The International Space Station is not just an outpost for international astronauts conducting science it also serves as a hub for an array of public and private spacecraft. Currently, there are two Soyuz spacecraft and one Progress resupply craft docked to the orbital laboratory.
Another spaceship, Orbital Sciences’ newest Cygnus resupply craft, is targeted for a Dec. 17 launch to the space station from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. A trio of astronauts trained Tuesday for its arrival practicing approach, rendezvous and grapple techniques they will use when Cygnus arrives Dec. 20.
Flight Engineers Mike Hopkins and Koichi Wakata practiced the maneuvers they will use to capture the Cygnus vehicle and berth it to the Harmony node with the Canadarm2. Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio will monitor Cygnus’ approach giving feedback to the robotic arm operators.
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This will be the company’s first official mission for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program. Orbital Sciences completed a demonstration mission earlier this year when its first Cygnus commercial cargo craft arrived at the space station Sept. 29.
The newest spaceship at the space station, the ISS Progress 53, arrived Friday after a four day trip. Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineers Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio continued unpacking the 2.9 tons of gear delivered to replenish the orbital outpost.
At the start of his day, Hopkins participated in a ham radio session from the European Space Agency’s Columbus lab module with students from Brzeznica, Poland. Afterwards, he worked inside the Destiny lab’s Combustion Integrated Rack replacing a manifold bottle.
At the end of the workday, Hopkins and Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata teamed up to measure air ventilation flow inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. Wakata began Tuesday morning setting up a high definition television camera inside Kibo for a future public affairs event.
Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy worked on the NAPOR-mini experiment that tests downlinking video taken of the Earth from the Zvezda service module to Russian ground stations. The videos could help scientists monitor ecological and environmental conditions from the space station. Ryazanskiy also worked to clean fans and screens throughout the station’s Russian segment.
Kotov and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin also checked out and charged the Iridium phone batteries located inside both docked Soyuz vehicles. The Iridium phones are used for emergency communications such as the unlikely event a Soyuz vehicle lands off-target. Tyurin later activated the Vozdukh atmosphere purification system.