While the newest commercial cargo vehicle to join the International Space Station’s resupply fleet launched Wednesday morning on its demonstration flight, the Expedition 37 crew aboard the orbiting complex was hard at work with medical research, emergency simulation training and preparations for Sunday’s arrival of the new space freighter.
NASA commercial space partner Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., launched its Cygnus cargo spacecraft aboard its Antares rocket at 10:58 a.m. EDT Wednesday from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. At the time of launch, the space station was flying about 261 miles above the southern Indian Ocean. Cygnus will rendezvous with the station on Sunday on its demonstration mission to deliver 1,300 pounds of cargo, including food and clothing, to the space station’s Expedition 37 crew.
All three Expedition 37 crew members — Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano — gathered around a laptop computer screen in the station’s Destiny laboratory to watch a live video stream of the launch of Cygnus. Nyberg then sent her congratulations to Orbital Sciences via her Twitter account, @AstroKarenN.
yberg and Parmitano began their workday aboard the space station reviewing Cygnus’ cargo manifest and discussing with ground teams the plan to unload the cargo. During the month that Cygnus is berthed to the station, the crew will unload its 1,300 pounds of cargo and reload it with trash for disposal when Cygnus departs for a destructive re-entry in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The two astronauts then moved on to some on-board training to review the installation procedure for Cygnus. When Cygnus nears the station on Sunday, Parmitano, with assistance from Nyberg, will use the robotics workstation in the cupola to command the station’s 57-foot robotic arm, Canadarm2, to reach out and grapple the vehicle. He will then maneuver the arm to guide Cygnus to its docking port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony node for installation.
All three Expedition 37 crew members participated in on-board training to review their roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency aboard the station such as a fire or rapid depressurization. Afterward, they tagged up with flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston to review the drill and discuss any changes needed.
Nyberg and Parmitano wrapped up their workday with another round of medical tests for the Ocular Health study as they used a fundoscope to examine each other’s eyes in detail. Vision changes have been observed in some astronauts returning from long-duration spaceflight, and flight surgeons are seeking to learn more about its root causes and develop countermeasures to minimize this risk.