Headlines > News > Dragon Performs Fly-Under, Station Crew Preps for Grapple and Berthing

Dragon Performs Fly-Under, Station Crew Preps for Grapple and Berthing

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri May 25, 2012 4:12 am via: NASA
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After a two-day chase that began from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft finally closed in on its destination, the International Space Station, for a series of tests Thursday to clear it for its final rendezvous and grapple Friday.

At 3:58 a.m. EDT, Dragon performed a height adjust burn to bring it to a path 2.4 kilometers below the station. During this “fly-under,” Dragon established UHF communication with the station using its COTS Ultra-high frequency Communication Unit (CUCU). Dragon performed a test of its Relative GPS system, which uses the relative positions of the spacecraft to the space station to determine its location.

Using the crew command panel on board the station, the Expedition 31 crew briefly interacted with Dragon, monitoring the fly-under and sending a command to Dragon to turn on its strobe light. This ability for the crew to send commands to Dragon will be important for Friday’s activity.

With the fly-under completed, Dragon fired its engines to begin a loop out in front, above and then behind the station in a “racetrack” trajectory to re-approach the station for grapple and berthing attempts on Friday. Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers will use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple the supply ship about 8:06 a.m., with the berthing to the Earth-facing side of the station’s Harmony node following about 11:20 a.m. After the hatch is opened on Saturday, Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval.

Meanwhile, the six Expedition 31 crew members living and working aboard the station focused on preparations for Dragon’s upcoming grapple and berthing. They also spent time working with science experiments and participating in orientation activities.

To prepare for Friday’s capture and berthing ops, Pettit and Kuipers repositioned the station’s robotic arm and installed the Centerline Camera Berthing System.

The station’s newest crew members, Flight Engineers Joe Acaba, Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, had some time set aside to continue orientation and adaptation activities. The trio joined Commander Oleg Kononenko to review emergency procedures, including participating in an emergency egress drill.

Padalka and Revin also worked with the Typology experiment, which studies a crew member’s psychophysical state during long-duration spaceflight.

Later, Acaba took some time to answer a ham radio call from students at Northland Preparatory Academy in Flagstaff, Ariz.

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