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  • E way.

  • It is exactly one o'clock a M Pacific time on Saturday, December 8th, and you're looking at a live view of the Space X Dragon spacecraft.

  • Coasting through space is it prepares to rendezvous with the international space station about 30 minutes from now.

  • My name is Tom for Dario, and I'm a firmer engineer here.

  • It's basics.

  • Joining me on this early morning is NASA public affairs officer Dan Q.

  • It.

  • Dan.

  • Thanks so much for joining us today, Tom.

  • Thanks so much for having me.

  • This is my first time hosting a cargo resupply mission from Space six headquarters out here in Hawthorne.

  • I'm super excited to be here.

  • Kind of one of the coolest parts of my job.

  • Supporting the space station is traveling tow locations all across the globe where the action is taking place.

  • It's a privilege to ad space X headquarters to the list in case you missed it.

  • Dragon launched aboard a Space X Falcon nine rocket earlier this week.

  • On Wednesday, December 5th, at 1 16 PM Eastern.

  • Immediately after Dragon separated from the Falcon nine, it began a series of burns which gradually raised its orbit to align more closely with the international space station Dragon, then receive the all clear to start its careful approach towards that station.

  • And this approach actually occurs in several phases and will explain why that happens throughout the broadcast today.

  • The first approach point was when it was just 350 meters away from the international space station.

  • It's already past that and moved in much closer.

  • Once that all clear was given.

  • It moved into 250 meters, which is where it's sitting right now at this very moment.

  • So it's just 250 meters away from the space station.

  • That's about 820 feet or you're about the same distance is 2.5 football fields.

  • Pretty soon it's gonna get given the all clear and it's gonna deport that.

  • Depart that 250 meter hold point and enter what we call the keep out sphere, which is an imaginary sphere around the space station by the radius of about 200 meters.

  • And this is just in place to put a big set of rules for any vehicles traveling to or from the international space station.

  • There's keep out sphere.

  • There's also something known as the approach A Lips oId, which is much larger.

  • But again, these air just in place for any time of vehicles traveling to the space station.

  • There's a bunch of gates and a bunch of checks that it has to go through before it actually gets in, closed for the grapple or the docking of whatever the vehicle is going to be doing.

  • But there's a series of go no go polls throughout this, that we're gonna be listening.

  • Thio giving you updates.

  • His dragon gets closer into that final capture point.

  • Right now on your screen, you can see a video as it appears from the International Space Station, looking at the Dragon Spacecraft right now.

  • We just passed into nighttime aboard the station, meaning that the station and the dragon are currently in the earth's shadow.

  • We can't see too much right now on that camera.

  • You can see that strobe light blinking that is the dragon right there.

  • A zit approaches the 200 meter Keep out sphere for this perspective, from the station, it does look like dragon.

  • It's kind of stationary or motionless, but it's actually traveling in an enormous velocity is it awaits clearance to proceed to the next arrival checkpoint.

  • Right now, both Dragon and the station are traveling at 17,000 miles per hour, which is insanely fast.

  • Commercial air aircraft only travels about 550 miles per hour.

  • Um, and if you were able, if you were able to fly as fast as Dragon, you could cover the distance from New York to L.

  • A.

  • And a and 1/2 minutes, and we just heard the word that dragon just got the goto move into that keep out sphere.

  • So it's gonna depart that 250 meter points been holding there for a couple of minutes.

  • And again it gets these hold points and the teams here at Hawthorne or just running a series of checks on Dragon making sure the systems are behaving themselves.

  • And then once everything looks good, they get the green light and then they give dragon that go.

  • Eso control can actually be, uh, commands can actually be sent from the crew on board the international space station.

  • They have a control panel where they can command dragon to approach, report any number of different things and they're also going to be in the driver's seat for the actual capture this morning.

  • You're gonna be hearing a couple of voices today on the space to grounds as they're called.

  • You just might have heard of Serena on on Chancellor.

  • She's a NASA astronaut on board.

  • She's gonna be backing up the prime for today's operations.

  • That's Alexander Gerst.

  • He's a European astronaut, needs the current commander on board the International Space Station.

  • He's actually going to be using the controls inside to reach out and grab the dragon and this ah, view on your screen.

  • I was actually exactly the same camera in the same screen that they're looking at.

  • It's almost like a video game control for them.

  • They have a joystick and some hand controls, and they're gonna use it to control the massive Canadarm two.

  • It's a 57 foot long arms to reach out and literally just snag Dragon out of the sky.

  • It is pretty cool how they do that.

  • They're sitting usually inside the coop alone.

  • The space station, which kind of looks like the window of a tie fighter.

  • One of the coolest place to see pictures from the I s s right now, Like Dan said, you are seeing a view from the I s s Just a few minutes ago when the station of the dragon were in broad daylight, we were seeing some unbelievable pictures because the station, because in that orbit you get about approximately a sunrise and a sunset every 45 minutes.

  • Um, we'll be seeing hopefully come into and light.

  • Pretty soon we'll get some nice views of that dragon up, but right now you can still see the strobe light.

  • Ah, as the dragon slowly approaches into that keep out sphere, it looks like we're about 23 minutes away from sunrise.

  • Eso will be.

  • I mean, we might have some sunrise on the dragon by then.

  • It's been moving through the checkpoints very quickly today.

  • Teams not tracking any issues with the vehicle.

  • Um, and actually pretty well ahead of schedule.

  • I think the original capture time was supposed to be around 3 a.m. Pacific time over here on the West Coast, but they are at least right now about 30 minutes ahead.

  • Eso dragon proceeding smoothly towards the international space station right now, both vehicles flying over the North Pacific Ocean.

  • They're just about 250 statute miles over the Earth's surface.

  • Traveling in this orbital nighttime.

  • It's important to note that, unlike a launch, when the countdown is usually set at a specific time and then all events happen in relation to that launch time in a very fixed schedule, a dragon approaching capture Any approaching capture for a visiting spacecraft is a little bit more fluid than that.

  • The computer aboard the dragon and the crew on board the station and down here on the Earth are all adjusting to things that happen in real time.

  • And sometimes the orbital mechanics or the slight variations in thrusts from the Dragon spacecraft or the position of the station can cause things to move a little bit faster, slower.

  • So it kind of happens as it happens, and the crews on the ground here make that call of whether or not we're good to proceed.

  • Yeah, yeah, we have pretty much a whole window.

  • The window will actually open up in just under 30 minutes, and it's about an hour and 1/2 window.

  • Where the crew has to go basically, is everything's behaving with dragon and everything looks good on the robotic arm to actually reach out and grapple that vehicle once.

  • It's only about 10 meters away, so right now we're past the 250 meter points, so any second they should be passing through that Keep out sphere again.

  • That's just an imaginary sphere around the space station.

  • The next point where Dragon's gonna hold is it 30 meters, So it's gonna be flying in real close.

  • Now we're going to see you get closer and closer, bigger and bigger, and your cameras screen obviously is that continues to approach, and once he hits 30 meters, it's gonna do the same thing.

  • We just did it 250 before that, a 350.

  • It'll kind of park there, make sure all the systems on Dragon are good.

  • And then, once everything again gets the green light, though, proceed in a little bit closer, and then we'll get to that final hold point, which is just 10 meters for about 30 feet away from the International Space Station to give you a size reference on how big that keep out sphere is that we're now approaching.

  • It's about the size of the Eiffel Tower as a radius of a sphere all the way around the S s.

  • You can imagine a giant sphere about the size of the Eiffel Tower.

  • Uh, I mean, it's pretty big, but in terms of space, in terms of the orbital mechanics, not that far away yet distances and space are incredibly deceiving.

  • I mean, the International space station dragon.

  • Right now we're traveling at 17,000 plus miles per hour, and dragon just, you know, within the last couple of hours has closed the gap tremendously to catch up to the international space station.

  • Distances are very deceiving.

  • Whenever you you kind of look out the window.

  • Especially if they're in that Coppola module.

  • The astronauts can see for hundreds of miles in every direction and around the earth's surface on their flying over it.

  • So quick, I think they cover Ah, little over 90% of all the inhabited area on the earth.

  • Uh, it's some point or another during their orbits around the globe, So it's a fantastic outpost for not only looking back down on Earth, but also for looking out at the universe beyond.

  • It's just 250 miles above us, which is relatively close.

  • You think about, you know, your average car trip that's 250 miles.

  • It's It's a road trip, but actually getting 250 miles straight up.

  • That's a much more difficult task, and that's kind of where the orbital mechanics plays in is to get to the international space station.

  • It's only 250 miles straight up, but you can't just go straight up there.

  • Well, you could, but you just fall right back down again.

  • Because of Earth's gravity.

  • Getting into orbit is a little bit more complicated than that.

  • Uh, we usually use something called the Newton's cannonball analogy to kind of explain why things stay up in orbit.

  • You could imagine a cannon on top of a tall mountain on if you shot a cannonball out of that, an average cannonball speed.

  • You can imagine that cannonball just kind of falling back down to the earth in an arc.

  • If you fired it faster, it would go further and further and further.

  • In fact, if you fired it as fast you could over the horizon, it would kind of curve around the earth and eventually hit.

  • But if you could fire it exactly 17 or just about 17,000 miles per hour.

  • It would.

  • It would go so fast, it would go past the horizon and continually fall all the way around the earth, never actually hitting.

  • And that's really what being in orbit is.

  • It's It's just falling so fast that you never actually hit the earth.

  • And that's what the dragon and the I s s are doing right now.

  • And that's why anytime you see astronauts on board the international space station, they're enjoying microgravity, and it's literally just because they're falling.

  • They're constantly in free fall.

  • You can mimic that same feeling, that same kind of phenomenon here on Earth.

  • If you do a parabolic flight on an airplane, some people call it the vomit comet.

  • It's a very famous airplane where you can actually get that microgravity experience.

  • But thing about the space station that makes a unique that you're getting that for, you know, constantly.

  • So you're able to do research in an environment completely alien toe.

  • What we do here on Earth, you're able to do experiments where you can take gravity completely out of the equation.

  • It also makes moving big things around like spacecraft.

  • Ah, whole lot easier.

  • And we've had a constant human presence in that space station for almost 18 years now, which is mind blowing when you think about it.

  • When I was in high school of this thing, they had barely finished the first expedition and built the trusts.

  • And now here we are, continual human presence in space, thanks to the international space.

  • Keep out here.

  • You have the authority to issue in aboard.

  • If no, come with M, C, C, H and Light is outside of the portal.

  • Houston.

  • And again, the voice you heard just there is NASA astronaut Serena on on Chancellor.

  • She's the backup or in the back of position for today's Grapple, and she's assisting.

  • Alexander Gerst is actually gonna be at the controls, so she's handling all the voice communications.

  • She was just talking to the Capcom over and Mission Control Houston over at the Johnson Space Center, my home base, where it's actually a little bit later in the day for them almost the morning.

  • Yeah, it's almost the morning for them.

  • It's still Friday night for us here, out of authority, but you're gonna hear her voice kind of throughout the procedures today and again, the crew kind of in the driver's seat.

  • For all of these operations this morning, they're gonna be the ones reaching out with that robotic arm and grappling the dragon spacecraft once it's only 10 meters away.

  • Once that's done, though, they actually hand control back down to the ground, and you can see those ground controllers in your screen right now.

  • That's again the International Space Station flight control room out in Houston.

  • Once they grappled the spacecraft, they're done.

  • They're kind of done for the day.

  • They hand over control to the ground, who do the much slower process of actually swinging dragon around to birth it or attach it to the International space station.

  • That usually takes about a couple of hours final following a grapple on.

  • Then they get it bolted in place, where it stays for the duration until it's time to come home.

  • And when we talk about birthing, it's ah little bit different than docking, which some other vehicles due to the International space station.

  • This actually goes back to old shipping days.

  • You had a harbor with big ships and small ships coming in and out smaller more maneuverable ships that were ableto power themselves all the way into the harbor and then brush right up against the doc that was called docking.

  • However, larger ships that didn't have the flexibility and agility to move inside of harbor were met by tugboats out in the open ocean and brought into the harbor so that could be safely burst on.

  • That's what's happening, Tiu the Dragon Spacecraft.

  • Right now it's being birthed by the tugboat of the station, which is that 57 foot Canadarm boom.

