A Japanese cargo craft is preparing to end its mission at the International Space Station, as a U.S. resupply ship stands ready to launch to the orbiting lab. The Expedition 61 crew is gearing up for the space traffic while also staying fresh on station emergency procedures.
Japan’s HTV-8 cargo craft, also called Kounotori, will complete its 34-day mission attached to the station’s Harmony module on Friday. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are sharpening their Canadarm2 robotic arm skills today as they train to release the Kounotori packed with trash and obsolete gear at 1:20 p.m. EDT. It will fall to Earth over the Pacific Ocean and burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere on Saturday.
The 12th U.S.-made Cygnus resupply ship sits atop an Antares rocket and will blast off Saturday from Virginia at 9:59 a.m. EDT. The space delivery vehicle from Northrop Grumman will arrive Monday, when Meir with Koch as her backup will capture it at 4:10 a.m. EST with the Canadarm2. Robotic controllers on the ground will take over and remotely guide Cygnus and attach it to the Unity module where it will stay for 70 days.
Three station crewmates brushed up on their emergency response skills today in the unlikely event they would need to evacuate the station in their Soyuz crew ship. Koch with Commander Luca Parmitano and Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov practiced quickly entering their Soyuz and simulated emergency undocking and descent procedures.