Cargo Dragon Departs Station, Returns to Earth July 9

July 8, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are docked at the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 77 and 78 resupply ships.
July 8, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are docked at the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 77 and 78 resupply ships. Photo credit: NASA

With NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough  monitoring aboard the International Space Station, a SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Docking Adapter on the station’s space-facing port of the Harmony module at 10:45 a.m. EDT on July 8.

Dragon fired its thrusters to move a safe distance from the space station during the next 36 hours. On Friday, July 9, Dragon conducted a deorbit burn to begin its re-entry sequence into Earth’s atmosphere. Dragon splashed down at approximately 11:29 p.m. in the Gulf of Mexico near Tallahassee, Florida. The splashdown was not broadcast.

Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, delivering some science back into the hands of the researchers as soon as four to nine hours after splashdown. This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects. The Dragon’s departure was the second splashdown of a U.S. commercial cargo craft off the Florida coast. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft returned to the Pacific Ocean, with quick-return science cargo processed at SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas, and delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Dragon launched June 3 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy, arriving at the station a little less than 16 hours later. The spacecraft delivered more than 7,300 pounds of research investigations, crew supplies, and vehicle hardware to the orbiting outpost. Dragon’s external cargo “trunk” carried six new ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays (iROSAs), two of which Expedition 65 crew members Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet, an ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut, installed during three spacewalks June 16, 20, and 25.

Some of the scientific investigations Dragon returned to Earth include:

  • Lyophilization-2 examines how gravity affects freeze-dried materials and could result in improved freeze-drying processes for pharmaceutical and other industries. Freeze-drying also has potential use for long-term storage of medications and other resources on future exploration missions.
  • Molecular Muscle Experiment-2 tests a series of drugs to see whether they can improve health in space, possibly leading to new therapeutic targets for examination on Earth.
  • Oral Biofilms in Space studies how gravity affects the structure, composition, and activity of oral bacteria in the presence of common oral care agents. Findings could support development of novel treatments to fight oral diseases such as cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@Space_Station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Instagram and ISS Facebook accounts.

Atlas V Rocket Assembled for Starliner Launch to International Space Station

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket
Engineers in United Launch Alliance’s Vertical Integration Facility used large cranes to assemble the stages of the company’s Atlas V rocket, in preparation for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) launch to the International Space Station. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket is assembled in preparation for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) launch to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Engineers in ULA’s Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) used large cranes to assemble the stages of the rocket in an upright position on its mobile launch platform, which will carry the Atlas V and Starliner from the VIF to the pad for launch.

To verify the rocket is ready to launch, technicians will soon power the Atlas V to test flight controls, check the engine steering profiles, and conduct a combined systems test.

The 172-foot-tall rocket will be fully completed when the Starliner is mounted aboard the Atlas V. A ULA payload transporter will move the capsule from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) at the Kennedy Space Center to the nearby VIF for attachment.

The Atlas V will propel Starliner off the pad on 1.6 million pounds of thrust on its second uncrewed flight test from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida no earlier than July 30.

As Boeing’s second uncrewed flight for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, OFT-2 will serve as an end-to-end flight test to prove the Atlas V rocket and Starliner are ready for regular missions launching astronauts to and from the space station.

Learn more about ULA’s Atlas V and stacking.

More details about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Dragon Undocking Planned Thursday, Crew Focuses on Space Research

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle approaches the space station on June 5, 2021. At center right, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is also pictured docked to the Harmony module.
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle approaches the space station on June 5, 2021. At center right, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is also pictured docked to the Harmony module. Photo credit: NASA

SpaceX CRS-22 undocking is planned for Thursday, July 8 at 10:35 a.m. EDT, with NASA TV coverage scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. NASA and SpaceX flight control teams continue to monitor the weather and splashdown locations. Certain parameters like wind speeds and wave heights must be within certain limits to ensure the safety of the recovery teams, the science, and the spacecraft. Additional opportunities are available on July 9 and 10. The space freighter’s departure had been scheduled for earlier this week but was postponed due to weather conditions off the coast of Florida.

Meanwhile, the Expedition 65 crew members stayed focused on a variety of science activities including human health, robotics and physics.

Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet took turns working out on an exercise cycle Wednesday for a fitness test. The veteran astronauts attached sensors to their chests and pedaled for an hour on the device more formally known as the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization, or CEVIS. The test took place in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module and measures how microgravity affects the duo’s physical exertion, or aerobic capacity.

NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur focused on electronics maintenance and robotics research throughout Wednesday. The two-time space visitor powered up a cube-shaped AstroBee robotic helper and tested new technology that monitors the acoustic environment of the station. SoundSee seeks to demonstrate that “listening” to station components can help detect anomalies in spacecraft systems that need servicing.

Space manufacturing using colloids is being investigated for the ability to harness nanoparticles to fabricate new and advanced materials. Station commander Akihiko Hoshide conducted three runs inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox of the InSPACE-4 study today that could improve the strength and safety of Earth and space systems.

The trio that launched to the station aboard the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship practiced an emergency evacuation drill during the morning. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei joined cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov and reviewed procedures such as donning gas masks, quickly entering the Soyuz spacecraft, undocking and reentering the Earth’s atmosphere.

