Robotic Arm Reaches Out and Grapples Cygnus

Robotic Arm Reaches Out and Grapples Cygnus
The Canadarm2 robotic arm is seen grappling the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship on Nov. 14, 2017. Credit: NASA TV

At 5:04 a.m., Expedition 53 Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) and Randy Bresnik of NASA successfully captured Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft using the International Space Station’s robotic arm. Robotic ground controllers will position Cygnus for installation to the orbiting laboratory’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module.

NASA Television coverage of installation will begin at 6:15 a.m., and installation of the Cygnus spacecraft to the space station is expected to be completed later this morning.

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.

Cygnus Races To Station as Crew Studies Life Science and Space Crops

Cygnus Launches Aboard Antares Rocket
The Cygnus resupply ship launches aboard the Antares rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Cygnus resupply ship from Orbital ATK is less than 24 hours away from a rendezvous and capture at the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the Expedition 53 crew members are conducting human research and exploring growing crops in space.

Cygnus is in Earth orbit today conducting a series of orbital maneuvers refining its path to the space station Tuesday morning. Astronauts Paolo Nespoli and Randy Bresnik will be in the cupola early tomorrow waiting to capture Cygnus with the Canadarm2 at 4:50 a.m. EST. NASA TV will broadcast the capture and installation of Cygnus to the Unity module beginning at 3:15 a.m.

Bresnik and fellow NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba also worked on some biomedical experiments today helping doctors understand how humans adapt to microgravity. Bresnik collected his blood and urine samples and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. Vande Hei and Acaba measured and recorded their body mass to observe bone and muscle impacts of living in space.

Acaba is also harvesting and eating cabbage, lettuce and mizuna today to learn how plants grow in space. Results may help astronauts grow their own food helping NASA plan longer missions in outer space.

 

Lift Off of the Antares Rocket with Cygnus

The Antares rocket lifts off with the Cygnus cargo craft aboard
The Antares rocket lifts off with the Cygnus cargo craft aboard. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft lifted off at 7:19 a.m. EST and is on its way to the International Space Station.

About an hour and half after launch, commands will be given to deploy the spacecraft’s solar arrays.

Launch coverage will continue on NASA TV at http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv until shortly after spacecraft separation and then resume for solar array deployment, which is expected to last about 30 minutes.

A post-launch news conference will follow and is scheduled to begin on NASA TV at approximately 10:30 a.m.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Crew Tests New Workouts and Lights as Rocket Preps for Launch

Antares Rocket
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is raised into vertical position at the launch pad Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The Expedition 53 crew is working out on a new exercise device today and testing new lights for their impact on health. Back on Earth, a new resupply rocket stands at its launch pad ready for a Saturday launch to the International Space Station.

Astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei worked out on the new Mini-Exercise Device-2 (MED-2) this morning performing dead lifts and rowing exercises. The duo tested its ability to provide reliable, effective workouts despite its smaller size to increase the habitability of a spacecraft.

Vande Hei is also analyzing the station’s new solid-state light-emitting diodes that are replacing older fluorescent lights. He conducted a series of tests throughout the day to determine how they impact crew sleep patterns and cognitive performance.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft is encapsulated inside the Antares rocket and now stands vertical at the launch pad at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus is due to launch Saturday at 7:37 a.m. EDT with about 7,400 pounds of new science experiments and fresh supplies for the Expedition 53 crew.

Cygnus will unfurl its cymbal-like UltraFlex solar arrays less than two hours after launch as it begins a two-day trip to the International Space Station. Astronaut Paolo Nespoli will command the Canadarm2 from the Cupola to grapple Cygnus when it arrives Monday morning at 5:40 a.m. Commander Randy Bresnik will back up Nespoli and monitor the approach and rendezvous.

Cygnus Training, Respiratory Health and Performance Studies Today

Himalayas
This photograph taken on Nov. 5, 2017, shows a portion of the Himalayan mountain range as the International Space Station orbited about 250 miles above.

Two astronauts are training for Monday’s planned arrival of Orbital ATK’s newest Cygnus cargo craft dubbed the S.S. Eugene Cernan. The crew is also analyzing the International Space Station’s atmosphere and studying how crew performance adapts to microgravity.

Orbital ATK is counting down to a Veteran’s Day launch of its Cygnus spacecraft atop an Antares rocket from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rocket is scheduled to blast off Saturday at 7:37 a.m. EST with about 7,400 pounds of science gear and crew supplies packed inside Cygnus.

Commander Randy Bresnik and Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli are training today to capture Cygnus with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Nespoli will command the Canadarm2 to grapple Cygnus at 5:40 a.m. Monday when it reaches a point about 10 meters from the station. Bresnik will back up Nespoli and monitor the spacecraft’s approach and rendezvous.

Astronaut Mark Vande Hei has been helping doctors this week understand the risk of living inside the closed environment of a spacecraft for the Airway Monitoring study. He set up gear to analyze the air in the space station for dust and gases that could inflame an astronaut’s respiratory system. Results will help doctors improve crew health as NASA plans human missions farther and longer into space.

Nespoli started his day studying how floating in space impacts interacting with touch-based technologies and other sensitive equipment. Observations from the Fine Motor Skills study may influence the design of future spaceships and space habitats.

Crew Studies Health Impacts of Space Radiation and Station Atmosphere

Astronaut Joe Acaba
Astronaut Joe Acaba works on U.S. spacesuit gear inside the Quest airlock.

