Spaceflight Insider

ISS crew swaps out cargo ships while preparing for ISS upgrades

Photo Credit: NASA

Hurricane Joaquin as seen from the International Space Station on Oct. 2, 2015. The hurricane was a Category 4 strength storm headed towards the Bahamas at the time the photo was taken. Photo Credit: NASA

Expedition 45 crew of the International Space Station (ISS) spent the week of Sept. 28 to Oct. 2 swapping cargo ships while rewiring power to prepare the outpost for future visiting vehicles – all while conducting cutting-edge science.

On Monday, Sept. 28, the main task of the day was the unberthing and release of the Japanese Kounotori 5 (HTV-5) cargo ship. It started with astronauts Kimiya Yui and Kjell Lindgren finishing closing out Harmony’s nadir vestibule and sealing the hatch. After that, Commander Scott Kelly depressurized the space between the HTV-5 and Harmony before the station’s robotic arm unberthed the spacecraft and took it to its release point just below the station.

The first attempt at release was aborted due to an issue with the arm’s Latching End Effector (LEE). Ground teams recovered from the fault and gave the green light for Yui and Lindgren to release HTV-5 one orbit later at 11:53 a.m. CDT (4:53 GMT).

Photo Credit: NASA

HTV-5 departs from the orbiting lab. Photo Credit: NASA

While unberthing activities were ongoing, Kelly worked on the Fine Motor Skills experiment by performing a series of interactive tasks on a touchscreen tablet. This is the first fine motor skills investigation to measure long-term microgravity exposure, different phases of microgravity adaptation, and sensorimotor recovery after returning to Earth after year in space.

Yui replaced equipment in Cell Biology Experiment Facility before commanding a Germany-based rover as part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Multi-Purpose End-to-End Robotic Operations Network (METERON) Surveyor Rover Operations. The experiment studies the benefits of astronauts controlling surface robots in real time from orbiting spacecraft and investigates how best to explore a planet through a human-robotic partnership.

Tuesday saw the crew work on a number of science experiments looking at plants, conducting eye exams, and studying crew metabolism and the human respiratory system.

Additionally, Kelly replaced a fiber arm in the Combustion Integration Rack as part of routine maintenance for the rack. Later, he completed a journal activity that obtains information on behavioral and human issues relevant to the design of equipment and procedures used during longer space missions.

A number of maintenance activities occurred Tuesday as well. Lindgren and Yui routed two power cables to prepare Unity for berthing operations in the future. It required the crew to rotate forward a rack in the Destiny lab to get behind it to route cables that will eventually provide power from Harmony to Unity’s nadir berthing port as well as the new Galley Rack located in Unity.

Kelly and Lindgren started getting ready for the first of two U.S. spacewalks starting on Oct. 28. The two will be lubricating the robotic arm LEE systems among other things to upgrade ISS. Kelly photographed the LEE from the cupola window to document its condition in advance of the spacewalk.

On Wednesday, Kelly worked with Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) and observed their automated docking abilities, while Yui conducted an ultrasound scan of cosmonaut Sergey Volkov’s eyes for the Ocular Health Study.

Photo Credit: NASA

Kimiya Yui and Kjell Lindgren work to remove racks in order to get behind them to run cables from the Harmony module to the Unity module. Photo Credit: NASA

While doing that, Lindgren and Yui continued routed cables through Destiny to support the next Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo mission, scheduled for an early December launch. This required rotating forward every other overhead rack inside Destiny. One crew member retrieved the cable ends behind the un-rotated racks as the other crew member fed the cables through. More cable routing is expected next week.

Progress M-29M launched on Thursday, October 1 via a fast-track, four-orbit journey to the orbiting laboratory. After the cargo freighter’s successful liftoff at 11:49 p.m. CDT (4:49 p.m. GMT), the spacecraft automatically docked with the aft port of the Zvezda Module at 5:52 p.m. CDT (10:52 p.m. GMT) delivering more than three tons worth of food, propellant, and crew supplies.

Also on Thursday, Kelly opened the inner hatch of the airlock located in the Japanese Kibo module and extended the slide table into the module to install the Cubesat Quad Deployers. However, a problem with the fasteners prevented him from completing the task.

Other experiments conducted on Thursday included Yui monitoring his heart during the Integrated Resistance and Aerobic Training Study before later retrieving a temperature logger from the Protein Crystallization Research Facility; then retrieving a Seed Paper kit from the Minus Eighty Degree Celsius Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI) and preparing it for being cultured in the Cell Biology Experiment Facility. A good number of experiments carried out on the space station require that the crew members actually use themselves as test subjects.

Later in the day Kelly inspected the Tranquility Non-propulsive Vent (NPV) sealing surface and installed new seals. The NVP was removed during an Extravehicular Activity (EVA) in February in preparation for the relocation of the Permanent Multipurpose Module Leonardo. On the EVA later this month, it will be re-installed.

On Friday, the crew opened the hatch between Zvezda and the Progress and began unloading the fresh supplies. This along with a wide variety of other activities made for a busy day throughout both segments of the space station.

Kelly worked on the plumbing for the Water Processing Assembly while Lindgren built a custom tool for lubricating the tip of the robotic arm’s LEEs on the spacewalk later in the month.

Additionally, Yui finished installing the CubeSat deployer in the Japanese Kibo airlock. The 16 CubeSats in the deployers are scheduled for launches on Monday through Wednesday of next week.

This weekend, the crew will perform their weekly cleaning tasks while enjoying an extended off-duty period after a very busy week.

Photo Credit: NASA

Astronaut Kjell Lindgren loads the Kibo airlock with the satellite deployer filled with 16 CubeSats. This group of satellites was launched over the weekend of Sept. 26. They included 14 Dove satellites from Planet Labs that will be used for Earth observation, testing space based radios and tracking ships in the open ocean. Photo Credit: NASA



Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.

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