Vande Hei later assisted McArthur with cable management work inside the Tranquility module. Novitskiy and Dubrov wrapped up the day disconnecting antenna cables inside their Soyuz vehicle.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Wednesday, July 21, for Crew Dragon Endeavour’s International Space Station port relocation operation. Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide Pesquet will suit up in their launch and entry spacesuits for Crew Dragon’s automated relocation maneuver from the forward to the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module. The maneuver frees up the forward port to prepare for the arrival of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission at the microgravity laboratory at the end of July.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@Space_Station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Instagram and ISS Facebook accounts.

Atlas V Rocket for First Astronaut Launch on Starliner Arrives at Launch Site

ULA Atlas V rocket
NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore, left, Mike Fincke, right, and Nicole Mann will launch on Boeing’s Crew Flight Test to demonstrate the ability of the Atlas V rocket and Starliner spacecraft to safely carry astronauts to and from the space station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket – set to help write a new chapter in human spaceflight by launching the first flight of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft with astronauts to the International Space Station – has arrived at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

ULA Atlas V rocket
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket arrives at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

The Atlas V will launch NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann on Boeing’s Crew Flight Test (CFT) to demonstrate the ability of the Atlas V and Starliner to safely carry astronauts to and from the space station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. CFT is targeted for later this year after successful completion of Starliner’s second uncrewed mission, Orbital Flight Test-2, which is targeted to launch on July 30 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The rocket-delivery ship, called R/S RocketShip, transported the Atlas V first stage and the Dual Engine Centaur upper stage from ULA’s manufacturing facility in Decatur, Alabama, to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. RocketShip set sail on June 14, arrived June 20, and the Atlas V was unloaded June 21.

Now at the Cape, the Atlas V will undergo receiving checks at the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center and await the start of operations to prepare for the flight, which will send the three astronauts to the space station. The crewmates are working closely with Boeing to develop the new spacecraft systems, which will provide round-trip crew transportation services to the space station and low-Earth orbit.

Read the full story here.

NASA, SpaceX Update Crew Launch and Return Dates

NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 mission lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in April 23, 2021.
Crew-2 is more than a month into its mission aboard the International Space Station following an April 23 launch from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. The four crew members will return after a handover with Crew-3 astronauts following their launch and arrival in late October. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA and SpaceX have adjusted target launch and return dates for upcoming crew missions to and from the International Space Station based on visiting vehicle traffic.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission now is targeting launch no earlier than Sunday, Oct. 31, with NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer. Crew-3 will launch on a new Crew Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin a six-month science mission at the space station.

Crew-3 astronauts will arrive at the space station for a short handover period with the Crew-2 astronauts and other crew members on Expedition 66. Crew-2 NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Aki Hoshide, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet are targeting early-to-mid November for a return to Earth inside Crew Dragon Endeavour off the coast of Florida.

Following Crew-3, the next crew rotation mission is targeted for no earlier than mid-April 2022 with the partner spacecraft and launch vehicle to be determined at a later date.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with industry through a public-private partnership to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration. The space station remains the springboard to space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

NASA, Boeing Update Launch Target for Next Starliner Flight Test

Boeing Starliner
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft undergoes preparations for the company’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 28, 2021. Photo credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing are targeting 2:53 pm EDT Friday, July 30, for the launch of the company’s Starliner uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the International Space Station. The updated launch target is supported by the station’s visiting vehicle schedule, Starliner readiness, and the availability of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

“NASA and Boeing have done an incredible amount of work to get to this point,” said Steve Stich, Commercial Crew Program manager. “Our teams are ready for this important mission due to the coordinated efforts of many, including United Launch Alliance, NASA’s Launch Services Program, and the U.S. Space Force, which enabled us to establish this launch opportunity. We are looking forward to a successful OFT-2 mission.”

Boeing recently completed end-to-end testing of Starliner’s fight software by flying a five-day simulated OFT-2 mission to the station. The company will continue supporting NASA’s post-test reviews. All actions recommended by the NASA-Boeing Joint Independent Review Team following Starliner’s uncrewed first flight test in December 2019 are complete and pending closure by NASA.

Boeing also will continue processing hardware for its first flight of astronauts – the Crew Flight Test – until mid-summer. OFT-2 launch activities, including loading cargo and fueling the spacecraft are scheduled to begin around this time.

A launch on July 30 would lead to rendezvous and docking with the space station on the evening of Saturday, July 31.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with industry through a public-private partnership to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration. The space station remains the springboard to space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

NASA Updates Live Coverage of Agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 Return to Earth

Crew-1 astronauts on the ISS
SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts join a video conference from the International Space Station on Feb. 7, 2021. From left are Michael Hopkins of NASA, Soichi Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and NASA astronauts Shannon Walker and Victor Glover. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission with NASA astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is now targeting a return to Earth at 11:36 a.m. EDT Saturday, May 1, in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Resilience, is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station at 5:55 p.m. Friday, April 30, to begin the journey home.

