Station Crew Awaits Ax-1 Departure and Crew-4 Launch

International Space Station Configuration. Six spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragons Endurance and Endeavour; the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter; and Russia's Soyuz MS-21 crew ship and the Progress 79 and 80 resupply ships.
International Space Station Configuration. Six spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragons Endurance and Endeavour; the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter; and Russia’s Soyuz MS-21 crew ship and the Progress 79 and 80 resupply ships.

The integrated NASA, Axiom Space, and SpaceX teams have agreed on a plan for the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) crew to undock from the International Space Station at 8:35 p.m. EDT Saturday, April 23, for a splashdown off the coast of Florida about 1:46 p.m. Sunday, April 24. The decision was made based on the best weather for splashdown of the first private astronaut mission to visit the International Space Station and the return trajectory required to bring the crew and the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft back to Earth safely.

NASA will provide live coverage of departure activities beginning at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, April 23, with hatch closure targeted for 6:30 p.m. Coverage will resume at 8:15 p.m. for the undocking. Teams will continue to monitor weather at the splashdown sites prior to undocking to ensure conditions are acceptable for a safe recovery of the Ax-1 astronauts and Dragon spacecraft.

NASA and Axiom mission planning prepared for the possibility of additional time on station for the private astronauts, and there are sufficient provisions for all 11 crew members aboard the space station. The Ax-1 crew continues to work through previously planned mission activities. The Ax-1 crew and Dragon spacecraft remain healthy.

The departure of Dragon Endeavour from the space station will clear the docking port for the arrival of Dragon Freedom and NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts. The earliest potential launch opportunity for the Crew-4 mission is 4:15 a.m. Tuesday, April 26, with additional opportunities Wednesday, April 27, and Thursday, April 28. These launch opportunities are undergoing a more detailed program review to ensure they align with integrated operational timelines. The teams want to provide a two-day gap after Ax-1 return for data reviews from splashdown and to prepare for the Crew-4 launch, including the staging of recovery assets.

The Crew-4 astronauts spent last night at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida rehearsing the countdown to their launch inside the SpaceX Dragon Freedom, the company’s newest crew ship. Overnight, Crew-4 Commander Kjell Lindgren, Pilot Robert Hines with Mission Specialists Jessica Watkins and Samantha Cristoforetti, put on their pressure suits and entered their vehicle conducting a successful dry dress rehearsal. The Falcon 9 rocket, with the Freedom perched atop, stands at Launch Complex 39A.

Expedition 67 crewmates Raja Chari and Tom Marshburn, who are also the SpaceX Crew-3 commander and pilot respectively, spent a little time on Wednesday with their upcoming departure activities. The pair, along with Kayla Barron of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA, will wait for the arrival of their Crew-4 replacements before returning to Earth a few days later inside the Dragon Endurance vehicle. The four astronauts had a light-duty day on Wednesday scheduling in some housecleaning tasks.

Over in the Russian segment of the station, cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev wrapped up their post-spacewalk activities today stowing their tools and discussing the excursion with specialists on the ground. The duo kicked off a series of spacewalks on April 18 to configure the European robotic arm for operations on the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov started his day with electronics and communications maintenance before studying future spacecraft and robotic piloting techniques in the afternoon.

SpaceX Crew-4 Astronauts Enter Quarantine for Mission to Space Station

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts participate in a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. From left to right: NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts participate in a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. From left to right: NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy. Photo credit: NASA

NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, entered their official quarantine period beginning Thursday, April 7, in preparation for their flight to the International Space Station on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission.

The process of flight crew health stabilization is a routine part of final preparations for all missions to the space station. Spending the final two weeks before liftoff in quarantine will help ensure Crew-4 members are healthy and to protect the astronauts already on the space station.

Crew members can choose to quarantine at home if they are able to maintain quarantine conditions prior to travel to Kennedy. If quarantining at home is not possible – for example, if a household member can’t maintain quarantine because of job or school commitments – crew members have the option of living in the Astronaut Quarantine Facility at Johnson Space Center until they leave for Kennedy Space Center.

Additional safeguards have been added since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Anyone who will come on site or interact with the crew during the quarantine period will be screened for temperature and symptoms. Lindgren, Hines, Watkins, and Cristoforetti will be tested twice for the virus as a precaution, as well as anyone who comes in direct, close contact with the crew.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission is the fourth crew rotation flight to the ISS as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Crew-4 is targeted to launch no earlier than Thursday, April 21, on a new SpaceX Crew Dragon, named Freedom, atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Mission operations teams will be closely monitoring the weather and operational timelines related to the Axiom Mission 1, NASA’s first Private Astronaut Mission to the space station. Additional adjustments to the Crew-4 launch date may be required based on weather and Crew-4 vehicle readiness.

