Thursday, July 23, 2009

Live in orbit: crew tries to install new Kibo antenna

Blogger update, 1:29 p.m.: Kopra and Payette have pulled the communications box from its palette and are moving to Kibo's exposed porch.

Already more than an hour behind schedule, astronauts are having some difficulty removing the second of three payloads from a cargo palette on the International Space Station.

The work fell behind this morning after Japanese robotic arms had trouble grappling a science experiment.

Now, an attach mechanism appears to not be fully opening to release a box holding communications equipment, but the crew has been given the go-ahead to proceed with the grappling procedure.

Station flight engineer Tim Kopra, a U.S. Army colonel, and shuttle Endeavour mission specialist Julie Payette, a Canadian astronaut, are operating the arms.

They are trying to install an antenna and related equipment, called the Inter-orbit Communication System, or ICS, on a 9,000-pound platform exposed to space. The platform, known as the porch, was recently installed on Japan's science lab complex named Kibo, or "hope."

The Japanese robotic arm system consists of two arms, a main one measuring 32.5 feet and a second, smaller arm about 6 feet long.

The communications gear will establish a direct communications link between the Kibo lab and Japan's Mission Control Room at the Tsukuba Space Center near Tokyo.

The antenna will automatically track Japan's Data Relay Test Satellite.

A second part of the system is already installed on Kibo's pressurized module.

If the antenna is installed successfully on the porch, the astronauts will swing the arms back to a cargo palette to pick up the third and final box scheduled for installation today.

It's another science experiment, called the Space Environment Data Acquisition Equipment-Attached Payload, or SEDA-AP.

No comments: