Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft departed the International Space Station’s at 9:36 a.m. EST after Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir of NASA commanded its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. At the time of release, the station was flying about 250 miles over the South Pacific just off the West Coast of Chile.
For this mission, Cygnus demonstrated a new release position for departure operations and incorporated the first ground-controlled release. The new orientation allowed for easier drift away from the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm.
Within 24 hours, Cygnus will begin its secondary mission deploying a series of payloads. The departing spacecraft will move a safe distance away from the space station before deploying a series of CubeSats: HuskySat-1 (University of Washington), SwampSat II (University of Florida), EdgeCube (Sonoma State University), and CIRis (Utah State University).
Northrop Grumman flight controllers in Dulles, Virginia, will initiate its deorbit and execute a safe, destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere at the end of February.
The next Cygnus is set to launch to station on Feb. 9 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia carrying another batch of research.
The spacecraft arrived on station November 2 delivering cargo under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.
Expedition 61 crew members Andrew Morgan of NASA and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) concluded their spacewalk at 1:20 p.m. EST. During the 6 hour, 16 minute spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully completed leak checks for the cooling system on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and opened a valve to being pressurizing the system. Preliminary testing shows AMS is responding as expected.
Ground teams will work over the next several days to fill the new AMS thermal control system with carbon dioxide, allow the system to stabilize, and power on the pumps to verify and optimize their performance. The tracker, one of several detectors on AMS, should be collecting science data again before the end of next week. The upgraded cooling system is expected to support AMS through the lifetime of the space station.
AMS is a joint effort between NASA and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and is led by Principal Investigator Samuel Ting, a Nobel laureate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The AMS team includes some 600 physicists from 56 institutions in 16 countries from Europe, North America and Asia. AMS has been capturing high-energy cosmic rays to help researchers answer fundamental questions about the nature of antimatter, the unseen “dark matter” that makes up most of the mass in the universe, and the even-more-mysterious dark energy that is speeding up the expansion of the cosmos.
The astronauts also completed an additional task to remove degraded lens filters on two high-definition video cameras.
This was the fourth spacewalk by Morgan and Parmitano to repair the spectrometer and the 227th in support of station assembly, maintenance and upgrades. For Morgan, it was the seventh spacewalk of his career, for a total of 45 hours and 48 minutes, and the sixth for Parmitano, with a total of 33 hours and 9 minutes, who will return to Earth Feb. 6 in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to complete a six-and-a-half month mission on the outpost. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 59 days 12 hours and 26 minutes working outside the station. This was also the ninth spacewalk for the Expedition 61 crew, more than in any other increment in the history of the station.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft released from the International Space Station at 5:05 a.m. EST after flight controllers in Houston delivered remote commands to the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 61 Station Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will back up the ground controllers and monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory.
Next up, Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the station, then execute a deorbit burn as it heads for a parachute-assisted splashdown around 10:41 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Long Beach, California. The splashdown will not air on NASA TV.
Some of the scientific investigations Dragon will return to Earth include:
Tiny Radiation Resistors
Rotifer-B1 examines the effects of spaceflight on tiny aquatic animals, called rotifers, which are found in freshwater ecosystems and soil and are highly resistant to radiation on Earth. The investigation specifically looks at the metabolism and genome of the rotifer Adineta vaga to determine whether they have similar adaptation mechanisms in microgravity.
Mice in Space
Rodent Research-19 examines myostatin 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.
Finding the Perfect Solution
On Earth, our bodies deal with low-level radiation through a naturally occurring protein that helps our body safely process it. The Growth of Large, Perfect Protein Crystals for Neutron Crystallography (Perfect Crystals) study, aims to help scientists find a way to deal with the problem of radiation during long-duration spaceflight missions using the same protein that is already at work in our bodies.
Convection and Crystallization in Microgravity
The Polymer Convection study examines the effects of gravity on formation and crystallization of Broadband Angular Selective Material (BASM), an optical material with the ability to control the reflection and absorption of light. BASM has applications in polymer packaging, optical films, solar power and electronic displays.
These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations providing opportunities for U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments and products that improve life on Earth. Conducting science aboard the orbiting laboratory will help us learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.
Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.
Filled with almost 3,600 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo, a SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft is set to leave the International Space Station Tuesday, Jan. 7. NASA Television and the agency’s website will broadcast its departure live beginning at 4:45 a.m. EST.
Dragon will be released from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module after flight controllers at mission control in Houston deliver remote commands to the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 61 Station Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will back up the ground controllers and monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory. The spacecraft is scheduled for release at approximately 5:03 a.m. EST.
After firing its thrusters to move a safe distance away from the station, Dragon will execute a deorbit burn to leave orbit, as it heads for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, 202 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, at approximately 10:41 a.m. (7:41 p.m. PST). There will be no live coverage of deorbit burn or splashdown.