Space Research Continues on Station as NASA, SpaceX Move Off May 1 Launch

The Gulf of Mexico, Galveston Bay and Houston, Texas
The Gulf of Mexico, Galveston Bay and Houston, Texas, the home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, are pictured from the International Space Station 256 miles above the Lone Star State.

NASA has requested SpaceX move off from May 1 for the launch of the company’s 17th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.

On April 29, the space station team identified an issue with one of the station’s Main Bus Switching Units that distributes power to two of the eight power channels on the station.  There are no immediate concerns for the crew or the station. Teams are working on a plan to robotically replace the failed unit and restore full power to the station system. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available. The earliest possible launch opportunity is no earlier than Friday, May 3.

Meanwhile, the Expedition 59 crew explored a wide variety of microgravity science today including human research, robotics and space manufacturing techniques.

Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques jotted down his impressions of space life in a private journal this morning for the Behavioral Core Measures study. Later he installed new incubator hardware inside the Space Automated Bioproduct Lab for the Kidney Cells experiment that seeks innovative treatments for humans on Earth and in space.

Astrobee, a new free-flying robotic assistant, is being readied for testing today inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. NASA astronaut Anne McClain inspected and checked out the cube-shaped mini-robot’s components then activated the device to perform a flyaround. Astrobee could save the crew time performing routine maintenance duties and providing additional lab monitoring capabilities.

Engineers are also testing the feasibility of producing fiber optic cable in space. Microgravity reveals physical processes hidden by Earth’s gravity that may prove the superiority of space manufacturing. Flight Engineer Christina Koch contributed to that study today working on fiber samples in the Microgravity Science Glovebox that will be examined back on Earth for quality.

Dragon Cargo Mission Launch No Earlier than May 3

The International Space Station
The International Space Station was pictured by an Expedition 56 crewmember aboard a departing Soyuz crew ship on Oct. 4, 2018.

NASA has requested SpaceX move off from May 1 for the launch of the company’s 17th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.

On April 29, the space station team identified an issue with one of the station’s Main Bus Switching Units that distributes power to two of the eight power channels on the station.  There are no immediate concerns for the crew or the station. Teams are working on a plan to robotically replace the failed unit and restore full power to the station system. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available. The earliest possible launch opportunity is no earlier than Friday, May 3.

Crew Waits for Dragon Mission While Teams Troubleshoot Power Issue

Aurora and Night Sky
The Aurora and the night sky above Earth’s atmosphere are pictured from the space station. A portion of the station’s solar arrays and a pair of nitrogen/oxygen recharge system tanks are pictured in the foreground.

A SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is poised to lift off this week from Florida to the International Space Station. The Expedition 59 crew will welcome Dragon when it arrives three days later carrying nearly 5,500 pounds of cargo.

Dragon will be encapsulated atop the Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a countdown to its Wednesday launch at 3:59 a.m. EDT. Astronaut David Saint-Jacques will be at the controls of the robotics workstation Saturday commanding the Canadarm2 to capture Dragon around 6:45 a.m. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and capture activities live.

He and fellow flight engineers Nick Hague, Anne McClain and Christina Koch are familiarizing themselves with the complex cargo unpacking procedures today. Dragon is also carrying external cargo, including the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3, that will be removed by robotics controllers and installed on the station.

In the meantime, the space residents have been filming a virtual reality experience aboard the orbital lab. Today, McClain set up the 360-degree camera in the U.S. Destiny lab module to film herself talking about her space experience as her crewmates work around her.

Koch is helping engineers learn how to produce high quality optical fibers on the space station. The weightless environment of space provides the opportunity to explore manufacturing techniques that are superior to those on Earth. Results could improve space technologies as well as provide more Earth-bound benefits.

On the Russian side of the station, Commander Oleg Kononenko focused on lab maintenance ensuring life support systems are in tip-top shape. Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin spent a couple of hours cleaning Orlan spacesuits before checking radiation sensors and replacing fire extinguishers.

