The six-member Expedition 56 crew was busy Tuesday juggling science hardware maintenance and a variety of research work. The orbital residents are also helping students contribute to space research and testing an ancient navigation technique.
A cancer study wrapped up last week and astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor stowed the life science gear today used during operations inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox. The AngieX Cancer Therapy experiment looked at endothelial cells as a potential test model for developing safer and more effective vascular-targeted drugs. The research samples were sent back to Earth Friday inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for scientific analysis.
Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold are getting a pair of tiny satellites, known as SPHERES, ready for a student competition. Middle school students in the United States are competing to write the best algorithms that will operate the SPHERES simulating a mission on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
German astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) explored using a sextant with star maps as an emergency form of navigation in space. The study will provide insights that mission planners will use on future Orion spaceflight missions farther away from Earth.
Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev will put on their Orlan spacesuits and work outside the station’s Russian segment for about seven hours on Aug. 15. The duo will toss tiny satellites into Earth orbit, install antennas and cables on the Zvezda service module and retrieve experiments that analyzed external station surfaces and observed plasma waves.
They spent Monday installing batteries that will power their spacesuits next week for the duration of their spacewalk. Artemyev and Prokopyev also ensured their suits were sized properly and conducted leak checks. Finally, they reviewed the procedures they will use next week when they exit and enter the airlock inside the Pirs docking compartment.
The rest of the crew is relaxing today after an intense week of completing crucial space science and loading the time-sensitive research samples inside the Dragon cargo craft for its return to Earth. Dragon splashed down in the Pacific Ocean Friday and was quickly retrieved so scientists and engineers could begin analyzing the science and refurbishing the station hardware.
The next spacecraft due to leave the station is Russia’s Progress 69 (69P) resupply ship on Aug. 22 packed with trash and discarded gear. It launched Feb. 13 and arrived two days later loaded with over three tons of food, fuel and supplies. The 69P will deorbit on Aug. 29 after a week of engineering tests for a fiery but safe disposal over the Pacific Ocean.
Dragon’s thrusters will be fired to move the spacecraft a safe distance from the station before SpaceX flight controllers in Hawthorne, California, command its deorbit burn about 5:23 p.m. The capsule will splashdown about 6:17 p.m. in the Pacific Ocean, where the SpaceX recovery team will retrieve the capsule and its more than 3,800 pounds of cargo, including a variety of technological and biological studies.
NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization that manages research aboard the U.S. National Laboratory portion of the space station, will receive time-sensitive samples and begin working with researchers to process and distribute them within 48 hours of splashdown.
Dragon is the only space station resupply spacecraft currently capable of returning cargo to Earth, and this was the second trip to the orbiting laboratory for this spacecraft. SpaceX launched its 15th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station June 29 from Space Launch Complex 40 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a Falcon 9 rocket that also previously launched NASA’s TESS mission to study exoplanets.
The Expedition 56 crew has finished loading Dragon with sensitive research results and station gear for analysis and refurbishment back on Earth. Space station officials from around the world gave the “go” on Thursday for Dragon’s release from the orbital complex.
Mission controllers, with astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor monitoring, will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Dragon at 12:37 p.m. EDT Friday. Splashdown in the Pacific Ocean will occur less than six hours later under a trio of huge parachutes off the coast of Baja California.
NASA will introduce Friday at 11 a.m. on NASA TV new astronauts assigned to spaceflights launching from the United States for the first time since July 8, 2011. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is partnering with Boeing and SpaceX to launch humans on U.S.-built spaceships from Kennedy Space Center on test flights to the space station.
The International Space Station Partners and mission managers polled “go” for tomorrow’s release of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for its deorbit and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean to wrap up the CRS-15 mission.
With favorable weather conditions forecast in the splashdown zone, Dragon’s hatch will be closed early Friday around 3 a.m. Central time. Robotic ground controllers will then use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach Dragon from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module around 5:30 a.m. Central time and will maneuver Dragon into the release position.
With Expedition 56 Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA monitoring Dragon’s systems, the ground controllers will release Dragon from Canadarm2 at 11:37 a.m. Central time. After its release, Dragon will conduct a series of “departure” burns to move to a safe distance away from the station.
Several hours later, at 4:23 p.m. Central time, SpaceX flight controllers at Hawthorne, California will command Dragon’s engine to fire for 12 minutes and 53 seconds in the deorbit burn that will enable Dragon to slip out of orbit for its descent back to Earth.
Dragon’s parachute-assisted splashdown is scheduled at 5:17 p.m. Central time, 3:17 p.m. Pacific time, about 410 miles southwest of Long Beach, California. It will take about two days for Dragon to be brought back to port for its cache of cargo and scientific experiments to be unloaded.
The Expedition 56 crew has nearly completed loading the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship with cargo for retrieval back on Earth this Friday. The orbital residents are also busy with an intense day of space research and Russian spacewalk preparations.
Dragon is due to be released Friday at 12:37 p.m. EDT from the International Space Station carrying several tons of experiment results and orbital lab hardware. The crew has been packing the crucial research samples this week inside specialized, portable freezers onboard the commercial space freighter.
SpaceX technicians will pick up Dragon with its precious cargo after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean and return to shore in southern California. Scientists and engineers will then begin the process of analyzing the critical space science and refurbishing station hardware.
Astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Alexander Gerst spent Wednesday morning helping doctors understand how living in space impacts the human eye. They are exploring the hypothesis that upward fluid shifts in the body caused by microgravity increases pressure on the brain possibly pushing against the eyes. This may affect the shape of the eye and permanently affect vision.
Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev are getting ready for a spacewalk on Aug. 15. The duo reviewed the translation paths to their work sites on the outside of the station’s Russian segment. During the near seven-hour excursion, the spacewalkers will hand-deploy four tiny satellites, install antennas and cables on the Zvezda service module and collect exposed science experiments.