International Space Station managers have targeted Aug. 21 for the next spacewalk at the orbiting lab. NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan will work outside in the vacuum of space to install a new commercial crew docking port, the International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3).
Robotics controllers will remove the IDA-3 from the trunk of the SpaceX Dragon two days before the spacewalk and ready it for the six-and-a-half hour installation job. Hague and Morgan will install and configure the new docking adapter to the top of the Harmony module. Once connected, the IDA-3 will be ready to receive new Boeing and SpaceX crew ships.
Meanwhile, the six Expedition 60 crewmembers kept the station humming on Wednesday performing new microgravity research and maintaining life support systems. Biology and physics research in space reveals new phenomena potentially benefiting humans both on Earth and in space.
NASA astronaut Christina Koch serviced the new BioFabrication Facility today to help scientists take advantage of the properties of weightlessness to successfully print and grow human organs. Earth’s gravity can inhibit 3-D bioprinters and incubators from recreating and growing complex organic structures.
Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA) researched possible causes for neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. The crew is examining protein samples for amyloid formation that differ from samples observed on Earth. Results may inform preventative therapies for Earthlings and astronauts on long-term missions.
Students on Earth are learning how to maneuver tiny satellites inside the station today. Morgan set up a pair of basketball-sized SPHERES satellites controlled by student-written algorithms. The middle school kids are practicing rendezvous and docking techniques in the Kibo laboratory module.
Hague is setting up material samples for robotic installation outside Kibo. The Japanese robotic arm, smaller cousin to the Canadarm2, will remove the scientific samples from the module’s airlock and install them on an external platform. Researchers observe the exposed materials to understand the effects of microgravity and space radiation.