Monday morning, teams identified an issue with the International Space Station’s electrical power system and are working to identify the root cause and restore full power to the system. There are no immediate concerns for the crew or the station. An issue is being worked with a Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) that distributes electrical power to two of the eight power channels on the station. Flight controllers have been working to route power through the remaining six power channels. Electrical power generated by the station’s solar arrays is fed to all station systems through these power channels. Discussions are underway to determine any impacts to SpaceX’s CRS-17 cargo resupply mission targeted for launch May 1.

Crew Juggles Emergency Drill, Space Biology and Dragon Preps

NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the COLBERT treadmill
NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the COLBERT treadmill inside the Tranquility module.

The six-member Expedition 59 crew conducted a routine, periodic drill for response to emergencies today in the middle of a science-packed day. The astronauts also researched space biology while preparing for next week’s SpaceX Dragon cargo mission.

The space residents practiced communications, roles and responsibilities, and evacuating the station in the unlikely event of an emergency. The crew would split up, board their Soyuz spacecraft and undock quickly for a ride back to Earth. The two Soyuz crew ships docked to the International Space Station each hold three crewmembers.

NASA Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Anne McClain set up the ultrasound and optometry instruments today for more Fluid Shifts studies. Flight surgeons are exploring what happens to an astronaut’s veins and eyes due to the head-ward flow of fluids caused by microgravity.

Hague later checked out command and communications gear he and astronaut David Saint-Jacques will use when the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship arrives next week. Saint-Jacques will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Dragon early Friday, May 3, two days after it launches from Florida. Hague will monitor Dragon’s telemetry during its approach and rendezvous. NASA TV is broadcasting the pre-flight activities and mission events live.

Saint-Jacques and Flight Engineer Christina Koch also split the day feeding mice and cleaning cages for the Rodent Research-12 experiment. The study is investigating the immune system’s response to the conditions of long-term spaceflight.

Commander Oleg Kononenko focused much of his attention today on life support maintenance in the Russian segment of the orbital lab. Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin studied ways to maximize the effectiveness of exercise in the weightless environment of microgravity.

Biomedical and Botany Research Today as Station Preps for Sixth Spacecraft

The aurora australis, also known as the "southern lights"
The aurora australis, also known as the “southern lights”, is pictured as the International Space Station orbited 265 miles above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia.

Vein scans and eye checks were on the schedule today as the Expedition 59 crew continues ongoing biomedical studies. The International Space Station is also getting ready to host a sixth spacecraft when it arrives next week.

Scientists have been observing the space residents all week as they seek to understand the effects of the upward flow of body fluids in space. Flight Engineer Anne McClain worked on the Fluid Shifts experiment again today attaching body electrodes to NASA astronaut Nick Hague and conducting ultrasound scans of his veins. She also peered into his eyes using optical tomography coherence hardware. Results may help flight surgeons prevent the increased head and eye pressure caused by the upward fluid shifts astronauts report in space.

NASA is also learning how to support longer human missions farther out into space. Feeding crews without expensive cargo missions and fuel-consuming inventories is critical. As a result, the station provides a variety of greenhouse facilities for plant cultivation and research. Christina Koch of NASA set up new botany hardware today to enable the ongoing research and harvesting of lettuce and mizuna in space.

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is due to liftoff Tuesday at 4:21 a.m. EDT on its 17th contracted cargo mission to the station. Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques is training to capture Dragon with the Canadarm2 robotic arm when it arrives Thursday May 2 at 6:50 a.m. A pair of new experiments it is delivering will explore atmospheric carbon dioxide as well as X-ray frequency communication techniques.

More Head and Eye Pressure Research and Dragon Robotics Training

Astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Anne McClain
Astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Anne McClain practice Canadarm2 robotics maneuvers and spacecraft capture techniques on the robotics workstation in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

The Expedition 59 crew is unloading one U.S. cargo ship today and preparing for the arrival of another after it launches from Florida next week. The orbital residents also continued exploring how microgravity impacts the human body and a variety of terrestrial materials.

Astronauts Christina Koch and David Saint-Jacques worked Wednesday afternoon to offload some of the 7,600 pounds of cargo the Cygnus space freighter delivered last week. Saint-Jacques is also training today to capture the SpaceX resupply ship with the Canadarm2 robotic arm when it arrives next Thursday. Dragon will be the sixth spaceship parked at the station and occupy the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port.

