(Editor’s Note: Ken Kremer is at the Kennedy Space Center for Universe Today covering the flight of Endeavour)
The new 15 ton Tranquility module which had been carefully nestled and carried to orbit inside the cavernous payload bay of shuttle Endeavour, was bolted onto the left side port of the centrally positioned Unity module of the International Space Station (ISS) early this morning (Feb 12) at 12:20 AM EST during the first of three spacewalks (EVA’s) set for the STS 130 mission.
Installing the Tranquility life support module to the ISS was the primary task for the combined STS 130 and resident ISS crew of 11 people during the planned 13 day flight of Endeavour.
Tranquility was built in Italy by Thales Alenia for ESA and handed over to NASA in a barter exchange whereby NASA would launch ESA’s Columbus science lab module to orbit aboard the shuttle.
According to plan, EVA-1 Spacewalkers Nicholas Patrick and Bob Behnken departed outside via the stations Quest Airlock. Their first tasks were to prepare the way for unloading Tranquility from the payload bay by removing eight contamination covers from the berthing port on Tranquility, which will be attached to the Unity Node, and also opening a flap on Unity’s centerline camera which was then utilized to precisely line up and guide the two nodes during installation.
Astronauts Terry Virts and Kay Hire then deftly plucked Tranquility out from Endeavour’s payload bay using the stations robotic arm (SSRMS) and methodically attached it to Unity as astronauts Behnken and Patrick worked elsewhere to modify a tool platform on the Dextre special purpose dexterous manipulator. Leak checks confirmed the successful docking of the two nodes.
Patrick and Behnken then returned to Tranquility after it was in place and hooked up the crucial power and avionics cables between both nodes to provide a temporary power supply to run heaters on Tranquility. Additional cabling and coolant lines will be installed during the next spacewalk set for Saturday.
Watch for my upcoming report and pictures of the ammonia jumper hoses from KSC which had to redesigned and constructed in a race against time just before lift off after the original hoses failed preflight testing in January.
Behnken and Patrick completed their 6-hour, 32-minute EVA-1 spacewalk at 3:49 AM EST this morning and accomplished all their assigned tasks as well as some got ahead work !
Tranquility’s hatch is scheduled to be opened at about 9:14 PM tonight.
EVA-1 was the 138th in support of ISS assembly and maintenance, totaling 861 hours, 34 minutes. It was the 110th spacewalk out of the space station, totaling 674 hours, 19 minutes.
Tranquility is the final major US segment to be attached to the gigantic orbiting outpost, which spans the length of a football field. The combined weight of the ISS and shuttle exceeds 1 million pounds for the first time. Construction of the ISS is now over 90% complete.
Tranquility will house “many of the stations critical life support systems”, says Mike Suffredini, who is the lead manager of the ISS for NASA. Tranquility is outfitted with environmental control equipment for revitalizing the station atmosphere and removing contaminants, generating oxygen and providing breathable air, carbon dioxide removal, recycling waste water into potable drinking water, the crew toilet and the Colbert Treadmill for crew exercise. Suffredini told me in a prior interview that, “Many of the Tranquility racks are already aboard the ISS in the Destiny module and just need to be moved and installed. Their relocation will free up research space in Destiny”.