The Expedition 53 crew explored ways to protect astronauts from space radiation as well as dust particles floating inside a spacecraft. The residents of the International Space Station also worked on cosmic ray gear, a U.S. spacesuit and audio equipment.

European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli tested a personal radiation shielding garment today. Water, used for its shielding properties, is placed in garment containers that cover organs that are especially sensitive to cosmic radiation.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei studied how gases and dust in the station’s atmosphere impact breathing aboard a spacecraft. He set up ultra-sensitive monitors that analyze exhaled air to detect crew health impacts. Results will help doctors and engineers improve conditions for future astronauts traveling longer and farther into space.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba worked on a U.S. spacesuit’s water system before changing out a hard drive and installing new software on a support laptop for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer cosmic ray detector. Commander Randy Bresnik replaced faulty electronics gear inside the Harmony module restoring power to an internal audio speaker unit.

Cygnus Cargo Mission Due for Launch on Veteran’s Day

 

Orbital ATK Cygnus
The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft is seen just before being released from the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm on February 19, 2016.

Orbital ATK’s eighth commercial cargo mission is set to launch to the International Space Station at 7:37 a.m. EST Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11. The Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo craft will blast off from Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, with over 7,000 pounds of food, supplies and research gear.

Two astronauts will be inside the cupola commanding the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Cygnus when it arrives Monday at 5:40 a.m. Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli will capture Cygnus, dubbed the “SS Gene Cernan”, assisted by Commander Randy Bresnik. Cygnus will deliver numerous advanced science experiments exploring a wide variety of subjects including communication and navigation, microbiology, animal biology and plant biology.

Meanwhile, the orbiting Expedition 53 crew members continued investigating biology and robotics in microgravity.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei collected and stowed saliva samples today that will be analyzed later for a study on the human immune system and metabolism. Bresnik took panoramic photographs inside the Kibo laboratory module to prepare for the upcoming Astrobee experiment. Astrobee consists of three free-flying, cube-shaped robots that will be tested for their ability to assist astronauts and ground controllers.

On top of the world

Mark Vande Hei exercises
View of Mark Vande Hei, Expedition 53 flight engineer, exercising on the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT) T2 aboard the space station. Image Credit: NASA

When you’re on top of the world—or orbiting it—there’s no better place to be. NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) had a late night yesterday, staying up to watch a special uplink from Mission Control: Game 7 of the World Series. The winning outcome was cause for celebration, as the Astros have many fans at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, which is home base for the astronauts.

Today, the crew worked to size up the exercise equipment they rely on to sustain muscle mass and prevent bone loss while living and working in space. They set up cameras in Node 3 to capture video from multiple angles of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and Miniature Exercise Device (MED-2) hardware, applied body markers, performed exercises and transferred the video for delivery to Mission Control. Aboard ISS, the exercise equipment is large and bulky, which is OK because the orbiting laboratory is about the size of a three-bedroom house. But, for Mars or other destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, available space will be difficult to come by. MED-2 aims to demonstrate that small robotic actuators can provide the same quality motion and resistance for crew workout sessions, thus reducing the size and weight of exercise devices for space missions farther out and lengthier in duration. Evaluating MED-2’s game-changing technology is crucial to the design and development of second- and third-generation hardware that is much lighter, smaller and more reliable than what is used now.

An Expedition 53 crew member read “Notable Notebooks Scientists and Their Writings Read” on camera for Story Time from Space. These recordings are downlinked and then used in schools, combining science literacy with simple concept experiments that children can follow along with on the ground. The videos are posted in a library with accompanying educational materials, further promoting science, technology, engineering and math to budding scientists, engineers and explorers.

The station’s altitude was raised last night during a three minute, 26-second firing of the ISS Progress 67 thrusters. The reboost of the complex was the first of two such maneuvers this month to set up the correct trajectory for the landing of the Expedition 53 crew on Dec. 14 in south central Kazakhstan and the launch, three days later, of the Expedition 54-55 crew from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Station Crew Continues Prep for Eighth Orbital ATK Launch

Cygnus
Cygnus is an autonomous cargo vehicle that provides commercial cargo resupply services to the International Space Station. Its next launch is targeted for Nov. 11. Image Credit: NASA

Routine—and not-so-routine—housekeeping duties continue for Expedition 53 aboard the International Space Station in preparation for an upcoming Orbital ATK 8 (OA-8) commercial launch targeted for Nov. 11.

The crewmates prepared the Permanent Multipurpose Module rack fronts to accept cargo by moving smaller items off and staging them for disposal. During OA-8 cargo operations, the items marked for disposal will be swapped with new cargo arriving aboard OA-8.

During Orbital ATK’s eighth Cygnus resupply mission, the cargo craft will make a nine-minute ascent to space and then begin a two-day trek to the space station. Upon arrival, it will captured by Canadarm2 and installed for a month-long stay. Tonight, ground teams will reboost the station using the thrusters on Progress 67, which will put it at the proper altitude to meet up with Cygnus.

The crew also spent part of the workday photo documenting their uncommon “home life” aboard the orbiting laboratory for the Canadian Space Agency study called At Home in Space. This investigation assesses the culture, values and psychosocial adaptation of astronauts to a space environment shared by multinational crews during long mission timeframes. Questionnaires answered by the crew will help answer if astronauts develop a unique, shared space culture as an adaptive strategy for handling the cultural differences they encounter in their isolated and confined environment by creating a home in space.

For Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA, their day was punctuated by an educational downlink with students from Shaker Heights High School in Cleveland, Ohio. The students were immersed in the science and technology studies being executed daily approximately 240 miles above Earth.