Spacewalkers to retrieve science experiments outside Columbus
Two astronauts will tonight perform the first of three spacewalks scheduled for the STS-128 mission to the International Space Station. Their tasks include the removal of the European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF) and a material science experiment from the outside of the European Columbus laboratory.
NASA astronauts John Olivas and Nicole Stott are set to start the spacewalk at 23:49 CEST when they exit the Station through the US Airlock. Their first task will be to prepare for the replacement of an empty ammonia tank on the Station's port truss, or backbone, by releasing its bolts. They will then retrieve two experiment pallets, EuTEF and MISSE-6, from the external platform on Columbus and stow them in Space Shuttle Discovery's payload bay for return to Earth.
EuTEF has housed eight experiments since installation on Europe's Columbus laboratory in February 2008. EuTEF included an exposure experiment (EXPOSE-E), an experiment to study atomic oxygen in low Earth orbit (FIPEX), the tribology experiment (TRIBOLAB), the micrometeoroid and orbital debris detector (DEBIE-2), a material exposure experiment (MEDET) and a radiation measurement experiment (DOSTEL). In addition, there were the technology demonstrations of an experimental plasma contactor (PLEGPLAY) and the Earth viewing camera (EVC).
For the duration of its stay outside Columbus, EuTEF has been operated day and night from the Erasmus User Support and Operation Centre based at ESA's research and technology centre, ESTEC, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
Once back on Earth, scientists will be able to examine those EuTEF experiments which required exposure to the space environment.
MISSE, or the Materials International Space Station Experiment, is an American experiment that investigates the effects of long-term exposure of materials to the harsh space environment. The sixth MISSE pallet, MISSE-6, was installed outside Columbus in March 2008.
The spacewalk is scheduled to last six and a half hours, ending at 06:19 CEST on Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, ESA astronaut and STS-128 crewmember Christer Fuglesang's activities inside the ISS are focussed on unloading the supplies and equipment that arrived at the Station inside Leonardo, the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) that was carried into space inside Discovery's payload bay.
Leonardo was transferred from Discovery to the nadir port on the Harmony module during robotics operations on Monday. After vestibule pressurisation and activation, Fuglesang and his ESA colleague and Expedition 20 crewmember Frank De Winne were the first to enter the newly installed module.
The items to be transferred to the Station today include the Colbert treadmill, new crew quarters and the Atmospheric Revitalization System – an air purification system for later installation in the Italian-built Tranquility module, set for launch to the ISS in February next year.