Astronauts Relax Before Space Delivery, Cosmonauts Prep for Spacewalk

Northrop Grumman's Antares rocket with the Cygnus cargo craft atop launches on time from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA/Patrick Black
Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket with the Cygnus cargo craft atop launches on time from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA/Patrick Black

Expedition 69 is awaiting an orbiting U.S. cargo craft carrying over 8,200 pounds of science and supplies for delivery on Friday. The International Space Station’s residents split their day on Wednesday as four astronauts took the day off while three cosmonauts prepared for a spacewalk next week.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is orbiting Earth racing towards the orbital lab after its successful launch from Virginia at 8:31 p.m. EDT on Tuesday. NASA Flight Engineers Woody Hoburg and Frank Rubio will be on duty Friday morning when Cygnus begins its slow, methodical arrival for capture. Hoburg will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and grapple Cygnus at 5:55 a.m. after its final approach on Friday. Rubio will back up Hoburg monitoring Cygnus and its telemetry as it nears the space station.

Mission controllers on the ground will remotely take control of the Canadarm2 after Cygnus’ capture and install it to the Unity module’s Earth-facing port about two hours later.  Cygnus is scheduled to end its stay at the orbital lab at the end of October.

Both astronauts along with NASA Flight Engineer Stephen Bowen and UAE (United Arab Emirates) Flight Engineer Sultan Alneyadi relaxed Wednesday setting some time aside for their daily workouts. The quartet will get back to work on Thursday with a research schedule filled with life science, materials physics, and robotics. The foursome will have one more Cygnus conference with mission controllers on the ground, then get a good night’s sleep before beginning a full day of cargo activities.

Next week, two cosmonauts are scheduled to begin the year’s tenth spacewalk. Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin are due to exit the Poisk airlock on Aug. 9 to install micrometeoroid orbital debris shields and relocate hardware. The duo spent Wednesday reviewing the upcoming spacewalk procedures and configuring their Orlan spacesuits.

Flight Engineer Andrey Fedyaev worked Wednesday photographing the condition of Earth’s forests using a high-power camera. The first-time space flyer, who also joined Prokopyev and Petelin for the spacewalk review, will be in the Nauka science module at the controls of the European robotic arm assisting the spacewalkers next week.


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