Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson of NASA and his team of five flight engineers focused on computer upgrades, science and cargo operations Thursday aboard the International Space Station, while the deployment of a flock of miniature satellites got under way again.
Following the crew’s usual 2 a.m. EDT reveille and a daily planning conference with the flight control teams around the world, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev wrapped up the stowage of the tools they used Monday for a 5-hour, 11-minute spacewalk. During that excursion, Skvortsov and Artemyev manually deployed a Peruvian nanosatellite and retrieved and installed science packages on the station’s exterior.
NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, with some assistance from cosmonaut Max Suraev, began the day preparing laptop computers and installing new hard drives to allow the flight control team to load the machines remotely with new software. The Station Support Computers, which relay information and email to the crew, are being upgraded to operate more efficiently and at a faster rate than ever before.
Afterward, Wiseman joined Swanson for more cargo transfers from the fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) docked to the aft port of the Zvezda service module. Named the “Georges Lemaitre” in honor of the Belgian astronomer who first proposed the Big Bang theory, this European Space Agency (ESA) cargo spacecraft delivered around 7 tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition crew when it arrived on Aug. 12.
Swanson rounded out his morning with routine maintenance on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment – the station’s toilet located in the Tranquility node – and the relocation of some Contingency Water Containers to support upcoming activities with the station’s water recycling system.
Meanwhile in the Columbus laboratory, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst worked throughout the day to install the Electro-Magnetic Levitator (EML) into the European Drawer Rack. The EML is a unique furnace designed to melt and solidify free-floating alloy samples that will be held in place inside a precisely controlled test chamber by an electromagnetic field.
After a midday meal, Suraev, Skvortsov and Artemyev gathered in the Kibo module for a Moscow television interview to discuss their interaction with the Russian Mission Control Center. Afterward, Suraev performed a session of the Uragan Earth-observation experiment, which seeks to document and predict the development of natural and man-made disasters on Earth.
Swanson and Wiseman worked together on more ATV-5 cargo transfers before Wiseman broke off to prepack U.S. items for return to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft. Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev, who have been aboard the orbiting complex since March 27, are slated to undock from the station aboard that Soyuz on Sept. 10 for a parachute-assisted landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan less than 3 ½-hours later.
Following the successful ejection of three pairs of NanoRacks CubeSats from a deployer mechanism at the end of the Kibo module’s robotic arm earlier this week, the fourth and fifth pairs of the small Planet Labs Dove satellites failed to deploy Wednesday evening and Thursday morning due to unspecified reasons. Payload controllers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. and Japanese flight controllers at the Tsukuba Space Center are troubleshooting the problem.
The sixth pair of CubeSats ejected successfully at 9:37 a.m. to join Flock 1B of the Earth-imaging Dove satellites. Another deployment is scheduled for Thursday evening, followed by the release of the eighth pair on Monday.
28 Dove nanosatellites and four additional CubeSats were among the nearly 3,300 pounds of science and supplies delivered to the station in July by Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo vehicle.