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Station Crew Begins Focusing on July Spacewalks

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Tue Jun 25, 2013 10:03 pm
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The Expedition 36 crew aboard the orbiting International Space Station focused on spacewalk-related activities Tuesday, cleaning up after Monday’s excursion and making preparations for two more spacewalks in July.

Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin, who completed a six-hour, 34-minute spacewalk Monday, spent the majority of Tuesday drying out their Orlan spacesuits and stowing some of their spacewalking tools and equipment. During that excursion, the two Russian cosmonauts replaced a fluid flow control panel on the station’s Zarya module and installed clamps for future power cables as an early step toward swapping the Pirs docking compartment with a new Russian multipurpose laboratory. Roscosmos plans to launch the Nauka module, a combination research facility, airlock and docking port, later this year on a Proton rocket.

With that spacewalk now successfully completed, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano re-opened the hatch to the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 (ATV-4), which had been sealed off since Sunday as a standard precautionary measure. Also known as the “Albert Einstein,” ATV-4 delivered 7.3 tons of science experiments and supplies for the crew when it docked with the station’s Zvezda service module on June 15. Even with the temporary hatch closure, the crew remains well-ahead of the schedule for unloading the cargo.

The crew members on the U.S. side of the complex turned their attention to a pair of spacewalks Flight Engineers Chris Cassidy and Luca Parmitano will conduct on July 9 and 16. Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg joined Parmitano and Cassidy for a comprehensive review of the spacewalk tasks that will include replacing a space-to-ground communications system and some wireless video equipment and installing power cables for the upcoming Russian laboratory.

The station’s residents also had several opportunities throughout the day to observe and photograph the world below as part of the ongoing Crew Earth Observations program. Crew photography provides researchers with valuable insights into some of the most dramatic and dynamic events on the Earth’s surface. The crew recently captured images of the West Fork Complex fire in southern Colorado, which as of Monday had destroyed 75,150 acres. The crew’s photos are made available online at the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.

Research continued aboard the station with scientific payloads such as the Capillary Flow Experiment that can be monitored from the ground with minimal crew interaction. Results from this particular study, which takes a close look at how fluids flow across surfaces with complex geometries in a weightless environment, will improve computer models used to design fluid transfer systems and fuel tanks on future spacecraft.

Meanwhile, the robotics team at Houston’s Mission Control Center began setting up the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or Dextre, for some testing on the exterior of the station. Ground controllers will command the Canadian Space Agency’s two-armed robotic handyman to retrieve some tools from its tool belt later on Tuesday. Throughout the week, Dextre will be commanded to remove some bolts and open doors to demonstrate that the robot can be used to access the Remote Power Control Modules on one of the station’s truss segments.

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