Room With A View: Remembering STS-130 and the Cupola, OTD in 2010

Bob Behnken’s final flight in February 2010 additionally sustained a climate delay. Photograph Credit score: Mike Killian Pictures

When Expedition 57/58 astronaut Anne McClain boarded the Worldwide Area Station (ISS) in December 2018, she rapidly discovered what she described as “my new favourite spot”.

That spot was the multi-windowed cupola, which sits affixed to the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of Tranquility Node-Three and whose seven remark ports—six circumferential ones and a big round one on the apex—have been utilized many occasions over the previous decade to view the Earth and the arrivals and departures of no fewer than 43 uncrewed visiting cargo vehicles, most recently just last month. McClain was not alone in prizing the cupola’s panoramic view of the Residence Planet because the station’s most spectacular location.

Video Credit score: NASA, through Nationwide Area Society/YouTube

Right this moment, it celebrates 11 years for the reason that six astronauts of STS-130—shuttle Endeavour’s second-to-last orbital voyage—launched it to orbit and, in doing so, accomplished the supply of the final main U.S.-provided ISS element.

George Zamka (left) and Steve Robinson are pictured throughout STS-130 pre-flight coaching in November 2009. Photograph Credit score: NASA

Commanded by veteran astronaut George Zamka, who beforehand flew the shuttle mission which furnished the ISS with the Concord node to bridge the United States’ Destiny lab, Japan’s Kibo lab and Europe’s Columbus lab, the STS-130 crew included future ISS skipper Terry Virts within the pilot’s seat aboard Endeavour and mission specialists Kay Rent, Steve Robinson, Nick Patrick and future Chief Astronaut Bob Behnken.

The STS-130 crew depart the Operations & Checkout Constructing on eight February 2010. Photograph Credit score: NASA

They had been assigned to the flight in December 2008, with an preliminary expectation that they might launch in December 2009, however a shifting shuttle manifest finally discovered them lastly boarding Endeavour for the shuttle program’s remaining “night-time” launch on eight February 2010. A liftoff try the earlier night had been thwarted by a dense pall of cloud which hung ominously low over the Kennedy Area Heart (KSC) in Florida.

Video Credit score: NASA Kennedy Area Heart (KSC)/YouTube

Lighting up the darkened Area Coast, Endeavour sprang from historic Pad 39A at 4:14 a.m. EST to start her two-day pursuit of the house station and its ready Expedition 22 crew of Commander Jeff Williams and his crewmates Max Surayev and Oleg Kotov of Russia, Japan’s Soichi Noguchi—who, incidentally, is aboard the ISS again today as a member of Expedition 64—and NASA astronaut and future flight director Timothy “T.J.” Creamer.

The Tranquility node and cupola sit in Endeavour’s payload bay, shortly after reaching orbit. Photograph Credit score: NASA

Watching the imagery after the flight, Zamka was astonished to see the shuttle stack punch straight by a cloud-deck and create a peculiar optical impact which reminded him, fittingly, of the form of a cupola.

Video Credit score: AmericaSpace

Shortly after reaching orbit, Zamka and Virts set to work making ready their ship for maneuvers obligatory to achieve the ISS, while their crewmates arrange Extravehicular Exercise (EVA) instruments and fits and readied cameras for the strategy and rendezvous. In addition they carried out customary checks of the shuttle’s heat-resistant tiles and Strengthened Carbon Carbon (RCC) surfaces—particularly across the nose-cap and the main edges of the wings—which were mandated in the aftermath of the Columbia disaster.

Kay Rent and Nick Patrick at work on Endeavour’s aft flight deck. Photograph Credit score: NASA

Docking on the ahead port of the station’s Concord node came about with out incident a couple of minutes after midnight EST on 10 February, as each spacecraft flew excessive above Portugal. The 2 crews participated in a short welcoming ceremony and security briefing, then headed straight to work, with Zamka and Noguchi laboring to re-size Behnken’s house swimsuit forward of the primary EVA.

