[image-51][image-78]Three International Space Station crew members took their Soyuz for a spin around the block Friday as they prepare for the extremely busy final week of Expedition 37.
Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano undocked their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft from the Rassvet module on the Earth-facing side of the station at 4:33 a.m. EDT Friday. After backing the vehicle a safe distance away, Soyuz Commander Yurchikhin rotated the Soyuz and began the flyaround to the rear of the station. Carefully aligning the spacecraft with the docking port on the aft end of the Zvezda service module, which was vacated by the European Space Agency’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) on Monday, Yurchikhin guided the spacecraft in for its docking at 4:54 a.m.
Coincidentally, Yurchikhin was at the helm for the last Soyuz relocation at the station in June 2010 when he piloted the Expedition 24 crew’s Soyuz TMA-19 vehicle from Zvezda to the then newly installed Rassvet module.
Friday’s Soyuz move sets the stage for the launch and arrival of a trio of new station crew members -- NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata and Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of the Russian Federal Space Agency – who will dock their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft to Rassvet on Nov. 7 about six hours after their launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The arrival of Mastracchio, Wakata and Tyurin will mark the first time since October 2009 that nine people have served together aboard the station without the presence of a space shuttle.
Also arriving to the station aboard the Soyuz TMA-11M will be the Olympic torch, which is making the longest leg of its relay leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russian. Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy will take the Olympic torch outside the station during a symbolic spacewalk.
While their crewmates relocated the Soyuz spacecraft Friday, Kotov and Ryazanskiy consolidated their tool caddies for the upcoming spacewalk. Their excursion, which is slated to begin on Nov. 9 at 9:30 a.m. EST, will air live on NASA TV.
The torch will return to Earth along with Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano on Nov. 10 when they board their Soyuz for the journey home after more than five months in space.
The final departure of Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano will free the Zvezda port for the docking of a new Progress resupply vehicle in late November. Program managers prefer to have a Progress or ATV cargo ship docked at Zvezda so it can help reboost the station and adjust its attitude.
[image-92]Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins meanwhile spent much of his Friday morning setting up the Advanced Biological Research System (ABRS). The NASA astronaut assembled a reference grid, flushed the system’s cooling loop, installed two new memory cards and powered up the system for a ground-based checkout of telemetry. The ABRS contains two temperature-controlled chambers that can be used to grow plants, microorganisms and small arthropods, such as insects or spiders.
Hopkins also recharged batteries for an upcoming session with a set of soccer-ball-sized, free-flying satellites known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES. Surrounding each SPHERES mini-satellite for this next test will be ring-shaped hardware known as the Resonant Inductive Near-field Generation System, or RINGS, which will be used to demonstrate how power can be transferred between satellites without physical contact.
Over the weekend, all six station residents will get a chance to recharge their own batteries as they enjoy some free time, take care of housekeeping tasks throughout the station and get ready for the final week of Expedition 37.