  • And with birthing and docking, there's some advantages and disadvantages both ways.

  • Most of the cargo vehicles that currently traveled to the international space season use that birthing method.

  • One of the big advantages is you get a much larger port to move cargo in and out of.

  • They get to use that common berthing mechanism, which is actually the exact same mechanism connecting all the modules together.

  • It's a great big wide hatchway, which is perfect if you're bringing up a great big large bags of cargo or even rack telephone booth size items to the International Space station.

  • Docking, however, has its own advantages and that the spacecraft is totally in control of its own approach and its attachment to the I S s.

  • But this does require amore complicated ring mechanism toe actually attached to the I S s.

  • So the opening isn't as big, but usually a crude vehicles use a docking maneuver so that there doesn't have to be anyone inside the space station to approach or leave.

  • It's like, look, no hands.

  • You can see that dragon Ah, solar array right there.

  • It's currently being illuminated by a light.

  • And of course you can see the strobe at the very top of that dragon.

  • Not much else is visible again.

  • We are in the earth's shadow right now.

  • Ah, but the dragon is currently using a suite of sensors on board in order to track and make sure that it's recording its distance properly or measuring its distance properly to the I.

  • S s.

  • One of those sensors is in a thermal camera that measures the infrared signal from the space station and that space station is actually pretty hot When you, when you compare it towards the backdrop of space, space is ice cold and space station is very hot.

  • So when you look at it through an infrared camera.

  • It's just a bright white light, very easy for the flight computer onboard that dragon to track it and lock on.

  • It's also using something called lidar, which is light detection and ranging.

  • This is actually a laser that fires little pulses of laser light towards the station, which are then reflected by retro reflectors on the station.

  • And the Dragon flight computer can measure the time of flight of that laser light back and forth and know exactly how far away it is.

  • Tom, I'm just proud of proud of you for nail on that Light, our acronym and space station.

  • It's so hard right now, but dragons just continuing to approach again.

  • We're inside that keep out sphere the next major milestone.

  • We're gonna be looking out for words when it's just 30 meters away, so just kind of continue toe follow along.

  • Every single visiting vehicle takes this kind of phased approach to the space station, where they stop it.

  • All of these gates again, just for teams to run quick checks on the vehicle and his performance as it's approaching the space station when it comes to bringing two spacecraft together I mean, these great, big, massive, complex machines, slow and steady, always wins the race, whether your birthing or docking a spacecraft, because you requires a great deal of precision just to make sure everything goes according to plan, we're keeping the spacecraft safe.

  • And most importantly, we're keeping the crew safe sensation on two for block travel.

  • We're going to let me see the view starting to converge on Monitor one cameras.

  • Your three.

  • It's about three port, maybe about half a vehicle with forward and camera nine is Set it up.

  • Cover that thing nominal.

  • And so, as you just heard from that little quick exchange from Serena on on Chancellor and the cap calm down in Houston, they haven't overly graphic on the screen that we're getting a couple of camera views of every once in a while, This one right here.

  • And there's an expected kind of approach of where dragon should line up with some of the square in the circle in the middle of that overlay graphic.

  • And so the crew members air periodically calling out what they're saying.

  • They have a camera set up that we're looking at right now.

  • Some teams on the ground can also monitor in just right alongside him.

  • But she's making these call outs, and then they're going to check where dragons expected to be down on the ground.

  • They're able to do that really quickly.

  • There's somebody named a visiting vehicle officer in Mission Control Houston, who then gets on the flight director loop and lets the flight director know the status of what the crew just relate back and a CZ you just heard, Serena called down.

  • She gave the the alignment of Dragon right now, and within just a couple of moments of visiting vehicle officer confirmed it was good.

  • Dragon continues to fly in them even closer.

  • The crew does have a control panel onboard the space station, where they can send commands to dragon if they need to give it a command to approach or aboard any of any of the above.

  • During these final phases of dragon flying towards the space station, it's tough to see from this point of view right now, but, uh, dragon does have its solar arrays extended.

  • Right now, it's obviously in the shadow of the earth, and there's no solar energy being harvested, but via raise together with the batteries on board Dragon, allow it to just kind of hang out in space.

  • So if there