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Station Workweek Begins With Science and Robotics

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Mon Jun 23, 2014 8:37 pm via: NASA
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The six-person Expedition 40 crew of the International Space Station began the workweek Monday with a full agenda of science experiments and maintenance tasks while the ground team prepared the orbiting complex for a pair of spacewalks later this summer.

Following the crew’s daily planning conference with the flight control teams around the world, Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst conducted a clinical examination of Commander Steve Swanson. Flight surgeons back on Earth use the data from these periodic health examinations to keep track of the crew’s health during these six-month space missions.

Afterward, Swanson conducted an ultrasound scan of his right thigh and calf for the Sprint experiment, which measures the effectiveness of high-intensity, low-volume exercise training in minimizing the loss of muscle mass and bone density that occurs during spaceflight. Station crew members currently work out about 2 ½-hours every day, and the researchers behind Sprint want to reduce that total exercise time while maintaining crew fitness.

Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman assisted Swanson with the Sprint study before moving on to prepare test samples for the Advance Colloids Experiment, or ACE. This microscopic imaging investigation, housed in the Light Microscopy Module inside the Fluids Integrated Rack, uses the unique microgravity environment of the space station to study colloidal particles. 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.

Following a break for lunch, Swanson gathered and prepared equipment, including an oscilloscope, for some electrical tests to be conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday. Over the past two years, the ground team has been tracking fluctuations in the current being fed from two main bus switching units to the Zvezda service module’s power converters. To track down the cause of the problem, Swanson and Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov will install the test equipment into Zvezda’s wiring system to enable the team at Houston’s Mission Control Center to conduct some tests.

More hardware for additional tests to track down the power issue will be arriving aboard Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo craft during the Orbital-2 resupply mission, now set to launch no earlier than July 10.

Gerst set up samples and configured hardware for a combustion experiment known as the Burning and Suppression of Solids, or BASS. In the absence of gravity, materials burn quite differently, and some materials may actually become more flammable than on Earth. BASS takes a look at how a variety of materials burn and extinguish in microgravity, which will lead to lead to improvements in spacecraft materials selection and strategies for putting out accidental fires aboard spacecraft. The research also provides scientists with improved computational models that will aid in the design of fire detection and suppression systems here on Earth.

Wiseman spent much of his afternoon checking out the torque settings on a trio of pistol grip tools with a torque analyzer kit. The pistol grip tool, which resembles a cordless drill, is used to remove and install fasteners during a spacewalk.

On the Russian side of the complex, Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev continued stowing tools and equipment that he and Skvortsov used during a 7-hour, 23-minute spacewalk Thursday. The two spacewalkers installed a radar antenna and telemetry system for a technology demonstration, removed and jettisoned an old payload bracket and repositioned its payloads onto a new payload boom.

Skvortsov set up hardware in Zvezda for an experiment to downlink a digital TV signal from the station. He also reviewed procedures for the Zvezda power diagnostics that he and Swanson will begin on Tuesday.

The third cosmonaut aboard the station, Flight Engineer Max Suraev, updated computer software and performed routine maintenance on the life-support system in Zvezda.

While the Expedition 40 crew worked inside the station, the robotics team at Mission Control in Houston began work for Tuesday’s relocation of the Flight Releasable Attachment Mechanism, or FRAM, from External Stowage Platform-3 (ESP-3) to ESP-2 as part of the preparatory activities for two U.S. spacewalks to be conducted in August. The FRAM’s relocation will set the stage for the relocation of the pump module that failed in December from its temporary stowage location on the Mobile Base System to the FRAM on ESP-2. During a pair of spacewalks in December 2013, the Expedition 38 crew placed the failed pump module at that temporary location after removing it from the S1 truss segment and replacing it with a spare.

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