This Week in Spaceflight: Spacewalks and Spacecraft Shuffling at the ISS

This Week in Spaceflight: Spacewalks and Spacecraft Shuffling at the ISS

A Rocket Lab Electron rocket will kick off another busy week in spaceflight when it launches from the company’s New Zealand site on Tuesday.

As American naturalist Edwin Way Teale once said, “All things seem possible in May.” Indeed, spring is in the air, and so are a bunch of rockets.

NASA’s hurricane-monitoring TROPICS satellites set for launch

After a slight delay, Rocket Lab is set to deliver a pair of hurricane-monitoring TROPICS satellites for NASA. Short for Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (oh my, what a name), these Earth-watching devices will eventually comprise a small constellation consisting of six low-Earth-orbit satellites.

Conceptual image of TROPICS cubesat.  (Image: NASA)
Conceptual image of TROPICS cubesat. (Image: NASA)

Using microwave radiometers, the cubesats will measure temperature, humidity, and precipitation, in addition to monitoring clouds. The TROPICS constellation will assist with the tracking of natural disasters — hurricanes especially. Rocket Lab’s small-lift Electron rocket has been recruited for the task, with liftoff from the company’s New Zealand launch pad slated for May 2 at 9:00 p.m. ET.

A Russian spacewalk outside the ISS

This extravehicular activity was delayed from last week, but Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin are set to give it another go on Wednesday. The duo will exit the cosy confines of the International Space Station at 4:05 p.m. ET on May 3, with NASA’s broadcast starting a few minutes earlier. During their spacewalk, Prokopyev and Petelin will use Canadarm2 and Europe’s new robotic arm to transfer an airlock to the Nauka module. The spacewalk is expected to last for six hours.

Shuffling Crew Dragon at the ISS

A SpaceX Crew Dragon docked to the harmony module, February 27, 2021.  (Photo: NASA)
A SpaceX Crew Dragon docked to the harmony module, February 27, 2021. (Photo: NASA)

On Saturday, the ISS crew is scheduled to relocate SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft from the zenith port of the Harmony module to Harmony’s forward port. The spacecraft will undock at 7:15 a.m. ET and redock at 7:58 a.m. ET. NASA will provide a live broadcast of the space station shuffle.

Czechia set to sign the Artemis Accords

On May 3 at 10:00 a.m. ET, the Czech Republic will sign the Artemis Accords, a “practical set of principles to guide space exploration cooperation among nations participating in the agency’s 21st century lunar exploration plans,” as the space agency describes them. At the signing ceremony will be NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský, among others.

Two more Starlink batches

SpaceX is planning two Falcon 9 launches this week to deliver more Starlink internet satellites to low Earth orbit, the first from Cape Canaveral SFS on May 4 at 3:29 a.m. ET and the second from Vandenberg SFB on May 6 at a time to be determined.

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