The SpaceX Dragon Endeavour sitting atop the Falcon 9 rocket has rolled out to launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Endeavour is counting down to a launch this weekend of the first private astronaut mission from Axiom Space to the International Space Station.
The Axiom Space-1 (Ax-1) crew is due to launch aboard Endeavour on Friday at 11:17 a.m. EDT. The Expedition 67 crew will welcome the Ax-1 crew when the hatches open from Endeavour to the station on Saturday around 9:30 a.m. Ax-1 Commander and former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, along with Pilot Larry Connor and Mission Specialists Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy, will live and work aboard the station for nine days performing contracted science experiments and commercial projects. At the end of their mission, they will undock inside Endeavour, reenter Earth’s atmosphere, and parachute to a splashdown off the coast of Florida.
Meanwhile, the station’s seven residents continued researching psychology, combustion, and robotics aboard the orbiting lab on Wednesday. The orbital crew is also gearing up for a pair of spacewalks at the end of the month.
NASA Flight Engineer Raja Chari participated in a robotics test to evaluate his behavioral health and performance. Results may show how an astronaut could perform when landing on Mars and may also inform the design of future spacecraft and space habitats. NASA Flight Engineer Kayla Barron took acoustic measurements of the station’s habitable areas then donned a specialized radiation vest testing it for fit and comfort while working.
Commander Tom Marshburn opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack and configured the Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction study to investigate material flammability and ways to improve fire safety in space. Flight Engineer Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) turned on an Astrobee robotic free-flyer and tested its ability to identify cargo using a radio frequency identification reader, which is similar to bar codes but uses wireless communication without needing a line of sight.
Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev continued getting their Orlan spacesuits and tools ready for a pair of spacewalks later this month to outfit the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov explored future spacecraft and robotic piloting techniques then worked on Russian life support and electrical systems.