The next crew to launch to the International Space Station is in Russia today for traditional ceremonies before heading to the launch site in Kazakhstan. Back in space, the Expedition 53 crew is preparing for the departure and arrival of a pair of cargo ships next week.
Three new crew members from Russia, the United States and Japan are getting ready for their Dec. 14 launch aboard the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft to the space station’s Rassvet module. The Expedition 54-55 crew consists of Soyuz Commander and veteran station resident Anton Shkaplerov and first-time Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai.
The trio was in Star City today talking to journalists before heading to Moscow to tour Red Square and lay flowers at the Kremlin Wall where famed cosmonauts are interred. Next, the crew will head to the launch site Dec. 4 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan where they will stay for final launch preparations at the Cosmonaut Hotel.
Meanwhile, the orbiting Expedition 53 crew is packing the Cygnus cargo craft with trash before it ends its mission next week. First, ground controllers will remotely detach Cygnus from the Unity module with the Canadarm2 on Dec. 5. Cygnus will then be maneuvered over the Harmony module for a GPS test to assist NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Next, astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba will take over the robotics controls and release Cygnus back into space on Dec. 6. It will orbit Earth until Dec. 18 then enter the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean for a fiery, but safe demise.
SpaceX is getting ready to replenish the station with its Dragon cargo craft scheduled to deliver about 4,800 pounds of crew supplies and science gear. Dragon is targeted to launch Dec. 8 from Florida atop a Falcon 9 rocket and take a two-day trip to the station. Vande Hei and Acaba are training to capture Dragon with the Canadarm2 when it reaches a point 10 meters from the station. Ground controllers will them remotely install Dragon to the Harmony module where it will stay until Jan. 6.
The International Space Station is orbiting slightly higher today to get ready for a pair of crews swapping places on the orbital laboratory in December. A Progress 67 resupply ship docked to the rear of the station fired its engines for just over three minutes this morning boosting the orbital lab to its correct altitude for next month’s crew departure and arrival.
Three Expedition 53 crew members from the United States, Russia and Italy are getting ready to return home just in time for the holidays. Commander Randy Bresnik and his cohorts Sergey Ryazanskiy from Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli from the European Space Agency are due to land Dec. 14 inside their Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft in Kazakhstan. From there, the veteran space trio will split up and return to their home space agencies about 24 hours later having just spent 139 days in space together.
Next up are three Expedition 54-55 crew members who will launch Dec. 17 for a two-day ride to the station inside the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft. Veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov from Roscosmos will be conducting his third tour aboard the orbital complex. Scott Tingle from NASA and Norishige Kanai from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will both be starting their first missions in space. All three will spend four months orbiting Earth.
Greeting the new crew when it arrives on Dec. 19 will be Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and NASA Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei who have been in space since Sept. 12. Misurkin will open the Rassvet module’s hatch where the Soyuz spacecraft will be docked and welcome the new crew members when they come flying in the station.
The Expedition 53 crew is configuring the orbital complex for a pair of cargo missions and a crew swap in December. Two colorful soccer ball-sized satellites were also floating around inside the International Space Station being tested today.
SpaceX has announced it is now targeting Dec. 8 for the launch of its Dragon cargo craft to the space station’s Harmony module. Among the variety of crew supplies and research gear Dragon will deliver are mice to be observed for the Rodent Research-6 muscle drug study. 20 mice will be housed in a rodent habitat that Vande Hei is configuring today in the U.S. Destiny laboratory.
Orbital ATK pushed back the release of its Cygnus resupply ship from the Unity module to Dec. 6 after the SpaceX announcement. Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei are preparing for the departure this week loading Cygnus with trash and training for its robotic release.
Acaba and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin were inside the Kibo laboratory module today testing a pair of tiny satellites better known as SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites). The SPHERES can be pre-programmed on Earth using algorithms to conduct a series of maneuvers demonstrating formation flying or rendezvous and docking techniques. Teams of high school students will be competing in January to see who can design the best maneuvering algorithms for the SPHERES on the station.
The Cygnus resupply ship is in its final week at the International Space Station and two astronauts are training for its departure on Monday. Meanwhile, a leg muscle study and CubeSat deployment operations are wrapping up today.
The duo will be inside the cupola commanding the Canadarm2 to release Cygnus back into Earth orbit on Dec. 4. Following its departure from the station, Cygnus will stay in orbit until Dec. 18 before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere for a fiery demise over the Pacific Ocean.
Commander Randy Bresnik and cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy are completing a final run of the Sarcolab-3 experiment today. That research is observing how leg muscles adapt to microgravity using magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound devices.
Finally, a satellite deployer that ejected a set of CubeSats last week, has been brought back inside the Kibo lab module. One of the CubeSats deployed, the EcAMSat that was delivered aboard Cygnus, is now orbiting Earth researching how the E. coli pathogen reacts to antibiotics in space.
The six-member Expedition 53 crew heads into Thanksgiving observing how living in space affects the human body and packing the Cygnus cargo craft. The orbital crewmates are also preparing for next month’s arrival of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.
Veteran space station residents Paolo Nespoli and Sergey Ryazanskiy were back inside the Columbus lab module today examining what microgravity is doing to their leg muscles. The duo took turns strapping themselves in a unique exercise chair and attaching electrodes to their knees. Next, the pair used magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound devices to observe the changes taking place in their legs in space.
NASA astronaut Joe Acaba transferred the TangoLab-1 multi-use science facility into the Cygnus space freighter for a demonstration today. TangoLab-1 is being tested inside Cygnus to determine the viability of using a cargo craft as a laboratory while docked at the International Space Station.
