Thursday, July 23, 2009

Live in orbit: antenna installed, one experiment left

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Blogger update, 5:22 p.m.: The third and final payload has been installed on the Kibo porch, completing the day's robotic transfers.

International Space Station crews today are two-thirds done with robotic maneuvers that will put new Japanese research equipment to use.

American Tim Kopra and Canadian Julie Payette successfully installed a box containing an antenna and related communications gear on the exposed "porch" of Japan's Kibo science lab complex.

Beaming data, images and voice through a relay satellite, the new gear provides a direct communications link between the Kibo facility and Japan's Tsukuba Space Center near Tokyo.

Confirmation of a successful attachment came just after 3 p.m., more than two hours behind schedule.

One more box remains to be transferred to the porch from a cargo palette temporarily attached to it.

The box holds a science experiment called the Space Environment Data Acquisition-Attached Payload, or SEDA-AP.

The experiment is designed to analyze the environment around the station, more than 200 miles above Earth, including neutrons, plasma, heavy ions, high-energy light particles, atomic oxygen and cosmic dust.

The device will observe how those phenomenon affect materials and electronic devices.

Earlier, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and shuttle Endeavour commander Mark Polansky installed the first experiment, called MAXI, on the porch.

It features two X-ray observing cameras that will monitor more than 1,000 celestial objects.

Meanwhile, mission controllers are discussing with astronauts a revised schedule for Friday's planned spacewalk, the mission's fourth.

The schedule needed to change after Wednesday's work was cut short because of a problem with carbon dioxide scrubber in mission specialist Chris Cassidy's spacesuit.

Cassidy will join mission specialist Tom Marshburn on the spacewalk, which is expected to last more than seven hours.

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