The duo also split the day working with a variety of biomedical hardware and research gear to ensure healthy astronauts and successful space research. Koch and Saint-Jacques participated in ultrasound scans for ongoing health checks. Koch then explored the feasibility of manufacturing fiber optic cables in space. Saint-Jacques set up Kubik incubator hardware inside Europe’s Columbus lab module.

NASA Flight Engineers Anne McClain and Nick Hague were back collecting more blood, urine and saliva samples today. The samples are spun in a centrifuge, stowed in a science freezer then analyzed for the long-running Fluid Shifts study. The experiment seeks to understand and prevent the upward flow of body fluids in space that cause head and eye pressure in astronauts.

McClain then studied how living aboard the International Space Station affects her perception and cognition. Hague researched and photographed a variety of coating materials for their thermal protection and optical recognition properties.

Human Research, Materials Science and Robotics on Tuesday’s Schedule

The moon is photographed in its waning gibbous phase
The moon is photographed in its waning gibbous phase just above the Earth’s limb as the International Space Station orbited 258 miles above the North Atlantic Ocean just off the Canadian-American coast.

The Expedition 59 crew spent the majority of Tuesday conducting space experiments and setting up research hardware. The International Space Station residents are also continuing to unpack a pair of recently arrived cargo ships while training for the next U.S. cargo mission.

The weightless conditions of microgravity pull fluids towards an astronaut’s head causing a common space phenomenon sometimes called “puffy-face.” Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA spent the morning collecting and stowing his blood, urine and saliva samples for the long-running Fluid Shifts study. The research observes and seeks to reverse the upward flow of fluids causing increased head and eye pressure that concerns flight surgeons.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch set up hardware in the Destiny lab module to begin researching the feasibility of manufacturing fiber optic cable in space. The Space Fibers study takes place inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox and will explore a blend of materials more transparent than silica-based glass.

A new materials exposure experiment is ready for deployment outside Japan’s Kibo lab module. NASA astronaut Anne McClain installed the MISSE-FF gear inside Kibo’s airlock before depressurizing the unit. Robotics controllers will deploy the exposed sample trays outside the airlock. The study will help scientists understand how radiation, the vacuum of space and micrometeoroids affect a variety of materials.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques is training for his role to capture the next SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. Hague joined him today for the robotics training and will back him up in the cupola. Dragon is scheduled to launch April 30 from Florida and take a two-day trip to the station where it will be grappled with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and installed to the Harmony module.

Commander Oleg Kononenko helped attach sensors to Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin as the duo researched cardiovascular activity during exercise in space. Kononenko went on to replace smoke detectors as Ovchinin worked on life support maintenance.

New Life Science Begins; Next Dragon Cargo Mission Due Next Week

Cygnus approaches its capture point
The Canadarm2 robotic arm is positioned to grapple the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft as it approaches its capture point with the International Space Station orbiting 255 miles above the Atlantic Ocean. Highlighting the foreground is the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship docked to the Rassvet module.

The Expedition 59 crew has been unpacking Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft over the weekend and began science operations on the newly delivered space research. The 17th SpaceX Dragon mission is now due to launch next week to replenish the International Space Station.

Three NASA astronauts and one Canadian Space Agency astronaut split the workday measuring the mass of 40 mice shipped to the station aboard Cygnus last week. Flight Engineers Anne McClain and Christina Koch started the first half of the day with Flight Engineers Nick Hague and David Saint-Jacques wrapping up the rodent research work in the afternoon. The quartet used the mass measurement device inside the Life Sciences Glovebox beginning the study to learn how microgravity impacts the immune system.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is due to join the five other spacecraft parked at the station after it launches from Florida April 30. Dragon is scheduled to arrive May 2 and Saint-Jacques will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and capture the cargo vessel. Dragon will deliver over 5,000 pounds of new science, supplies and hardware to the orbital lab.

