Boeing’s first Orbital Flight Test of its first commercial crew vehicle is moving ahead toward launch Friday at 6:39 a.m. EST from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The uncrewed Starliner will approach the station for an automated docking on Saturday at 8:27 a.m. to the forward port of the Harmony module.
NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch are getting ready for Starliner’s arrival and its undocking planned for Dec. 28 at 12:44 a.m. The duo reviewed leak check, hatch opening and vehicle ingress procedures for the vehicle after its docking. Both astronauts also familiarized themselves with hatch closing, depressurization and leak check activities necessary before Starliner departs the station.
Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) tested the ability of the new NanoRacks Zero-G Oven to bake food in space today. He then joined Meir for eye exams in the afternoon.
Boeing is ramping up for the launch of its first commercial crew vehicle to the International Space Station this week. The Expedition 61 crew is preparing for the new U.S. crew ship’s arrival while working human research and space biology today.
Boeing is targeting 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20, for the launch of its first CST-100 Starliner crew ship to the orbiting lab. It will dock to the forward-facing port of the Harmony module on Dec. 21 and return to Earth on Dec. 28. This will be an uncrewed orbital flight test of Boeing’s new spaceship and sets the stage for launching crews once again from the United States.
NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch activated communications gear that will link up with the Boeing Starliner when it arrives Saturday. The C2V2 device (Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles) transmits telemetry from the approaching spacecraft to crew and ground controllers. The C2V2, used by the U.S. Dragon and Cygnus resupply ships, also enables an astronaut to remotely control a spacecraft if necessary.
ESA (European Space Agency)Commander Luca Parmitano and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan started Monday with hearing checks. The duo set up gear for the Acoustic Diagnostics study that measures hearing before, during and after a mission and assesses the noisy environment aboard the orbiting lab.
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir began her day on an exercise bike for a study measuring her aerobic and cardiovascular output. She then joined Koch in the afternoon feeding lab mice and cleaning their habitats.
Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka focused on life support and lab maintenance today. Skvortsov synchronized computers and cameras to station time and serviced an oxygen generator. Skripochka also checked out Russian laptop computers and radiation detection gear.
The Expedition 61 crew today is exploring how the brain, muscles and bones adapt to long-term exposure in weightlessness. The orbiting lab’s communications systems are also being continuously maintained.
Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano were back in the Columbus lab module today investigating how the central nervous system manages hand-eye coordination in space. The duo wore virtual reality gear using real-time visual and audible displays while coordinating a variety of body motions. The GRASP study explores how the brain adapts to the lack of a traditional up and down reference in space to ensure mission success farther away from Earth.
The musculoskeletal system also adjusts rapidly to the microgravity environment and studying mice aboard the orbiting lab helps reveal the impacts. Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch continued scanning rodents today in a bone densitometer before placing them back in their habitats. The new Rodent Research-19 study is investigating two proteins that may prevent muscle and bone loss while living off the Earth.
Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka ensured the upkeep of a variety of Russian space station systems. The duo connected a Progress cargo craft’s thrusters to the Zarya module’s fuel tanks. The veteran cosmonauts also checked out antenna gear, laptop computers and video recording equipment.
Japan’s new high-resolution spectral Earth imager has been installed and activated on the Kibo lab module. HISUI, or Hyperspectral Imagery Suite, is a technology demonstration that will send data to agricultural and environmental industries for improved resource management.
Inside the orbiting lab, mice are being scanned to study how their bones change in microgravity. Astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch placed the rodents in a new bone densitometer and imaged their bones. The new Rodent Research-19 study is investigating two proteins that may prevent muscle and bone loss in space.
Mission controllers on the ground today commanded the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach into the back of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship and extract the new HISUI experiment device. HISUI, or Hyperspectral Imagery Suite, is a unique Earth imaging system that can benefit agriculture, forestry and other environmental areas. HISUI will be installed on the outside of the Kibo lab module to scan the Earth’s surface using high spectral resolution.
Advanced space research is in full gear aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 61 crew is activating new science gear and continuing long-running experiments to benefit humans on and off the Earth.
A specialized 3-D printer aboard the orbiting lab is testing printing cellular structures in space due to the detrimental effects of Earth’s gravity. NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch has been operating the Bio-Fabrication Facility this week using “bio-inks” with more success than on the ground. The device is dedicated to manufacturing human organs, producing food and personalizing pharmaceuticals.
Koch and Meir also partnered together today to set up and calibrate a new bone densitometer in Japan’s Kibo lab module. The biology research gear will measure and image bone density in the mice living aboard the station.