NASA and SpaceX agreed to move Crew-1’s undocking and splashdown from Wednesday, April 28, following a review of forecast weather conditions in the splashdown zones off the coast of Florida, which currently predict wind speeds above the recovery criteria. Teams will continue to monitor weather conditions for splashdown ahead of Friday’s planned undocking.

The return to Earth – and activities leading up to the return – will air live on NASA Television, the NASA App, and the agency’s website.

Click here to read the full advisory.

NASA, SpaceX Officials Thrilled With Crew-2 Launch Success

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at 5:49 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23, 2021, carrying the company’s Crew Dragon Endeavour.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at 5:49 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23, 2021, carrying the company’s Crew Dragon Endeavour. Onboard the capsule are NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, spacecraft commander; NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, pilot; ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, mission specialist; and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, mission specialist. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission crew will dock to the Harmony module’s forward-facing international docking adapter of the International Space Station on Saturday, April 24, at 5:10 a.m. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Liftoff of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with Crew Dragon atop, lit up the early morning sky at 5:49 a.m. today, April 23, as it lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Crew-2 astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) are now on their way to the International Space Station aboard Crew Dragon.

The four crew members are now a few hours into their 23.5-hour trip. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Endeavour, will dock autonomously to the forward port of the station’s Harmony module about 5:10 a.m. Saturday, April 24.

“It has been an incredible year for NASA and our Commercial Crew Program, with three crewed launches to the space station since last May,” said NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “This is another important milestone for NASA, SpaceX, and our international partners at ESA and JAXA, and for the future of scientific research on board the ISS. It will be an exciting moment to see our crews greet one another on station for our first crew handover under the Commercial Crew Program.”

The Crew-2 mission is the second of six crewed missions NASA and SpaceX will fly as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. This mission has several firsts, including:

  • First commercial crew mission to fly two international partners;
  • First commercial crew handover between astronauts on the space station as Crew-1 and Crew-2 astronauts will spend about five days together on station before Crew-1 returns to Earth;
  • First reuse of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket on a crew mission –Crew Dragon Endeavour flew the historic Demo-2 mission and the Falcon 9 flew astronauts on the Crew-1 mission; and,
  • First time two commercial crew spacecraft will be docked to station at the same time.

“When I see a launch, I immediately think of what it took to reach this milestone and the dedication of all the people who made it happen,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “There’s obviously a long way to go, but now we can celebrate the Crew-2 launch and look forward to seeing them join their other Expedition 65 colleagues as we prepare to bring Crew-1 home next week.”

Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide, and Pesquet will join the Expedition 65 crew of Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Mark Vande Hei of NASA, as well as Soichi Noguchi of JAXA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov. For a short time, the number of crew on the space station will increase to 11 people until Crew-1 astronauts Walker, Hopkins, Glover, and Noguchi return to Earth a few days later.

The Crew-2 members will conduct science and maintenance during a six-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory and will return no earlier than Oct. 31. Adding more crew members aboard the microgravity laboratory increases the time available for scientific activities. The November 2020 arrival of the Crew-1 astronauts more than doubled crew hours spent on scientific research and support activities, and Crew-2 will continue the important investigations and technology demonstrations that are preparing for future Artemis missions to the Moon, helping us improve our understanding of Earth’s climate, and improving life on our home planet.

Tune in to NASA Television or the agency’s website for continuous comprehensive coverage of the Crew-2 mission, including docking at the space station on Saturday, April 24, at approximately 5:10 a.m. EDT.

A welcome ceremony from the International Space Station will take place Saturday, April 24, at 7:45 a.m. EDT, with the following participants:

  • Steve Jurczyk, acting NASA administrator
  • Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
  • Hiroshi Yamakawa, president, JAXA
  • Josef Aschbacher, director general, ESA

Follow along with mission activities and get more information at: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Learn more about commercial crew and space station activities by following @Commercial_Crew@space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the Commercial Crew FacebookISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew Dragon Reaches Orbit, News Conference at 7:30 a.m. EDT

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew-2 Dragon lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at 5:49 a.m. EDT on April 23, 2021,
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew-2 Dragon lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at 5:49 a.m. EDT on April 23, 2021, Photo credit: NASA

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying Crew-2 mission astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet on their way to the International Space Station has safely reached orbit, and the nosecone has been opened.

A postlaunch news conference will be held at approximately 7:30 a.m. EDT at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with the following participants:

  • Steve Jurczyk, acting NASA administrator
  • Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
  • Hiroshi Sasaki, vice president and director general, JAXA’s Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate
  • Frank de Winne, manager, International Space Station Program, ESA
  • SpaceX representative

NASA Television and the agency’s website will air the news conference. Mission commentary will switch to NASA TV’s Media Channel.

Follow along and get more information about the mission at: http://www.nasa.gov/crew-2. Learn more about commercial crew and space station activities by following @Commercial_Crew, @space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the Commercial Crew Facebook, ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Separation Confirmed! Crew Dragon Leaves Behind Second Stage

Crew Dragon Endeavour has separated from the second stage and is flying on its own. The spacecraft is traveling at approximately 17,000 miles per hour. About one minute later the dragon nosecone open sequence will begin.