Space Station Crews Wrap Week: Starliner, Spacewalk, and Cargo Updates

Canadarm2 Robotic Arm With Its Fine-Tuned Robotic Hand

The Canadarm2 robotic arm with its fine-tuned robotic hand, also known Dextre, attached extends into the frame with a set of main solar arrays draping downward (right) as the International Space Station orbited 267 miles above a cloudy South Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Argentina. Credit: NASA

On Friday, June 28, the Expedition 71 crew members packed a U.S. cargo craft, cleaned up the International Space Station (ISS), studied futuristic piloting techniques, and conducted eye exams. NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test astronauts spent the end of their workweek reconfiguring a space botany facility.

Cygnus Departure Preparations

Robotics controllers are scheduled to detach the Cygnus space freighter from the Unity module on July 12 and release it into Earth orbit for disposal over the South Pacific Ocean ending a five-and-a-half-month mission at the orbital lab. NASA Flight Engineer Matthew Dominick spent most of Friday loading trash and discarded gear inside the Cygnus with assistance from fellow NASA astronauts Jeanette Epps and Tracy C. Dyson. Cygnus was captured by the Canadarm2 robotic arm on February 1 with over 8,200 pounds of science experiments and crew supplies.

Cygnus Space Freighter Fires Its Single Engine Boosting the Space Station Orbit

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter, attached to the Unity module, is pictured firing its single engine boosting the International Space Station’s orbital altitude. This long-duration photograph also shows an atmospheric glow hovering above Earth’s horizon. Credit: NASA

Medical and Maintenance Activities

At the end of the day, Epps operated standard medical imaging gear found in an optometrist’s office on Earth and peered into Dyson’s eyes. She examined Dyson’s cornea, retina, and lens to help flight surgeons understand and counteract microgravity’s effect on crew vision.

Troubleshooting and Reconfigurations in Kibo

Earlier, Dyson collected and stowed excess space station hardware for disposal. Epps spent her morning inside the Kibo laboratory module troubleshooting an airflow sensor and then reorganizing the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) module for upcoming cargo operations.

Spain and Morocco Separated by the Straight of Gibraltar From Space Station

As the International Space Station orbited 263 miles above Earth, NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore captured this image of Spain and Morocco. The Strait of Gibraltar separates the two countries and connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: NASA

Communication and Plumbing Maintenance

NASA Flight Engineer Mike Barratt started his day routing cables and reprogramming communications systems inside the Columbus laboratory module. In the afternoon, he stowed hardware and components used earlier in the week for advanced orbital plumbing in the Tranquility module’s bathroom. Afterward, Barratt refilled supply kits in Columbus’ two Human Research Facility racks with biomedical gear including sample tubes and needles.

Advances in Space Botany

Starliner’s Commander and Pilot, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, partnered together inside Kibo on Friday for space botany work. The duo removed the Plant Habitat growth chamber from Kibo’s EXPRESS rack, replaced its camera and carbon dioxide sensors, and then reinstalled the research device. The Plant Habitat has enabled the growth of small crops of lettuce, tomatoes, and more in microgravity for both research and consumption.

NASA Astronauts During Spacesuit Fit Check

Expedition 71 Flight Engineer Tracy C. Dyson (center) assists Expedition 71 Flight Engineers Matthew Dominick (left) and Mike Barratt (right), all three NASA astronauts, during a spacesuit fit check inside the International Space Station’s Quest airlock. Credit: NASA

Starliner and Spacewalk Updates

NASA and Boeing continue to evaluate Starliner’s propulsion system performance before returning to Earth from the orbiting lab. NASA and Boeing leaders participated in a media teleconference today (listen below) to discuss Starliner and station operations.

NASA is now targeting the end of July for the next spacewalk outside the space station. This change allows teams on the ground to continue to troubleshoot and understand the water leak in the service and cooling umbilical unit that forced an early end to a spacewalk on Monday, June 24.

Robotic Piloting and Material Experiments

Working in the Roscosmos segment, Flight Engineer Nikolai Chub started his day practicing planetary spacecraft and robotic piloting techniques future crew members may use. Afterward, he conducted two sessions of an investigation exploring ways to create new materials on the lunar surface. Flight Engineer Alexander Grebenkin worked throughout the day inventorying medical kits and cleaning fans inside the Rassvet module. Finally, Station Commander Oleg Kononenko replaced thermal components inside Roscosmos’ life support hardware.

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