Crew Checks Spacesuits and Explores New Life Science

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Peggy Whitson
Astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Peggy Whitson set up the Microgravity Science Glovebox inside the Destiny lab module.

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency cleaned U.S. spacesuit cooling loops and collected water samples for a periodic maintenance check today. Afterward, he began charging spacewalking gear including helmet lights and tool batteries.

Commander Shane Kimbrough and NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson worked on life support maintenance today. They removed and disassembled valves and ducts to access old carbon dioxide filters that needed replacing inside the Destiny lab module. The duo will be back at work Wednesday installing newer generation filters.

One of the main objectives of the International Space Station is to provide an orbital laboratory to research how living in space long-term affects humans. New and ongoing experiments conducted today may provide benefits for humans on and off Earth.

Kimbrough checked on rodents being observed for a tissue regeneration study. Whitson continued researching stem cells with a new microscope delivered last week aboard the SpaceX Dragon. Cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko studied how viruses behave in space while his fellow cosmonauts, Sergey Ryzhikov and Oleg Novitskiy, explored non-invasive ways to monitor a crew member’s health and methods to keep their skills sharp on and off Earth.


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Brand New Dragon Experiments Activated on Station

SpaceX Dragon
SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft is seen Feb. 23, 2017, during final approach to the International Space Station.

The Expedition 50 crew began activating new science experiments delivered last week aboard the SpaceX Dragon. The various life science studies will study bones and muscles, stem cells, botany and protein crystals.

Rodents delivered aboard Dragon were placed in their habitats over the weekend for the Rodent Research-4 study. That experiment is observing how bone and tissue regenerate in microgravity.

Stem cells were also unloaded from Dragon and stowed in a science freezer. The crew will research the replication of stem cells which may benefit clinical trials on Earth for new disease treatments. Astronaut Peggy Whitson used a specialized microscope to view the stem cells as the experiment got under way over the weekend.

The crew is also exploring how plants grow in space in order to provide food and oxygen for future long-duration missions. Plant samples were removed from a science freezer and placed in the Veggie facility for growth and observation. The spaceflight environment can change a plant’s genetic expression and growth pattern.

High-quality crystals are being grown on the International Space Station that otherwise couldn’t be grown on Earth due to gravity. The crystal samples are being studied for the Light Microscopy Module Biophysics-1 experiment to help researchers design new disease-fighting drugs.


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Dragon Attached to Station’s Harmony Module

Feb. 23 Space Station Configuration
The SpaceX Dragon was successfully installed to the Harmony module a few hours after it was captured with the Canadarm2. Credit: NASA

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was berthed to the Harmony module of the International Space Station at 8:12 a.m. EST. The hatch between the newly arrived spacecraft and the Harmony module of the space station is scheduled to be opened this afternoon. The capsule will spend about four weeks attached to the station.

For an overview of the science delivered to station aboard Dragon, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/SX10_science

With Dragon now berthed to station, the Expedition 50 crew will focus on its next cargo delivery, which is scheduled to arrive in less than 24 hours. The Russian Progress 66 was launched on Wednesday, Feb. 22 from Kazakhstan. It will arrive on station Friday morning for an automated docking at 3:34 a.m. EST and remain on the station until June. NASA Television will cover its arrival beginning at 2:45 a.m. EST.


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Russian Progress 66 Launches Cargo to Station

The Russian 66 Progress launched at 12:58 a.m. Wednesday (11:58 a.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Russian Progress 66 launched at 12:58 a.m. Wednesday (11:58 a.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The unpiloted Russian Progress 66 launched at 12:58 a.m. Wednesday (11:58 a.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It is now orbiting the planet on course for the International Space Station

The vehicle will deliver almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies to the Expedition 50 crew.

