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Packing, Space Style


Space Shuttle Discovery's seven-member crew is preparing for an out-of-this-world travel destination: the International Space Station. But packing for this trip is much more complicated than loading up the family SUV.

When Discovery lifts off for its Return to Flight mission to the Station, scheduled for the May-June timeframe, it will carry important equipment and supplies to the Space Station crew. A technician in the Space Station Processing Facility prepares the Control Moment Gyroscope for flight. At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, those items are currently being readied for flight.

One important piece of cargo is a Control Moment Gyroscope that will be installed during one of the mission's three spacewalks. The gyros are critical to the outpost's operation, and the replacement will be swapped for a malfunctioning one. These gyros maintain the attitude control of the Station and the microgravity environment for the scientific experiments on board.

Image at Right: In the Space Station Processing Facility, a technician prepares the Control Moment Gyroscope for delivery to the Space Station aboard STS-114. Image credit: NASA

In addition, racks of experiments, research equipment and needed spare parts are being loaded into "Raffaello" -- one of three Italian-made Multipurpose Logistics Modules that carry cargo to the Station.

The logistics modules function as both cargo carriers and as Station modules while orbiting. When the Shuttle arrives at the Station, the module is lifted from the cargo bay with the Shuttle's robotic arm and docked to the Station.

Raffaello, one of three Italian-made Multipurpose Logistics Modules, will carry cargo to the Space Station. Image at Left: The Rack Insertion Device is used to install cargo into the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Raffaello (at left) for flight on Space Shuttle Discovery. Image credit: NASA

Raffaello, making its third trip into space, is 21 feet long, 15 feet in diameter, and can carry 10 tons of supplies when at full capacity. Besides ferrying food, clothing and equipment to the Station, the module will bring back to Earth a load of trash, containers and items no longer needed, freeing up valuable space in the orbiting outpost.

One rack that has been loaded into Raffaello by technicians in the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy will increase the capability for research aboard the Station. The Human Research Facility-2 provides additional biomedical instruments for the U.S. laboratory module, Destiny.

The Human Research Facility-2 is readied for the U.S. laboratory module, Destiny. Image at Right: In the Space Station Processing Facility, a worker stands by as the Rack Insertion Device slowly moves the Human Research Facility-2 science rack into the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Raffaello. Image credit: NASA

This facility will join the first of its kind, which has been in operation aboard the Station since May 2001. The first unit houses ultrasound equipment and a gas analyzer system.

The additional biomedical equipment in the new facility includes a pulmonary function system, which measures aerobic capacity and cardiac output, and a space linear acceleration mass measuring devise that determines the on-orbit mass of crew members. Also included are a refrigerated centrifuge and a data workstation.

These advances will increase research capability by providing insight into the adaptation of crew members during long-duration space flight -- a key to fulfilling NASA's Vision for Space Exploration.

Cheryl L. Mansfield
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center

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