The International Space Station residents are gearing up to host the Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter when it arrives Dec. 6. On the ground, a new trio of Expedition 46-47 crew members headed to their launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan before their mid-December mission.
NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren trained for the rendezvous and robotic capture of Cygnus after its Dec. 3 launch from the Kennedy Space Center. The Cygnus will deliver supplies for the crew and new science experiments Dec. 6 when it is captured and berthed to the Unity module.
Three new station crew members are in the final stage of their mission training before beginning a six-month mission to the orbital laboratory. First-time British astronaut Timothy Peake will join veteran station residents Yuri Malenchenko and Timothy Kopra inside the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft for a six-hour ride to the space station set for Dec. 15.
Meanwhile, advanced space science continued today as the crew explored radiation, blood circulation and microbes living on crew members. Scientists hope to use the results from the many experiments on the station to benefit people on Earth and future crews.
Finally, the crew is packing the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft before its undocking Dec. 11. The Soyuz will bring home Expedition 45-46 crew members Lindgren, Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko and Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui.
Crews and cargo shipments will be coming and going at the International Space Station during a busy December in space. Two resupply ships will arrive, one cargo craft will leave and an Expedition 45 trio will head home before an Expedition 46 trio replaces it.
Commander Scott Kelly teamed up with Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren for more robotics training before the Dec. 3 launch and Dec. 6 arrival of the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft. When Cygnus arrives it will be captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and berthed to the Unity module.
Meanwhile, Lindgren along with Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui and Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko are preparing for their Dec. 11 landing. On the ground in Russia, their Expedition 46 replacements Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko and Flight Engineers Timothy Kopra and Timothy Peake are counting down to their Dec. 15 launch. A docked Progress 61 resupply ship will fire its engines Wednesday raising the station’s orbit to accommodate the mid-December crew swap.
The Cygnus cargo craft is in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center being processed before its early December launch atop an Atlas V rocket. Russia’s Progress 60 (60P) cargo craft will undock from the Pirs docking compartment Dec. 19. A new Progress 62 resupply ship will replace the 60P when it arrives at Pirs Dec. 23.
The next cargo mission to the International Space Station is set to launch Dec. 3 at 5:55 p.m. EST. The Orbital ATK Cygnus commercial cargo craft will arrive Dec. 6 when it will be grappled with the Canadarm2 and berthed to the Unity module.
Commander Scott Kelly joined Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui and trained for Cygnus arrival. They used computer training software and practiced the rendezvous and grapple techniques they will use while operating the Canadarm2 from inside the cupola.
The crew was back at work Monday conducting more science to benefit life on Earth and astronauts in space. They explored a variety of subjects including human research, botany and physics.
Kelly looked at working with touch-based technologies, explored liquid crystals and tended plants. His One-Year crewmate Mikhail Kornienko downlinked earthquake data captured on the orbital lab and stowed trash inside a Russian resupply ship.
Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko researched veins in the lower extremities of crew members and performed a vision test. Flight Engineer Sergey Volkov participated in Crew Medical Officer training and photographed the condition of the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft windows.
The six-member Expedition 45 crew continued exploring more life science Thursday.
Commander Scott Kelly, who is comparing his space-borne body with his ground-based twin brother and ex-astronaut Mark Kelly, collected and stored blood and urine samples for the ongoing Twins study. Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren explored using a joystick that transmits sensitive vibrations to control a rover on the ground from a spacecraft. Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui studied the atrophy of skeletal muscle cells caused by the lack of gravity while living in space.
Kelly and Yui later partnered up to install and route cables in the U.S. Destiny lab module. Those cables will standardize and increase the efficiency of video, audio and telemetry data links with future crew and cargo vehicles docking to the station.
In the Russian segment of the orbital laboratory, cosmonaut Sergey Volkov studied the depletion of calcium in a crew member’s bones. He then joined Oleg Kononenko to research acoustic methods for detecting micrometeoroid impacts on the station. Kononenko also got together with One-Year crew member Mikhail Kornienko to explore microgravity’s effects on the human cardiovascular and respiratory system.
At about 2:14 a.m. Central time this morning, a Potential Fire Alarm sensor was triggered aboard the International Space Station and was traced to the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) experiment in Express Rack 3 in the Columbus module. The experiment is enclosed and no smoke or fire was detected. Sensors indicated a slight rise in carbon monoxide inside EMCS, while background readings in all surrounding areas remained normal. The crew was never in any danger and the event only lasted a few minutes. As a precautionary measure, Express Rack 3 was temporarily powered down. The rack has since been repowered with the exception of EMCS. There was no impact to station science.
The Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:31 a.m. EST. The spacecraft will spend about three months attached to the space station before departing in February 2019. After it leaves the station, the uncrewed spacecraft will deploy several CubeSats before its fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere as it disposes of several tons of trash.
The spacecraft’s arrival brings close to 7,400 pounds of research and supplies to space station. Highlights of NASA-sponsored research to advance exploration goals and enable future missions to the Moon and Mars include:
Sensory input in microgravity
Changes in sensory input in microgravity may be misinterpreted and cause a person to make errors in estimation of velocity, distance or orientation. VECTION examines this effect as well as whether people adapt to altered sensory input on long-duration missions and how that adaptation changes upon return to Earth. Using a virtual reality display, astronauts estimate the distance to an object, length of an object and orientation of their bodies in space. Tests are conducted before, during and after flight. The investigation is named for a visual illusion of self-movement, called vection, which occurs when an individual is still but sees the world moving past, according to principal investigator Laurence Harris. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) sponsors the investigation.