The spacecraft is set to dock to the Pirs docking compartment at 3:34 a.m. Friday, Feb. 24. NASA TV coverage of rendezvous and docking will begin at 2:45 a.m. Progress 66 will remain docked at the station for almost four months before departing in June for its deorbit into Earth’s atmosphere.

This was the first launch of a Progress cargo ship from Baikonur since the Progress 65 supply craft was lost Dec. 1, 2016.

Busy Traffic Week Ahead for Space Station Crew

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the company's 10th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Liftoff was at 9:39 a.m. EST from the historic launch site now operated by SpaceX under a property agreement with NASA.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the company’s 10th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Liftoff was at 9:39 a.m. EST from the historic launch site now operated by SpaceX under a property agreement with NASA.

Two cargo craft are scheduled to deliver several tons of supplies and experiment hardware to the station this week.

SpaceX’s tenth commercial resupply mission lifted off at 9:39 a.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 19. The rocket launched from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This was the first commercial launch from Kennedy’s historic pad.

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Shane Kimbrough of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Dragon when it arrives at the station. Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will begin at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22 on NASA TV and the agency’s website, with installation coverage set to begin at 8:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, the unpiloted Russian Progress 66 is scheduled for 12:58 a.m. Wednesday (11:58 a.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The spacecraft is set to dock to the Pirs docking compartment at 3:34 a.m. Friday, Feb. 24.

Aboard the station, the crew continued preparations for the arrival of the vehicles and set up several scientific experiments and technology demonstrations.

The Miniature Exercise Device (MED-2) was installed for a technical evaluation. MED-2 aims to demonstrate if small robotic actuators can provide motion and resistance for crew workout sessions, reducing the size and weight of exercise equipment for long-duration space missions.

Dragon Capture Training and Robonaut Power Check Today

Expedition 50 Astronauts and Robonaut
Expedition 50 astronauts (from left) Peggy Whitson, Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet pose with the humanoid Robonaut.

Three Expedition 50 crew members practiced today the robotic capture of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship when it arrives at the International Space Station two days after its launch. A humanoid robot, better known as Robonaut, had its power supply checked out during a full day of troubleshooting.

Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet partnered up and practiced capturing the Dragon cargo ship using the Canadarm2 robotic arm. The duo will be in the cupola Monday morning to capture Dragon following its 10:01 a.m. EST Saturday launch from Kennedy Space Center. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will assist her crewmates and monitor Dragon’s approach and rendezvous.

Dragon is packing nearly 5,500 pounds of crew supplies, station gear and advanced science experiments. Some of the research will look at new technologies to improve space travel, observation gear to study Earth’s ozone and processes to improve how medicine works.

Whitson worked throughout the day on the robotic astronaut assistant, Robonaut. She opened up Robonaut’s torso and checked its cables and computer cards searching for an intermittent fault in its power supply. Robonaut is being tested for its ability to assist astronauts in the future with routine tasks and high risk activities.


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Commander Sets Up Dragon Gear and Looks to April Crew Swap

Commander Shane Kimbrough
Commander Shane Kimbrough works with the SPHERES-Halo experiment. The investigation uses two small, self-contained satellites (SPHERES) fitted with donut like rings to test wireless power transfer and formation flight using electromagnetic fields.

The Expedition 50 crew is getting ready for the upcoming SpaceX CRS-10 mission to resupply the International Space Station. Commander Shane Kimbrough checked out SpaceX communications gear today so the astronauts can monitor the approach and rendezvous of the Dragon cargo craft.

SpaceX is targeting Feb. 18 to launch its Dragon space freighter atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Dragon is scheduled to arrive at the station two days later for a robotic capture and a month-long stay at the Harmony module

Kimbrough also joined Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet for periodic eye exams during the afternoon. The trio started the day collecting blood and urine samples and stowing them in a science freezer for later analysis on the ground. The ongoing human research helps doctors understand how living in space affects astronauts as NASA plans longer-term missions farther out into space.