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin stayed focused on the Russian side of the station with their complement of orbital science and lab maintenance. Commander Kononenko updated communications gear, cleaned fans and filters and explored enzyme behaviors. Flight Engineer Ovchinin offloaded cargo from the new Progress 72 resupply ship and studied radiation exposure.

Cygnus Cargo Craft Attached to Station Until July

April 19, 2019: International Space Station Configuration
April 19, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are docked at the space station including Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter and Russia’s Progress 71 and 72 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-11 and MS-12 crew ships.

After its capture this morning at 5:28 a.m. EDT, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:31 a.m. At the time of installation, Cygnus was flying 255 miles above the Indian Ocean just south of Singapore.

Cygnus will remain at the space station until July 23, when the spacecraft will depart the station, deploy NanoRacks customer CubeSats, then have an extended mission of nine months before it will dispose of several tons of trash during a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings close to 7,600 pounds of research and supplies to space station. Highlights of NASA-sponsored research to advance exploration goals and enable future missions to the Moon and Mars include:

Models for growing increasingly complex materials

Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature-10 (ACE-T-10) will test gels in a microgravity environment. This research could aid in the development of increasingly complex materials that may serve as the building blocks for a range of applications on Earth including foods, drugs, and electronic devices. The process also may provide an efficient method to build new materials and equipment in space.

Better life science research in a few drops

Although the space station is well equipped for health and life sciences research, the equipment available for cellular and molecular biology still is limited compared to capabilities found in laboratories on Earth. To address this limitation, CSA designed Bio-Analyzer, a new tool the size of a video game console that astronauts on station easily can use to test body fluids such as blood, saliva, and urine, with just a few drops. It returns key analyses, such as blood cell counts, in just two to three hours, eliminating the need to freeze and store samples.

Analyzing aging of the arteries in astronauts

The Vascular Aging investigation uses ultrasounds, blood samples, oral glucose tolerance tests, and wearable sensors to study aging-like changes that occur in many astronauts during their stay on the space station. It’s one of three Canadian experiments exploring the effects of weightlessness on the blood vessels and heart, and the links between these effects and bone health, blood biomarkers, insulin resistance, and radiation exposure. Increased understanding of these mechanisms can be used to address vascular aging in both astronauts and the aging Earth population.

Testing immune response in space

Spaceflight is known to have a dramatic influence on an astronaut’s immune response, but there is little research on its effect following an actual challenge to the body’s immune system. The rodent immune system closely parallels that of humans, and Rodent Research-12: Tetanus Antibody Response by B cells in Space (TARBIS) will examine the effects of spaceflight on the function of antibody production and immune memory. This investigation aims to advance the development of measures to counter these effects and help maintain crew health during future long-duration space missions. On Earth, it could advance research to improve the effectiveness of vaccines and therapies for treating diseases and cancers.

Big buzz for new robot

A fleet of small robots is set to take on big jobs aboard the space station. Building on the success of SPHERES, NASA will test Astrobee, a robotic system comprised of three cube-shaped robots and a docking station for recharging; the first two are aboard Cygnus. The free-flying robots use electric fans for propulsion and cameras and sensors help them navigate their surroundings. The robots also have an arm to grasp station handrails or grab and hold items. Astrobee can operate in automated mode or under remote control from the ground as it assists with routine chores on station, and requires no supervision from the crew. This has the potential to free up astronauts to conduct more research.

Learn more about space station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Astronaut Commands Robotic Arm to Capture Cygnus Cargo Craft

The Cygnus spacecraft from Northrop Grumman
The Cygnus spacecraft from Northrop Grumman approaches the International Space Station for a robotic capture

At 5:28 a.m. EDT, Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Anne McClain of NASA used the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 to grapple the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft as David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency monitored Cygnus systems during its approach. Next, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. Roger Chaffee, on the bottom of the station’s Unity module.

The station was flying over northeast France at an altitude of 254 miles when it was captured.

NASA Television coverage of installation will begin at 7 a.m., and installation of the Cygnus spacecraft to the space station is expected to be completed later this morning. Cygnus will remain at the orbiting laboratory for a three-month stay.

Learn more about space station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.