Astronauts enjoy some Sunday off-duty time
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: March 22, 2009
The Discovery astronauts are enjoying a half-day off today before gearing up for a replanned third and final spacewalk Monday. The space station astronauts, meanwhile, plan to begin testing the lab's repaired urine processing system later this morning.
The water recycling system, required for long-term support of six full-time crew members, is designed to convert condensate and urine into pure water for drinking, personal hygiene and oxygen generation.
But a key component - a vacuum distillation assembly centrifuge - malfunctioned shortly after it was installed late last year. Based on telemetry and crew reports of vibration and noise levels, engineers suspect some sort of physical interference with rotating components inside the device.
A replacement distillation assembly carried up aboard Discovery was installed Friday and on Saturday, the crew fired up the new centrifuge for a test run.
"That activation and checkout went very well," station Flight Director Kwatsi Alibaruho said Saturday. "What we did was, we pointed a high definition camera and microphone at the unit. That unit is like a big centrifuge, kind of similar to a washing machine. So the vibrations and the sounds that it makes tells us quite a bit about its health.
"Basically, that unit functioned normally," he said. "We spun it up for about five or so minutes without any fluid in it, just to make sure that the motor was spinning properly and the rpm and the currents and the voltages on the motor looked normal.
"So tomorrow (Sunday), what's on the plate is to actually fill the urine processor with urine and attempt to do a full process cycle on that and shunt that processed urine to the water recovery system to then allow us to take an end-of-mission sample. So that work is going very well."
But a second dry run test will be carried out this morning before the five-hour urine processing run begins around 12:45 p.m.
"Specialists on the ground are particularly interesting in getting audio, to hear what it sounds like, when the UPA is now engaged," mission control commentator Pat Ryan said early today. "Yesterday's dry spin was recorded on video tape, but the video that was downlinked did not have an audio track. That audio is important so they can perform a narrow-band frequency analysis to isolate the sounds from various components within the DA to determine whether or not anything is damaged or operating improperly.
"The plan calls for a second brief dry spin to be accomplished this morning with sound. That'll be followed by a wet spin, a full processing cycle. Station commander Mike Fincke will be doing the water recovery system. He should kick off the UPA processing cycle at 11:45 Houston time this morning (12:45 p.m EDT).
"The standard run on that cycle is five hours to do a complete treatment of the urine that's been introduced," Ryan said. "Samples from that cycle will be prepared for return to Earth so they can be tested as the international space station team continues to work to certify that the water recovery system is operating properly and the output of the system is indeed potable water that will be safe for the crew members to drink."
At the Johnson Space Center in Houston, divers in NASA's spacewalk training pool are testing procedures for freeing a jammed external cargo stowage rack on the station's port 3 truss segment that could not be fully deployed during a spacewalk Saturday. The mechanism apparently jammed because one of the spacewalkers installed a clamp backward, causing interference with a variable-diameter locking pin.
An attempt to free the jammed pin likely will be added to the spacewalk tasks planned for Monday's EVA.
CBS News will interview the astronauts late today in a round-robin window that opens at 6:14 p.m.
Here is an updated timeline of today's activity (in EDT and mission elapsed time; includes revision J of the NASA television schedule):
EDT........DD...HH...MM...EVENT 03/22/09 07:13 AM...06...11...30...Crew wakeup 08:43 AM...06...13...00...ISS daily planning conference 10:18 AM...06...14...35...Crew off-duty time begins 12:53 PM...06...17...10...Urine processing system test run 02:03 PM...06...18...20...Crew meals begin 03:03 PM...06...19...20...Spacesuit swap 03:43 PM...06...20...00...Equipment lock preps 03:48 PM...06...20...05...Water recovery system rack closed 05:28 PM...06...21...45...Tools configured 05:43 PM...06...22...00...Tool audit 06:14 PM...06...22...31...CBS News crew interview 06:33 PM...06...22...50...Crew choice downlink 06:43 PM...06...23...00...EVA-3: Procedures review 06:45 PM...06...23...02...Mission status briefing (may be cancelled) 08:28 PM...07...00...45...Evening planning conference 09:08 PM...07...01...25...EVA-3: Mask pre-breathe 09:53 PM...07...02...10...EVA-3: Airlock depress to 10.2 psi 10:13 PM...07...02...30...ISS crew sleep begins 10:43 PM...07...03...00...STS crew sleep begins 11:00 PM...07...03...17...Daily highlights reel