Three astronauts are relaxing today after a spacewalk on Friday and weekend cleanup work. Meanwhile, a pair of spacecraft will be departing the International Space Station over the next two weeks.
NASA astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins successfully installed a new international docking adapter Friday morning during a five hour and 58-minute spacewalk. Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi assisted the duo from inside the station, while all three cleaned up the Quest airlock afterward where they stowed their spacesuits and tools.
Williams is scheduled to return to Earth on Sept. 6 with cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin ending Expedition 48. The two cosmonauts began their departure preparations today to get the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft ready for undocking and landing in Kazakhstan.
Before Expedition 48 returns home in two weeks the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will leave the station this Friday at 6:10 a.m. EDT. The crew is loading the space freighter with gear and science for analysis by NASA engineers on the ground. Dragon will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean a few hours after its release Friday and be retrieved by SpaceX personnel.
Flight controllers and the Expedition 48 crew are preparing for tonight’s International Docking Adapter extraction work and Friday morning’s installation spacewalk. The orbital residents are also continuing to load the SpaceX Dragon with gear and science for return to Earth.
Controllers on the ground checked the Canadian robotics systems they will use to remove the International Docking Adapter from the rear of the SpaceX Dragon tonight. The new adapter will be extracted with the Canadarm2 then maneuvered to a point about three feet away from its installation point. It will then be installed on the Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 which is attached to the forward end of the Harmony module.
The final and intricate installation work will be done during a 6.5 hour spacewalk scheduled to begin Friday at 8:05 a.m. EDT with astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins . The new adapter, the first of two, will enable new Commercial Crew vehicles being developed by Boeing and SpaceX to dock at the International Space Station in the future.
In the meantime, the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is still being loaded with gear ahead of its return to Earth on Aug. 26. Rubins spent the morning packing Dragon with research samples and used hardware for analysis back on Earth.
Space station and Commercial Crew managers wrapped up a spacewalk briefing Monday afternoon discussing the installation of a new International Docking Adapter at the end of the week. Spacewalkers Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins will begin the installation work Friday at 8:05 a.m. EDT to enable future crew vehicles from Boeing and SpaceX to dock in the future.
The first major task begins Wednesday evening when the docking adapter is extracted from the rear of the SpaceX Dragon space freighter. The Canadarm2 will then maneuver the new adapter about three feet away from the forward end of the Harmony module. It will stay there until Friday when Williams and Rubins will complete the installation during a 6.5 hour spacewalk.
Meanwhile, Williams is loading gear into Dragon for return to Earth and retrieval by NASA and SpaceX engineers. Dragon’s last day at the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module is Aug. 26 when it will be grappled and then released by the Canadarm2 for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
Two astronauts called down to Mission Control today and reviewed next week’s spacewalk. In the Russian segment of the International Space Station, a pair of cosmonauts replaced outdated communications gear. Crew members also collected blood samples and conducted vision tests for a variety of space research.
Commander Jeff Williams joined Flight Engineer Kate Rubins for more spacesuit work and a conference with flight controllers in Houston to review plans for next week’s 6.5 hour spacewalk. On Aug. 19 the duo will work outside the station to complete the installation of an International Docking Adapter to the Harmony module. The first of two adapters will enable Commercial Crew vehicles being developed by Boeing and SpaceX to dock in the future.
The entire Expedition 48 crew conducted vision tests throughout the morning. Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin and Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi then collected blood, urine and saliva samples for the Fluid Shifts experiment. That study observes how microgravity affects intra-cranial pressure and changes the shape of the eye.
In the afternoon, cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Anatoly Ivanishin worked in the Zvezda service module replacing older gear that communicates with systems throughout the Russian segment. Ovchinin also joined fellow Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka to explore how living in space changes the human heart.
The International Space Station is being upgraded with new communications gear as NASA moves ahead with its Commercial Crew Program. Meanwhile, science taking place on the orbital laboratory today included human research and Earth photography.
Astronauts Tim Kopra and Tim Peake were back at work today installing hardware that will communicate with future commercial crew vehicles. The equipment will enable hardline and frequency communications with the private spacecraft during rendezvous, docking and mated activities.
Kopra also conducted a quarterly inspection of a treadmill ensuring it is in operable condition. He later conducted a ham radio pass with students at the University of North Dakota, the 1,000th such contact made possible by the ARISS program.
The three orbiting residents on the International Space Station worked on commercial crew vehicle equipment and lab maintenance today. The crew members also worked on life science and physics research to improve life for citizens on Earth and future space crews.
British astronaut Tim Peake started installing and routing cables that will enable communications with future commercial crew vehicles. The Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles, or C2V2, consists of both radio frequency and hardline connections that will be used during rendezvous, docking and mated activities at the space station.
Commander Tim Kopra installed and tested acoustic equipment in the U.S. Destiny lab module that will listen for air and pressure leaks. The tests will contribute to the development of a system that can differentiate between harmless background noise and potential leaks. Kopra also checked out gear that will support research on biological samples such as small plants, animal cells and microorganisms.
Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko explored methods to detect and locate micrometeoroid impacts outside the station. The veteran cosmonaut also photographed areas on Earth impacted by natural or man-made disasters for the long-running Uragan experiment.
The International Space Station will get an orbital boost tonight to get ready for upcoming Soyuz crew missions. On the ground, three new crew members are preparing for their Friday departure to the launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The orbiting Expedition 44 trio, with Commander Gennady Padalka and One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko, is looking forward to expanding to three new crew members. Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui will take a six-hour ride July 22 in the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft for a five month stay in space.
On the station, Kelly is getting Japan’s Kibo airlock ready for next week’s deployment of 16 Cubesats over four days. Kornienko continued moving supplies from the new ISS Progress 60 space freighter. Padalka worked on the Vozdukh, a Russian carbon dioxide removal system, the Zvezda service module. All the crew members then practiced emergency evacuation procedures.
International Space Station managers met Friday morning and gave approval to proceed with U.S. EVA 31 on Sunday, March 1 as planned. The Mission Management Team reviewed the status of spacewalk preparations as well as an analysis of the minor seepage of water into the helmet of Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA following the last spacewalk on Feb. 25 after he was back in the crew lock section of the Quest airlock and the repressurization of the airlock had begun.
Spacewalk specialists reported that Virts’ suit — serial number 3005 — has a history of what is called “sublimator water carryover”, a small amount of residual water in the sublimator cooling component that can condense once the environment around the suit is repressurized following its exposure to vacuum during a spacewalk, resulting in a tiny amount of water pushing into the helmet.
A high degree of confidence was expressed that the suit’s systems are all in good shape and approval was given to proceed with the third spacewalk in this series of EVAs.
During Sunday’s spacewalk, Virts and Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore will deploy 400 feet of cable along the truss of the station and install antennas as part of the new Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles (C2V2) system that will provide rendezvous and navigational data to visiting vehicles approaching the station, including the new U.S. commercial crew vehicles.
It will be the 187th spacewalk in support of station assembly and maintenance, the fourth for Wilmore in his career and the third for Virts.
Swapping designations for this final scheduled spacewalk for Expedition 42, Virts will be designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV1) on Sunday and will wear the suit with the red stripes. Wilmore will be extravehicular crew member 2 (EV2) with no stripes on his suit.
NASA Television coverage on Sunday will begin at 5 a.m. Central time. The spacewalk will begin around 6:10 a.m. Central time and is expected to last about 6 hours, 45 minutes.