In the News
International Space Station (ISS) Update
Following Thursday's identification of an ammonia coolant leak outside the ISS, the Expedition 35 crew Friday began preparing for a possible spacewalk Saturday. Mission managers are discussing the information that was gathered overnight about the leak on the far left-side of the station's truss structure, called the P6 with P standing for port. A final decision on whether to go forward with a spacewalk is not expected until late tonight.
The crew is not in danger, and the station continues to operate normally otherwise. Work is under way to reroute power channels to maintain full operation of the systems normally controlled by the solar array that is cooled by the suspect loop.
Expedition 35's Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn began preparing for the possible spacewalk to inspect the area it appears the leak is originating from, and potentially make repairs to the leaking ammonia cooling loop. Station managers are meeting this morning and will meet again tonight to discuss procedures and timeline work for a spacewalk, if approved.
Working in the Quest airlock, astronauts Cassidy and Marshburn checked out the U.S. spacesuits they would wear if a spacewalk is approved, and Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield began preparing to assist as the "intravehicular" crewmember, or spacewalk choreographer.
Cassidy and Marshburn have each conducted three spacewalks, all on the STS-127 mission to the ISS in 2009. They collaborated on two of those spacewalks.
Late Thursday morning, the Expedition 35 crew reported seeing small white flakes floating away from an area of the station's P6 truss structure. The crew used handheld cameras and Mission Control used external television cameras to gain additional imagery in an attempt to narrow down the leak's location. The crew's reports, along with imagery and data received by flight controllers in Mission Control in Houston, confirmed that the rate of the ammonia leaking from this section of the cooling system increased.
Ammonia is used to cool the station's power channels that provide electricity to station systems. Each solar array has its own independent cooling loop. This ammonia loop is the same one that spacewalkers attempted to troubleshoot a leak on during a spacewalk on November 1, 2012. It is not yet known whether this increased ammonia flow is from the same leak, which at the time was not visible. It is anticipated that the 2B power channel, which is one of eight power channels to supply electricity for station systems, will be depleted of ammonia coolant by late this morning and will be shut down.
Dextre tackles tasks for the Robotic Refueling Mission
Dextre, the Canadian-built robotic handyman on board the International Space Station (ISS), will continue to perform a series of tasks for the Robotic Refueling Mission, a joint NASA-CSA technology demonstration mission to show how a robot could refuel and repair a satellite in space. On May 1, 2, 6 and 8, Dextre will conduct a series of very tricky operations, including removing caps, small screws and cutting through thermal blankets on the NASA-provided module that serves as a typical satellite for the tests.
Follow Dextre's operations on Twitter and Facebook to see how space robots today are working towards saving failing satellites—and reducing space debris—tomorrow.
Dragon's departure from the ISS
SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth on March 26 for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja, California. It will be bringing back over a ton of experiment samples and equipment, including blood samples for the Canadian VASCULAR experiment.
Canadian Commander Chris Hadfield and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn will begin releasing Dragon around 4:05 a.m. Eastern (1:05 Pacific), with the spacecraft's actual departure set for 6:56 a.m. (3:56 Pacific). Dragon currently sits on the end of Canadarm2. On Friday, ground controllers at NASA's Johnson Space Center and the CSA's headquarters used the station's robotic arm to preposition it for its release.
Watch live starting at 4:00 a.m. Eastern (1:00 a.m. Pacific) and follow on the CSA's Twitter account.
Happy 5th Birthday, Dextre!
Dextre, the Canadian-built robotic handyman on board the International Space Station, was launched on board the Space Shuttle Endeavour on March 11, 2008. Since then, Dextre has given a helping hand (two, to be precise!) to the crew by taking care of a variety of routine maintenance jobs outside the station. Dextre has moved cargo transport containers, replaced failed electrical parts, unpacked visiting spacecraft and became the first robot ever to refuel a mock satellite in space.
For more information about Dextre
Practice catching an ISS module with the Canadarm2 Simulator!
If you've dreamed of being an astronaut at the controls of Canadarm2, the Canadian Space Agency has launched a new Canadarm2 game on its Website.
For more information about the Canadarm2 Simulator
Canadarm2 to Capture SpaceX's Dragon
SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft is set to launch on March 1, 2013 at 10:10 a.m. EST (7:00 a.m. PST). On Saturday, March 2, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield will monitor Dragon as it approaches the space station. Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn will then use Canadarm2 to perform a cosmic catch around 6:30 a.m. EST (3:30 a.m. PST, exact time
to be confirmed), grappling Dragon and attaching it to the station's Harmony node for a few weeks while astronauts unload its cargo.
Dragon will ferry over a ton of supplies and science experiments to the orbiting laboratory, including the Canadian experiment, Microflow. On March 5-6, ground operators at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) headquarters in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, will use Canadarm2 to extract two new grapple bars and stow them on the mobile base. They will be installed during a spacewalk later this year.
Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth on March 25 for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja, California. It will be bringing back over a ton of experiment samples and equipment, including blood samples for the Canadian VASCULAR experiment.
Follow the cosmic catch live on the CSA's Twitter account.
Practice catching an ISS module with the Canadarm2 Simulator!
Dextre Successfully Refuels Mock Satellite and Aces a Major Test for Space Robotics
Dextre, the Canadian Space Agency's robotic "handyman" on board the International Space Station (ISS), made space history last night by successfully refueling a mock satellite on the exterior of the station.
For more information about Dextre Refuels Mock Satellite
Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) Robotics to Resume on January 17
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has cleared the International Space Station's robotic arm, Canadarm2, to continue work on the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) following a short delay to verify software settings in the robotic arm's control system.
Robotics engineering teams had discovered an intermittent anomaly in the software that controls Canadarm2, which could potentially have caused the system to use the wrong parameters while in motion, a particular concern when the arm must work close to other structures (as is the case with RRM). After detailed analysis, the CSA identified steps that can be taken to ensure Canadarm2's software selects the right parameters, thereby ensuring it is safe to proceed.
Canadarm2 and Dextre, the International Space Station's robotic handyman, will resume Day 2 operations of RRM tomorrow. Because Dextre successfully stowed the tertiary cap in the RRM module on Tuesday, the robot's next step will be to cut two sets of wires on the safety cap. The goal of RRM is to demonstrate how robots could service and refuel satellites to extend their useful lifetime.
For more information on the Robotic Refueling Mission
Temporary pause in the operations for the Robotic Refueling Mission
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) yesterday evening requested a temporary pause in the operations for the Robotic Refueling Mission. An intermittent difference in the software that controls of Canadarm2, the International Space Station's Canadian-built Remote Manipulator System, requires further analysis to ensure safe operations. Canadarm2 and the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or Dextre, has temporarily been placed in a safe configuration while engineering teams on the ground assess the data. The CSA will provide a status shortly to determine when work can safely resume.
For more information on the temporary pause in the operations for the Robotic Refueling Mission
From 2013-01-14 to 2013-01-24
This animation gives an overview of the next operations for the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM), scheduled to take place from January 14-24, 2013. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)
Fuel Transfer task: Fill'er up, Robot!
In January 2013, Dextre will perform the first attempt to demonstrate that a robot can refuel a satellite in orbit. Since the fuel tank on real satellites are triple-sealed to avoid hazardous leaks, Dextre will start by removing a series of seals, nuts and safety caps, each tethered by a wire (much like the gas cap on a car is held in place by a small strip of plastic).
For more information about Fuel Transfer