Crew-4 will arrive at the space station for a short overlap with NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, who flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission in November 2021. Also on station are Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov who flew to the station on a Soyuz spacecraft on March 18, 2022.

More details about the mission can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 Trains for Upcoming Mission

SpaceX Crew-4 Preflight and Training
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts participate in a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. From left to right: NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 team – consisting of NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti – have been busy getting ready for their upcoming mission to the International Space Station. The mission is scheduled to launch Friday, April 15, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX Crew-4 Preflight and Training
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts – NASA astronaut and Crew-4 pilot Bob Hines (left), and NASA astronaut and Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren (right) – participate in a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. Photo credit: SpaceX

During recent training at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, the crew participated in simulations focused on undocking and departing from the space station. All four astronauts practiced in a high-fidelity simulator of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, complete with flight-realistic hardware, displays, and seats. Each astronaut gained experience suiting up and configuring the spacecraft for departure. Commander Lindgren and pilot Hines took their places in the center seats, with access to flight displays they’ll use to monitor the spacecraft’s status and, if needed, take manual control of the spacecraft.

Astronaut crews regularly train for all phases of flight, using simulations to practice normal operations and respond to any unexpected issues. These simulations typically include multiple “runs” for a given day, with crew and flight controllers practicing a specific phase of the mission. Using simulated data to train personnel, simulations introduce system failures and other challenges to give teams the opportunity to prepare for and understand potential anomalies that could arise during a spaceflight, all while arming the crew with the skills needed for effectively overcoming these challenges.

SpaceX Crew-4 Preflight and Training
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts train at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. From left to right: ESA astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; and NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins. Photo credit: SpaceX

While at Kennedy Space Center for emergency preparedness training, the crew visited the launch tower at Launch Complex 39A and trained on the emergency egress system, which employs slide wire baskets that enable crew and personnel to safely and quickly evacuate from the launch tower in the event of an emergency.

To become more familiar with recovery operations, the astronauts found their sea legs aboard SpaceX’s Dragon recovery vessels that will be used by joint SpaceX and NASA teams to pick up the crew following splashdown at the end of their mission. Two identical vessels cover potential landing zones off of the coast of Florida. The astronauts also toured one of SpaceX’s hangars where Falcon 9 rockets are refurbished and prepared for flight.

The crew is scheduled for a science expedition aboard the International Space Station, living and working as part of orbiting laboratory’s Expeditions 67 and 68. Crew-4 will be the fourth crew rotation mission with SpaceX, and fifth crewed flight overall including the Demo-2 flight test, for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found by following the commercial crew blog@commercal_crew and commercial crew on Facebook. For more Crew-4 images visit the Crew-4 Flickr album.

NASA, SpaceX Continue Planning for Next Crew Rotation Missions to International Space Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars upward from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23, 2021.
With a view of the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building at left, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars upward from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23, 2021, carrying a crew of four on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission. Launch time was at 5:49 a.m. EDT. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA and SpaceX are continuing plans to launch Crew-3 astronauts to the International Space Station as early as Sunday Oct. 31, and targeting the return home of Crew-2 astronauts in the early-to-mid November timeframe.

Crew-3 will be the third crew rotation mission with astronauts on an American rocket and spacecraft from the United States to the space station, and the fourth flight with astronauts, including the Demo-2 test flight in 2020, Crew-1 mission in 2020-21, and the ongoing Crew-2 flight as part of the Expedition 65 crew.

The Crew-3 mission will launch NASA astronauts Raja Chari, mission commander, Tom Marshburn, pilot, and Kayla Barron, mission specialist, and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer, also a mission specialist, aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew is scheduled for a long-duration stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, living and working as part of what is expected to be a seven-member crew.

Crew-3 astronauts plan to arrive at the station to overlap with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission in April 2021.

Missions teams also are targeting no earlier than April 15, 2022, for the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the space station for a six-month science mission aboard the microgravity laboratory.

Crew-4 will be commanded by Kjell Lindgren with Bob Hines as pilot, both NASA astronauts. ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will be a mission specialist and command the ISS Expedition 68 crew, while the remaining crew member has yet to be named. Crew-3 astronauts are set to return to Earth in late April 2022 following a similar handover with Crew-4.

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 Mars.

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.

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.