ISS gets communications upgrade, new crew preps for arrival
During the past week, the Expedition 47 crew of the International Space Station (ISS) performed a number of tasks upgrading the communication system of the orbiting outpost for the eventual arrival of commercial crew vehicles sometime next year.
ISS Commander Tim Kopra, with the help of British astronaut Tim Peake, started working on the Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles (C2V2) upgrade last week. Once finished, the equipment will form a communications link to the outpost specifically for Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.
C2V2 will operate in both an S-Band radio frequency as well as a hard-line connection. According to NASA, the system will be so secure, reliable communications with commercial crew and other visiting vehicles will be available for all phases of rendezvous, docking, and mated operations.
The system will involve equipment installed both on visiting vehicles and the station itself. The latter part is what the two Tims started working on last week.
On Monday, March 7, Peake gathered the hardware into the Destiny lab and with help from Kopra, they routed C2V2 1553, Joint Station Lab (JSL), and Ethernet cables. In the days that followed, they continued to review and gather tools for further installations.
On March 10, the duo completed coldplate installation, Internal Thermal Control System (ITCS) umbilical re-routing, and temperature sensor installation before installing the two communication units on Friday.
The crew will check the health and status of the system no-earlier-than March 28, and a complete checkout of all the equipment is slated to occur at a later date.
All of this comes a week after three crew members returned to Earth on March 1 and a week before a new trio launches on March 18.
Russian cosmonauts Aleksey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka along with NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams will launch to the 400-ton outpost in the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft at 5:26 p.m. EDT (21:26 GMT). The three will rendezvous and dock with the space station about six hours later. Once hatches open, the Expedition 47 crew compliment will increase to six people.
The new trio have already arrived at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the launch site for all Soyuz spacecraft, and began final fit checks of their suits and seat liners.
The six-month flight should see Williams overtake Scott Kelly, who just returned home from space on his year-long mission, as the NASA astronaut with the most cumulative time on orbit. Kelly spent a total of 520 days over four missions, whereas Williams will have accumulated 534 days over four missions.
Derek Richardson is a student studying mass media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He is currently the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also writes a blog, called Orbital Velocity, about the space station. His passion for space ignited when he watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on Oct. 29, 1998. He saw his first in-person launch on July 8, 2011 when the space shuttle launched for the final time. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized that his true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.