Station Crew Tests Robotic Visual Navigation
The Expedition 35 crew of the International Space Station tackled a technology demonstration and a variety of science experiments Tuesday while continuing preparations for an upcoming Russian spacewalk.
The crew’s workday began almost immediately after the standard 2 a.m. EDT wakeup time as Commander Chris Hadfield and Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn performed the Reaction self-test, a short reaction time task that allows the crew and researchers to track the effects of fatigue on performance. The two astronauts also tested their urine to provide data for the Pro K experiment as nutritionists monitor how dietary changes affect the bone loss that occurs during spaceflight.
After the crew’s daily planning conference with flight control teams around the world, Marshburn set up two of a trio of basketball-sized, free-flying satellite known Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES. Marshburn equipped one of the SPHERES with a stereoscopic camera setup dubbed the Visual Estimation and Relative Tracking for Inspection of Generic Objects, or VERTIGO, to demonstrate technologies for relative navigation based on a visual model. Throughout the day, Marshburn tested the SPHERES robot’s ability to perform accurate visual-inertial tracking and navigation about a stationary target and captured video of the satellite in action.
› Read more about SPHERES-VERTIGO
Hadfield meanwhile participated in a monthly fitness evaluation. With the assistance of Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy, Hadfield donned heart monitoring equipment and a blood pressure cuff that collected data while he worked out on the station’s exercise cycle.
Later, Hadfield checked in on the Binary Colloid Alloy Test, which takes a look at colloids -- microscopic particles suspended in a liquid -- and may lead to improvements in manufacturing processes here on Earth. The commander changed a battery inside the experiment’s camera and checked its alignment and focus.
After removing and replacing a wastewater recycling tank inside the Environmental Control and Life Support System , Hadfield took a break from his work to talk with students participating in the Canadian Science Challenge at Lockview High School in Fall River, Nova Scotia, Canada. During the live event televised on NASA TV, Hadfield, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut, performed an experiment suggested by the students by demonstrating what happens when a soaking wet washcloth is wrung out in microgravity.
› Watch the in-flight educational event
Cassidy spent much of his day working with an experiment known as Burning And Suppression of Solids, or BASS, which studies how a variety of solid materials burn and extinguish in microgravity. Results from BASS may lead to improvements in spacecraft materials selection, strategies for extinguishing accidental fires aboard spacecraft and improved computational models used in the design of fire detection and suppression systems here on Earth.
› Read more about the BASS experiment
Cassidy also adjusted some manifold bottle valves inside the Combustion Integrated Rack to help calibrate its Fuel and Oxidizer Management Assembly. This rack, 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.
In preparation for a six-hour spacewalk planned for Friday, Flight Engineers Pavel Vinogradov and Roman Romanenko donned their Russian Orlan spacesuits to conduct translation exercises in the Pirs docking compartment. With the assistance of Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin, Vinogradov and Romanenko tested their ability to move around in the spacesuits. On Wednesday, they will don their spacesuits again for a full dress rehearsal of spacewalk procedures inside Pirs.
During Friday’s spacewalk slated to begin at 10:06 a.m., the two will exit through the Pirs airlock and venture outside the station to deploy and retrieve several science experiments and install a new navigational aid.
› Read more about Friday's spacewalk
The Russian crew members also closed the hatch to the ISS Progress 50 cargo craft docked to Pirs to prepare that compartment for the start of Friday’s excursion.
Meanwhile at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Orbital Sciences Corp. continues preparations for the test flight of the Antares rocket on Wednesday.
NASA's Wallops Flight Facility Site Director Bill Wrobel has granted Authority to Proceed (ATP) for Orbital Science Corporation's test launch of its Antares rocket, scheduled for 5 p.m., April 17. ATP verifies the project managers, the Wallops range and range safety are ready to support the established plans and procedures for launch operations. This followed Monday afternoon's Launch Readiness Review, at which Orbital managers gave a “go” to proceed toward launch.
› Antares updates from Orbital
Antares is undergoing testing that will enable the rocket to eventually carry experiments and supplies to the International Space Station aboard a Cygnus cargo spacecraft. This test flight will not launch a Cygnus spacecraft or rendezvous with the space station.
Orbital is testing the Antares rocket under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. NASA initiatives like COTS are helping develop a robust U.S. commercial space transportation industry with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the space station and low-Earth orbit.
› Read more about Expedition 35