Terry Virts (left) went on to command the ISS in 2015, while Bob Behnken (proper) flew Dragon Endeavour final summer time. Photograph Credit score: NASA

It had earlier suffered a failure of its energy harness, wanted for wi-fi video and the in-glove heaters. With this whole, Behnken and Patrick carried out an in a single day camp-out in the Quest airlock, earlier than opening the hatches for his or her first 6.5-hour spacewalk late on the night of the 11th.

Expedition 22 Commander Jeff Williams (left) and STS-130 Commander George Zamka, contained in the newly-installed cupola, pay homage to Lacy Veach in February 2010. Photograph Credit score: NASA TV

Shortly after they stepped exterior, Virts and Rent maneuvered the Tranquility node and hooked up cupola out of Endeavour’s payload bay, by the use of the Distant Manipulator System (RMS) mechanical arm, and easily mated it to the port aspect of the Unity node. Measuring 22 toes (6.7 meters) lengthy and 14.7 toes (4.Four meters) in diameter, the cylindrical node was geared up with six Widespread Berthing Mechanisms (CBMs)—one every at its ahead and aft “ends” and 4 circumferential ones—and supplied by the European Area Company (ESA) and Italian Area Company (ASI) as a part of a “barter” association with NASA.

Behnken enjoys the view by the home windows of the Cupola throughout STS-130 in February 2010. Photograph Credit score: NASA

Working swiftly, Behnken and Patrick hooked up energy and knowledge cables, as an additional 2,600 cubic toes (73.6 cubic meters) of pressurized quantity was added to the expansive orbiting lab. With the brand new node in place, the hatches had been opened and, carrying protecting masks and goggles to protect in opposition to the danger of floating particles, the astronauts floated inside and started activating gear.

The primary picture by the newly-opened cupola home windows on STS-130, revealing the huge vacancy of the Sahara Desert. Photograph Credit score: NASA

In addition they moved elements for the superior Resistive Train System (aRED) and an Air Revitalization System (ARS) rack into Tranquility. Early on St. Valentine’s Day, Behnken and Patrick wrapped up a second EVA, this time lasting simply shy of six hours, to attach ammonia coolant loops and set up thermal covers over ammonia hoses.

Spectacular view of Endeavour’s empty payload bay, as seen from the cupola home windows on STS-130. Photograph Credit score: NASA

Sadly, a minor leakage of ammonia from a connector obliged mission controllers to terminate the spacewalk slightly sooner than supposed. This afforded the astronauts further time to run by decontamination and photo voltaic “bake-out” operations earlier than returning contained in the station.

The Stars and Stripes floats contained in the multi-windowed cupola of the Worldwide Area Station (ISS). Photograph Credit score: NASA

Subsequent day, the cupola home windows—about which Anne McClain would write with such enthusiastic vigor—had been lastly opened. The small module was robotically moved from its launch configuration on the port “finish” of Tranquility to the Earth-facing (“nadir”) aspect of the node, providing it a spectacular view of the Residence Planet.

Joe Acaba performs Earth remark images from the home windows of the cupola aboard the Worldwide Area Station (ISS). Photograph Credit score: NASA/Twitter/Joe Acaba

With Virts and Rent working the RMS, the relocation was swiftly achieved and the cupola shutters had been dramatically opened. Late on 15 February, as Behnken and Patrick toiled exterior on their third spacewalk, Virts gingerly opened every shutter in flip. Rent likened it to “elevating the curtain on a bay window to the world”.

Aboard the ISS for Tranquility and the cupola’s arrival in February 2010, Soichi Noguchi is aboard the house station once more as we speak for its 11th birthday. Right here he takes within the outstanding view of Earth by the cupola’s home windows. Photograph Credit score: NASA

After nearly ten days of docked actions, Endeavour pulled away from the ISS on the night of 19 February to start her return dwelling. And at 10:20 p.m. EST on the 21st, after touring 5.7 million miles (9.2 million km), Zamka and Virts guided their ship to a clean halt on the Shuttle Touchdown Facility (SLF) at her homeport, KSC in Florida.

