Astronauts and cosmonauts pulled a special cargo carrier from the payload bay of the space shuttle Endeavour this morning and installed it on the International Space Station's mobile transporter, which will move up and down the station truss delivering hardware to spacewalkers on the next three extravehicular activities (EVAs) of the STS-127 mission.
The second of those spacewalks will start at about 11:30 a.m. EDT Monday, when Dave Wolf and Tom Marshburn go outside to transfer three large spare parts from the intergrated cargo carrier (ICC) that arrived on Endeavour to an external stowage platform on the truss. The parts -- a spare space-to-ground antenna, coolant pump and motor/transmission combo for the mobile transporter - are too large to be delivered on any vehicles that will be visiting the station after the shuttles retire next year, and NASA wants to preposition them in case they are needed after that.
Later on the transporter will move the ICC to the far port end of the truss, where astronauts on two more EVAs will install a new set of six batteries to replace the oldest set on the station.
The work went ahead because the shuttle and station robotic arms weren't needed for a focused inspection of the orbiter's heat shield, which had tentatively been scheduled today. On Saturday the mission management team (MMT) decided that none of the damage detected with the extensive photography and on-orbit laser-sensor inspections that are now standard during and after shuttle ascents was serious enough to warrant a second look. Mike Moses, the MMT co-chair, said Saturday night the thermal protection system had not yet been cleared for reentry, but he expected that action to follow once the remaining analysis was completed.
To get the ICC out of Endeavour and onto the station, Endeavour Commander Mark Polansky and Doug Hurley, the pilot, used the shuttle arm to extract it and hand it off to the station arm, operated by Canadian astronaut Julie Payette and NASA's Tim Kopra, who arrived on Endeavour to become the newest member of the station crew. The station arm then plugged in it to a fixture on the mobile transporter that will hold it until it is returned to Endeavour with the old set of batteries.
Engineers in Houston and Moscow were troubleshooting a problem with the new U.S. toilet facility that could have implications for operations later in the mission. The unit -- with uses technology similar to that in the Russian toilet facility at the other end of the station -- was deactivated when its liquid-separator unit apparently flooded. A Houston/Moscow teleconference today will address the problem, based on data relayed by the station crew, according to Brian Smith, lead ISS flight director on the morning shift.
Meanwhile the 13 crew members on board the docked spacecraft will use the Russian toilet and the toilet in Endeavour. Use of the latter unit will be restricted to the "crew equivalent" of the seven-member orbiter crew, since managers don't want to vent the waste water tank on the orbiter out of fear it will contaminate connection points on the new exposed facility attached to Japan's Kibo laboratory module on Saturday. The waste water tank in the orbiter should be able to accommodate a seven-person waste load if the problem is resolved over the next few days, Smith said during a mission status briefing.
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) declared Kibo -- the largest laboratory on the ISS -- officially complete after the complex robotics and EVA operation to get it in place. JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata, a new member of Endeavour's crew now that he has been replaced by Kopra on the station lineup, was activating the new unit, calibrating the Kibo robotic arm for upcoming work installing experiment packages on the laboratory's new "porch."