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ISS Update: Interviews (May 14-18, 2012)
Interviews: International Space Station Update
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ISS Update: Working With SpaceX Dragon – 05.18.12
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NASA Public Affairs Officer Amiko Kauderer talks with Sean O’Rourke, Lead Visiting Vehicle Officer for SpaceX Dragon, about the coordination between NASA and SpaceX for the upcoming launch and docking of the first commercial cargo craft to visit the International Space Station.

During the flight, SpaceX's Dragon capsule will conduct a series of check-out procedures to test and prove its systems, including the capability to rendezvous and berth with the International Space Station. The primary objectives for the flight 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.

O’Rourke works in the Visiting Vehicle Office, the trajectory experts in dealing with the vehicles that deliver cargo and crews to the space station.

"Really, the bulk of our work – and this is true for spaceflight – 99 percent of the work happens before launch," said O’Rourke. "Making sure that the vehicle is built to requirements; making sure that the plan that is onboard the vehicle, the vehicle is going to execute these maneuvers autonomously; and making sure that that all meets the safety requirements."

ISS Update: Astronaut’s Perspective – 05.17.12
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In the International Space Station flight control room in the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, ISS Update commentator Amiko Kauderer interviews NASA astronaut and Expedition 26/27 Flight Engineer Cady Coleman. The veteran space explorer shares her perspective on the recent Soyuz TMA-04M docking and station crew welcome and handover, as well as current station activities.

Coleman talks about the camaraderie that develops between a trio of crew members that travels to space in a Soyuz spacecraft to become part of the station crew and the friendships that develop between all six aboard the outpost. “The minute you get on board, you’re kind of saying ‘hello’ to some people you don’t really know incredibly well,” she noted, “but what is amazing is that you’re all there for the same purpose.”

She also shares some thoughts on the experience of training on Earth for a mission versus actually experiencing spaceflight firsthand. On the ground, astronauts learn their way around the station, including particular locations of items such as fire extinguishers, but the reality of being in space is different – sometimes tangibly, sometimes not.

Coleman also spent some time aboard the station playing the flute, and she relates those experiences, as well as her connection to other space travelers who have played music on orbit.

ISS Update: SpaceX Dragon Carrying Station Science – 05.16.12
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NASA Public Affairs Officer Amiko Kauderer interviews Camille Alleyene, International Space Station Assistant Program Scientist, about the science experiments flying to the station and returning to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft.

When Dragon launches atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on its first demonstration flight to the orbiting complex, it will be carrying 15 student-designed experiments among its 1,014 pounds of space-bound cargo. These experiments, selected from almost 800 proposals, were designed by students ranging from fifth grade through college level.

Unlike other cargo ships that visit the station, Dragon is reusable, safely returning to Earth with a parachute landing for recovery. When Dragon departs the station during this demonstration mission, it will be ferrying science hardware and microgravity research samples for further study on the ground. These items include Plant Signaling hardware, which seeks to understand the mechanisms plants use to sense and respond to their environment, and alloy samples processed in microgravity from the Materials Science Research Rack.

As Alleyene points out, the research community is very excited about Dragon’s capability to return up to 2.7 tons of cargo to Earth. “We haven’t had this capability – we call it ‘down mass’ capability – since the space shuttle,” said Alleyene. “In addition, it has a cold storage that’s going to be demonstrated. That’s going to be able to preserve samples that need refrigeration, and that’s something we haven’t had since space shuttle.”

ISS Update: GPS and SpaceX Dragon Launch – 05.14.12
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ISS Update commentator Amiko Kauderer interviews Mike Horkachuck, NASA's Project Executive for SpaceX, about the replacement of a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit on the International Space Station and the upcoming launch of the SpaceX Dragon commercial spacecraft to the complex.

Horkachuck noted that a constraint for Dragon’s launch is that the station have full redundancy of its attitude control systems – meaning both systems must be functional. During rendezvous, the station will send data on its position to the Dragon cargo craft through Dragon’s COTS UHF Communications Unit, which will in turn use that data to determine the relative position of the two vehicles and maintain the proper distance. The station crew, therefore, had to replace a failed GPS unit that was part of one of the attitude control systems.

Dragon is progressing smoothly, said Horkachuck, toward the May 19 launch that will begin its demonstration flight to the orbital outpost. He discussed the good state of its software and hardware, as well as its cargo capacity and the significance of its test mission.

He ended the conversation by sharing his thoughts on what the flight’s success might mean for NASA and by briefly outlining contingency plans for Dragon’s launch.