Headlines > News > Station Crew Gears Up for Cygnus Arrival

Station Crew Gears Up for Cygnus Arrival

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri Jul 11, 2014 9:46 pm via: NASA
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The International Space Station’s Expedition 40 crew finished out the week with physics research, maintenance work and preparations for the arrival of the next cargo vehicle now set to launch Sunday.

Orbital Sciences Corporation announced Friday morning that the launch of its Antares rocket and the Cygnus spacecraft to the station has been postponed an additional day to Sunday at 12:52 p.m. EDT to allow technicians the time they need to complete pre-launch preparations at Launch Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Severe weather in the Wallops area repeatedly interrupted Orbital’s operations schedule leading up to the launch. NASA TV coverage of Sunday’s launch will begin at noon.

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, stands vertically at launch Pad-0A after successfully being raised into position for launch, Thursday, July 10, 2014, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Image Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, stands vertically at launch Pad-0A after successfully being raised into position for launch, Thursday, July 10, 2014, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Image Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

A Sunday launch for Cygnus will put the cargo ship on track to rendezvous with the station Wednesday morning. Commander Steve Swanson, with assistance from Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst, will command the station’s 57-foot Canadarm2 to grapple Cygnus at 6:37 a.m. for its berthing to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony node. NASA TV coverage of the rendezvous will begin at 5:15 a.m. Wednesday, followed by berthing coverage at 8:30 a.m.

Aboard the station Friday, Swanson spent the morning performing a number of routine maintenance tasks to keep the orbiting laboratory in tip-top shape. The commander checked out the attachment of an accelerometer before moving on to the retrieval of two acoustic dosimeters that have been tracking the noise levels aboard the station.

After inspecting an assortment of spacewalk tethers, Swanson removed and replaced a filter in the Water Recovery System. Part of the station’s Environment Control and Life Support System, the Water Recovery System recycles condensation and urine into drinkable water.

Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman set up the Burning and Suppression of Solids experiment, or BASS, inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for the week’s final set of combustion studies. BASS is taking a look at the burning and extinguishing characteristics of a variety of materials in microgravity. Results from this experiment will help scientists create improved computational models that will aid in the design of fire detection and suppression systems both in space and here on Earth. The research will also guide the selection of materials for future spacecraft, screening out those materials that may actually become more flammable in space than on Earth.

Wiseman also took a run on the COLBERT treadmill while wearing shoes equipped with specials sensors to calibrate the equipment for the Force Shoes experiment.

Gerst, who began the day with some quick laptop computer troubleshooting for a remote robotics experiment, spent his morning recording a “Flying Classroom” video. He took a brief break from that activity to talk with students in his native country of Germany over the station’s ham radio.

Gerst finished up his morning activities with an inspection of the portable emergency equipment to make sure that the fire extinguishers and other items remain in working condition.

Inside the Zvezda service module, Flight Engineers Max Suraev and Alexander Skvortsov performed a test of the Telerobotically Operated Rendezvous System, or TORU, to prepare for the upcoming undocking of the ISS Progress 55 cargo ship on July 21 and the launch and docking of its replacement – ISS Progress 56 — on July 23. The crew can use TORU to manually guide a Russian spacecraft in the event of a problem with its Kurs automated rendezvous and docking system.

To set the station in the proper phasing for the single-day launch and docking of Progress 56, the engines of the station’s Zvezda service module were fired for one minute and one second beginning at 10:53 a.m. Friday to raise the orbit of the station by .8 statute miles at apogee and 1.3 statute miles at perigee. The reboost originally was planned for next week, but Russian officials agreed to move it earlier to avoid any potential conflicts with Cygnus activities. Friday’s reboost placed the station in an orbit of 260.9 x 256.6 statute miles.

Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev meanwhile cleaned fan screens inside the Zarya module and recorded video for a Russian documentary about life aboard the station.

Following a midday meal, Swanson, Gerst and Wiseman teamed up for a conference call with the teams on the ground to review the plan to unload cargo from Cygnus. For its second commercial resupply services mission, Orbital-2, Cygnus is delivering approximately 3,300 pounds of supplies for the station, including science experiments to expand the research capability of the Expedition 40 crew, crew provisions, spare parts and experiment hardware.

Skvortsov continued loading Progress 55 with trash and unneeded items for disposal when that vehicle makes its fiery re-entry over the Pacific Ocean. Suraev meanwhile returned to the Kulonovskiy Kristall experiment to gather more information about charged particles in a weightless environment

Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev wrapped up their day with a long-distance handover conference with the three crew members who will replace them when they head back to Earth in September at the end of Expedition 40. NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova are slated to launch in late September to join Wiseman, Suraev and Gerst aboard the station for Expedition 41.

Over the weekend, the station’s six residents will have some free time to relax and take care of weekly housekeeping chores. They’ll also have an opportunity to make note of their own role in a station milestone on Saturday: 5,000 days of humans living and working aboard the station. Since the Expedition One mission beginning in November 2000, 214 different individuals have set foot on the station. More than 1,550 science investigations have taken place aboard the orbiting complex during that time.

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