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SpaceX Dragon’s Successful Cargo Delivery to Space Station Sets Up Friday’s Spacewalk

SpaceX Dragon Cargo Craft Approaches Space Station for Docking

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft approaches the International Space Station for an automated docking less than a day after launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center loaded with over 7,000 pounds of science experiments, station hardware, and crew supplies. The last rays of an orbital sunset illuminate the cloud tops as both spacecraft were orbiting 259 miles above the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan. Credit: NASA

The crew of Expedition 69 has begun unpacking SpaceX Dragon’s cargo, including roll-out solar arrays for the International Space Station. After docking with the Harmony module, the cargo, including over 7,000 pounds of scientific and hardware supplies, will be managed by flight engineers from NASA and UAE. Robotic arm Canadarm2 assists in prepping the solar arrays for installation in a scheduled spacewalk, with the team juggling both preparation and ongoing scientific activities.

Expedition 69 crew members have opened the hatch to the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft and begun unpacking several tons of cargo packed inside. Stowed inside the resupply ship is a pair of roll-out solar arrays that will soon be removed for installation on the International Space Station (ISS) during the next spacewalk.

Dragon craft docked to the orbital outpost’s Harmony module at 5:54 a.m. EDT on Monday less than a day after launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Dragon’s hatch was opened less than two hours later following the completion of standard air and pressure leaks. Soon after, Flight Engineers Frank Rubio, Stephen Bowen, and Woody Hoburg, all from NASA, and Sultan Alneyadi from UAE (United Arab Emirates) entered Dragon and began offloading some of the more than 7,000 pounds of science experiments, station hardware, and crew supplies packed inside.

Controllers on the ground will also command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to extract a pair of roll-out solar arrays stowed inside Dragon’s unpressurized trunk. The remotely-controlled Canadarm2 will gently maneuver the solar arrays and temporarily stow them on a pallet attached to the station’s starboard-side truss structure. The robotic transfer work prepares the solar arrays for installation and activation on the starboard truss structure during a spacewalk planned to start at 9:15 a.m. on Friday.

SpaceX Dragon Freedom Spacecraft Docked to Space Station

The SpaceX Dragon Freedom spacecraft is pictured docked to the space-facing port on the International Space Station’s Harmony module. Dragon Freedom carried four Axiom Mission-2 astronauts to the orbital lab on May 22, 2023, including Commander Peggy Whitson, Pilot John Shoffner, and Mission Specialists Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi. Credit: NASA

Bowen and Hoburg will be the two spacewalkers installing the station’s fifth set of roll-out solar arrays on Friday. The two astronauts began Wednesday morning by organizing tools and reviewing the procedures they will use during the seven-hour spacewalk. Rubio and Alneyadi, who will assist the spacewalkers from inside the station, also participated in the tool work and procedure reviews. The quartet will get back together on Thursday for final preparations including a last look at the spacewalk procedures, a final robotics review, and a conference with mission specialists on the ground.

In the midst of Wednesday’s spacewalk preparations, the four astronauts fit in other duties including running science experiments and maintaining lab operations. Bowen set up standard optometry gear found in a doctor’s office on Earth and imaged Hoburg’s eyes for a human research study. Rubio continued unpacking Dragon while Alneyadi conducted test runs of an Astrobee robotic free-flying assistant.

The station’s three cosmonauts had their day full of research, electronics maintenance, and cargo duties in the Roscosmos segment of the orbiting lab. Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Andrey Fedyaev took turns wearing a cap packed with sensors that monitored their brain activity while practicing futuristic robotic and spacecraft piloting techniques on a computer. Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin worked throughout the day testing power and data cables in the Zvezda service module before transferring cargo from the ISS Progress 84 space freighter.

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