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Station Crew Checks Out Robotics, Prepares for Spacewalk

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Aug 3, 2011 9:19 am via: NASA
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On the eve of a six-hour Russian spacewalk, the Expedition 28 crew of the orbiting International Space Station completed preparations for that excursion and conducted a checkout of Japanese robotics.

Flight Engineers Sergei Volkov and Alexander Samokutyaev, who are scheduled to venture outside the Pirs airlock at 10:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday, and Commander Andrey Borisenko tagged up with spacewalk specialists at the Russian Mission Control Center for a review of the timeline. Volkov and Samokutyaev also filled and installed drink bags into their Orlan-MK spacesuits and set up dosimeters to measure radiation exposure while they are outside the station.

During the spacewalk, the two cosmonauts are scheduled to move a telescoping cargo boom from one airlock to another, install a prototype laser communications system and deploy an amateur radio micro-satellite that will broadcast messages commemorating the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering spaceflight.

NASA Television coverage of the spacewalk, the third for Volkov and Samokutyaev’s first, begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa and Ron Garan spent most of their day immersed in robotics as they used the Japanese robotic arm to grapple and extract the Small Fine Arm from the Kibo module’s external experiment platform for its first checkout. While the main arm of the Japanese Remote Manipulator System can move up to 6.4 metric tons (14,000 pounds) of hardware, the Small Fine Arm, as its name suggests, is designed to handle more delicate operations. Crew members can control the robot arms to install or exchange experiment payloads and hardware located on Kibo’s external platform.

Flight Engineer Mike Fossum worked with the Shear History Extensional Rheology Experiment, or SHERE, which studies the effect of rotation on the stress and strain response of a polymer fluid being stretched in microgravity. Understanding this process is a critical step in the evolution of containerless processing and the ability to fabricate new parts and tools on future missions beyond low-Earth orbit.

The station’s residents also had several opportunities to observe and photograph the condition of our home planet as they orbit the Earth every 90 minutes at an altitude of 240 statute miles. Among the sites suggested for photography Tuesday by researchers studying changes in the ecosystem were the Konza Prairie in Kansas and the Florida Everglades.

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