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Cygnus Cargo Craft Homing in on Station

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri Jan 10, 2014 8:10 pm via: NASA
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The six  Expedition 38 crew members aboard the International Space Station tackled a variety of science and maintenance activities Friday as they head into a busy weekend that will see the arrival of the Cygnus spacecraft on its first commercially contracted cargo flight.

Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus cargo craft continues to hone in on the station, having completed four rendezvous burns to fine-tune its path following its launch at 1:07 p.m. EST Thursday from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.  The activation of the station’s proximity operations hardware on Friday will provide a beacon for Cygnus, giving it navigational data during the final phase of the rendezvous that gets under way late Saturday.

On Sunday morning when Cygnus reaches the capture point about 30 feet from the complex, Expedition 38 Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins will use Canadarm2, the station’s 57-foot robotic arm, to reach out and grapple the cargo craft at 6:02 a.m. Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata then will use the robotic arm to guide Cygnus to its berthing port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony node for installation beginning around 7:20 a.m.

NASA television coverage of the rendezvous and berthing begins at 5 a.m. Sunday, followed at 7 a.m. with coverage of the installation.

Cygnus is carrying 2,780 pounds of supplies to the space station, including vital science experiments that will expand the research capabilities of the Expedition 38 crew members aboard the orbiting laboratory. The cargo also includes crew provisions, spare parts, science experiment hardware and 23 student experiments that will involve around 9,000 students on the ground. These experiments involve life sciences topics ranging from amoeba reproduction to bone calcium to salamanders.

Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio began his workday aboard the station Friday checking the status of the hardware for an experiment known as Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability, or FASES. This experiment takes a look at the stability of emulsions — mixtures of liquids that usually do not mix well. Emulsions are associated with many everyday materials and products including industrial processing solutions, food products, personal care items and pharmaceuticals. Results from this experiment can lead to the ability to produce more stable and long-lived emulsions, greatly enhancing shelf life of many products used today.

Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata meanwhile watered seedlings for the Aniso Tubule study, which is an investigation that seeks to understand the mechanisms that plants use in growing stems of the right thickness to support them against gravity. Wakata also harvested sample seedlings and stored them in the Minus Eighty Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS, or MELFI, to preserve them for further study back on Earth.

Wakata spent much of the remainder of his day working with the Capillary Flow Experiment, which takes a close look at how fluids flow across surfaces with complex geometries in a weightless environment. Results from this experiment will improve computer models used to design fluid transfer systems and fuel tanks on future spacecraft. These systems are crucial as NASA develops technologies that will take astronauts deeper into space than ever before.

Inside the station’s Tranquility node, Hopkins performed some maintenance on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, or ARED, which allows the crew to perform a wide range of weightlifting exercises in the weightless environment of the station. The station’s exercise equipment sees a lot of use as each crew member works out about two hours every day to prevent the loss of muscle mass and bone density that occurs during long-duration spaceflight.

On the Russian side of the station, Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy performed the Bar experiment, studying methods and instruments for detecting the location of an air leak from one of the station’s modules.

Afterward, Ryazanskiy conducted another session of the Coulomb Crystal experiment  to gather data about charged particles in a weightless environment.

Their fellow Russian cosmonaut, Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin, cleaned panels and replaced dust filters in the Russian segment. He also performed the Seiner ocean-observation study, documenting color bloom patterns in the oceans’ waters for the fishing industry.

Kotov rounded out the day packing trash inside the ISS Progress 52 cargo ship. That unmanned cargo vehicle, which delivered nearly three tons of supplies to the orbiting outpost back in July, is set to undock from the Pirs docking compartment in early February for a destructive re-entry over the Pacific ocean.

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