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Robonaut Upgrades and Cargo Craft Ops for Station Crew

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri Jul 18, 2014 5:14 pm via: NASA
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The six-person Expedition 40 crew of the International Space Station closed out a productive workweek Friday with more upgrades for a humanoid robot, station maintenance and preparations for the arrival of a Russian cargo vehicle.

Commander Steve Swanson focused his attention primarily on mobility upgrades for the station’s robotic crew member, Robonaut 2. Since arriving aboard the station in May 2011 during the STS-134 space shuttle mission, Robonaut has been put through a series of increasingly complex tasks to test the feasibility of a humanoid robot taking over routine and mundane chores or even assisting a spacewalker outside the station.

The Progress 55 cargo ship is inspected at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan prior to encapsulation in preparation for its July 23 launch to the International Space Station. Image Credit: RSC Energia

The Progress 55 cargo ship is inspected at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan prior to encapsulation in preparation for its July 23 launch to the International Space Station. Image Credit: RSC Energia

On this third day of upgrade work on Robonaut, Swanson installed new processors and removed and replaced fans, a power distribution board and other components inside Robonaut’s torso. Over the weekend the robotics ground team will remotely deploy software for Robonaut’s new processors. Two additional workdays at a later date will see the installation of Robonaut’s legs, which were delivered to the station during the SpaceX-3 cargo mission in April.

Swanson also reviewed the plan for his participation in a study of lightweight, commercially available clothing designed to resist odors. Since there’s no washing machine on the station and launching enough clothes for a change every day would eat up expensive cargo space on resupply vehicles, the station’s crew members re-wear their garments for multiple days. Beginning Saturday, Swanson, as well as Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, will wear new lightweight, germ-resistant test clothes to check for comfort and odor control.

After assisting Swanson with some of the Robonaut upgrades, Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman donned a pair of shoes equipped with sensors to measure the force loads as he worked out on the station’s weightlifting machine — the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, or ARED. The Force Shoes study is an engineering evaluation to see if these shoes can provide ARED load data that has been unavailable since 2011.

Wiseman also deployed a new Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter in the Zvezda service module to measure the radiation environment inside the station.

Wiseman and Swanson took a break from their work for a live conversation about the future of space exploration with actor Morgan Freeman at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst spent most of his day replacing a thermal control system pump package in the Kibo module. Gerst pulled a refrigerator-sized Environmental Control and Life Support System rack from the wall to remove and replace the failed pump package. Afterward, he moved the rack back into place and reconnected the air ducts that he disconnected on Thursday.

Swanson, Gerst and Wiseman teamed up for a conference call with the ground teams to discuss Wednesday’s robotic capture of Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo craft. Swanson, with the assistance of Gerst, used the station’s 57-foot Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple Cygnus at 6:36 a.m. EDT Wednesday to set it up for its berthing to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony node. Loaded with nearly 3,300 pounds of science and supplies for the Expedition 40 crew, Cygnus launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Sunday. The commercial cargo craft will remain at the station until Aug. 15.

Meanwhile on the Russian side of the orbiting complex, preparations continue for next week’s arrival of another cargo vehicle.

Skvortsov completed loading the Progress 55 craft with trash and unneeded items and closed its hatch in preparation for its undocking Monday. Progress 55, which arrived at the orbiting complex in April, will undock from the Pirs docking compartment at 5:44 p.m. Monday and move to a safe distance away from the station for 10 days of engineering tests before it is deorbited on July 31 to burn up in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

The departure of Progress 55 will clear Pirs for the next Russian space freighter, Progress 56. On Wednesday, July 23, Progress 56 will launch at 5:44 p.m. from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (3:44 a.m. local time on July 24), with about 5,700 pounds of food, fuel and supplies for the station’s Expedition 40 crew. Progress 56 will make a four-orbit, six-hour trip to the space station and dock at 11:30 p.m.

Artemyev spent much of his day inspecting and photographing the windows inside Pirs and the Poisk Mini-Research Module-2. He also performed routine maintenance on the life-support system in Zvezda.

The third cosmonaut aboard the station, Flight Engineer Max Suraev, continued a monthly inspection of the structural elements and cables inside Zvezda before moving on to remove a protective curtain in one of the crew quarters for the Matryoshka radiation-monitoring experiment.

Over the weekend, the station’s six crew members will take care of weekly housekeeping chores as they clean frequently touched surfaces with disinfectant wipes and vacuum dust from filter grilles. They also will continue their daily 2.5-hour exercise regimen to prevent the loss of muscle mass and bone density that would otherwise occur during their long-duration stay in space.

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