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ISS Update: Interviews (May 21-23, 2012)
 
Interviews: International Space Station Update
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ISS Update: Communication Delays During Deep Space Missions – 05.23.2012
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NASA Public Affairs Officer Brandi Dean spoke with Ames Research Center’s Jeremy Frank, principal investigator for the Autonomous Mission Operations test taking place in the Deep Space Habitat demonstration unit at Johnson Space Center.

As NASA moves toward expanding human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit to new destinations, we are conducting “analog” missions to gain a deeper understanding of the operational and technical challenges. The Autonomous Missions Operations test looks at the increasing communication delays as crews travel farther away from Earth to help NASA understand what it would be like to operate spacecraft at those kinds of distances.

“For example,” Frank points out, “at Mars, the amount of time that it takes for a communication to get sent from the spacecraft back to Earth could be as much as 24 minutes, one way. We’ve never operated a space mission with people on board a spacecraft at a distance like that before.”



> ISS Update: Astronaut Participates in Autonomous Mission Operations Test – 05.23.2012
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NASA Public Affairs Officer Brandi Dean spoke with NASA astronaut Alvin Drew, who is participating in the Autonomous Mission Operations test taking place in the Deep Space Habitat demonstration unit at Johnson Space Center.

As NASA moves toward expanding human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit to new destinations, we are conducting “analog” missions to gain a deeper understanding of the operational and technical challenges. The Autonomous Missions Operations test looks at the increasing communication delays as crews travel farther away from Earth to help NASA understand what it would be like to operate spacecraft at those kinds of distances.

“We’ve done two tests so far,” said Drew, “one with about a 50 second time delay, which puts us about 10 million miles away from Earth.”

For the second test, the time delay was increased to five minutes, simulating the closest approach to Mars. Drew remarked, “It becomes significantly harder to work with Mission Control, especially when you’re used to working in near real-time with them, to tell them something and you have to wait 10 minutes for a reply.”



ISS Update: Science and Commercial Vehicles – 05.23.2012
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In the International Space Station flight control room at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, ISS Update commentator Pat Ryan interviews ISS Associate Program Scientist Dr. Tara Ruttley. She talks about the science payload aboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule, the ISS Research & Development Conference in June and more.

The only science aboard Dragon consists of 15 experiments provided by groups of students as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program, which is sponsored by NanoRacks and the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education. Ruttley said the experiments are part of a student competition and are the first of their kind to stay on the station. “I can’t wait to see the results that come back,” she said.

Ruttley said that since the space station went to full-time six-person crew rotations, she has seen a significant change in the amount of science work being done on the complex. She estimates that crew members’ time spent on experiments has more than doubled.

She also discussed the Space Station Research & Development Conference that will take place June 26-28 in Denver, Colo. “It’s pretty much a dream event for investigators who have ever done or wanted to do anything in space,” said Ruttley. It is the first conference to bring together all the investigators involved in major results on the station to share benefits and lessons learned from science aboard the orbital complex. The conference is co-sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, the National Laboratory Management Office and the American Astronautical Society.



ISS Update: The Role of OSO in Dragon's Demo Mission – 05.22.12
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NASA Public Affairs Office commentator Pat Ryan talks with Brandon Moncla, Lead Operations Support Officer (OSO) for the SpaceX Dragon Demo Mission, about preparations for the Dragon berthing and hatch opening, and the role of the OSO team in International Space Station operations.

Following the successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft Tuesday, flight control teams at the International Space Station Flight Control Room are preparing for the first ever grapple and berthing of a commercial cargo vehicle.

As Lead OSO for the SpaceX Dragon Demo Mission, Moncla noted that his responsibilities include monitoring the operation of the Common Berthing Mechanism, which performs a hard mate between the station and the Dragon ship. He also will monitor the crew members’ work to make the power and data connections in the vestibule between the Harmony module and Dragon, which are necessary in advance of opening the cargo ship’s hatch.

Moncla added, he and his team are responsible for operating and maintaining the mechanical and structural flight control systems aboard the station. He also stated that the OSO team is responsible for training the station crew on how to use and operate the wide variety of equipment and mechanical systems aboard the orbiting laboratory. Another important role of the OSO is to work with the other flight control teams to coordinate and prioritize the maintenance and repair of any malfunctioning systems aboard the station.



ISS Update: SpaceX Dragon Launch Update – 05.21.12
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NASA Public Affairs Office commentator Pat Ryan talks with Mike Horkachuck, NASA Project Executive for SpaceX, for an update on the SpaceX Dragon's next launch attempt scheduled for Tuesday at 3:44 a.m. EDT.

Saturday’s launch was aborted when the flight computer detected slightly high pressure in the engine 5 combustion chamber. During rigorous borescope inspections of the engine, SpaceX engineers discovered a faulty check valve on the Merlin engine.

Horkachuck noted that the faulty check valve has been replaced and tests for similar issues have been completed on all of the engines and that they are ready for the next launch opportunity. He also stated that mission operations will remain basically unchanged, and that only the times of the mission objectives had changed.

He ended the conversation with a review of the main objectives of Dragon's demonstration flight, which include a flyby of the space station at a distance of approximately 1.5 miles to validate the operation of sensors and flight systems necessary for a safe rendezvous and approach. The spacecraft also will demonstrate the ability to abort the rendezvous. Once Dragon successfully proves these capabilities, it will be cleared to berth with the space station. The space station crew will use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple and berth Dragon to the Harmony node.