Soyuz TMA-9 relocation successful – ISS update

by Chris Bergin

Expedition 14 crewmembers Suni Williams, Michael Lopez-Alegria and “Misha” Tuyrin have successfully taken the Soyuz TMA-9 for a spin around the block tonight, relocating the vehicle from being docked with Zarya’s nadir docking port to its new home on the aft docking port on the Zvezda service module.

The relocation is to make room for the upcoming arrival of Soyuz TMA-10, due to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) on April 9.

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**Review the Live Event pages for this relocation**

Preparations for the relocation have been ongoing during the second half of today, before the crew – wearing Sokol spacesuits – boarded the vehicle at 4:10pm GMT. Leak and seat checks were conducted prior to undocking, enjoying lunch on board the Russian vehicle during their wait of several hours.

‘For the relocation, ISS attitude control authority was handed over to RS motion control at 5:25pm,’ noted today’s ISS Status Report. ‘After relocation, control returned to US momentum management at 7:50pm.

‘After reconfiguring station comm to nominal mode, the crew will reactivate all station systems that had been switched to autonomous (unmanned) configuration.’

Following the releasing of docking hooks and clamps, the Soyuz departed Zarya’s nadir docking port just before 11:30pm GMT. Docking was confirmed at 11:54 pm GMT.

It’s been an interesting time onboard the ISS over the past few weeks, which included the sixth SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellite) test session.

SPHERES was designed by the MIT Space Systems Laboratory as a long term, replenishable, and upgradable testbed for the validation of high risk metrology, control, and autonomy technologies for use in formation flight and autnomous docking, rendezvous and reconfiguration algorithms.

‘From the real-time video and audio feed the 6th SPHERES test session, from 3/17 was highly successful,’ noted a previous ISS Status Report. ‘Our observations confirm an important milestone for SPHERES: the third SPHERES satellite, launched aboard STS-116, is fully operational, meaning that the full SPHERES facilities are now aboard station!

‘Further, the other tests provided substantial data for four MIT theses due this year (denoted by numbers in parenthesis): – All docking tests performed within our expectations, increasing our confidence in upcoming sessions to perform complex tumbling tests. – The fault simulation maneuvers created faults at good times, where the avoidance maneuvers were clearly visible. The trajectory tests for formation flight, which had been delayed for the past two sessions, ran successfully.

‘The reconfiguration maneuvers – determining how to control a system after docking – also ran correctly, providing the ‘control data’ for upcoming tests. In addition, the Mass ID tests appeared to run successfully for the first time; if the data confirms this, we will no longer have to run further Mass ID tests. Your efforts are helping a great number of students complete their research, which in turn we are sure will help numerous future missions.’

Mission control back in Houston also chose to congratulate Williams for her participation in the experiment.

‘The SPHERES team would like to thank you for your great execution of SPHERES. The SPHERES scientists are ecstatic with the results. The ‘Lost in Space’ scenarios were an amazing success. This data will be used to support three more theses in addition to the four theses from last week.’

In other news, NASA conducted the 14Soyuz/Increment 15 SORR (Station Operations Readiness Review) last Wednesday, ahead of the FRR (Flight Readiness Review) on April 2.

Three ‘exceptions’ were noted during the SORR, as listed in a NASA memo acquired by this site.

‘1. Oxygen Generation System (OGS) Activation Readiness – A significant amount of engineering open paperwork must be closed before activation on-orbit (still post 13A and CCS R6 transition) . May take until June or July to completely close out.

‘The Program Manager was not very pleased to hear this news. In contrast, he did take the opportunity to commend the ops community for the significant effort expended for OGS early activation and being ready to support when the hardware is ready.

‘2. EAS Jettison – The Program still has open work (waiver to Jettison Policy and obtaining HQ approval) necessary for jettison of the Early Ammonia Servicer during the 13A.1 stage

‘3. FHRC R&R – The R&R for the Flex Hose Rotary Coupler (one of the ‘Big 13′ contingency EVA tasks) will take 3 EVAs to accomplish since the ORU temp stow device will not be manifested until flight 1E. This is a violation of the ground rules and constraints document that requires these tasks to be performed within 2 EVAs.’

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