Early this week, NASA Flight Engineer and ISS Science Officer Mike Fincke performed the most complex spacesuit repair job ever conducted in flight on a U.S. spacesuit, replacing a water pump in the suit's cooling system. The four and a half hour replacement job on Monday was followed by several hours of tests on Tuesday. The tests showed the new pump worked perfectly, and engineers on the ground will now determine whether to declare the spacesuit usable in the future. If so, the Station would have a complement of two operational U.S. spacesuits. A third suit is aboard as well but has a cooling problem. However, a second spare water pump is aboard the Station in the event managers choose to attempt similar maintenance on the third suit.
Flight controllers lauded Fincke's work, relaying to him that such efforts provide not only a better understanding for future Station operations, but also important data for all future long duration space travels.
Also on Monday, Fincke replaced major components in one of the Station's exercise machines, a resistive exercise device that uses tension to simulate weights during a workout. He installed new canisters in the device, designed to be twice as durable as the previous canisters used for the machine. He then checked their operation with a workout, finding the device in excellent condition. Exercise is vital for the crew as one method of counteracting the effects of weightlessness on the body. The spare spacesuit pumps and exercise canisters were delivered to the Station aboard the Russian Progress cargo craft that arrived Aug. 14.
As this week progressed, Fincke and Station Commander Gennady Padalka turned their attention toward their fourth and final spacewalk, scheduled for next week. During the Sept. 3 spacewalk, they will use Russian spacesuits and exit the Russian Pirs airlock. Their work outside will include installing three antennas on the exterior of the Zvezda living quarters module that will aid the navigation of a new Station supply craft, called the European Automated Transfer Vehicle, during its maiden flight set next year. Other tasks include replacement of a pump panel on the Zarya module that is part of the Russian segment's cooling system; installation of guides for spacesuit tethers on Zarya handrails; and the installation of handrail covers near the Pirs hatch.
This week, Fincke and Padalka reviewed timelines for the spacewalk, gathered gear and checked the tools they will use. On Monday, they will power up their Orlan spacesuits to check their operation as they continue their preparations. The spacewalk on Friday will begin at 11:50 a.m. CDT and last about six hours. The activities will be broadcast live on NASA Television, beginning at 10:30 a.m. CDT.
Other activities this week included a Wednesday evening reboost of the Station, firing thrusters on the Progress craft to increase the altitude of the complex by an average of about two and a half statute miles. The reboost moves the Station closer to the orbital altitude desired for the arrival of a Soyuz spacecraft and new crew in October. Another reboost is planned in September to complete the move. The Station's current orbit has a high point of about 230 miles and a low point of about 218 miles.
On Monday and Tuesday, Station cameras operated by flight controllers recorded video of Typhoon Chaba as it moved quickly across the Philippine Sea with winds of 165 mph. Today, Fincke reported taking a still photo of Hurricane Frances in the Atlantic Ocean as the Station flew above the storm.