The International Space Station turned 15 years old Wednesday. Zarya, the first space station module, was launched aboard a Russian Proton rocket and placed into orbit on Nov. 20, 1998.
Two years later the first crew would occupy the station which consisted of just three modules including Russia’s Zvezda service module and the United States’ Unity node. When Expedition 1 returned to Earth four months later the station had expanded to a fourth module, the U.S. Destiny laboratory, and its first solar array, the P6 truss structure, attached to Unity.
Meanwhile, the 38th crew to live and work continuously aboard the orbital laboratory is moving ahead with science to benefit life on Earth and in space. The six-member crew is also ensuring the station is operating in optimal shape and exercising to stay healthy during its long-term stay in space.
Wednesday’s first task was to deploy the fourth and final nano-satellite, known as a Cubesat, from a deployer mechanism outside Japan’s Kibo laboratory. Three Cubesats were released Tuesday morning from the device attached to the Japanese robotic arm. Afterwards, ground controllers returned the gear to its pre-deployment configuration and powered down the robotic arm.
Biomedical science is ongoing as several crew members participating in different experiments collected blood and urine samples for analysis on the ground. Flight Engineers Koichi Wakata and Mike Hopkins participated in an eye exam and a blood pressure check.
The duo also partnered up for a fluid physics experiment that observes how liquids behave in microgravity which could benefit water and fuel delivery systems on future spacecraft. Scientists designed the Capillary Flow Experiment-2 to study properties of fluids and bubbles inside containers with a specific 3-D geometry.
Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio focused Wednesday on station orientation and maintenance. After his morning orientation, he cleaned fans and vents inside the Destiny lab. Later in the afternoon Mastracchio inspected the Tranquility node’s treadmill specifically checking its computer and power supply.
The three cosmonauts on the space station, Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineers Sergey Ryazanskiy and Mikhail Tyurin, worked in their segment of the orbital laboratory.
Kotov spent some time on maintenance including repairing a water distribution and heating unit. He also worked on an experiment that measures the Earth’s albedo, or the amount of solar radiation reflected from the surface, in the hopes to develop methods to harness the reflected radiation to supplement the station’s power supply. The light reflection phenomenon is measured in units called albedo.
Ryazanskiy continued installing low-noise fans and checking their sound levels inside Zvezda. He also replaced gas heat exchanger fans and updated the station’s inventory management system.
Tyurin began his day collecting his own blood and saliva samples for the Russian Khromatomass experiment and later attached sensors to his body measuring his electrocardiogram. He also cleaned vent screens and checked airflow sensors. Tyurin later assisted Kotov with the albedo experiment and had an afternoon station orientation session.