Station Hosts CubeSat Launch and Human Research

Cygnus with Florida and Cuba Below
The Cygnus cargo craft is pictured as the station orbits above the state of Florida and the country of Cuba.

The International Space Station is an orbiting platform to continuously explore a wide variety of space science both inside and outside the orbital lab to benefit humans and industry.

For example, the five Expedition 51 crew members continued helping scientists understand what happens to the body when living in outer space. Also, more CubeSats were ejected into orbit today to study a wide variety of phenomena.

Wednesday marked the third day the crew has worked on the Genes in Space studies, with both the second and third iteration taking place this week. Genes in Space-2 is looking at telomere changes in space which contributes to understanding how spaceflight affects telomere length and, in turn, astronaut health on future space missions. Genes in Space-3 seeks to establish a robust, user-friendly deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sample preparation process to enable biological monitoring aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Today was Commander Peggy Whitson’s turn to try on a unique suit that reverses the upward flow of fluids in astronaut’s body. The Lower Body Negative Pressure suit is being examined for its ability to counteract the effects of weightlessness and keep astronaut’s healthy.

Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Jack Fischer, in conjunction with doctors on Earth, participated in today’s Fluid Shifts study and scanned Whitson’s arteries with an ultrasound device. Results from this experiment may help doctors develop therapies to prevent lasting changes in vision and eye damage.

Japan’s Kibo lab module contains a small satellite deployer that was extended outside its airlock this week to eject numerous types of Cubesats safely into space. Today’s collection of CubeSats now orbiting Earth will study the Earth’s thermosphere properties and test experimental radar systems for up to two years.


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CubeSats Deployed While Astronauts Study Effects of Space

Earth's Atmospheric Glow
Earth’s atmospheric glow, the stars of the Milky Way and an external pallet at the tip of Japan’s Kibo lab module are seen in this night time photograph from Oct. 10, 2016.

New CubeSats were deployed into outer space from the International Space Station today to study Earth and space phenomena. Meanwhile, back inside the station the Expedition 51 crew continued exploring how the human body adapts to living in space.

Ground controllers commanded a small satellite deployer to eject six Cubesats from outside the Japanese Kibo lab module. The tiny shoebox-sized satellites will orbit Earth observing the Earth’s upper atmosphere and interstellar radiation left over from the Big Bang.

Just after the Cubesats began their mission, three Expedition 51 crew members continued exploring how to reverse the upward flow of fluids in astronaut’s body. Flight Engineers Thomas Pesquet and Oleg Novitskiy tested a special suit that may offset the effects of microgravity possibly alleviating eye and head pressure. The duo also conducted eye checks with assistance from veteran cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and support from doctors on the ground.

Commander Peggy Whitson was back in the U.S. Destiny lab studying how bones adjust to weightlessness. She was inserting bone cell samples into a science freezer for analysis on Earth. Scientists are studying the mechanisms that drive bone loss in space with potential benefits for the treatment of bone diseases on Earth.


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Crew Observes Space Effects on Bone Cells and Fluid Shifts

Astronaut Jack Fischer
Astronaut Jack Fischer works outside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module during a spacewalk on May 12, 2017.

The Expedition 51 crew members are back at work today on human research after a historic 200th spacewalk at the International Space Station on Friday. More Cubesats also are being prepared for deployment outside the Japanese Kibo lab module this week.

Commander Peggy Whitson continued studying bone cells using the Microgravity Science Glovebox research facility. She swapped out bone cell samples inside the glovebox and stowed them inside a science freezer to be analyzed later back on Earth. The experiment may help doctors treat bone diseases on Earth and keep astronauts strong and healthy in space.

Flight Engineers Jack Fischer, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Novitskiy tested a unique suit that reverses the upward flow of fluids in an astronaut’s body. Fluid Shifts is a joint NASA-Russian experiment that investigates the causes of lasting physical changes to astronauts’ eyes. Results from this study may help to develop preventative measures against lasting changes in vision and eye damage. Fischer and Novitskiy wore the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit undergoing fluid pressure checks and ultrasound scans. Yurchikhin and ground support personnel assisted the duo.

