With the Japanese Kounotori 6 cargo craft firmly attached to the International Space Station's Harmony module, the six-person Expedition 50 crew is heading into the holiday weekend with images of spacewalk preparations dancing in their heads.
Expedition 50 consists of Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko – who arrived in Soyuz MS-02 in October 2016 as part of Expedtion 49; and NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitski – who arrived in Soyuz MS-03 in November 2016.
On Friday, Dec. 23, Commander Shane Kimbrough started scrubbing cooling loops inside and testing water in the U.S. spacesuits, called Extravehicular Mobility Units, that will be used in two spacewalks in the first two weeks of 2017.
U.S. Extravehicular Activity 38 will occur Jan 6 and EVA-39 Jan 13. Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet will be the astronaut duo performing the spacewalk. The goal of the two EVAs is to replace 12 old nickel-hydrogen batteries with six new lithium-ion batteries on the station's Integrated Truss Assembly.
The new batteries were brought up to the outpost in the exposed pallet on the Kounotori 6 spacecraft. The Robotic Canadarm2 already removed the pallet from the unpressurized section of the cargo craft and temporarily stowed it on the Mobile Base Unit.
Nine of the 12 old batteries will be placed in the exposed pallet next month as soon as the new batteries are installed. Canadarm2 will then be commanded to move the pallet back into Kounotori 6's unpressurized section.
In the mean time, the Expedition 50 crew has been performing many ongoing science experiments. Whitson and Pasquet drew blood, urine and saliva samples for the Fluid Shifts study, which looks at how the upward flow of body fluids in space effects vision in astronauts and cosmonauts.
According to a NASA update, the crew recently wrapped up part of a muscle research program. The Sarcolab experiment, as it is called, measures how the calf muscles change in space. To measure muscle, an ultrasound and electrode stimulators are used. The first part of the experiment was completed Dec. 22.
Also on Dec. 22, an enhanced small satellite deployer was installed in the Kibo module. It replaced an older model, which happened to deploy its final CubeSat on Dec. 19.
The new model was delivered by the Kounotori 6. It has twice the satellite deployment capacity than the older version.
Kounotori 6 arrived at the outpost Dec. 13 after a successful Dec. 9 launch out of the Japanese Tanegashima Space Center. It was the final of six successful cargo ships to arrive at the ISS in 2016.
Video courtesy of NASA
NOTE: While this article was written by Derek Richardson, it was originally published at SpaceFlight Insider. Feel free to head over there to read all the stuff they write about!