[image-51]An unpiloted Russian Progress cargo spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station Monday, completing its second and final undocking from the station since arriving in late November 2013.
The ISS Progress 53 resupply craft undocked from the aft port of the Zvezda service module at 9:29 a.m. EDT as the station orbited over Mongolia.
From a window in the Russian segment of the station, Expedition 40 Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov photographed the departing Progress cargo ship as it began a 15-second separation burn to move a safe distance away from the orbiting complex.
A 3-minute, 16-second deorbit burn beginning at 12:34 p.m. slowed the Progress for its destructive re-entry in the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean less than an hour later. Progress resupply ships are not designed to be recovered, so, like its predecessors, Progress 53 was refilled with trash and station discards after its original cargo was unloaded by the station crew.
Progress 53 delivered 2.9 tons of food, fuel and supplies when it first arrived at the station on Nov. 29, following a flight that included a “fly-by” of the station two days earlier to test revamped Kurs automated rendezvous system hardware. Because of a technical glitch unrelated to the new Kurs system, the Nov. 29 approach and docking of the Progress was controlled manually by the station’s crew using TORU, the Telerobotically Operated Rendezvous Unit.
To complete the testing of the Kurs-NA rendezvous hardware and its associated software, Progress 53 undocked from Zvezda on April 23 and successfully performed an automated docking to that port two days later. The enhanced Kurs system will be incorporated into future Progress vehicles to reduce weight by eliminating several navigational antennas, thus enabling the Progress to carry additional supplies to the station.
The final departure of Progress 53 clears the Zvezda docking port for the arrival in August of the European Space Agency’s fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle, ATV-5. Named for the Belgian physicist and astronomer Georges Lemaitre, the ATV-5 is scheduled for launch from Kourou, French Guiana, on an Ariane 5 rocket in late July.
In addition to monitoring the departure of Progress 53, the station’s six-person Expedition 40 crew supported a variety of experiments that can be conducted only in a microgravity environment and continued preparations for next week’s spacewalk.
Skvortsov and Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev began the day with an assessment of their arm muscles before moving on to a review of the tasks they will conduct during their spacewalk slated for June 19. Later, they gathered the tools and equipment they will use during the excursion. The two spacewalkers will mount a new integrated command and telemetry system on Zvezda and replace a payload rack on the Russian segment with a payload boom previously installed in a temporary location.
[image-94]Artemyev also checked out Otklik experiment hardware for monitoring particle impacts on the station. He rounded out his day by downloading data for the Identification study, which measures the loads on the station during dynamic events such as Monday’s Progress undocking.
Station Commander Steve Swanson began the day drawing a blood sample from Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst. The astronauts themselves are the experiment for human physiology studies aboard the station as their blood, saliva and urine samples are processed and stored in freezers for further analysis back on Earth. As NASA works toward sending humans on longer voyages beyond low Earth orbit, it is critical to understand how the human body adapts and changes during long-duration spaceflight.
Afterward, Swanson installed a new test sample for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Resist Tubule experiment, which takes a look at the mechanisms for gravity resistance in plants. Results from this study will help researchers learn more about the evolution of plants and enable efficient plant production both on Earth and in space. For future deep space missions, plants may be able to provide astronauts with regenerative sources of food and supplemental methods of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.
Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman spent the morning gathering U.S. spacewalking tools and equipment to loan to his Russian crewmates for next week’s spacewalk. The equipment list included tethers and a pair of helmet cameras that can provide live, first-person views from the spacewalk.
Gerst meanwhile participated in a periodic fitness evaluation while working on an exercise bike known as the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization System, or CEVIS. Wiseman assisted Gerst with blood pressure measurements for part of the evaluation.
[image-110]Following a break for lunch, Swanson led Wiseman and Gerst through some handover activities to help them become familiar with the systems and payloads of the U.S. segment of the station. Wiseman and Gerst arrived aboard the station on May 28 along with Flight Engineer Max Suraev. The three new crew members also had time set aside on their own throughout the day to learn the ropes of their orbital home.
Suraev otherwise spent most of his workday removing a series of brackets in the Rassvet Mini-Research Module-1.
Wiseman later swapped out 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.
Afterward, Wiseman joined Swanson in the Destiny lab to talk with CBS Evening News’ Scott Pelley. The two astronauts discussed their participation in social media and the scientific research aboard the station.