures.

The Dragon will undergo more demonstrations Thursday as it flies 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) under the station. It will establish UHF communications, test its relative GPS system and accept commands from the station. After those successful demonstrations mission managers will give a “go” for Friday’s rendezvous and capture of Dragon.

Meanwhile, the six-member station crew is continuing maintenance work, science and Dragon preparations.

Commander Oleg Kononenko worked throughout the Russian segment with Flight Engineers Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin. They worked on various maintenance tasks including checking sensors and valves. The trio also tightened screw clamps on the interfaces between the Soyuz TMA-03M, Rassvet mini-research module and the Zarya cargo module.

Flight Engineer Joe Acaba, who arrived at the station May 17 with Padalka and Revin, spent some time on crew orientation and adaptation activities. He also downloaded data collected for the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment which studies the decrease in the size of the heart, or cardiac atrophy, associated with long duration space missions.

As Dragon nears the station, Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers continue preparing for its arrival. They are reviewing operations for Friday’s rendezvous, grapple and berthing and practicing robotic arm operations for the successful capture of Dragon with Canadarm2.

The hatches will open Saturday morning from the Harmony node to Dragon, and the crew will begin unloading its cargo. On May 31 the Canadarm2 will detach Dragon from the Harmony node then release it for splashdown several hours later in the Pacific Ocean for recovery.

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