Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Station crew prepares for cargo craft, space shuttle

Japan's cargo craft docked to Station high above earth. (NASA)

The six member crew aboard the International Space Station remain busy unloading two recently arrived cargo crafts while preparing for the arrival of a third, a few upcoming spacewalks and the arrival of the space shuttle Discovery in two weeks.

On the heels of cargo craft launches by Japan and Russia in January, the European Space Agency is close to launching their unmanned craft loaded with tons of fresh supplies next week.

Europe's ATV-2 cargo craft Johannes Kepler is scheduled to launch to the space station this Tuesday from the Kourou Space Centre on Tuesday at 5:13 pm EST, to begin a eight day trip to the outpost.

Currently, docking of the Kepler ATV-2 is planned for the morning of February 23.

Russia's second spacewalk of the new year is planned as two cosmonauts venture outside the Zvezda service module for six hours.

Station flight engineers Dmitry Kondratiev and Oleg Skripochka will begin their spacewalk at 8:15 am EST on Wednesday.

The duo will release a small satellite known as Kedr -- the call sign of earth's first man in space Yuri Gagarin's used during his historic flight fifty years ago.

The satellite will operate at a amateur radio frequency of 145.95 MHz, and use the call sign RS1S, according to the Russian Space Agency.

Three days later, on February 19, the Russian Progress 39P unmanned cargo ship will undock from Zvezda, fully loaded with trash, and sent off toward a fiery reentry onto earth's atmosphere.

The much delayed flight of Discovery is scheduled to lift-off from the Kennedy Space Center on February 24, to begin an eleven day flight of which eight days will be spent docked to earth's orbiting outpost.

Launch time of the final flight of Discovery is targeted for 4:50:19 pm EST.

Based on an on time launch, Discovery will slowly move in from below the space station and dock two days later at 2:09 pm. The first of two spacewalks will begin two days later, and Discovery's prime payload full of supplies -- the Leonardo permanent multipurpose module -- will be attached to the station's Unity node.

Leonardo will provide an extra 2,472 cubic feet of storage space for the expanding station.

"This whole program is like one big science experiment," Commander Scott Kelly discussed today. He likened the operations centered around the space station as an experiment for one day leaving earth orbit for a six month trip to Mars.

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