NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano successfully blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:31 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, May 28, riding the Soyuz TM-09M spacecraft. Just six hours later, they joined their Expedition 36 crewmates when the hatches between their capsule and the International Space Station were opened at 12:14 a.m., bringing the ISS crew up to its full complement of six residents. Today’s docking marks the beginning of a very busy period onboard the International Space Station which will see several spacewalks, the arrival of Japanese and European cargo transfer vehicles and the continuation of NASA’s commercial resupply services cargo deliveries.
Nyberg, Yurchikhin and Parmitano joined NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Pavel Vinogradov, who arrived at the station in March. These six crew members will comprise Expedition 36 for the next several months. All six crew members then participated in a welcome ceremony with family members and mission officials gathered at Baikonur.
Expedition 36 will operate with its full six-person crew complement until September when Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin return to Earth aboard their Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft. Their departure will mark the beginning of Expedition 37 under the command of Yurchikhin, who along with crewmates Nyberg and Parmitano will maintain the station as a three-person crew until the arrival of three additional flight engineers in late September. Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano are scheduled to return to Earth in November.
During the 5 and a half month timeframe of Expeditions 36 and 37, the crew is scheduled to conduct five spacewalks to prepare the complex for the installation of the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module in December, as well as a Nov. 9 spacewalk to take the Olympic torch outside. The crew also will welcome the arrival of several visiting cargo vehicles: ESA’s “Albert Einstein” Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 in June, a Russian Progress cargo craft in July and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-4 in August.
Russian spacewalk 33 by Yurchikhin and Misurkin will be replacing a fluid flow regulator on the Russian segment’s Zarya module. They also will remove the Photon-Gamma unit of the Molina-Gamma experiment, which measures gamma splashes and optical radiation during terrestrial lightning and thunder conditions, from a portable workstation on Zvezda. A test of the station’s KURS equipment, which is used to control the automatic docking of Russian Progress resupply ships, also will be conducted. Additional tasks will include photographing the multilayer insulation (MLI) protecting the Russian segment from micrometeoroids and taking samples from the exterior surface of the pressure hull underneath the MLI to identify signs of pressure hull material microscopic deterioration.
U.S. spacewalk 21 will focus on routing power cables in preparation for the planned Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), which will replace the Pirs Docking Compartment in late 2013. Cassidy and Parmitano will remove and replace a Space-to-Ground Transmitter Receiver Controller, install a radiator grapple bar and retrieve a mast camera from the Mobile Base System. They also will install the first of two jumper cables on the Z1 truss. Their final tasks will include the retrieval of samples from the Materials International Space Station Experiment and the Optical Reflector Materials Experiment. If time permits, a variety of get-ahead tasks could be performed, including temporary cable stowage, releasing clamps on the S1 truss and relocating an articulating portable foot restraint.
U.S. spacewalk 22 will see Cassidy and Parmitano work to remove alignment guides from the radiator grapple bars and move them to External Stowage Platform-2. Next they will work to route networking cables to the upcoming MLM location and remove insulation from one of the station’s Main Bus Switching Units. After installing a second Z1 truss jumper cable, the two astronauts will work to replace a camera on the Japanese Experiment Module Exposed Facility and install cables for the fixed grapple bar’s module’s power and data grapple fixture. Their final task will be to relocate the Wireless External Transceiver Assembly and the Video Stanchion Support Assembly from Camera Port 8 to Camera Port 11 on the truss. If time permits, the two spacewalkers will work to finish up get-ahead tasks from the previous spacewalk including the release of clamps on the S1 truss and relocating an articulating portable foot restraint.
Russian spacewalk 34 with Yurchikhin and Misurkin will focus on routing four power feeders from the Zarya module’s pressurized adapter to the Poisk module to transfer power from the U.S. segment to the new MLM. They also will route and connect the networking cables for the MLM from Zarya’s pressurized adapter over to Poisk. Their final task will be setting up a panel for the Vynoslivost experiment.
Russian spacewalk 35 by Yurchikhin and Misurkin will see the cosmonauts set up a portable workstation and targeting platform on the large diameter working compartment on Zvezda. They will then remove the Onboard Laser Communications Terminal hardware from the working compartment as well as the docking target from Pirs. The crew will then photograph insulation on the Russian segment, if time permits.