Kimbrough and his Soyuz MS-02 crewmates Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko are now set to return to Earth April 10 officially ending the Expedition 50 mission. Whitson will become Expedition 51 commander and continue her stay on the station with fellow crew members Pesquet and cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy.

Two new Expedition 51 crew members will launch to the station April 20. Veteran cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronaut Jack Fischer will take a single-day ride inside the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft to begin their mission on orbit.


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Station Gets New Software and Life Science Gear

Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet
Astronauts Peggy Whitson (left) and Thomas Pesquet talk to ground controllers about an upcoming SpaceX Dragon cargo mission to resupply the crew.

The International Space Station is continuing to receive software updates to improve its spacecraft communications and navigation systems. Meanwhile, the astronauts today are setting up new life science gear and testing the docking ability of tiny internal satellites.

New software is being uplinked and installed on the station this week to increase the communications and control of approaching spacecraft. The crew will also replace portable computer hard drives with new ones after the software transition.

SpaceX is looking to launch its Dragon cargo craft no earlier than Feb. 18 on a two-day trip to deliver crew supplies and new science experiments to the Expedition 50 crew. One study being shipped on Dragon will explore healing and tissue regeneration to fight bone and tissue loss in space. Habitats with telemetry and video were installed for the study and will house rodents being launched aboard Dragon.

A pair of bowling ball-sized satellites, known as SPHERES, were deployed inside the Kibo lab module to test new algorithms and docking techniques. The SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) are used for numerous experiments including today’s study to demonstrate the ability for future spacecraft to autonomously dock and undock.

 

Life Science Preps and Software Updates at Station

Progress Resupply Ship Departs
The Progress 64 resupply ship is pictured departing the station Jan. 31, 2017, shortly after undocking from the Pirs Docking Compartment.

The Expedition 50 crew is getting the International Space Station ready for new experiments that will be delivered on the next SpaceX Dragon resupply mission. The station is also receiving a software update for its navigation and control systems.

Dragon is set to deliver new research gear for a variety of experiments exploring the benefits and risks of living in space. The crew began setting up the station today for a pair of those studies that will explore life science.

Cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko began installing habitats to house rodents for an exploration into bone and tissue loss caused by microgravity. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson set up new gear in the Microgravity Science Glovebox to cultivate human stem cells for evaluating their use in treating disease.

New software has been uplinked to the station to update its Guidance, Navigation and Control systems and its Command and Control systems. The updates will improve communications with spacecraft approaching the station and add new computer connectivity with docked vehicles.

Three Spaceships Targeting February and March Launches

Aurora
Stars, the aurora and the International Space Station’s solar arrays are seen in this picture taken Jan. 18, 2017.

The Expedition 50 crew is gearing up for three different spaceships in two months to resupply the International Space Station. The crew also worked today on a variety of research hardware and practiced an emergency drill.

Two U.S. companies are getting their rockets ready to deliver food, fuel, supplies and new science gear to the crew. SpaceX is first in line with a plan to launch their Dragon spacecraft atop its Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than Feb. 18. Next, Orbital ATK is targeting March 19 to launch their Cygnus spacecraft on its seventh resupply mission to the station. Both spaceships will be captured by the Canadarm2 robotic. The Dragon will be installed to the Harmony module and the Cygnus will be attached to the Unity module.

Russia is preparing its Progress 66 (66P) cargo craft for a Feb. 22 launch from Kazakhstan. The 66P will take a two-day trip to the orbital laboratory before automatically docking to the Pirs Docking Compartment.

Onboard the station, Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet spent the day in Japan’s Kibo lab module working on science gear maintenance. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson installed a leak locator in Kibo’s airlock that will be used to locate the source of an ammonia leak outside the Japanese lab.

Commander Shane Kimbrough and his Soyuz crewmates cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov got together in the afternoon an emergency descent drill. The trio practiced the procedures necessary to evacuate the station quickly in the unlikely event of an emergency and return to Earth inside their Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft.