Multinational ISS Robot Arm Ops Install External U.S., Japanese Experiments


Robot arm operations place HTV-3 external payloads platform, right, on the ISS Kibo exposed facility.  Image Credit: JAXA, NASA

Using carefully choreographed Canadian and Japanese robot arm operations this week, ground-based flight control teams and astronauts aboard the International Space Station have extracted a pair of external experiment packages from Japan's recently docked unpiloted HTV-3 supply ship and positioned them outside the orbiting science lab.

On Tuesday, NASA's Space Communications and Navigation Testbed -- in the grasp of Canada's Multi-purpose Dextrous Manipulator, or DEXTRE, and the longer Canadarm2 -- was headed for its permanent home on the External Logistics Carrier 3 on the port side of the station's vaulting solar power truss.

SCAN, the centerpiece for a long running engineering evaluation of reconfigurable software defined radios for future spacecraft communications and navigation architectures, reached the station aboard Japan's HTV-3 on July 27. Japan's Multi-Mission Consolidated Equipment platform, which accompanied SCAN as an unpressurized payload on the HTV-3, is headed for a permanent home on Japan's Kibo experiment module exposed facility later this week.
MCE holds five smaller experiments, two for atmospheric observation and others for the evaluation of inflatable structures, robot tether movement and high definition television.

After rendezvousing with the station, the HTV-3 and its 4.6 metric ton cargo assortment was grappled and berthed to the station's U. S. segment Harmony module by astronauts Joe Acaba and Akihiko Hoshide using the 58-foot long Canadarm 2. After the berthing operation, the
Canadian arm was fastened by ground controllers to the HTV-3's external payloads platform upon which SCAN and MCE were secured for the July 20 HTV-3 launching.

Ground controllers then used the Canadarm2 to extract the external platform from HTV-3 and hand it to Japan's Remote Manipulator System, a 33-foot robot arm anchored to Kibo. Hoshide and Acaba handled the Japanese arm operations to secure the HTV-3 external payloads platform to Kibo's exposed facility – an open station structure for science experiments.

NASA ground controllers then placed DEXTRE, the 11.5 foot long robot hand, in the grasp of Canadarm 2 to move SCAN from the Kibo exposed facility to its port truss home.

A similar operation will lift the MCE from its HTV-3 platform and plant the Japanese experiment platform a few feet away on one of 10 external science ports on the Kibo exposed facility.

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