Four International Space Station astronauts continue packing their U.S. spacecraft as they plan for a return to Earth this month. Meanwhile, the Expedition 66 crew continued its ongoing space research and maintenance aboard the orbital lab.
Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, who are also the commander and pilot of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission respectively, have been loading and readying the Crew Dragon Endeavour for its upcoming undocking and splashdown. The duo may undock for the ride back to Earth as early as Sunday, Nov. 7, with astronauts Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) ending a mission that began in April. NASA and SpaceX are continuing to review launch and return opportunities for Crew-3 and Crew-2, respectively.
Kimbrough also spent the day uninstalling incubator components before inspecting portable emergency gear. McArthur photographed a variety of space station tools for a survey. Hoshide replaced air filters as Pesquet organized cables and checked camera sensors.
NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei, who is over halfway through his near yearlong mission, opened up the Microgravity Science Glovebox on Thursday morning and began setting up a semiconductor crystal experiment. The study takes advantage of microgravity and lessons from previous studies to produce higher-quality semiconductor crystals potentially resulting in smaller, more powerful electronic devices.
The station’s two cosmonauts, Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov from Roscosmos, focused their activities today on the docked ISS Progress 78 and 79 resupply ships. The duo checked docking components on the both cargo craft while also unpacking science gear from the Progress 79 spacecraft.
NASA and SpaceX continue to review launch and return opportunities for the upcoming crew rotation flights to and from the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
Mission teams now are considering whether to return the agency’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission from the space station ahead of launching the next crew rotation due to the associated weather considerations for both launch and recovery operations.
The earliest possible opportunity for Crew-2 undocking from the space station is at 1:05 p.m. EST Sunday, Nov. 7, to begin the return trip to Earth for splashdown off the coast of Florida. A back-up undocking opportunity also is available Monday, Nov. 8.
The earliest possible opportunity for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 launch is 9:51 p.m. EST Monday, Nov. 8, if mission teams do not pursue Crew-2 return on Sunday, Nov. 7 or Monday. Nov. 8.
Mission teams will make a final decision on whether to prioritize Crew-3’s launch or Crew-2’s return in the coming daysbased on the likelihood of favorable conditions for a Crew Dragon splashdown or Crew Dragon launch. NASA and SpaceX also are reviewing the time needed between launch or return operations.
NASA and SpaceX are forgoing launch opportunities Saturday, Nov. 6 and Sunday, Nov. 7, due to unfavorable weather conditions. Weather officials with the 45th Weather Squadron forecast only a 40% chance of favorable launch weather on Saturday, Nov. 6, with the primary concerns revolving around liftoff winds, cumulus clouds, and surface electric field constraints. The down range weather also is not acceptable on Sunday, Nov. 7 due to risks associated with launch abort sites up the eastern seaboard.
Mission teams still are monitoring weather conditions for a launch attempt on Monday, Nov. 8. The primary operational concern is strong winds at the pad and unfavorable conditions down range.
“These are dynamic and complex decisions that change day by day,” said Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager. “The weather in November can be especially challenging, so our goal is to move forward on the plan with the highest probability of mission assurance and crew safety.”
The agency continues to monitor a minor medical issue involving one of the Crew-3 astronauts, which is expected to be clear prior to launch.
The Crew-3 flight will carry NASA astronauts Raja Chari, mission commander;Tom Marshburn, pilot; and Kayla Barron, mission specialist; as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, also a mission specialist, to the space station for a six-month science mission, staying aboard until about late April 2022.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket are in good shape and will remain at Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center.
The Crew-2 flight will return to Earth with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet.Crew 2’s Dragon undocking depends on a variety of factors, including vehicle readiness, recovery team readiness, weather, sea states, and other factors.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft is capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement. Additional analysis could allow the spacecraft to remain in orbit for longer, if necessary. Crew Dragon Endeavour remains healthy while currently docked to the space station.
Teams are reviewing all options for safely launching and returning crew members to continue the agency’s important work on the International Space Station. Updated Crew-3 launch and Crew-2 return timelines will be provided in the coming days.
The seven Expedition 66 crew members living and working aboard the International Space Station focused on a variety of microgravity research today while preparing to split up this month. Back on Earth, four commercial crew astronauts are preparing for their launch to the orbiting lab from Kennedy Space Center.
Hoshide, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), worked inside the Kibo laboratory module relocating a microbe sensor before checking out the console that controls the Japanese robotic arm. Station Commander Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) put on a virtual reality headset for the Pilote technology demonstration and explored the ergonomics of robotic and spacecraft interfaces. The international duo also spent some time Monday packing personal items inside Endeavour for the ride back home.
Down in Florida, three NASA astronauts and one ESA astronaut of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission are now targeting their launch to the space station inside the Crew Dragon Endurance for no earlier than Nov. 6. Commander Raja Chari, with Pilot Thomas Marshburn, will lead Mission Specialists Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer inside Endurance when it lifts off carrying the foursome to their new home in space where they will stay for six months.
NASA is delaying the upcoming launch of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission due to a minor medical issue involving one of its crew members. The issue is not a medical emergency and not related to COVID-19. The launch to the International Space Station was planned for Wednesday, Nov. 3.
The agency takes every effort to protect the crew prior to its launch through a health stabilization plan. Crew-3 astronauts will remain in quarantine at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida while preparing for their launch.
Teams will continue to monitor crew health as they evaluate potential launch opportunities at the end of the week. The earliest possible opportunity for launch is 11:36 p.m. EDT Saturday, Nov. 6.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket are in good shape and will remain at Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy.
The Crew-3 flight will carry NASA astronauts Raja Chari, mission commander; Tom Marshburn, pilot; and Kayla Barron, mission specialist; as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, who will serve as a mission specialist, to the space station for a six-month science mission, staying aboard until late April 2022.
This is the third crew rotation mission with astronauts on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and the fourth flight with astronauts, including the Demo-2 test flight, as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
Mission teams are reviewing options including both direct and indirect handovers for the upcoming crew rotation at the microgravity laboratory. Teams will review all options for safely launching and returning crew members and continue the agency’s important work on the International Space Station.