Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Kibo Lab attached, to be activated today

Yesterday, the Discovery crew unloaded the pressurized Kibo space lab from Discovery's cargo bay, and attached it to the station.

The spacewalk crew unbolted it, and two astronauts inside the station attached it to the station using a robot arm, while the spacewalk crew got on with other repairs outside the station.

Here is an illustration that shows where the Kibo lab has been attached on the station:

Today the astronauts will complete all the internal hookups, and open the lab up. Here is some information from NASA's mission summary .PDF file:


• STS-124 is the 123rd space shuttle flight, the 26th flight to the station, the 35th flight for Discovery and the third flight in 2008.

• The Kibo laboratory—which means “hope” in Japanese—is the country’s major contribution to the station and will enhance the research capabilities of the space station.

• The JPM will be the largest habitable module on the space station and is equipped with its own airlock and robotic arm for external experiments.

• The final components of Kibo will be assembled in space on shuttle mission STS-127.

• The RMS main arm can handle up to 14,000 pounds of hardware. The small fine arm, when attached to the main arm, handles more delicate operations. Each arm has six joints that mimic the movements of a human arm.

• The JPM is 36.7 feet long and 14.4 feet in diameter, about the size of a large tour bus.

• The main arm measures 32.5 feet long, and the small fine arm measures 6.2 feet.

• Kibo experiments and systems are operated from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's control center called the Space Station Integration and Promotion Center, just north of Tokyo.

• Experiments in Kibo focus on space medicine, biology, Earth observations, material production, biotechnology and communications research.

• To help prevent the glove cuts seen in recent missions from recurring, both spacewalkers will wear gloves with special patches on the thumb and index finger for the first time. The patches are made of the same protective vectran material already used in the palm of the gloves, but in a much tighter weave. In this form, the fabric is called TurtleSkin. It is up to four times more resistant to damage.

When all the components are in place, the Kibo lab unit should be configured like this:

The porch-like attachment is for performing experiments outside the station, using robotic arms. I believe the porch-platform is scheduled to brought up and added on in a future mission.

More about todays activities:

Crews to Enter Japanese Lab Today
The shuttle and station crews will open the newly installed Japanese laboratory Kibo for business today. Hatch opening is planned for 4:52 p.m. EDT. The experiment module was installed on the Harmony Node’s port side Tuesday.

After a leak check, mission specialists Karen Nyberg and Akihiko Hoshide will prepare Kibo for activation before opening the hatches. Shortly after entering Kibo with Hoshide, Expedition 17 Commander Sergei Volkov will sample the air and test for contamination. They will wear protective goggles and masks until they are sure the Japanese lab’s air is clean.

Mission Specialists Mike Fossum and Ron Garan will review procedures for their second spacewalk and sleep in the U.S. Quest airlock tonight to purge the nitrogen from their bodies. During Thursday’s spacewalk, the second of the mission, the spacewalkers will outfit the new lab and prepare the Japanese logistics module for relocation.

You can check the link for progress updates. They have already fixed the malfunctioning Zero-Gravity Space Toilet. That should make life in space a bit easier.

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