The latest American to go to the cupola for the primary time was Victor Glover, who arrived on the ISS final November. Photograph Credit score: NASA

All advised, their mission had delivered 36,000 kilos (16,300 kg) of {hardware} to the station and Behnken and Patrick’s trio of spacewalks—totaling over 18 hours—had performed an important position in finishing the development of this mammoth outpost within the sky.

Video Credit score: European Area Company (ESA)

In fact, all minds had been by now keenly conscious that the shuttle program was winding down in the direction of its retirement in 2011. For 4 members of the STS-130 crew, it might be their final expertise of flying in house. However for Behnken, the years forward would see a tenure as chief of NASA’s astronaut corps, ahead of assignment to the Industrial Crew Program and a historic return to space in 2020 aboard Dragon Endeavour.

File photograph of a Cygnus spacecraft, as seen by the home windows of the cupola. Photograph Credit score: NASA

Final July, on a spacewalk with Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy, Behnken worked on the exterior of Tranquility once more, laboring to organize one in all its CBMs for the arrival of NanoRacks’ Bishop commercial airlock module.  

Throughout their fourth and remaining spacewalk in July 2020, Bob Behnken (left) and Chris Cassidy labored to organize Tranquility for the arrival of NanoRacks’ Bishop business airlock. Photograph Credit score: NASA

And though the cupola, particularly, has been oft-touted over time for its jaw-dropping perspective of the Residence Planet, one in all its major capabilities has been to offer visible help within the robotic seize of visiting cargo automobiles. For the reason that arrival of Japan’s second H-II Switch Automobile (HTV-2) in January 2011, it supported the arrival and departure of 43 uncrewed spacecraft on the U.S. Operational Section (USOS): a complete of eight HTVs, 14 Northrop Grumman Corp. Cygnus ships and 21 SpaceX Dragons.

Video Credit score: NASA

Nor has Tranquility itself been idle. Along with serving because the nerve-center for the house station’s Environmental Management and Life Help System (ECLSS), the placement of its train gear and the crew’s rest room, its CBMs have been a hive of exercise. With the starboard “finish” of the node related to the port aspect of Unity, its port-facing finish initially received Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA)-3, in part to afford Tranquility improved Micrometeoroid Orbital Debris (MMOD) protection.   

NanoRacks’ Bishop business airlock, delivered aboard CRS-21, was put in onto the port aspect of the Tranquility node on 19 December. Picture Credit score: NASA

Extra lately, in March 2017, PMA-Three was robotically relocated from its berth on Tranquility over to the space-facing (or “zenith”) port of Concord, ahead of its future role supporting an International Docking Adapter (IDA) for Commercial Crew missions. After the removing of PMA-3, the port-facing finish of Tranquility remained unoccupied until December 2020, when NanoRacks’ newly-arrived Bishop business airlock was robotically put in there for an anticipated two years of operational service.

Video Credit score: NASA

Two of Tranquility’s different ports have additionally seen substantial exercise lately. The Leonardo Everlasting Multipurpose Module (PMM)—initially a short-stay Multi-Goal Logistics Module (MPLM), which flew eight occasions aboard the shuttle between March 2001 and February 2011—was moved to Tranquility’s forward-facing port in May 2015.

Graphic of BEAM, hooked up to the Tranquility node’s aft interface. It represents the primary expandable human-rated construction ever related to an inhabited spacecraft. Picture Credit score: NASA

There it continues its principal position as a storage location for the U.S. Operational Section (USOS). And in April 2016, the Bigelow Expandable Exercise Module (BEAM) arrived on the house station and was affixed to Tranquility’s aft-facing port a month later.

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