The Expedition 56 crew resumed a regular schedule of work Friday on the International Space Station after spending the day Thursday locating and repairing a leak in the upper section of one of the two Russian Soyuz vehicles attached to the complex.
With the station’s cabin pressure holding steady, most of the crew pressed ahead with a variety of scientific experiments. Station Commander Drew Feustel of NASA prepared tools to be used in a pair of spacewalks late next month to complete the change out of batteries on the port truss of the outpost. Six new lithium-ion batteries will be transported to the station in September on the Japanese HTV Transfer Vehicle, or HTV-7 cargo craft, that will replace a dozen older nickel-hydrogen batteries in a duplication of work conducted last year on the station’s starboard truss.
Flight controllers at the Mission Control Centers in Houston and Moscow, meanwhile, continued to monitor pressure levels on the station following the patching of a small hole Thursday in the orbital module, or upper portion of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft. The Soyuz is docked to the Rassvet module on the Earth-facing side of the Russian segment. The tiny hole created a slight loss in pressure late Wednesday and early Thursday before it was repaired by Soyuz commander Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos.
The crew plans a quiet weekend before embarking on a busy schedule of research and routine maintenance work next week.
The International Space Station’s cabin pressure is holding steady after the Expedition 56 crew conducted repair work on one of two Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the complex. The repair was made to address a leak that had caused a minor reduction of station pressure.
After a morning of investigations, the crew reported that the leak was isolated to a hole about two millimeters in diameter in the orbital compartment, or upper section, of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the Rassvet module of the Russian segment of the station.
Flight controllers at their respective Mission Control centers in Houston and Moscow worked together with the crew to effect a repair option in which Soyuz commander Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos used epoxy on a gauze wipe to plug the hole identified as the leak source. As the teams were discussing options, flight controllers in Moscow performed a partial increase of the station’s atmosphere using the ISS Progress 70 cargo ship’s oxygen supply. Flight controllers in Houston are continuing to monitor station’s cabin pressure in the wake of the repair.
Meanwhile, Roscosmos has convened a commission to conduct further analysis of the possible cause of the leak.
Throughout the day, the crew was never in any danger, and was told no further action was contemplated for the remainder of the day. Flight controllers will monitor the pressure trends overnight.
All station systems are stable and the crew is planning to return to its regular schedule of work on Friday.
International Space Station Status
11:20 a.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 30. 2018
The crew aboard the International Space Station is conducting troubleshooting and repair work today after the discovery of a tiny leak last night traced to the Russian segment of the orbital complex.
The leak, which was detected Wednesday night by flight controllers as the Expedition 56 crew slept, resulted in a small loss of cabin pressure. Flight controllers determined there was no immediate danger to the crew overnight. Upon waking at their normal hour, the crew’s first task was to work with flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston and at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow to locate the source of the leak.
The leak has been isolated to a hole about two millimeters in diameter in the orbital compartment, or upper section, of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the Rassvet module of the Russian segment. This is a section of the Soyuz that does not return to Earth.
The rate of the leak was slowed this morning through the temporary application of Kapton tape at the leak site. Flight controllers are working with the crew to develop a more comprehensive long-term repair.
Once the patching is complete, additional leak checks will be performed. All station systems are stable, and the crew is in no danger as the work to develop a long-term repair continues.
International Space Station Status
6 a.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 30. 2018
About 7 p.m. EDT Wednesday, International Space Station flight controllers in Houston and Moscow began seeing signs of a minute pressure leak in the complex.
As flight controllers monitored their data, the decision was made to allow the Expedition 56 crew to sleep since they were in no danger. When the crew was awakened at its normal hour this morning, flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston and at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow began working procedures to try to determine the location of the leak.
The six crew members, station Commander Drew Feustel, Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, gathered in the Russian segment of the station and, after extensive checks, reported that the leak appears to be on the Russian side of the orbital outpost.
Program officials and flight controllers are continuing to monitor the situation as the crew works through its troubleshooting procedures.
The six residents aboard the International Space Station today continued exploring how living in space impacts their bodies. The Expedition 56 crew also worked on science hardware and life support gear to ensure the orbital complex is in tip-top shape.
Three astronauts helped doctors understand what is happening to their eyes in the weightless environment of microgravity. One crew member has also worked all week on a pair of European experiments researching what happens during exercise and cognition on long-term missions in space.
NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Serena Auñón-Chancellor joined ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst for more regularly scheduled eye checks today. Arnold led the morning’s retina scans using optical coherence tomography on the other two crewmates. Later in the afternoon, Auñón-Chancellor and Gerst swapped medical roles and peered into each other’s eyes looking out the optic disc and macula with a fundoscope.
Gerst continued working out today in a custom t-shirt in a specialized fabric testing its comfort and thermal relief for the SpaceTex-2 study. He then moved on to the GRIP study exploring how microgravity impacts an astronaut’s cognition when working with tools and interfaces aboard spacecraft.
September is scheduled to be a busy month for the Expedition 56 crew aboard the International Space Station. Japan is preparing to launch its seventh resupply mission and three astronauts are gearing up for two spacewalks next month.
