ESA astronaut André Kuipers shared these photographs of the SpaceX Dragon approach and berthing that took place yesterday. Dragon was captured when the ISS was over Western Australia using the Station's robotic arm Canadarm2, operated by NASA astronaut Don Pettit and assisted by André. Taking over the controls of the robotic arm, André then manouevred Dragon into position to berth the spacecraft with the Earth-facing port on the Harmony module.
Dragon spacecraft launches to ISS
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched from Florida at 09:44 CEST (07:44 UT) today. Carrying a cargo that includes food and supplies for the Station crew, it is the first time a privately built spacecraft heads to the ISS.
Dragon is scheduled to rendezvous with the ISS on Friday 25 May, when Expedition 31 crewmembers André Kuipers and Don Pettit will use the Station's robotic arm Canadarm2 to grapple the spacecraft and manoeuvre it into position to mate with the Harmony module’s Earth-facing docking port.
André Kuipers during training with Canadarm2 (Credit: ESA/NASA)
Update: The Dragon spacecraft is now scheduled for launch on 19 May. The berthing operation is set for 22 May.
Expedition 30 crewmembers André Kuipers and Don Pettit continue to train on the International Space Station for the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. Having started their training on a computer simulator in the Destiny lab, they are now training using the real robotic arm.
On 3 May, as the unmanned Dragon spacecraft approaches ISS, they will use the Station's Canadarm2 to first grab the spacecraft and then manoeuvre it into place to mate with the Harmony module's Earth-facing docking port.
The following animation from the Canadian Space Agency shows just how complex it is to catch a Dragon.
ISS crew brush up robotics skills ahead of Dragon arrival
Dragon approaching International Space Station. Courtesy NASA
Expedition 30 crewmembers Don Pettit and André Kuipers have been refreshing their robotic skills on board the International Space Station in preparation for the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.
Scheduled for launch on 30 April from Cape Canaveral in Florida, US, the Dragon spacecraft is set to become the first commercial spacecraft to visit the ISS.
Unlike Europe's recently arrived Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) that docks automatically with the ISS, the Dragon spacecraft will need a bit of help from the Space Station crew when it arrives on 3 May.
Once the Dragon has approached ISS, Don and André will use the Station's robotic arm to grapple the spacecraft and manoeuver it towards the docking port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module. For this task Don will take the lead as prime operator of the robotic arm, he will be assisted by André as secondary operator.
This first visit of the Dragon spacecraft to the ISS will deliver some 530 kg of cargo, including clothes, food and water. Unlike the ATV and Russia's Progress resupply spacecraft, the Dragon is also able to return cargo to Earth and will be loaded with 660 kg of equipment before being unberthed after 18 days.
Don Pettit and André Kuipers practice with the simulator on board ISS (Credit: ESA/NASA)
Robonaut awakened on ISS
André with Robonaut
The International Space Station's seventh crewmember, a dextrous humanoid robot called Robonaut 2, was powered up for testing yesterday.
ESA astronaut André Kuipers assisted ISS Commander Dan Burbank with the assembly and power up of Robonaut. Together with ground controllers, Burbank tested Robonaut’s joints and force sensors before stowing the robot for more testing today.
NASA's Robonaut is in a demonstration phase, but eventually robots could relieve crew of tasks which are fairly repetitive and can be automated. Crew time on the ISS is an extremely scare resource, freeing up some of their time spent on simple tasks would mean more time for those tasks that require human skills and reasoning.
Robonaut is activated
Another advantage of robots is that they can move with extremely low acceleration - crew activity within a Station laboratory can disrupt the environment when an experiment is being conducted. Robots could one day venture outside the Station to help spacewalkers make repairs or additions to the Station or perform scientific work.
Within ESA there are also several robotics projects lead by the Automation and Robotics group. They are working on projects such as the EUROBOT testbed for use in low Earth orbit - for the building and operating the International Space Station, and other technologies for the exploration of the Solar System, such as rovers for the Moon, Mars, asteroids and comets.