Fischer started his day loading a CubeSat deployer in the Kibo lab module’s airlock. The deployer will be extended outside the airlock into the vacuum of space and eject more CubeSats studying a variety of Earth and space phenomena.


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200th Spacewalk at Station Begins

Astronaut Peggy Whitson
Astronaut Peggy Whitson is pictured during her eighth spacewalk which took place March 30, 2017.

The 200th spacewalk aboard the International Space Station began this morning at 9:08 a.m. EDT for a spacewalk planned to last about four hours.

Managers in mission control decided to shorten the spacewalk from the original six and a half hour plan, due to available battery power for the spacesuits. During earlier spacewalk preparations, Whitson and Fischer shared a service and cooling umbilical (SCU) after a small water leak was detected in a second SCU that was connected the Fischer’s suit. This was not a leak in Fischer’s suit. The SCU is an airlock component used to provide electricity, cooling and communications to the crew while performing their pre-breathe activities in the Equipment Lock. The sharing of the SCU resulted in additional draw in battery power from the suits during preparations while in the Equipment Lock, reducing the battery power available for use during the spacewalk.

During the abbreviated spacewalk, Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA will tackle the principle objective to replace a large avionics box that supplies electricity and data connections to the science experiments, and replacement hardware stored outside the station. The ExPRESS Carrier Avionics, or ExPCA is located on the starboard 3 truss of the station on one of the depots housing critical spare parts.

Watch the spacewalk on NASA TV and on the agency’s website.

Whitson is wearing the suit with red stripes as extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1). Fischer, extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), is wearing the suit with no stripes.


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Two Astronauts Set For 200th Station Spacewalk Today

Space Selfie
This space selfie was taken during the last spacewalk on March 30 with astronauts Peggy Whitson and Shane Kimbrough.

Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA will venture outside the International Space Station for a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk Friday, May 12. The spacewalk will begin at about 8 a.m. EDT, with complete coverage on NASA Television and the agency’s website starting at 6:30 a.m.

Whitson and Fischer will replace a large avionics box that supplies electricity and data connections to the science experiments, and replacement hardware stored outside the station. The ExPRESS Carrier Avionics, or ExPCA is located on the starboard 3 truss of the station on one of the depots housing critical spare parts. It will be replaced with a unit delivered to the station last month aboard the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo spacecraft.

This will be the 200th spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance. Whitson, who already holds the U.S. record for most spacewalks by a female astronaut, will make this ninth excursion as extravehicular crew member 1, wearing the suit with red stripes. Fischer, extravehicular crew member 2, will wear the suit with no stripes on his first-ever spacewalk.


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Astronauts Wrap Up Preps for 200th Station Spacewalk

Astronaut Jack Fischer
Astronaut Jack Fischer is pictured wearing a U.S. spacesuit during a fit check in preparation for his first spacewalk.

Commander Peggy Whitson will work outside the space station for the ninth time in her career on Friday. She will be joined by Flight Engineer Jack Fischer who will embark on his first spacewalk. The duo will exit the Quest airlock around 8 a.m. EDT for about 6.5 hours of external tasks.

They will replace an avionics box that provides power to science experiments, install a shield on the Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 and rig a new high-definition camera and pair of wireless antennas. NASA TV will broadcast live the 200th spacewalk at the station for assembly and maintenance starting at 6:30 a.m.

Whitson is also in the second week of a study that explores the differences in bone structure on Earth and in space. She swapped bone cell media inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox which is then stowed inside a science freezer. The experiment samples will be returned to Earth on a future SpaceX Dragon mission for analysis by scientists.


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Bone and Muscle Studies, Spacewalk Preps and New Crew Intro Today

Commander Peggy Whitson
Commander Peggy Whitson works on an experiment in the Microgravity Science Glovebox, a facility suited for working with and containing liquids, particles and hazardous materials.

The Expedition 51 crew reviewed Friday’s spacewalk today and researched how the human body adapts to microgravity. At the Johnson Space Center, three future International Space Station crew members introduced themselves live on NASA TV.

Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer reviewed procedures for Friday morning’s spacewalk this morning. The duo will replace an avionics box that sends electricity and data to science experiments installed outside the space station. Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet will assist the spacewalkers from inside the station. This will be the 200th spacewalk at the station for assembly and maintenance, the ninth for Whitson and the first for Fischer.