The next cargo craft to visit the station will be the SpaceX Dragon when it launches Dec. 4 aboard the Falcon 9 rocket from Florida. Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei trained today for the rendezvous and capture of Dragon when it arrives two days after its launch. Dragon will carry new science experiments to explore the Sun’s impact on Earth and improve the accuracy of a new diabetes implant device.
More CubeSats were ejected from the International Space Station today to demonstrate and validate new technologies. Back inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 53 crew continued outfitting an experimental module and studying life science.
Two more tiny satellites were deployed from the Kibo laboratory module into Earth orbit today to research a variety of new technologies and space weather. One of the nanosatellites, known as TechEdSat, seeks to develop and demonstrate spacecraft and payload deorbit techniques. The OSIRIS-3U CubeSat will measure the Earth’s ionosphere in coordination with the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
Eye exams are on the schedule this week as two cosmonauts and two astronauts took turns playing eye doctor and patient today. Alex Misurkin and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos started first with the optical coherence tomography hardware using a laptop computer. Next, Nespoli and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei took their turn to help doctors on the ground understand the vision changes that take place in space.
An experimental module attached to the International Space Station is being prepared for upcoming cargo operations. Tiny research satellites were also ejected from the orbital lab while a pair of Expedition 53 crew members scanned their leg muscles today.
BEAM, officially called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, is being outfitted this week for future stowage operations. Excess gear, including inflation tanks and dynamic sensors, used during its initial expansion back in May of 2016 is being removed to make room for new cargo. BEAM’s old gear and trash will now be stowed in the Cygnus resupply craft for disposal early next month.
Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli and Sergey Ryazanskiy spent Monday exploring how the lack of gravity affects leg muscles. Nespoli strapped himself into a specialized exercise chair and attached electrodes to his leg with assistance from Ryazanskiy. The Sarcolab-3 experiment uses measurements from an ultrasound device and magnetic resonance imaging to observe impacts to the muscles and tendons of a crew member.
Expedition 53 checked out a specialized microscope and worked on the International Space Station’s toilet today. More supplies and hardware are also being offloaded from the newly-arrived Cygnus cargo craft.
Commander Randy Bresnik opened up the Fluids Integrated Rack this morning to take a look at its Light Microscopy Module (LMM), an advanced space microscope. He was troubleshooting the device and swapping out its cables. The LMM provides a facility to examine the microscopic properties of different types of fluids in microgravity.
European Space Agency Paolo Nespoli worked on space plumbing throughout the day in the station’s restroom, the Waste and Hygiene Compartment (WHC). The veteran station resident removed and replaced valves and sensors in the WHC as part regular preventative maintenance.
More crew supplies and research gear are being unloaded from Cygnus today to outfit the crew and continue ongoing space science experiments. NASA astronaut Joe Acaba was unpacking food, batteries and computer gear for stowage throughout the station. The second-time station resident was also removing Genes in Space gear and blood sample kits for upcoming science work.
The Expedition 53 astronauts are continuing to unload several thousand pounds of space cargo from the new Cygnus resupply ship that arrived Tuesday morning. Some of the new science cargo contains a bacteria that curiously loses its harmful properties in microgravity and CubeSats that will be deployed in Earth orbit.
The Cygnus is now installed on the Unity module and open for business. The astronauts entered the cargo craft Tuesday and started replenishing the station with almost 7,400 pounds of crew supplies, science experiments, spacewalk gear, station hardware and computer parts.
Some of the new research payloads will be looking at the space impacts on microbiology and botany. The advanced space research will explore the effectiveness of antibiotics on astronauts and observe how plants absorb nutrients in microgravity. Some pathogens for the STaARS Bioscience-5 study delivered aboard Cygnus have also been safely transferred to the NEXUS facility for later observation.
A couple of the newest technology experiments will deploy CubeSats to explore laser communications and hybrid solar panels. Scientists will study the ability of small satellites to communicate with each other using lasers and also explore if a combination of antenna and solar cells can speed up communication rates.
The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:15 a.m. EST. The spacecraft will spend about three weeks attached to the space station before departing in early December. 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 support Expedition 53 and 54. Highlights include:
The coli AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat) mission, which will investigate the effect of microgravity on the antibiotic resistance of E. coli, a bacterial pathogen responsible for urinary tract infection in humans and animals. Antibiotic resistance could pose a danger to astronauts, especially since microgravity has been shown to weaken human immune response. The experiment will expose two strains of E. coli to three different doses of antibiotics; one of these strains is deficient in the gene responsible for the increased antibiotic resistance in microgravity. Results from this investigation could help determine appropriate antibiotic dosages to protect astronaut health during long-duration missions and help us understand how antibiotic effectiveness may be increased in microgravity, as well as on Earth.
The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) project, which will study high-speed optical transmission of data and small spacecraft proximity operations. It will test functionality of laser-based communications using CubeSats that provide a compact version of the technology. Results from OCSD could lead to significantly enhanced communication speeds between space and Earth and a better understanding of laser communication between small satellites in low-Earth orbit.
The Biological Nitrogen Fixation in Microgravity via Rhizobium-Legume Symbiosis (Biological Nitrogen Fixation) investigation, which will examine how low-gravity conditions affect the nitrogen fixation process of Microclover, a resilient and drought tolerant legume. The nitrogen fixation process, a process by which nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into a usable form for living organisms, is a crucial element of any ecosystem necessary for most types of plant growth. This investigation could provide information on the space viability of the legume’s ability to use and recycle nutrients and give researchers a better understanding of this plant’s potential uses on Earth.
The Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA), a hybrid solar power panel and communication solar antenna that can send and receive messages, will test the use of this technology in CubeSat-based environmental monitoring. ISARA may provide a solution for sending and receiving information to and from faraway destinations, both on Earth and in space.
Learn more about the Orbital ATK CRS-8 mission by going to the mission home page at: http://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @Space_Station.