Today, a pair of astronauts familiarized themselves with the robotics maneuvers they will use when they capture Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) on Sept. 14. The HTV-7, also called the Kounotori, will launch Sept. 10 from the Tanegashima Space Center loaded with crew supplies, new science hardware and critical spacewalk gear.
Commander Drew Feustel will be supported by Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor inside the Cupola as he controls the Canadarm2 to reach out and grapple the HTV-7. Robotics controllers on the ground will then take over and install Kounotori on the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port. NASA TV will broadcast live all of Kounotori’s launch, rendezvous and capture activities.
A pair of spacewalks will take place soon after the Kounotori arrives when robotics controllers begin removing new batteries from the Japanese resupply ship. The six lithium-ion batteries, replacing 12 older nickel-hydrogen batteries, will be installed on the space station’s Port 4 truss structure power channels during the two spacewalks on Sept 20 and 26.
Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst will participate in both spacewalks. Commander Drew Feustel will join him on the first spacewalk. Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold will go out on the second spacewalk. Gerst and Feustel began inspecting and resizing their U.S. spacesuits this morning. Feustel then moved on checking spacesuit gloves and helmets before finally collecting spacewalk tools.
The Expedition 56 crew members started off the work week with biomedical studies and human research to understand how living in space impacts their bodies. The crew conducted eye and vision tests, tried on a specialized exercise t-shirt and researched gene expression and protein crystals.
Five of the six International Space Station residents participated in a series of regularly scheduled eye exams and vision checks today. Each crew member covered an eye and read a standard eye chart to test their visual acuity. Next, Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Commander Drew Feustel scanned their eyes with an ultrasound device to look at the optical nerve and retina. Finally, Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Alexander Gerst used a Tonometer to measure eye pressure.
Arnold started his morning extracting RNA to help researchers decipher the changes in gene expression that take place in microgravity. Feustel photographed protein crystal samples with a microscope to help doctors develop more effective disease-treating drugs on Earth.
Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) worked out today in a custom SpaceTex-2 t-shirt for an exercise study testing its comfort and thermal relief while working out in space. He then moved on to the GRIP study exploring how an astronaut’s cognitive ability adapts when gripping and manipulating objects in space.
Ongoing exercise research and gym maintenance took place aboard the International Space Station to ensure astronaut health and mission success. The Expedition 56 crew members also worked on autonomous satellite operations and botany and astronomy gear.
A treadmill is getting its twice-yearly checkup today in the Tranquility module. Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA spent Friday morning checking the treadmill’s belt tension, greasing axles and replacing parts. Engineers on the ground will review its condition before the crew gets back on the treadmill for daily runs.
Commander Drew Feustel set up a pair of tiny internal satellites today, known as SPHERES, and tested the autonomous operation of the free-floating devices. The SmoothNav experiment is researching using algorithms that spacecraft may use to operate and communicate with each other when conducting space-based tasks.
NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold worked on botany and astronomy gear inside the orbital lab. The former teacher reinstalled the Plant Habitat during the morning after some maintenance work on the Japan Kibo lab module’s EXPRESS rack.
In the afternoon, Arnold switched to the METEOR experiment installing new computer software and positioning a camera in the U.S. Destiny lab module’s Window Observational Research Facility. METEOR observes and takes spectral measurements of the chemical composition of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere.
A Russian cargo ship departed the International Space Station Wednesday night as another resupply mission from Japan is planned in September. The Expedition 56 crew members also observed protein crystals, studied an ancient navigation technique and researched time perception in space.
Two Soyuz crew ships and a Progress resupply ship remain docked at the orbital lab after the Progress 69 (69P) cargo craft undocked from the Zvezda service module Wednesday at 10:16 p.m. EDT. It will orbit Earth until Aug. 29 for engineering tests monitored by Roscosmos mission controllers before deorbiting over the Pacific Ocean.
The next resupply mission is coming from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s “Kounotori” H-II Transfer Vehicle. It is targeted for launch Sept. 10 to deliver science, supplies and batteries for installation during a pair of spacewalks next month. Russia’s next resupply mission, the Progress 71, is targeted for a two-day trip to the station at the end of October.
Commander Drew Feustel continued working on a pair of similar protein crystal experiments today. The BioServe Protein Crystalography-1 and Protein Crystal Growth-13 studies allow astronauts to observe crystal growth in space and analyze the results. This saves researchers time without having to wait for samples to be returned to Earth for analysis.
Gerst then switched his attention to a European Space Agency study exploring how astronauts perceive time in space. Researchers seek to quantify subjective changes in time perception to understand how astronauts navigate, move and hear in space.
Loaded with trash, the Russian Progress 69 cargo craft undocked from the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module at 9:16 p.m. CDT, 10:16 p.m. EDT, completing a six-month delivery run to the International Space Station.
The unpiloted Progress will move to a safe distance from the orbital laboratory for a week’s worth of engineering tests by Russian flight controllers before it is commanded to deorbit next Wednesday night. It will then burn up harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
The next Progress cargo ship to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Progress 71, is scheduled in late October.