On Thursday, flight controllers conducted a Debris Avoidance Maneuver to steer the International Space Station clear of orbital debris. Aboard the orbiting complex, the Expedition 39 crew prepared for the departure of a cargo craft Thursday and tackled a variety of experiments, including the checkout of device that incorporates electrical impulses to keep muscles fit in the absence of gravity.
Playing it conservatively, flight controllers conducted a Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) Thursday to raise the altitude of the International Space Station by a half-mile and provide an extra margin of clearance from the orbital path of a spent payload deployment mechanism from an old European Ariane 5 rocket.
NASA and Russian flight controllers tracked the Sylda Adapter for the past few days before jointly deciding to perform the maneuver, which used the ISS Progress 53 thrusters at the aft end of the Zvezda Service Module for a 3 minute, 40 second firing at 4:42 p.m. EDT that provided a reboost for the orbital laboratory.
The Ariane 5 payload deployment mechanism was forecast to pass less than 2/10 of a mile of the station at 7:02 p.m. EDT had no action been taken. The six-man Expedition 39 crew was informed of the maneuver, was never in any danger and did not have to take shelter in their respective Soyuz return vehicles. The maneuver will have no impact on the upcoming launch of a new Russian Progress resupply vehicle on April 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to bring almost three tons of supplies to the outpost, or the pending launch of the SpaceX/Dragon commercial launch vehicle later this month from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. to the station.
[image-51]Following the crew’s normal 2 a.m. EDT wakeup and a daily planning conference with flight control teams around the world, Commander Koichi Wakata began the workday with the Hybrid Training experiment. This Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency study takes a look the health benefits of applying electric stimulation to a muscle opposing the voluntary contraction of an active muscle. Crew members currently exercise two hours every day to combat the loss of muscle mass and bone density that occurs during long-duration spaceflight. Wakata will test the Hybrid Training approach on one arm for four weeks and compare it to his other arm. In addition to providing a backup to the traditional exercise devices aboard the station, Hybrid Training may be useful in keeping astronauts fit as they travel beyond low Earth orbit aboard smaller spacecraft.
Afterward, Wakata moved into the station’s cupola and spoke with TV Tokyo as the station flew over Japan.
[image-94]Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio meanwhile set up and performed the Interior Corner Flow test for Capillary Flow Experiment, which takes a close look at how fluids flow across surfaces with complex geometries in a weightless environment. Results from this experiment will improve computer models used to design fluid transfer systems and fuel tanks on future spacecraft. These systems are crucial as NASA develops technologies that will take astronauts deeper into space than ever before.
After a break for lunch, Mastracchio discussed station systems and experiment facilities with Flight Engineer Steve Swanson, who arrived aboard the station on March 27 along with Soyuz TMA-12M crewmates Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev. As the Expedition 39 crew’s newest flight engineers, Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev also had time set aside on their own throughout the day for crew orientation to become accustomed to living and working aboard the station during their first two weeks on orbit.
As part of the routine maintenance to keep the U.S. spacesuits ready to support a contingency spacewalk, Wakata wrapped up the recharge of a spacesuit battery and stowed equipment in the Quest airlock.
Wakata rounded out the day replacing a manifold bottle in the Combustion Integrated Rack. This facility, which includes an optics bench, combustion chamber, fuel and oxidizer control and five different cameras, allows a variety of combustion experiments to be performed safely aboard the station. Experiments performed in this facility could lead to improvements in spacecraft materials selection and strategies for putting out accidental fires aboard spacecraft. The research also provides scientists with improved computational models that will aid in the design of fire detection and suppression systems here on Earth.
[image-78]On the Russian side of the complex, Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin continued getting the ISS Progress 54 cargo craft ready for its departure from the station on Monday. The veteran cosmonaut packed additional trash into the craft and installed the docking mechanism, while the Russian ground team commanded the vehicle to purge its propellant lines. Progress 54 will undock from the Pirs docking compartment Monday at 9:58 a.m. to begin 11 days of engineering tests before it is sent to a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean on April 18.
The departure of Progress 54 will clear the way for ISS Progress 55, which is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 9 at 11:26 a.m. (9:26 p.m., Kazakh time) and dock with Pirs at 5:16 p.m. the same day.
Skvortsov and Artemyev conducted a test of the video downlink to provide flight controllers a view of the departure of Progress.
Skvortsov also performed routine maintenance on the life-support system in the Zvezda service module, and Tyurin and Artemyev worked with the Elektron oxygen generator.