Dragon Opens for Business with New Science

April 17, 2015 Space Station Configuration
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft was berthed to the Harmony module after arriving April 17, 2015.

NASA astronauts Terry Virts and Scott Kelly opened the hatches and floated into the new SpaceX Dragon space freighter Saturday morning, beginning five weeks of cargo transfers. The sixth Dragon cargo mission for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract delivered a wide variety of crew supplies and science gear to support dozens of new and ongoing microgravity experiments.

The crew unloaded new Rodent Research gear that will allow scientists to study the effects of microgravity on biological mechanisms in mice. Results may promote the development of new drugs tackling the effects of aging and disease on Earth.

A pair of new POLAR science freezers were unloaded from Dragon. The freezers store science samples at -80° C and allow the transport of those samples back to Earth.

Blood pressure checks and vision testing were on the schedule Monday as part of the Ocular Health study which observes the effects of long-term spaceflight on crew members. A trio of cosmonauts looked at cardiac activity in space and studied the radiation emitted from Russian spacecraft propulsion systems.

Dragon Arrives Friday, Unpacking Begins Saturday

The SpaceX Dragon arrives
Astronaut Terry Virts tweeted this picture of the SpaceX Dragon supply ship approaching the International Space Station. Credit: @AstroTerry

The Expedition 43 crew’s delivery arrived Friday aboard the SpaceX Dragon space freighter. Dragon was captured at 6:55 a.m. EDT after a two-day trip and a slow methodical approach. Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti guided the Canadarm2 and grappled the Dragon as it floated just 10 meters away from the International Space Station.

The crew will open the hatches to Dragon, which is berthed to the Harmony module, Saturday morning and begin 5 weeks of cargo transfer activities. Aside from crew supplies, Dragon brought new science gear including items for the Rodent Research-2 experiment and the station’s first espresso machine, the ISSpresso, which will provide espresso, tea, consommé and other hot beverages.

A Russian resupply ship is targeted to launch and dock to the space station in less than two weeks. The ISS Progress 59 will blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome April 28 at 3:09 p.m. and dock to the Poisk module less than six hours later.

Dragon Attached to Station’s Harmony Module

Dragon Attached to Harmony
Ground controllers maneuvered the SpaceX Dragon using the Canadarm2 and attached it to the Harmony module. Credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was berthed to the Harmony module of the International Space Station at 9:29 a.m. EDT while the two spacecraft were traveling above the coast of Sierra Leone. The hatch between the newly arrived spacecraft and the Harmony module of the space station is scheduled to be opened Saturday.

The spacecraft is loaded with more than 4,300 pounds of supplies, science experiments, and technology demonstrations, including critical materials to support about 40 of more than 250 science and research investigations during the station’s Expeditions 43 and 44. The capsule is scheduled to spend five weeks attached to the station.

For an overview of newly delivered science investigations aboard Dragon, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/spacex_six/

NASA TV Covering Dragon Installation

SpaceX Dragon Installation
The SpaceX Dragon is being installed by robotics controllers on the ground. Credit: NASA TV

Following its capture, the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship is being maneuvered by ground controllers operating the International Space Station’s robotic arm for installation onto the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module.

Operations are progressing ahead of schedule, so NASA Television coverage will resume at 8:45 a.m. EDT at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv.

Expedition 43 Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency is at the robotic work station in the orbiting complex’s cupola. Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA is assisting her.

Join the conversation on social media by following @Space_Station and the hashtag #ISScargo.

Robotic Arm Captures Dragon

Dragon Captured by Robotic Arm
The SpaceX Dragon space freighter is in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Credit: NASA TV

While the International Space Station was traveling 257 statute miles over the Pacific Ocean just east of Japan, Expedition 43 Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency, with the assistance of Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA, successfully captured the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft with the station’s robotic arm at 6:55 a.m. EDT.

Operations to berth Dragon to the space station begin at approximately 9:40 a.m. NASA TV coverage will resume at 9:15 a.m. at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

Watch NASA TV for SpaceX Dragon Arrival

The SpaceX Dragon
ISS041-E-020918 (23 Sept. 2014) — The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft approaches the International Space Station on Sept. 23, 2014 for grapple and berthing.

NASA television coverage for today’s scheduled arrival of the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station has begun and can be seen at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv.

SpaceX reported all spacecraft systems are ready for the final stages of rendezvous, and space station flight controllers reported the orbiting outpost is ready for the commercial spacecraft’s arrival. The International Space Station and Dragon flight control teams are proceeding toward rendezvous and grapple at 7 a.m. EDT.

The spacecraft is delivering more than 4,300 pounds of supplies, science experiments, and technology demonstrations for the Expeditions 43 crew members. To learn more about the mission and the International Space Station, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/station.

Join the conversation on social media by following @Space_Station and the hashtag #ISScargo.

Crew Gets Ready for New Dragon and New Science

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti
Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti operates the Canadarm2 from inside the cupola.

The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is less than a day away from arriving at the International Space Station. The Expedition 43 crew is getting ready for its arrival and five-week stay at the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module. Read more about the SpaceX CRS-6 mission.

Commander Terry Virts set up hardware inside Harmony to assist Dragon’s installation after its capture tomorrow. Virts and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti also brushed up on robotics skills necessary to capture Dragon with the Canadarm2.

NASA TV will begin rendezvous coverage Friday at 5 a.m. EDT. Dragon is scheduled to be grappled about 7 a.m. by Cristoforetti inside the cupola at the controls of Canadarm2 with Virts assisting.

Though it was a light day, the rest of the crew worked on human research and advanced microgravity experiments. Dragon is also delivering new science gear to support hundreds of experiments aboard the orbital laboratory. Read more about research on the space station.

