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Astronauts Review Robotics as Cygnus Closes in on Station

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Tue Jul 15, 2014 9:21 pm via: NASA
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The six astronauts and cosmonauts of the International Space Station’s Expedition 40 crew supported a variety of science investigations Tuesday and squeezed in a final robotic practice session as they get set to capture a commercial cargo craft packed with more than a ton and a half of science and supplies.

Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus commercial cargo vehicle is closing in on the station with several rendezvous burns to fine-tune its path for a Wednesday morning rendezvous with the orbiting complex. Commander Steve Swanson and Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst will be at the robotics workstation in the station’s cupola to grapple Cygnus with the 57-foot Canadarm2 robotic arm at 6:39 a.m. Wednesday. The robotics team at Houston’s Mission Control Center then will command the arm to position Cygnus for its installation on the Earth-facing port of the Harmony node.

One of the Expedition 40 crew members recorded this image from aboard the International Space Station flying 226 nautical miles above the western Pacific Ocean. Image Credit: NASA

One of the Expedition 40 crew members recorded this image from aboard the International Space Station flying 226 nautical miles above the western Pacific Ocean. Image Credit: NASA

NASA Television coverage of the Cygnus capture begins at 5:15 a.m. Live coverage will resume at 8:30 a.m. for the berthing of Cygnus, expected to take place around 8:45 a.m.

Swanson and Gerst, along with Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman who will be joining his crewmates in the cupola Wednesday to help coordinate activities, conducted a final review of the Cygnus rendezvous timeline on Tuesday. The trio also studied the plan for pressurizing the vestibule between the newly arrived Cygnus and Harmony and opening the hatches.

Cygnus is carrying almost 3,300 pounds of supplies to the station to expand the research capability of the Expedition 40 crew. Among the research investigations aboard Cygnus are a flock of Earth-imaging nanosatellites, hardware to enable a trio of free-flying robots to perform 3-D mapping inside the station and a host of student experiments.

Later, Swanson and Gerst spent about an hour using the Robotics Onboard Trainer, or ROBoT, to practice techniques for capturing Cygnus with Canadarm2.

Gerst began his workday in space with a periodic fitness evaluation as he worked out on the station’s exercise bike – the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization.  Wiseman assisted Gerst by initiating blood pressure and electrocardiogram measurements to give the ground team insight into the crew’s cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health.

Wiseman spent much of his day wrapping up the latest series of tests for a combustion experiment known as the Burning and Suppression of Solids, or BASS, located in the Microgravity Science Glovebox. 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.

In the afternoon, Swanson replaced a filter in the Destiny laboratory’s potable water dispenser and performed some corrective maintenance on the unit.

Gerst meanwhile sorted and consolidated medical supplies in the Human Research Facility supply kits, disposing of expired items.

Afterward, he routed power and data cables from the Kibo module to the cupola for a hardware command panel that will be used to communicate with Cygnus during the rendezvous.  He also set up a small camera inside the cupola to provide views of the crew’s robotic work on Wednesday.

On the Russian side of the complex, Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov focused on packing the Progress 55 cargo craft with trash and unneeded items for disposal. Progress 55 is slated to undock from the Pirs docking compartment at 5:41 p.m. Monday for a fiery demise over the Pacific Ocean.  Its departure will clear Pirs for the same-day launch and docking of Progress 56 on July 23.

Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev worked with the Vizir experiment, which is designed improve the targeting of Earth photography by the cosmonauts through the use of ultrasonic angle measurements. Artemyev also tested the power supply circuits for the Napor-mini RSA experiment, which utilizes an optical telescope and a small radar system for monitoring Earth’s environment.

The third Russian cosmonaut aboard the station, Flight Engineer Max Suraev, used a trace contaminant analyzer in the Zvezda service module to check for the presence of ammonia, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. Suraev also performed routine maintenance on the life-support system in Zvezda.

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