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Station Astronauts Practice Cargo Craft Capture

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Tue Sep 17, 2013 10:11 pm via: NASA
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The three-person Expedition 37 crew aboard the International Space Station supported a variety of physics and medical research studies Tuesday and conducted some hands-on robotics training in anticipation of this weekend’s arrival of a new commercial cargo vehicle set to launch Wednesday. Meanwhile, the three new crew members who will return the station to its full six-person complement next week are in the homestretch of their Soyuz launch preparations in Kazakhstan.

Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg began her workday aboard the station setting up a new test sample for the Advanced Colloids Experiment, or ACE, located in the Light Microscopy Module inside the Fluids Integrated Rack. This microscopic imaging investigation uses the unique microgravity environment of the space station to study the properties of colloidal particles without the effects of Earth’s gravity. ACE represents the first step along the path to understanding at the particle level how order arises out of disorder and how nature organizes when not affected by gravity. Results from this experiment have applications ranging from improving the shelf-life of commercial products to developing new drugs.

Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano meanwhile conducted a review of emergency descent procedures for the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft that brought them and Nyberg to the complex back in late May. The trio will return to Earth aboard that same Soyuz on Nov. 10 after 166 days in space.

Nyberg and Parmitano then teamed up for a round of medical tests for the Ocular Health study as they measured their blood pressure and tested the intraocular pressure of their eyes using a tonometer. Vision changes have been observed in some astronauts returning from long-duration spaceflight, and researchers are seeking to learn more about its root causes and develop countermeasures to mitigate the risk.

After a break for lunch, Nyberg and Parmitano used the robotics workstation inside the station’s cupola to practice techniques for grappling Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo craft when it rendezvous with station on Sunday. The two astronauts will use the station’s 57-foot robotic arm, Canadarm2, to capture the commercial resupply vehicle and berth it to the Earth-facing port of the station’s Harmony node. For Tuesday’s practice session, Nyberg and Parmitano used the grapple fixture affixed to the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to rehearse the robotic capture of Cygnus in an offset position.

Cygnus is scheduled to launch at 10:50 a.m. EDT Wednesday from Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia. NASA Television coverage of the launch will begin at 10:15 a.m.   The unpiloted commercial resupply ship, which is capable of carrying over 3,700 pounds of cargo within its 662 cubic foot pressurized cargo hold, is delivering 1,300 pounds of crew supplies on this demonstration flight.

Yurchikhin spent some time with the Kulonovskiy Kristall experiment, gathering data about charged particles in a weightless environment. He also checked a number of panels in the Zvezda service module to see if they were being affected by vibrations from the treadmill.

Yurchikhin rounded out his day with a test of the MPEG2 video stream configuration that supports television coverage of the arrival and departure of Russian spacecraft.

Meanwhile at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy are completing final launch preparations to join their Expedition 37 crewmates already aboard the station. The trio will board their Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft on Sept. 25 (Sept. 26, Kazakh time) for an expedited 4-orbit, 6-hour trip from the Baikonur launch pad to the station.

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