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Robotics, Science and Spacesuit Tests Aboard Station

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Tue Aug 27, 2013 8:59 pm via: NASA
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The Expedition 36 crew of the International Space Station performed a variety of scientific investigations Tuesday, prepared for the departure of three crewmates and tested a faulty spacesuit that resulted in an abbreviated spacewalk back on July 16.

Following the crew’s daily planning conference with flight control teams around the world, Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano powered up the InSPACE-3 experiment for another session.  This experiment examines colloidal fluids classified as smart materials, which transition to a solid-like state in the presence of a magnetic field. New manufacturing models based on the idea of having these nanoparticles act as self-assembling building blocks could be used to improve or develop active mechanical systems such as new brake systems, seat suspensions, stress transducers, robotics, rovers, airplane landing gears and vibration damping systems.

Parmitano also gathered items for disposal aboard the Orbital Sciences Cygnus cargo craft that is targeted for launch from the Wallops Flight Facility, Va. on Sept. 17.  After its berthing to the station on Sept. 22, Cygnus will reside on the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module for a month before it is unberthed and deorbited for a destructive re-entry in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Inside the Japanese Kibo module, Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg set up a pair of bowling-ball-sized, free-flying satellites known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES.  Surrounding the two SPHERES mini-satellites with ring-shaped hardware known as the Resonant Inductive Near-field Generation System, or RINGS, Nyberg performed a demonstration of how power can be transferred between two satellites without physical contact. Station crews beginning with Expedition 8 have operated these robots to test techniques that could lead to advancements in automated dockings, satellite servicing, spacecraft assembly and emergency repairs.

Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy, along with Parmitano, performed a checkout of the spacesuit that Parmitano wore during a July 16 spacewalk that was cut short when its helmet began to fill with water. After assembling and powering up the empty suit as if it were about to go out on another spacewalk, the two astronauts observed water once again leaking into the helmet. With the issue reproduced, NASA now has a baseline configuration for the crew to begin swapping out parts for additional tests to pinpoint the problem.  There are also opportunities to either launch replacement parts on upcoming cargo flights or return parts to Earth for further study once more is known about the cause of the issue.

With an eye toward their Sept. 10 departure aboard the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft, Cassidy, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin participated in a teleconference with the search and rescue team that will come to their aid when their Soyuz makes its parachute-assisted landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan.  Nyberg meanwhile packed up some experiment and test samples in a mesh bag for return to Earth aboard the Soyuz.

After the conference, Vinogradov and Misurkin joined up with Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin for a round of medical tests to measure cardiac bioelectric activity at rest.  Vinogradov also spent some time conducting the Seiner ocean-observation experiment.

As the crew neared the end of their workday aboard the station, the robotics team at Houston’s Mission Control Center began powering up the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or Dextre, outside the station. Overnight, the team will use the Canadian Space Agency’s robotic handyman to move the Space Test Project-4 payload from the Exposed Pallet at the forward end of the Kibo module to the station’s truss. The pallet was brought to the station aboard the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-4 earlier this month.

Meanwhile at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, three new crew members are preparing for a Sept. 25 launch to join their crewmates aboard the station. NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy conducted Russian segment systems training Tuesday as they prepare for next week’s final qualification simulations.

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