Robonaut’s Legs Powered Up, Station Lowers Orbit

NASA and ESA Astronauts
(From left) Astronauts Barry Wilmore, Terry Virts and Samantha Cristoforetti talk to reporters on Earth about upcoming missions. Credit: NASA TV

The Expedition 42 crew worked Wednesday with fruit flies, a humanoid robot and a Dragon spacecraft. Also, Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 fired its engines for nearly five minutes, slightly lowering the station’s orbit to prepare for an upcoming ISS Progress 58 resupply mission.

Commander Barry Wilmore and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti packed gear inside the SpaceX Dragon private space freighter for retrieval on Earth. The Dragon will return to Earth on Feb. 10 when it will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean for recovery off the coast of Baja California. Cristoforetti later fed fruit flies for an experiment studying their immune system as a model for a crew member’s susceptibility to disease in space.

› Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission
› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment

Flight Engineer Terry Virts unpacked Robonaut in the Destiny then powered up the humanoid robot for a mobility test during the afternoon. Its legs received power for the first time Wednesday. Virts monitored the leg movements in conjunction with operators on the ground.

› Watch the time-lapse video of the blizzard over the northeast United States taken from the International Space Station

Virts and Wilmore Preparing for Trio of Spacewalks

Commander Barry Wilmore
Commander Barry Wilmore works on U.S. spacesuits inside the Quest airlock. Credit: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Terry Virts and Barry Wilmore are getting a pair of U.S. spacesuits ready for a set of spacewalks beginning in February. Throughout Tuesday in the Quest airlock, they recharged suit batteries and checked out fans and other suit components.

Virts also joined Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti transferring cargo to and from the SpaceX Dragon commercial space freighter. Dragon completed its delivery when it was captured and berthed to the Harmony module Jan. 12. It will return to Earth Feb. 10 filled with science and other gear for recovery in the Pacific Ocean.

› Read about when Dragon arrived

Another spacecraft attached to the International Space Station, Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 (ATV-5), will fire its engines Wednesday slightly lowering the station’s orbit. The lower altitude places the station at the correct altitude to receive the ISS Progress resupply craft when its launches Feb. 17. The ATV-5 will end its mission Feb. 14 when it undocks from the Zvezda service module for a fiery destruction over the Pacific.

› Read about when the ATV-5 arrived

Specialists Discuss Spacesuit Work, Crew Investigates ATV Odor

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti
Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti works with the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment delivered Jan. 12, 2015 aboard the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft. Credit: NASA TV
› Read more about the experiment

Ground controllers have completed troubleshooting work after last week’s false alarm indicating an ammonia leak. Heat exchangers and thermal control systems on the U.S. side of the International Space Station have been recovered and reintegrated and are operating in excellent shape.

Commander Barry Wilmore was scrubbing cooling loops on a U.S. spacesuit when he heard an abnormally loud fan pump separator in the suit. He alerted spacesuit engineers who are currently discussing the problem on the ground.

Crew members over the weekend noticed a bad odor coming from Europe’s docked Automated Transfer Vehicle and closed its hatch. European controllers then performed waste tank leak checks and didn’t find any leak indications. Flight Engineer Alexander Samokutyaev is set to reenter the vehicle wearing a respirator mask to investigate.

Dragon Readied for Launch, European Ship Prepped for Departure

Space Station Configuration
There will be five spacecraft at the International Space Station when the Dragon commercial craft arrives Jan. 12. Credit: NASA

The Expedition 42 crew is getting ready for a delivery aboard the Dragon commercial cargo craft as well as next month’s departure of Europe’s fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5).

The weather looks favorable for Saturday’s planned launch of Dragon aboard a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:47 a.m. EST. Dragon will arrive at the International Space Station Monday morning carrying more than 5,000 pounds of supplies, payloads and critical research.

› Read more about Saturday’s launch and television coverage
› Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission

Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts worked on readying the ATV-5 resupply craft for it’s undocking from the Zvezda service module and departure Feb. 27. It will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere loaded with trash and discarded gear for a fiery disposal over the Pacific Ocean.

Read more about the launch and docking of the ATV-5 last summer.

Station Avoids Satellite Debris After ATV-5 Fires Engines

ISS Configuration as of Nov, 9, 2014
The International Space Station configuration as of Nov, 9, 2014, shows the docked ATV-5 on the aft end of the Zvezda service module.

The International Space Station’s “Georges Lemaitre” Automated Transfer Vehicle fired its engines for 3 minutes, 25 seconds at 6:35 a.m. Central time today in a Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) to move well away from a small piece of debris from a spent Chinese satellite (Yaogan 12) launched in November 2011.

The maneuver, which was coordinated with Russian and European flight controllers, raised the station’s altitude by 9/10 of a mile at apogee and 2/10 of a mile at perigee and left the station in an orbit of 262.3 x 252.0 statute miles.

The maneuver substituted for a previously planned reboost of the station that had been planned for Wednesday night which would have been required regardless to place the station at the proper altitude for the upcoming launch of the Expedition 42/43 crew on Nov. 23, U.S. time, on a 4-orbit, 6-hour rendezvous to reach the station.

Without the maneuver, the debris would have passed within 7/10 of a mile of the station at 8:40 a.m. Central time. The three-person crew on the station was informed of the potential conjunction and maneuver plans on Tuesday and was never in any danger.