Dragon Counts Down to Launch Ahead of Spacewalks

A pair of Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), also known as spacesuits, are pictured inside the space station's Quest airlock where spacewalks are staged by astronauts wearing the EMUs.
A pair of Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), also known as spacesuits, are pictured inside the space station’s Quest airlock where spacewalks are staged by astronauts wearing the EMUs.

A Dragon cargo craft is counting down to its liftoff to the International Space Station on Saturday as two NASA astronauts get ready for next week’s spacewalk. Meanwhile, the Expedition 69 crew is keeping up with its human research, robotics, and lab maintenance activities.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon cargo craft atop has rolled out to its launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It is expected to lift off at 12:35 p.m. EDT on Saturday carrying Dragon to Earth orbit. Dragon will then conduct an automated flight to the orbital outpost where it will dock to the Harmony module’s space-facing port at 5:36 a.m. on Monday.

Dragon is carrying two new roll-out solar arrays that will be extracted from its unpressurized trunk about two days after its docking then staged on a pallet attached to the station’s starboard-side truss structure. Packed inside the U.S. cargo craft are several tons of new experiments, food, supplies, and hardware to replenish the crew members. NASA TV begins its live launch coverage at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday on the agency’s app and website. The live docking broadcast starts at 4 a.m. on Monday.

NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg are planning to go on a spacewalk on June 9 and install one of the new Dragon-delivered solar arrays on the starboard truss. The duo have been reviewing spacewalk procedures and configuring their Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), or spacesuits, they will use next week during their excursion. Another spacewalk is scheduled for June 15 to install the second roll-out solar array packed inside Dragon.

Today, along with the ongoing spacewalk preparations, the pair had time set aside for some science and cargo activities. Bowen spent the morning servicing blood samples for the Immunity Assay experiment to explore how spaceflight affects cellular immune functions. Hoburg worked on an Astrobee robotic free-flying assistant then reviewed operations for the upcoming Dragon resupply mission.

Flight Engineers Frank Rubio of NASA and Sultan Alneyadi of UAE (United Arab Emirates), who have been assisting with the spacewalk preparations, also had a variety of science tasks booked on Thursday’s schedule. Rubio installed research hardware inside the Combustion Integrated Rack for a space fire safety study. Alneyadi is in the middle of a 48-hour period of wearing a Bio-Monitor vest and headband that is monitoring his cardiovascular system while performing normal crew activities.

Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin once again partnered together and continued installing upgraded data cables inside the Zvezda service module. Prokopyev also attached sensors to himself for a physical fitness evaluation on the station’s treadmill. Petelin unpacked and stowed cargo from inside the ISS Progress 84 space freighter. Flight Engineer Andrey Fedyaev spent his day practicing European robotic arm maneuvering techniques from inside the Nauka science module.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

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