The International Space Station is due to welcome a U.S. cargo craft after it launches from Florida next week. In the meantime, the Expedition 68 crew is staying focused on completing five more spacewalks for assembly and installation work before the end of the year.
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is due to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 3:54 p.m. EST on Tuesday and take a daylong trip to the orbiting lab. It will automatically dock to the space-facing, or zenith port, on the station’s Harmony module at 5:57 a.m. on Wednesday. Dragon is delivering new space agriculture and biotechnology studies, as well as the next pair of rollout solar arrays to augment the station’s power generation system. NASA TV, on the agency’s app and website, begins its launch coverage at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and docking coverage at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
After Dragon completes is delivery mission to the space station, robotics controllers on the ground will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to extract two rollout solar arrays from inside the U.S. space freighter’s trunk. The remotely controlled Canadarm2 will then stage the rollout solar arrays on truss segment attachment points to be retrieved on a pair of spacewalks planned for Nov. 29 and Dec. 3. Two yet-to-be-named Expedition 68 astronauts will remove the rollout solar arrays from their attachment points then install them at the base of the two main solar arrays on both the port and starboard truss segments.
NASA Flight Engineers Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann trained Friday on a computer for Dragon’s automated arrival on Monday. The duo studied approach and docking procedures and reviewed the upcoming cargo unpacking activities. The astronauts were joined at the end of the day by Flight Engineers Frank Rubio of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency for a conference with NASA and SpaceX mission controllers.
Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin completed the first of four planned Russian spacewalks this year at 4:07 p.m. EST Thursday. The two Roscosmos cosmonauts spent six hours and 25 minutes in their Orlan spacesuits preparing a radiator for its relocation from the Rassvet module to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module where it will be installed on an upcoming spacewalk.
The duo has three more spacewalks to complete before the end of the year with the next excursion set for Friday, Nov. 25. The Roscosmos spacewalkers, with assistance from the European Robotic Arm (ERA) controlled by Flight Engineer Anna Kikina, will move the radiator from Rassvet to Nauka and make electrical and hydraulic connections. The next two Russian spacewalks, on Dec. 6 and 21, will see Rassvet’s airlock transferred and installed to Nauka using the ERA, then the deployment of the newly relocated radiator attached to Nauka.
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