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Russians on ISS drill manual docking operation

January 16, 2012, 17:44 UTC+3
Russians ISS Expedition 30 crew are improving their manual docking skills ahead of the arrival of the first this year Progress cargo spacecraft
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MOSCOW, January 16 (Itar-Tass) — Russians of the International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 30 crew are improving their manual docking skills ahead of the arrival of the first this year Progress cargo spacecraft, which will be blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on January 26. “Today, flight engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Oleg Kononenko have a three-hour training session on the TORU (Teleoperated Mode of Control) subsystem, the Mission Control Centre (MCC) outside Moscow told Itar-Tass on Monday.

The TORU rendezvous system is used to manually dock a cargo spacecraft if it fails to dock automatically, the MCC said. Astronauts may have to display their knowledge and skills in the early morning on January 28, when the Progress M-14M spacecraft will deliver into orbit more than 2.5 tonnes of cargo for the operation of the station and life support of its crew.

Also on Monday, Shkaplerov and another Russian from the ISS Expedition 30 crew - Anatoly Ivanishin, begin a two-day session of the Bar experiment to develop methods to identify signs of air leak from the ISS modules. This work will be carried for 2.5 hours on Monday and Tuesday each. The session’s time is explained by the fact that the Russian ISS segment has been increased to five modules and much time is needed for checking all of them, the MCC said.

The Bar experiment is based on the temperature-humidity method of determining depressurization. The infrared thermometer Kelvin-Video having the shape of a pistol, the Iva-6A automatic thermo-hygrometer and the Piren remote pyro-endoscope are used in the experiment. With the use of the “pistol” the astronauts measure the temperature at a certain point, and the more accurate Iva gives a picture of not only of the temperature but also of humidity. Piren can “peek” in hard-to-get at places of the station. The endoscope with a sensor mounted on its end and spot lighting allows astronauts to get information about the humidity-temperature conditions in any corner of the ISS with up to 0.1 degree precision.

“When depressurization occurs first there is a small and then permanent drop in pressure and temperature decrease,” the expert explained. “The device makes it possible to quickly determine the spot of air leak into the vacuum.”

There was only one case of partial depressurization of one of the station’s modules in the ISS history. In early January 2004, specialists from Houston Mission Control registered a gradual drop in pressure at the station at a rate of 2 mm per day. Then the ISS Expedition 8 crew found the air leak place in several days using a special method: by sequenced “shutting off” of one part of the station after another, the astronauts checked their integrity until they discovered the problem. The universal method was tested on the Russian space station Mir after a Progress cargo spacecraft “rammed” the Spektr module during docking.

The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes. The ISS serves as a research laboratory that has a microgravity environment in which crews conduct experiments in many fields including biology, human biology, physics, astronomy and meteorology. The station has a unique environment for the testing of the spacecraft systems that will be required for missions to the Moon and Mars. The station is expected to remain in operation until at least 2020, and potentially to 2028. The ISS is a joint project between the five participating space agencies, the American NASA, the Russian Roskosmos (RKA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA, the European ESA, and the Canadian CSA. The ownership and use of the space station is established in intergovernmental treaties and agreements which divide the station into two areas and allow the Russian Federation to retain full ownership of Russian Orbital Segment (ROS).

The ISS provides a platform to conduct scientific research that cannot be performed in any other way. Whilst unmanned spacecraft can provide platforms for zero gravity and exposure to space, the ISS offers a long-term environment where studies can be performed potentially for decades, combined with ready access by human researchers over periods that exceed the capabilities of manned spacecraft. Kibo is intended to accelerate Japan’s progress in science and technology, gain new knowledge and apply it to such fields as industry and medicine. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), which NASA compares to the Hubble telescope, could not be accommodated on a free flying satellite platform, due in part to its power requirements and data bandwidth needs. The Station simplifies individual experiments by eliminating the need for separate rocket launches and research staff.


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