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Robotics Aboard Station Thursday as Cygnus Rolls Out to Pad

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Jul 10, 2014 8:33 pm via: NASA
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The six-person Expedition 40 crew of the International Space Station supported a variety of science and robotics Thursday while preparing the orbiting complex for the arrival of a commercial cargo craft now poised for a Saturday launch.

After a one day delay due to weather conditions at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket and the Cygnus cargo craft rolled out to Launch Pad 0A early Thursday morning. Cygnus, loaded with almost 3,300 pounds of supplies and experiments, is scheduled to launch Saturday at 1:14 p.m. EDT to begin a three-day journey to the station for the Orbital-2 commercial resupply services mission. NASA Television coverage of Saturday’s launch will begin at 12:30 p.m.

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is seen on launch Pad-0A, Thursday, July 10, 2014, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is seen on launch Pad-0A, Thursday, July 10, 2014, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

When Cygnus approaches the station Tuesday, Commander Steve Swanson will command the 57-foot Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple the cargo craft around 7:24 a.m. for its berthing to the Earth-facing port of the station’s Harmony node.

In preparation for Tuesday’s arrival of Cygnus, Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman began the workday installing the Centerline Berthing Camera System in the docking port of the Earth-facing side of the Harmony node. This camera’s views will assist robotic officers in Houston’s Mission Control Center and the station with the precise alignment of Cygnus for its installation onto Harmony. NASA TV coverage of the Cygnus rendezvous and capture will begin Tuesday at 6:15 a.m. and returns at 9:30 a.m. for coverage of the installation.

Commander Swanson meanwhile set up the Capillary Flow Experiment atop the Maintenance Work Area in Harmony to study the interior corner flow of a bubbly liquid in microgravity. Results from this ongoing investigation into the flow of fluids across surfaces with complex geometries in a weightless environment will improve computer models used to design fluid transfer systems and fuel tanks on future spacecraft.

Following a weekly tag up with European Space Agency officials, Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst began preparing the Gradient Heating Furnace for a new software load. He later donned a pair of shoes equipped with special sensors and exercised on the COLBERT treadmill to provide data for the Force Shoes experiment, which seeks to quantify the loads experienced by crew members during their daily 2.5-hour exercise sessions.

On the Russian side of the station, Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov continued loading trash and unneeded items aboard the ISS Progress space freighter for fiery disposal when that vehicle undocks on July 21 for a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean. The departure of Progress 55 will clear the Pirs docking compartment for launch of the next Russian space freight, ISS Progress 56, on July 23.

Flight Engineer Max Suraev spent part of his morning with the Kulonovskiy Kristall experiment to gather information about charged particles in a weightless environment

Inside the Zvezda service module, Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev conducted a photo survey of the Vozdukh atmosphere purification system to help Russian specialists develop a plan for replacing one of its components.

After a break for lunch, Wiseman and Gerst teamed up in the Kibo laboratory for a technology demonstration with a pair of soccer-ball-sized, free-floating robots known as the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES. The two mini-satellites were outfitted with hoop-shaped equipment called the Resonant Inductive Near-field Generation System, or RINGS, to test formation flight using electromagnetic fields and wireless power transfer.

While he was in Kibo, Gerst also removed a sample cartridge from the Hicari experiment, which seeks verify a method for producing high-quality silicon-germanium crystals. Results from Hicari may enable the production of more efficient solar cells and semi-conductors.

Swanson capped off his workday exchanging sample cartridges inside the Materials Science Laboratory’s Solidification and Quench Furnace. This metallurgical research furnace provides three heater zones to ensure accurate temperature profiles and maintain a sample’s required temperature variations throughout the solidification process. This type of research in space allows scientists to isolate chemical and thermal properties of materials from the effects of gravity.

As Skvortsov continued packing up Progress 55, Suraev inspected and photographed windows throughout the Russian segment of the station.

Artemyev participated in the Interactions experiment, which studies the impacts of personal, cultural and national differences among crew members. Afterward, he downloaded data from dosimeters deployed throughout the Russian segment to track the crew’s exposure to space radiation.

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