[image-51]With the Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus cargo vehicle gradually closing in on the International Space Station for the first time, the Expedition 37 crew conducted a final cargo and robotics review Friday to prepare for the arrival of the new commercial cargo craft.
Cygnus, which launched at 10:58 a.m. EDT Wednesday from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, was about 1,200 statute miles behind the station as of Friday morning, closing in another 82 statute miles with every orbit as it heads toward Sunday’s rendezvous.
The two flight engineers aboard the station, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano, spent some time studying the rendezvous timeline before moving on to a review of Cygnus’ cargo manifest. Cygnus, which is capable of carrying over 3,700 pounds of cargo within its 662 cubic foot pressurized cargo hold, is delivering around 1,300 pounds of crew supplies on this demonstration flight.
Parmitano and Nyberg wrapped up their preparations Friday with a final review of the procedures for the robotic grapple and berthing of the commercial cargo craft. Parmitano, with assistance from Nyberg, will be at the controls of the robotics workstation in the cupola to command the station’s s 57-foot robotic arm, Canadarm2, to reach out and grapple the vehicle at 7:25 a.m. Sunday. He will then maneuver the arm to guide Cygnus to its docking port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony node for its installation slated to begin at 9:15 a.m.
Nyberg and Parmitano also participated in several ongoing medical studies Friday as researchers seek to learn more about the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. Parmitano, who has been following a carefully prescribed diet and logging his meals for the Pro K experiment this week, stored some urine and blood samples in the Minus Eighty-degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS, or MELFI, to preserve them for later study by nutritionists back on Earth. Pro K examines the effectiveness of dietary changes to lessen the bone loss experienced by astronauts in space.
Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency began his day with the Kulonovskiy Kristall experiment, gathering information about charged particles in a weightless environment. He also cleaned air ducts in the Poisk Mini-Research Module and performed routine maintenance on the life-support system in the Zvezda service module.
[image-94]Meanwhile, the three crew members who will return the station to its full six-person complement are now in the final stages of preparations for launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy will launch aboard their Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft at 4:58 p.m. Wednesday (2:58 a.m. Thursday, Kazakh time) on an expedited 4-orbit, 6-hour trip from the Baikonur launch pad to the station.
Hopkins, Kotov and Ryazanskiy will remain aboard the station until mid-March. Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano, who have been aboard the orbiting laboratory since late May, will return to Earth Nov. 11, leaving Kotov as commander of Expedition 38.
On Thursday, the Soyuz TMA-10M was “encapsulated” inside the third stage booster of a Soyuz rocket at the Integration Facility of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. This process set the stage for the third stage of the Soyuz booster to be mated with two other rocket stages Sunday in advance of the rocket’s rollout to the launch pad in Baikonur on Monday.