Yesterday Station Commander Koichi Wakata handed control of the International Space Station to US Astronaut Steve Swanson to begin the final stage of the TMA-11M crews return to earth. Mikhail Tyurin, Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata have spent the last 188 days on the space station, during which time they saw the departure of Progress M-22M, the arrival of Progress M-23M, the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon, undocking and re-docking of the Progress M-23M to test KURS-NA. In addition due to the failure of the MDM a spacewalk was added to the manifest.
Today the three crew members bid farewell and then entered their Soyuz capsule concluding with the closing of the hatchway between the station and capsule at 3:26 p.m. EDT. After the leak checks were completed the Soyuz TMA-11M undocked from the station at 6:36 p.m. EDT and slowly moved away from the station.
At 9:04 p.m. EDT the deorbit burn was performed beginning the return to earth for the crew which concluded with the safe touchdown of the crew module at 9:58:30 p.m. EDT. The crew were successfully removed from the module after landing and are doing well.
The following are images capture from NASA TV of the different events today.
The planned launch of six commercial communications satellites for Orbcomm has been delayed. The planned static fire test on Thursday was called off after SpaceX ran into technical trouble during the countdown. The static fire test was rescheduled for Friday but was stopped while the rocket was being fueled. SpaceX announced that the OG2 satellites and rocket was in a safe condition and would be rolled back to the integration facility.
At present a new launch date/time is not available.
Judge rules Russian engine purchases can continue
Judge Susan G. Braden has reversed the injunction she issued in the case that SpaceX filed against the ULA Block Buy. While SpaceX didn’t explicitly request action to stop ULA buying the engine’s this was the first action taken by the count after the filing of the case. This follows letters submitted to the court from the Treasury and State departments stating that NPO Energomash was not subject to the sanctions.
Curiosity drills into Martian sandstone
This week Curiosity successfully drilled into Martian sandstone. The rock dubbed “Windjana” was selected for the drill site. Over the next couple of weeks the rover will collect samples of the fine grained samples into a pair of research instruments.
This is the first time Curiosity has drilled into Sandstone, having samples Mudstone previously in 2013.
Russian spy satellite launched by Soyuz
This week a Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launched a clandestine payload from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. Likely a Kobalt-class imaging satellite for the Russian Military.
Station crew members prepare to return home
Three of the station residents have entered their last week aboard the orbiting complex. Commander Koichi Wakata, Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio and Cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin will be returning to earth May 13th inside their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft having spent 187 days onboard.
Former Astronaut Kent Rominger answer questions on Twitter
This week Astronaut Kent Rominger who now works for ULA answered questions on Twitter during a #SpaceChat session. Among the questions asked was one from us regarding SLS
This week I signed up for an online Astronomy course which includes time controlled several robotic telescopes around the world. Below are a couple of images I have processed so far as part of the course.
Earlier today Astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson stepped outside the International Space Station for a 1h 36m spacewalk to replace a failed Multiplexer/Demultiplexer (MDM) unit. In addition they completed a get-ahead task to remove two lanyard’s from the Secondary Power Distribution Assembly SPDA doors, this will allow the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator attachment of the Canadarm2 to access the unit in future.
This was Rick’s ninth spacewalk who now has a total of 53h 4m under his belt moving him to 5th in the all time EVA list, and Steve’s fifth for a total of 27h 58m.
The replacement of the MDM unit went very smoothly and was successfully powered up while the Astronauts were still outside. Steve Swanson then moved on to the frist SPDA lanyard removal which was also successfully completed. However during checkout of the SPDA door he wasn’t able to open it. After further troubleshooting and some brute force Steve was able to resolve the issue. Steve then moved on to the second SPDA door which was also complete successfully.
Despite starting slightly later than planned the two Astronaut’s completed the EVA ahead of time.
Below are screen captures of the spacewalk taken from NASA TV.