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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ISS: Playing with fire

Astronaut Don Pettit at the SLICE equipment.

Up in the world's space outpost, astronauts and cosmonauts of Expedition 30 continue their research and experiments with living in space. Yesterday, astronaut Don Pettit worked on SLICE, the Structure and Liftoff In Combustion Experiment. SLICE allows astronauts and scientists to examine how flames behave in the microgravity of Earth orbit. The information gained by these tests will help engineers invent new equipment for fire safety which will benefit living in space, as well as potential benefits in fire control on Earth. This work will also help in pollution control and fuel efficiency in combustion engines.

Interviews with the press aboard the ISS. Don Pettit on left, Andre Kuipers on right.

During interviews with reporters, Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers drank tea using specially designed glasses that allow humans to drink normally rather than have to sip liquid from plastic bags. After years of drinking from bags, this is a small but pretty cool step for living in space.

Other activities continued as normal aboard ISS: experiments with liquids and gasses in microgravity, computer and station maintenance, and astronaut physical workouts to control bone mass deterioration. Three of the crew practiced emergency evacuation procedures using the Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft. Unloading continues from the Progress 46 supply spacecraft which docked at the station in January. Supplies from the module will continue to be unloaded, and eventually the module will be filled with trash, waste and garbage so it can be jettisoned later to burn up in the atmosphere.

What's next for ISS? On Wednesday the ISS will fire up its thrusters to boost its orbit a little bit. On March 9, the European Space Agency will launch another cargo spaceship (ATV-3) to the station. This craft has been nicknamed, "Edoardo Amaldi."

Blast Off! Atlas 5 Lifts Navy Satellite

Atlas lifts off from LC-41. Credit: SpaceFlight Now.

The MUOS 1 Mobile Communications Satellite was lifted into orbit Friday afternoon from Cape Canaveral at 3:15 pm MST. The US Navy will use the satellite to improve communications between ships and naval ground forces. MUOS 1 is built by Lockheed.

MUOS satellite graphic, credit Lockheed.

This was the 200th launch of the Centaur second-stage rocket system, which carries the satellites from the first stage Atlas rocket to an orbit before releasing the payload. Congratulations Centaur!

The Atlas 5 rocket is a joint project between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, under the organization of United Space Alliance. This rocket is under consideration of being man-rated to carry the new CST-100 crew capsule, currently being developed. This combination would be used to ferry astronauts to the ISS and back to Earth. It is also a possible launcher for the Dream Chaser, under development by Sierra Nevada Space Systems. The DreamChaser resembles a lifting-body design.

Dream Chaser- Atlas 5 configuration computer model. Credit Sierra Nevada Space Systems.

No doubt we'll be seeing more of the Atlas-5 in the competition for low-Earth-orbit capsules. In the meantime the Atlas 5 is very successful at delivering payloads into space. One of the spacecraft launched by an Atlas 5 is the New Horizon explorer, currently more than halfway to the dwarf planet Pluto! Another interesting payload is the Air Force's new X-37B unmanned robot shuttle, which is still on a mysterious mission in orbit.

Posted by
Mark Daymont
Space Center Educator
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