Whitson also continued researching the differences in bone growth in space versus Earth. Pesquet then joined cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin for a muscle study using electrodes attached to their legs while exercising.

NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin talked about their upcoming Expedition 53-54 mission today from Houston. The trio’s mission is due to launch Sept. 13 and stay on orbit until March 2018.

Expedition 53-54 Crew Members
Future station crew members (from left) Joe Acaba, Alexander Misurkin and Mark Vande Hei introduced themselves at NASA’s Johnson Space Center today. They are due to launch to space in September.

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Spacewalk on Friday After Successful Robotics Work

Astronaut Jack Fischer
Astronaut Jack Fischer works inside the cupola with the Soyuz and Cygnus spaceships right outside the windows.

The Expedition 51 crew is getting ready for a spacewalk Friday and working on several scientific investigations. Robotics controllers also swapped out a power relay box over the weekend through a complex and innovative robotic procedure.

Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer will exit the International Space Station for a 6.5-hour spacewalk on Friday. The duo will replace an avionics box that routes command and data information to external science experiments. Friday’s spacewalk will be the 200th at the station for assembly and maintenance, the ninth for Whitson and the first for Fischer.

Whitson continued more research today comparing how bones adapt to space versus on Earth. Fischer stowed leaves that were harvested for the Veg-03 botany study and stowed them in a science freezer.

Friday evening and into Saturday, Robotics Ground Controllers maneuvered the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM) Arms and successfully removed a failed Main Bus Switching Unit-2 and replaced it with a spare. The MBSU in question had stopped communicating telemetry back on April 25 but was still routing power to station systems.

The crew had installed a series of jumpers to power systems connected to the MBSU during the replacement, ensuring no impact to continued station operations. This was the first time an MBSU was swapped out by means other than a spacewalk. Since the successful replacement, the MBSU was powered up and checked out successfully with all station systems back to nominal power configuration.


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Bone Loss Research, DNA Tech on Station Seeks to Improve Health

Fyodor Yurchikhin and Jack Fischer
Expedition 15 crew members Fyodor Yurchikhin and Jack Fischer take a break during mealtime in the Unity module.

The five-member crew aboard the International Space Station was back at work Thursday researching how living in space affects the human body. Two of today’s experiments looked at how microgravity weakens bones and alters DNA.

Commander Peggy Whitson joined Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet for the OsteoOmics bone loss study. The experiment compares bone loss in the free-floating environment of microgravity versus magnetic levitation on Earth and observes the molecular changes that place. Results may improve the health of crews in space and humans on Earth, possibly counteracting bone loss and preventing bone diseases.

Pesquet later checked samples for the Genes In Space experiment that is based on a winning proposal submitted during a student science competition. That study is testing new technology to track how a space mission alters an astronaut’s DNA and impacts their immune system.

The rest of the crew, including NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Novitskiy, split their time between loading a Russian cargo craft, crew orientation and systems maintenance.


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Crew Researches Bone Loss, New Exercises and Emergency Training

Expedition 51 and Cygnus
The Expedition 51 crew poses for a portrait with the captured Cygnus resupply ship just outside the cupola. In the foreground is Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin. In the background from left, are Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineers Jack Fischer, Thomas Pesquet and Oleg Novitskiy.

The Expedition 51 quintet studied how long-term space missions affect bone loss and explored new ways to exercise in space today. The crew also reviewed emergency procedures and equipment onboard the International Space Station.

Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet set up samples today for the OsteoOmics bone study that will last four weeks on the station. Doctors are researching the molecular mechanisms that impact the bones of astronauts living in space. The experiment could lead to therapeutic insights improving the health of astronauts in space and humans on Earth.

New Flight Engineer Jack Fischer performed an ultrasound scan of his leg muscles with assistance from Whitson and remote guidance from ground personnel. The ultrasound data is being collected for the Sprint study that is exploring the benefits of high-intensity, low-volume exercise to maintain muscle, bone and heart functions.

Whitson and Fischer then joined veteran cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin for a couple of hours of emergency training. The trio took note of safety gear locations, followed escape paths to the docked Soyuz vehicles and inspected hatches for proper clearances.


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