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Russian Resupply Spacecraft Begins Expedited Flight to Station

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Feb 5, 2014 6:52 pm via: NASA
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The ISS Progress 54 resupply spacecraft, loaded with 2.8 tons of cargo, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:23 a.m. EST Wednesday (10:23 p.m. Baikonur time) to begin a 6-hour, 4-orbit trek to the International Space Station.

At the time of launch of Progress 54 atop its Soyuz rocket, the station was orbiting 262 statute miles over far western Kazakhstan near the border with Russia.

The ISS Progress 54 resupply spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to begin a 6-hour journey to the International Space Station. Image Credit: Roscosmos

The ISS Progress 54 resupply spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to begin a 6-hour journey to the International Space Station. Image Credit: Roscosmos

Once the Progress reached its preliminary orbit about nine minutes after launch, it was less than 1,750 miles behind the complex.  A series of thruster firings by the Russian space freighter during the next several hours will adjust the orbit to put the Progress on track for its rendezvous with the station and an automated docking to the Earth-facing port of the Pirs docking compartment at 5:25 p.m.

NASA Television coverage of the docking begins at 4:45 p.m.

Aboard the station, Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin will use the Telerobotically Operated Rendezvous Unit, or TORU, to monitor the approach and docking of Progress 54. The crew can use TORU to remotely guide the cargo craft to its docking port in the event that its Kurs automated rendezvous system experiences a problem.

The new Progress is loaded with 1,764 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water and 2,897 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware and other supplies for the Expedition 38 crew. The crew will open the hatch to Progress Thursday morning to begin unloading the cargo. Progress 54 is slated to spend about two months docked to the complex before departing to make way for ISS Progress 55.

The ISS Progress 52 cargo craft, which undocked from Pirs on Monday, is in the midst of several days of tests to study the thermal effects of space on its attitude control system before it is ultimately de-orbited Feb. 11 for a fiery demise over the Pacific.

While they await the arrival of Progress 54, the astronauts and cosmonauts of the Expedition 38 crew will focus on a variety of science and maintenance tasks.

Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins is spending much of his day participating in the BP Reg experiment. This is a Canadian medical study that seeks to understand the causes of fainting and dizziness seen in some astronauts when they return to Earth following a long-duration mission. Results from this experiment will not only help researchers understand dizziness in astronauts, but it also will have direct benefits for people on Earth – particularly those predisposed to falls and resulting injuries, as seen in the elderly.

Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio began his day with Microbiome study, which takes a look at the impact of space travel on the human immune system and an individual’s microbiome — the collective community of microorganisms that are normally present in and on the human body. For this session, Mastracchio completed a survey and collected test samples from his own body. In addition to providing data that will keep future crews healthy, findings from this study could benefit people on Earth who work in extreme environments and further research in the detection of diseases, alterations in metabolic function and deficiencies in the immune system.

Later Mastracchio will exchange sample cartridges inside the Materials Science Laboratory’s Solidification and Quench Furnace. This metallurgical research furnace provides three heater zones to ensure accurate temperature profiles and maintain a sample’s required temperature variations throughout the solidification process. This type of research in space allows scientists to isolate chemical and thermal properties of materials from the effects of gravity.

Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata participated in another medical exam for the Ocular Health study. Vision changes have been observed in some astronauts returning from long-duration spaceflight, and researchers want to learn more about its root causes and develop countermeasures to minimize this risk. With assistance from the Ocular Health team on the ground and Mastracchio, Wakata measured his blood pressure and checked the pressure of his eyes with a tonometer.

The remainder of Wakata’s day will be centered on configuring hardware and positioning a camera inside the Combustion Integrated Rack for another round of data collection. This research rack, which includes an optics bench, combustion chamber, fuel and oxidizer control and five different cameras, allows a variety of combustion experiments to be performed safely aboard the station.

On the Russian side of the complex, Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy conducted the Albedo experiment, which takes a look at using the solar radiation reflected from the Earth to provide power for the station.  Ryazanskiy also is scheduled to perform routine maintenance on the life-support system in the Zvezda service module.

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