The H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) is Japan’s uncrewed cargo transfer spacecraft that delivers internal and external equipment and experiments to ISS. HTV-4 is scheduled for launch this summer.
A maximum 6 tons of supplies (including the loaded racks) will be transported to the station. The Pressurized Logistics Carrier (PLC) will carry water bags, food, experimental samples, among other items.
Three NASA payloads will be carried on the Exposed Pallet (EP).
The Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) is a device used to switch the main bus power system of the station: each MBSU receiving electricity from two power channels distributes it to the experimental modules, DDCU on the truss, and the Russian module. This is one of the station’s spare items.
The Utility Transfer Assembly (UTA), at the core of the SARJ structure, provides power and a communications interface. This is also one of the station’s spare items.
STP-H4, an experiment payload including several pieces of experimental equipment (eight in total), will be launched in one of the sets of HTV4 unpressurized cargo.
Pressurized waste materials used/spent on the station will be loaded onto and disposed with the HTV4. This will support the STP-H3 (Space Test Program-Houston 3) experiment to observe the re-entry of the HTV4 to assess the dispersion of the destruction altitude of the HTVs.
ATV-4 “Albert Einstein”
ATV-4 will take off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on top of an Ariane 5 ES launcher. Launch is targeted for early June. Just as its predecessors, the objectives of this mission are to deliver 6.6 tons of cargo and maintain the station’s orbit for six months.
ATV has the largest cargo capability of all vehicles that visit the International Space Station. The fourth in the series carries more dry cargo than any ATV to date, increasing its contribution to the station.
It is loaded with 2,380 kg (5,247 pounds) of propellant to function as a space tug. ATV-4’s reboosts help counteract atmospheric drag that causes the station to lose up to 100 m (109 yards) of altitude each day. ATV can even push the station to avoid space debris. It also provides attitude control when other spacecraft are approaching the station.
As a space freighter, ATV carries 2,700 kg (5,952 pounds) of dry cargo such as scientific equipment, spare parts, food and clothes for the astronauts. It also delivers 100 kg (220 pounds) of gas, more than 500 liters (132 gallons) of drinking water and about 800 kg (1,763 pounds) of propellant – all pumped into the station’s tanks.
Once attached, ATV-4 is used as an extra module by the crew members on board. After about six months, it will undock from the station filled with a few tons of waste water, materials and equipment. After undocking, ATV-4 will be commanded to drop out of orbit over the ocean where it will harmlessly burn up as it re-enters the atmosphere.
Even with the challenges of managing visiting vehicle traffic and five spacewalks, the crew will continue supporting a diverse portfolio of research and technology experiments. Among the investigations that will be joining the list of approximately 1,600 station science studies conducted so far is the Hip Quantitative Computed Tomography (QCT) experiment, which will evaluate countermeasures to prevent the loss of bone density seen during long-duration space missions. The experiment, which uses 3-D analysis to collect detailed information on the quality of astronauts’ hip bones, also will increase understanding of osteoporosis on Earth.
The station’s crew will continue research into how plants grow, leading to more efficient crops on Earth and improving understanding of how future crews could grow their own food in space. The crew also will test a new portable gas monitor designed to help analyze the environment inside the spacecraft and continue fuel and combustion experiments that past crews have undertaken. Studying how fire behaves in space will have a direct impact on future spaceflight and could lead to cleaner, more efficient combustion engines on Earth.
This is the second space mission for Nyberg, who holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering. She visited the station in 2008 as an STS-124 crew member aboard space shuttle Discovery on a mission to deliver and install pressurized module portion of the Kibo laboratory and its robotic arm.
For Yurchikhin, this is his fourth spaceflight. He flew to the station in October 2002 aboard space shuttle Atlantis. He also participated in two long-duration missions aboard the station, first as an Expedition 15 crew member in 2007 and then as a member of Expedition 24/25 in 2010. Yurchikhin has performed five spacewalks and spent more than 371 days in space.
Parmitano, a major in the Italian Air Force, is making his first spaceflight. Selected as an astronaut candidate by ESA in 2008, Parmitano was certified as an astronaut in 2011.
For information on the International Space Station or the Expedition 36 crew, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station