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Station Crew Gears Up for Spacewalks, Cargo Ship Arrival

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Mon Aug 4, 2014 9:01 pm via: NASA
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82 days into the Expedition 40 mission aboard the orbiting International Space Station, Commander Steve Swanson and his team of five flight engineers began the week Monday with laboratory science, cargo transfers and preparations for some upcoming spacewalks.

Following the crew’s usual 2 a.m. EDT reveille and a daily planning conference with the flight control teams around the world, Swanson prepared the Combustion Integrated Rack for another ground-commanded session of the Flame Extinguishment Experiment-2, or FLEX-2. This experiment looks at how fuels burn and extinguish in microgravity, with an eye toward the production of safer spacecraft and increased fuel efficiency for liquid-fuel engines here on Earth.

Next, the commander swapped out a recycle tank in the Water Recovery System of the station’s Environment Control and Life Support System.

Swanson then teamed up with fellow NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman to configure the robotics workstation to receive and display telemetry from the Canadarm2 robotic arm in support of the U.S. spacewalks planned for later this month.

Afterward, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst joined Swanson and Wiseman for a “wet helmet” training session as the three crewmates familiarized themselves with the absorption pad and snorkel outfitted in the helmets of the U.S. spacesuits. This precautionary safety equipment was added as a result of the water incursion experienced by Expedition 36 astronaut Luca Parmitano during his spacewalk in July 2013.

During an excursion set for Aug. 21, Swanson and Wiseman are slated to replace a failed Sequential Shunt unit on the station’s truss in order to recover full power-generating capacity for the station. The two spacewalkers also will reconfigure external TV camera equipment.

A second U.S. spacewalk on Aug. 29 by Wiseman and Gerst will see the transfer of a failed pump module from its temporary stowage location to the External Stowage Platform-2. Other tasks planned for that spacewalk include the installation of the Mobile Transporter Relay Assembly that will add the capability to provide “keep-alive” power to the Mobile Servicing System when the Mobile Transporter is moving between worksites.

Gerst also spent part of his morning conducting another round of combustion experiments with BASS-II, the Burning and Suppression of Solids-II experiment. BASS is investigating the flammability of materials in space and the best methods for suppressing those fires. Results from this study will help screen materials for their use aboard future spacecraft and provide scientists with improved computational models that will aid in the design of fire detection and suppression systems both in space and here on Earth.

Meanwhile, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev spent the morning reviewing procedures for their own spacewalk on Aug. 18 out of the Pirs docking compartment airlock. The two Russian spacewalkers will deploy a small nanosatellite and configure hardware for future experiment installation on the hull of the Russian segment of the complex.

While Skvortsov and Artemyev studied spacewalk procedures, their colleague Max Suraev was busy transferring cargo from the ISS Progress 56 cargo ship docked to Pirs and entering the data into the Inventory Management System.

After a break for lunch, Gerst joined Skvortsov to review rendezvous contingency scenarios for the arrival next week of ESA’s fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5). The two crewmates will be monitoring the ATV’s final approach for docking Aug. 12 to the aft port of the Zvezda service module at 9:30 a.m.

Named the “Georges Lemaitre” in honor of the Belgian physicist and astronomer who first proposed the Big Bang theory, the ATV-5 continues to fly smoothly toward the station following its launch from Kourou, French Guiana, on July 29. The “Georges Lemaitre” is scheduled to fly directly under the station Friday at a distance of 3.9 miles in a test of sensors and radar systems designed to provide data for European engineers’ design of future spacecraft. After Friday’s “fly-under” of the station at 6:45 p.m., the ATV will move in front of the station and transition above and then behind the station for the final four days of its two-week rendezvous.

Swanson and Wiseman spent much of their afternoon configuring tools for their spacewalk. Afterward, Swanson received a set of dosimeters from Suraev and deployed them around the station to help categorize the radiation environment.

Swanson rounded out his workday setting up more samples for the Resist Tubule experiment, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency study of the mechanism for gravity resistance in plants. Results from this experiment will help researchers learn more about the evolution of plants and enable efficient plant production both on Earth and in space.

Wiseman meanwhile reviewed spacewalk emergency procedures while Gerst wrapped up operations with the BASS-2 experiment.

Artemyev closed out the workday in space Monday with a Russian study designed to evaluate the procedures for maintaining sterile conditions for biotechnology experiments.

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