Dragon Reaches Space, Headed for Friday Station Rendezvous

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon space freighter rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Credit: NASA TV

The Dragon spacecraft has separated from its second stage and achieved its preliminary orbit. Dragon’s solar arrays have deployed and will provide 5 kilowatts of power to the spacecraft as it begins a carefully choreographed series of thruster firings to reach the International Space Station.

At 7 a.m. EDT on Friday, April 17, the Dragon spacecraft will catch up to the orbiting laboratory, and Flight Engineer and European Space Agency Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts will use the station’s 57.7-foot (17.6-meter) robotic arm to reach out and capture it as they operate from the station’s cupola.

A post-launch news conference will air on NASA TV at 5:30 p.m. EDT. NASA will issue the following news release shortly:

Research for One-Year Space Station Mission Among NASA Cargo Launched Aboard SpaceX Resupply Flight

Research that will help prepare NASA astronauts and robotic explorers for future missions to Mars is among the two tons of cargo now on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. The spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:10 p.m. EDT on Tuesday from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“Five years ago this week, President Obama toured the same SpaceX launch pad used today to send supplies, research and technology development to the ISS,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Back then, SpaceX hadn’t even made its first orbital flight. Today, it’s making regular flights to the space station and is one of two American companies, along with The Boeing Company, that will return the ability to launch NASA astronauts to the ISS from U.S. soil and land then back in the United States. That’s a lot of progress in the last five years, with even more to come in the next five.”

The mission is the company’s sixth cargo delivery flight to the station through NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. Dragon’s cargo will support approximately 40 of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will be performed during Expeditions 43 and 44, including numerous human research investigations for NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s one-year mission in space.

Science payloads will support experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science — research that improves life on Earth and drives progress for future space exploration. Investigations include:

  • A study of potential methods for counteracting cell damage that occurs in a microgravity environment

The Cell Shape and Expression research program will provide for the first time a reliable experimental model able to highlight the relationships between microgravity, cell shape and gene expression, which may also inform pharmacological ways to counteract microgravity-induced cell damages.

  • Research to improve understanding of bone cells, which could lead to treatments for osteoporosis and muscle wasting conditions

Osteo-4 studies the effects of microgravity on the function of osteocytes, which are the most common cells in bone. These cells reside within the mineralized bone and can sense mechanical forces, or the lack of them, but researchers do not know how. Osteo-4 allows scientists to analyze changes in the physical appearance and genetic expression of mouse bone cells in microgravity.

  • Continued studies into astronaut vision changes

Dragon also will deliver hardware to support an ongoing one-year crew study known as Fluid Shifts. More than half of American astronauts experience vision changes and alterations to parts of their eyes during and after long-duration spaceflight. The Fluid Shifts investigation measures how much fluid shifts from the lower body to the upper body, in or out of cells and blood vessels, and determines the impact these shifts have on fluid pressure in the head and changes in vision and eye structures.

  • Tests on a new material that could one day be used as a synthetic muscle for robotics explorers of the future

Robots can perform tasks too repetitive, difficult or dangerous for humans. Robots built with synthetic muscle would have more human-like capabilities, but the material would have to withstand the rigors of space. This investigation tests the radiation resistance of an electroactivepolymer called Synthetic Muscle, developed by RasLabs, which can contract and expand like real muscles.

The spacecraft also will deliver hardware needed for the installation of two International Docking Adapters scheduled for delivery on future SpaceX missions. Once installed, these adapters will enable commercial crew spacecraft to dock to the space station.

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will use the space station’s robotic arm to grapple Dragon to the station at 7 a.m. Friday, April 17. Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA will assist.

After about five weeks, Dragon will depart the space station for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California. The capsule will return more than 3,000 pounds of science, hardware, crew supplies and spacewalk tools.

The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that enables us to demonstrate new technologies and make research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. It has been continuously occupied since November 2000 and, since then, has been visited by more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft. The ISS remains the springboard to NASA’s next giant leap in exploration, including future missions to an asteroid and Mars.

For more information about International Space Station science and research, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/station

For more information about the SpaceX resupply mission, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/spacex

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Lifts Off to Station

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket shoots toward orbit after on on time launch at 4:10 p.m. EDT (8:10 p.m. GMT). Credit NASA TV

The Falcon 9 lifted off at 4:10 p.m. EDT and is climbing toward its preliminary orbit en route to the International Space Station. At the time of launch, the International Space Station was traveling at an altitude of 257 miles over the Great Australian Bight, south of Western Australia.

The spacecraft’s two tons of supplies, science experiments, and technology demonstrations includes critical materials to support about 40 of more than 250 science and research investigations during the station’s Expeditions 43 and 44.

Launch coverage continues on NASA TV at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

Join the online conversation on Twitter by following @Space_Station and the hashtag #ISScargo.

SpaceX Countdown is Progressing Smoothly

SpaceX Dragon
ISS034-E-060222 (3 March 2013) — This is one of a series of photos taken by the Expedition 34 crew members aboard the International Space Station during the March 3 approach, capture and docking of the SpaceX Dragon. Thus the capsule begins its scheduled three-week-long stay at the orbiting space station.

NASA television coverage for today’s scheduled launch of the sixth SpaceX commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station has begun and can be seen at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv.

Countdown is progressing smoothly toward a scheduled lift off at 4:10:41 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The weather forecast remains at 60% “go” with concerns for anvil and cumulous clouds.

The Falcon 9 rocket will launch a Dragon spacecraft carrying about two tons of supplies and materials to support about 40 of more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur during the station’s Expeditions 43 and 44.

For a mission overview, press kit, launch countdown coverage, NASA’s launch blog, and more information about the mission, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/spacex

To join the online conversation about the SpaceX CRS-6 launch, the International Space Station and Expedition 43 on Twitter, follow @Space_Station and the hashtag #ISScargo.