First space selfie of Thomas Pesquet taken during his initial spacewalk on January 13, 2017. (Credits: ESA/NASA)
Spacewalkers Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet to do a tune-up on Dextre, the Space Station's robotic handyman, on March 24
As expected, after nine years of intensive and flawless operations, the moving part that allows Dextre's to be anchored to the International Space Station is showing signs of wear and tear. To ensure Dextre's optimal performance for future robotic activities, astronauts Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA) will lubricate this part during their spacewalk.
The astronauts will also lay the ground work for the installation of the second International Docking Adapter (IDA), the physical connecting point for spacecraft. The new IDA will serve as a gateway for future crews arriving on Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon, the first new human-rated spacecraft since the space shuttle.
Two additional spacewalks to continue the prep work for the future arrival of commercial crew spacecraft and to upgrade station hardware are scheduled on March 30 and April 6.
Canadarm2 releases Dragon from the International Space Station
Using Canadarm2, astronauts Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency and Shane Kimbrough of NASA released the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station just after 5:00 a.m. EDT on Sunday, March 19.
Dragon's cargo included 1.2 million tomato seeds for the Tomatosphere™ educational project. Students in approximately 20,000 classrooms across Canada and the United States will receive the space-faring seeds that were launched to the ISS on board Dragon on February 19, 2017. They will then grow these tomato seeds, or others that remained on Earth, in a blind study that teaches students about plants, space, careers, nutrition and agriculture. Students will only find out which seeds went to space once they complete the experiment.
Dextre loading a completed science experiment inside Dragon's trunk. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)
Dextre packs Dragon for its return flight
Dextre is now equipped to provide tips to space travellers on how to pack efficiently (well, almost!).
On March 3, 2017, the space handyman performed a task never before attempted by robots or humans when he loaded the first of three completed experiments inside Dragon's trunk. For safety reasons astronauts do not have access to this area so having Dextre handle this task is tremendously helpful. The final two experiments will be loaded during the week of March 13th. Now that Dextre has proven he can handle this task, it will become a regular item on his 'to do' list.
Credit: Canadian Space Agency
Credit: Canadian Space Agency
Dextre performs first robotic handoff in space
Dextre will perform his very first handoff in space when he transfers nearly 440 kilograms of cargo known as STP-H5 (Space Test Program-Houston 5), a suite of 13 U.S. experiments, from one robotic hand to another.
The operation will begin with Dextre unloading STP-H5 from the newly arrived Dragon spacecraft using Arm 1. Dextre will then transfer STP-H5 to Arm 2 to provide power to heat the experiments. The operation is time critical because the experiments will be damaged by the cold and fail to work if they are not heated in time.
Prior to installing STP-H5 to its final site on the International Space Station, Dextre will perform a second transfer from Arm 2 to Arm 1 in order to fasten it in place.
Tune in to NASA TV or UStream to watch this operation live. The extraction of STP-H5 from the Dragon trunk starts at EST (1:30 p.m. PST) on Friday . The first handoff between the two arms is currently planned to start at EST ( PST).
Credit: NASA TV
SpaceX Dragon Rendezvous Second Attempt Planned for Thursday
Canadarm2 to capture Dragon
SpaceX's Dragon resupply spacecraft called off its rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) initially scheduled on Wednesday, at EST. Computers onboard Dragon activated the cancellation after identifying incorrect data about the ISS' location and automatically reset for a second attempt in 24 hours. The crew onboard the ISS is safe and the spacecraft is intact.
Astronauts Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Shane Kimbrough of NASA will capture the arriving spacecraft using Canadarm2. The robotics team comprised of experts from the Canadian Space Agency and NASA will then berth Dragon to the ISS. The spacecraft will spend about a month in orbit before returning to Earth in late .
Live coverage of the capture and berthing will begin at EST ( PST) on Thursday, , on NASA TV and UStream.
Credit: NASA/Frank Michaux
Tomato seeds for a Canadian student experiment to be launched to the International Space Station
Space's Dragon cargo spacecraft is slated for take-off on
In addition to supplies and equipment, Dragon will deliver 1.2 million tomato seeds as part of the Tomatosphere™ experiment. The tomato seeds will be sent back to Earth, along with samples from two Canadian experiments, Vascular Echo and Marrow, when Dragon returns to our planet on .
Dextre sets a new personal best in weightlifting
Dextre sets a new personal best in weightlifting: In this image, Dextre is hoisting three old batteries, one in each arm and one on his temporary stowage platform. As each battery weighs approximately 170 kg, roughly the weight of a refrigerator, Dextre is bearing the heaviest load to date, about 500 kg. (Credit: NASA)
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson at work during her spacewalk
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson at work during her spacewalk: During the six-hour and 32-minute spacewalk on , Whitson and Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough installed three new adapter plates and hooked up electrical connections for three of the six new lithium-ion batteries on the ISS. (Credit: NASA)
Back at the ISS airlock
Back at the ISS airlock: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet waves after completing his very first spacewalk on . (Credit: NASA)
Dextre successfully completes the most extensive robotics operation ever conducted on the International Space Station
Harnessing the power of human ingenuity and complex robotics, ground controllers and astronauts teamed up with Dextre, the Canadian robotic handyman, to efficiently upgrade the International Space Station's (ISS's) power system. The intensive operation, which lasted a total of between and , consisted in replacing 12 old nickel-hydrogen batteries with six lighter, smaller and more efficient lithium-ion batteries. The batteries are vital to the ISS, as they store electrical energy generated by the Station's solar arrays.
Improving crew safety and increasing science opportunities
In a well-choreographed task split between robots and astronauts, Dextre carefully removed nine of the 12 batteries from the worksite and placed them on the exposed pallet of the Japanese cargo spacecraft HTV-6. The three other batteries were moved to their final stowage locations by two teams of astronauts during their respective spacewalks. Both teams also effectively installed new adapter plates and hooked up electrical connections for the new batteries. The first tag team, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson, carried out their spacewalk on , while the second one, European Space Agency's Thomas Pesquet and Shane Kimbrough, did theirs on .
Without the proven capabilities of Canadian robotics, the astronauts would have had to execute the entire operation during spacewalks, which are always risky and take a lot of time and resources to prepare. Entrusting Dextre to do most of the work reduced the number of spacewalks from six to two.
A shout out to the CSA from NASA astronauts during a spacewalk
In a message recorded during their spacewalk, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson expressed their appreciation to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for Dextre, also known as SPDM (the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator), and for the CSA's significant contributions to this important mission. (Credit: NASA)
"The ability to blend robotics with spacewalks to perform this battery upgrade saved us days of precious crew time. By swapping in these new batteries for the Station's power system, Dextre and Canadarm2 helped position us to continue powering the important research for the future, while saving crew time for the research of today."
- Kirk Shireman, NASA's International Space Station Program Manager
Planning this intricate mission took over one year and required more than 1,000 pages of robotics procedures (whereas a more routine operation would consist of 75 to 100 pages). Dextre was operated from the ground from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, by members of the CSA/NASA Combined Robotics Team.
Canadarm2 to release H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-6) from the International Space Station
At approximately 10:30 a.m. (ET) on January 27, robotics controllers at the Canadian Space Agency and NASA will position Canadarm2 for NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet to release the Japanese cargo spacecraft, HTV-6. Weighing in at over 15 metric tons, this is the heaviest HTV ever released by Canadarm2.