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article imageSpace station 'same day delivery' service operational by 2016

By Greta McClain     Oct 19, 2014 in Science
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station will soon have their own same day delivery service, courtesy of the soon to be developed Terrestrial Return Vehicle.
Development of the Terrestrial Return Vehicle (TRV) is a collaborative effort between NASA and Intuitive Machines and is sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).
The goal of the TRV is to provide researchers with a way to quickly send samples and components from ISS back to earth on a regular basis. The Intuitive Machines website explains that fast delivery of perishable samples or samples that are of critical importance is crucial for the research that will be conducted by the new ISS National Laboratory. Currently, ISS is only able to deliver samples and experiments a couple of times each year due to the amount of planning and scheduling required for docking of the SpaceX Dragon.
Although the design of the TRV is still in its infancy stages, according to Extreme Tech the vehicle will be a small, wingless capsule designed to be launched from the ISS airlock.
Launching the TRV
The TRV, which will be delivered to ISS by way of SpaceX Dragon or other commercial supply vehicle, will be sent to earth via the airlock system aboard ISS. The actual launch and landing of the TRV will be a four step process:
1. The TRV is delivered to ISS on a commercial resupply service vehicle and stored on orbit until needed.
2. Once the transfer cargo is loaded into the TRV it is placed into the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) airlock.
3. The JEM Robotic Manipulator System extracts the TRV
4. Once the jettison attitude is achieved the TRV is released
At the appropriate time a deorbit maneuver is initiated
5. Airfoil is deployed and TRV gently lands at the designated spaceport
Artist conception of the TRV
Artist conception of the TRV
NASA/Intuitive Machines
Although Intuitive Machines will be responsible for the design and certification of the TRV, Space Ref says CASIS will be in charge of integrating TRV so it can be launched from ISS. CASIS will also provide all on-orbit flight operations services. The TRV itself will contain all of the guidance systems needed for an accurate landing at a predetermined location. The time frame for delivery from ISS to the landing zone is less than 24 hours. The first TRV flight is currently scheduled for 2016.
In a press release issued Friday, Dr. Dr. David Wolf, a former NASA astronaut who is currently a researcher with Intuitive Machines, said:
"The International Space Station, with its unique microgravity laboratories and crew, enables research over a wide range of disciplines from physics through biology. This small payload return capability will provide controlled conditions and flexible choices for timely sample analysis. The scientific team will be able to much more efficiently adjust experimental parameters in response to results, exploit unique results, and correct problems encountered."
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