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New Russian Resupply Spacecraft Docks With Station

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Feb 6, 2014 6:38 am via: NASA
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The ISS Progress 54 resupply spacecraft, loaded with 2.8 tons of cargo, automatically docked to the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment at 5:22 p.m. EST Wednesday  about six hours after its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

At the time of docking, the station was soaring about 260 miles over the Atlantic Ocean east of Florida.

The ISS Progress 54 cargo craft approaches the International Space Station's Pirs docking compartment. Image Credit: NASA TV

The ISS Progress 54 cargo craft approaches the International Space Station's Pirs docking compartment. Image Credit: NASA TV

Progress 54 atop its Soyuz rocket launched from Baikonur at 11:23 a.m. (10:23 p.m. Baikonur time) to begin the expedited, 4-orbit trek to the station. Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio reported to Mission Control in Houston that he and his crewmates had “a pretty good view” of the ascent of Progress up until its separation from the first stage of its Soyuz booster.  Once the Progress reached its preliminary orbit about nine minutes after launch, it was less than 1,750 miles behind the complex.

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. Thursday morning the crew will open the hatch to Progress 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.

In addition to monitoring the arrival of Progress 54, the astronauts and cosmonauts of the Expedition 38 crew focused on a variety of science and maintenance tasks Wednesday.

Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins spent 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.

Mastracchio began his day with the 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 exchanged 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 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, Commander Oleg Kotov adjusted the thermostat for the Cascade biotechnology experiment, which investigates cell cultivation in microgravity. Afterward the commander performed the Aseptic investigation to study the methods and means of ensuring sterile conditions for biotechnological experiments aboard the station.

Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy conducted the Albedo experiment to examine the feasibility of using the solar radiation reflected from the Earth to provide power for the station.  Ryazanskiy also performed routine maintenance on the life-support system in the Zvezda service module.

Meanwhile Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin wrapped up work with the Kaplya-2 experiment and removed and stowed some of its associated hardware. Kaplya-2 studied the fluid motion and heat transfer of monodisperse drop flows in space.

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