Monday, February 15, 2010

Bay Window View fitted on Space Station


A multi-window cupola was effectively moved Monday from the new Tranquility module's outboard port to an Earth-facing hatch where the observation deck will provide bay-window views.

After resolving problems with stuck bolts and sticky latches, Astronauts Kay Hire and Terry Virts - operating the space station's robot arm - moved the cupola into position for add-on at Tranquility's nadir port.

The cupola features six canted windows and a middle overhead pane. While it will give station crews panoramic views of Earth, the primary objective is to give robot arm operators direct views of approaching unmanned cargo ships.

Initial attempts to isolate the cupola from Tranquility's outboard port ran into a snag late Sunday, reports CBS News Space Analyst Bill Harwood, when at least two motorized bolts in the docking mechanism failed to unfasten. The frequent berthing mechanism features four sets of motorized bolts.

We had some early challenges with unbolting the cupola from the port side and that was essentially due to higher than expected running torques on the bolts, said shuttle Flight Director Kwatsi Alibaruho. The cupola was bolted to the port side of node 3 on the ground so we just had to apply somewhat higher torque than what we had expected, just by a few newton-meters.

The control software, in its evasion mode, was limited to applying a maximum torque of about 22 foot-pounds. When that didn't work, flight controllers sent information to increase the torque and the bolts released at about 27 foot-pounds. So not a problem at all, just a slight adjustment we had to make, Alibaruho said.

After the common berthing mechanism detached, astronauts Kay Hire and Terry Virts, operating the space station's robot arm, stimulated the cupola into position for attachment at Tranquility's nadir port.

Motorized bolts drove home in two stages, carrying out the attachment procedure at 1:31 a.m. The astronauts planned to work on outfitting the foyer between harmony and the cupola later this morning, but they do not plan to open the emerge and go inside until overnight Monday.

Launch locks and defensive window covers will be released during a spacewalk overnight Tuesday. Computer displays and apparatus for controlling the station's robot arm will be moved into the cupola overnight Wednesday.

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