NASA rushed material for the computer replacement job to the Cape Canaveral launch site over the weekend, for packing into the Dragon. While not essential, the gasket-like item will make the task easier for the astronauts.
For the past few years, NASA has been paying SpaceX — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — and Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. to keep the station well stocked. The need arose after the space shuttles — NASA’s workhorses for station shipments — were retired in 2011. Russia, Europe and Japan also make occasional deliveries.
As soon as the Dragon soars, the space station’s solar panels will be moved into the proper position for its arrival, Suffredini said. That will guard against any complications resulting from additional computer breakdowns. Luckily, the sun’s angle is favorable right now for thermal conditions at the outpost, he noted.
More than a dozen of these computers, called MDMs or multiplexer-demultiplexers, are located on the exterior of the space station. This was the first one to fail outside; it’s been in place for more than a decade and was a backup for the thermal cooling system, solar-wing rotating joints, railcar for the robot arm and other systems.