Two new cargo spaceships are open for business at the International Space Station as a variety of new space research begins this week. The Expedition 61 crew has begun unpacking several tons new supplies from the U.S. and Russian space freighters.
NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch worked throughout Monday juggling numerous science and cargo activities. She was offloading new Dragon supplies and housing lab rodents delivered aboard the U.S. cargo craft.
Meir and Morgan started Monday with ultrasound scans of their veins and eye pressure checks for the Fluid Shifts study. Meir with assistance from Koch in the afternoon installed a bone densitometer in Japan’s Kibo lab module that will measure bone loss in microgravity.
Traveling approximately 260 miles over the Yellow Sea east of Shanghai, the automated Russian Progress 74 cargo resupply spacecraft docked at 5:35 a.m. EST to the Pirs docking compartment on the Russian segment of the International Space Station.
It is the second resupply spacecraft to arrive for the six crew members aboard the space station in as many days. The Expedition 61 crew welcomed SpaceX’s cargo Dragon spacecraft early Sunday morning.
The International Space Station is a stepping stone for NASA’s Artemis program that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon. As the only place for conducting long-duration research on how living in microgravity affects living organisms as well as testing technologies to allow humans to work at the Moon, the space station serves as a unique asset in the effort establish a sustainable presence at the Moon and prepare for missions to Mars.
At 9 a.m., NASA Television and the agency’s website will broadcast a special event with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine as he discusses the status of the agency’s Artemis program, highlights the completion of the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will help power the first Artemis mission to the Moon, and takes part in a question-and-answer session from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
NASA Television and the agency’s website are now live broadcasting the expected arrival of a Russian Progress cargo spacecraft set to dock to the Pirs compartment on the International Space Station’s Russian segment at 5:38 a.m.
The Progress 74 spacecraft is carrying almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 61 crew aboard the station. Progress will arrive after making 49 orbits of Earth in three days since its launch Friday, Dec. 6 at 4:34 a.m.
Three days after its launch from Florida, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 7:47 a.m. EST.
The 19th contracted commercial resupply mission from SpaceX delivers more than 5,700 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory.
Here’s some of the science arriving at station:
Keeping Bones and Muscles Strong
Rodent Research-19 (RR-19) investigates myostatin (MSTN) and activin, molecular signaling pathways that influence muscle degradation, as possible targets for preventing muscle and bone loss during spaceflight and enhancing recovery following return to Earth. This study also could support the development of therapies for a wide range of conditions that cause muscle and bone loss on Earth.
Checking for Leaks
NASA is launching Robotic Tool Stowage (RiTS), a docking station that allows Robotic External Leak Locator (RELL) units to be stored on the outside of space station, making it quicker and simpler to deploy the instruments. The leak locator is a robotic, remote-controlled tool that helps mission operators detect the location of an external leak and rapidly confirm a successful repair. These capabilities can be applied to any place that humans live in space, including NASA’s lunar Gateway and eventually habitats on the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
After Dragon spends approximately one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with cargo and research.
Next up, the station crew will be preparing for the arrival early Monday morning of a second resupply spacecraft. The Russian Progress 74 that launched Friday at 4:34 a.m. is expected to dock to the Pirs compartment on the station’s Russian segment at 5:38 a.m. Monday, Dec. 9. NASA TV and the agency’s website will provide live coverage of Progress rendezvous and docking at 4:45 a.m.
Ground controllers will now send commands to begin the robotic installation of the spacecraft on bottom of the station’s Harmony module. NASA Television coverage of installation is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. Coverage may be adjusted as needed. Watch online at www.nasa.gov/live.
Here’s some of the research arriving at station:
A Better Picture of Earth’s Surface
The Hyperspectral Imager Suite (HISUI) is a next-generation, hyperspectral Earth imaging system. Every material on Earth’s surface – rocks, soil, vegetation, snow/ice and human-made objects – has a unique reflectance spectrum. HISUI provides space-based observations for tasks such as resource exploration and applications in agriculture, forestry and other environmental areas.
Malting Barley in Microgravity Malting ABI Voyager Barley Seeds in Microgravity tests an automated malting procedure and compares malt produced in space and on the ground for genetic and structural changes. Understanding how barley responds to microgravity could identify ways to adapt it for nutritional use on long-duration spaceflights.
Spread of Fire
The Confined Combustion investigation examines the behavior of flames as they spreads in differently shaped confined spaces in microgravity. Studying flames in microgravity gives researchers a better look at the underlying physics and basic principles of combustion by removing gravity from the equation.