Crew Heads to Launch Site Friday, First Commercial Crew Announced

Expedition 44/45 Crew Members
At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, Expedition 44/45 crew members (from left) Kjell Lindgren of NASA; Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency; and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency pose for pictures following a news conference July 8. Credit: NASA/Seth Marcantel

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.

NASA announced today that four astronauts have been selected to train on commercial crew vehicles. Veteran astronauts Robert Behnken, Sunita Williams, Eric Boe and Douglas Hurley are now training for a commercial crew launch in 2017 as part of NASA’s journey to Mars.

Commercial Crew Astronauts
The first astronauts selected to train to fly to space on commercial crew carriers are (from left) Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Sunita Williams

Station Managers “Go” For Sunday Spacewalk

U.S. astronaut Barry Wilmore
ISS042E277376 (02/16/2015) — U.S. astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore checks out his spacesuit in preparation for an extravehicular activity (EVA) or spacewalk. Wilmore is the commander of Expedition 42 onboard the International Space Station.

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.