Solidifying cement in space
The MVP-Cell 05 investigation uses a centrifuge to provide a variable gravity environment to study the complex process of cement solidification, a step toward eventually making and using concrete on extraterrestrial bodies. These tests are a follow-on to the previous studies known as Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification (MICS), which studied cement solidification in microgravity. Together, these tests will help engineers better understand the microstructure and material properties of cement, leading to design of safer, lightweight space habitats and improving cement processing techniques on Earth. This investigation is sponsored by NASA.
Investigations sponsored by the U.S. National Laboratory on the space station, which Congress designated in 2005 to maximize its use for improving quality of life on Earth, include:
From stardust to solar systems
Much of the universe was created when dust from star-based processes clumped into intermediate-sized particles and eventually became planets, moons and other objects. Many questions remain as to just how this worked, though. The EXCISS investigation seeks answers by simulating the high-energy, low gravity conditions that were present during formation of the early solar system. Scientists plan to zap a specially formulated dust with an electrical current, then study the shape and texture of pellets formed.
Principal investigator Tamara Koch explains that the dust is made up of particles of forsterite (Mg2SiO4), the main mineral in many meteorites and related to olivine, also known as the gemstone peridot. The particles are about the diameter of a human hair.
Growing crystals to fight Parkinson’s disease
The CASIS PCG-16 investigation grows large crystals of an important protein, Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2, or LRRK2, in microgravity for analysis back on Earth. This protein is implicated in development of Parkinson’s disease, and improving our knowledge of its structure may help scientists better understand the pathology of the disease and develop therapies to treat it. Crystals of LRRK2 grown in gravity are too small and too compact to study, making microgravity an essential part of this research.
Better gas separation membranes
Membranes represent one of the most energy-efficient and cost-effective technologies for separating and removing carbon dioxide from waste gases, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. CEMSICA tests membranes made from particles of calcium-silicate (C-S) with pores 100 nanometers or smaller. Producing these membranes in microgravity may resolve some of the challenges of their manufacture on Earth and lead to development of lower-cost, more durable membranes that use less energy. The technology ultimately may help reduce the harmful effects of CO2 emissions on the planet.
The Expedition 45 crew is continuing more biomedical and psychological research today. Ground controllers are also remotely operating the Canadarm2 robotic arm for a video scan of Russian solar arrays.
Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui were back at work Wednesday with more Ocular Health science conducting eye scans and cardiac exams. Lindgren also worked on gear that fuels combustion science experiments while Yui talked to his Japanese support team and cleaned inside the Kibo laboratory module.
Commander Scott Kelly collected and stowed a urine sample for the Twins study then participated in research that explores how international space crews operate under stress. Kelly also replaced Trace Contaminant Control System gear inside the Tranquility module.
Cosmonaut Sergey Volkov explored the effect of micro-vibrations in the Russian segment of the station. He also explored the relationship between a crew and Mission Control during a long term spaceflight. One-Year crew member Mikhail Kornienko studied chemical reactions in Earth’s upper atmosphere. He, Volkov and cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko also worked on Russian cleaning and maintenance tasks.
The six-member Expedition 45 crew paused for a minute of silence today in tribute to the victims of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris. Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren bowed his head in the middle of experiment work while Commander Scott Kelly said the crew “was shocked and saddened” by the events.
Engineers continued to troubleshoot station systems after 1 of the 8 station power channels went down last Friday. There were no impacts to crew activities, the station maintained orbital control and communications remained in good condition. Ground teams are discussing future repair plans and are currently able to manage the power balance for the foreseeable future.
The orbital residents kicked off Monday with the Veggie botany experiment as NASA learns to grow food in space. There were more vision and blood pressure checks helping scientists understand microgravity’s effects on vision. As usual, the crew also continued the upkeep of the orbital laboratory with some plumbing work, battery replacements and cleaning duties.
The Expedition 45 crew is wrapping up the work week on biomedical science and Cygnus mission preparations. The orbital residents also worked maintenance throughout the numerous modules inside the International Space Station.
Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui, who both have been in space over 100 days, checked their vision and blood pressure for the long-running Ocular Health study. Yui then worked on experiment hardware inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. Lindgren explored growing food in space for the Veggie botany experiment.
Commander Scott Kelly continued installing gear to prepare for the early December arrival of the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft. He also worked on station maintenance tasks and cleaned his crew quarters.
On the Russian side of the orbital lab, One-Year crew member Mikhail Kornienko explored human digestion in space and sampled the station’s atmosphere and surfaces for microbes. Veteran cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Volkov worked in the Zvezda service module to replace a battery and repair overhead sheets. Volkov is the newest Expedition 45 crew member having been in space 70 days.
A trio of astronauts are still cleaning up after last week’s spacewalk outside the International Space Station. The cosmonauts are working on their suite of advanced space science and maintenance tasks. Also, the crew is preparing for the launch of the next Orbital ATK commercial cargo mission targeted for Dec. 3.
Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui joined NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren for the post-spacewalk cleanup work in the U.S. Quest airlock. The team stowed their spacewalk tools and hardware and scrubbed cooling loops in the U.S. spacesuits.
Kelly and Yui also partnered together to ready the station for the arrival of the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft. The duo reviewed installation procedures for the Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System scheduled to be delivered aboard the Cygnus.
In the Russian segment of the station, three veteran cosmonauts were busy researching a wide variety of subjects and working on Russian station systems. Oleg Kononenko looked at how microgravity affects a crew member’s spacecraft piloting skills. Sergey Volkov explored how vibrations on the station affect experiment results. One-Year crew member Mikhail Kornienko stowed gear inside an outgoing Progress craft for disposal.
Approximately 3.5 hours into today’s spacewalk, astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Scott Kelly have completed the first of several steps to restore the port truss (P6) ammonia cooling system to its original configuration.
Kelly and Lindgren have returned ammonia to the desired levels in both the prime and back-up systems.