Science Soon Resumes on Cosmic Ray Detector, Crew Packs Cargo Ship for Departure

Spacewalkers Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano
Spacewalkers Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano work on get-ahead tasks after completing thermal repairs on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

Engineers on the ground have begun powering up the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer’s (AMS) thermal system following a successful repair spacewalk over the weekend. The Expedition 61 astronauts are now preparing a U.S. cargo craft for its departure at the end of the week.

It took four spacewalks over three months to restore and upgrade thermal operations on the AMS. Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano wrapped up the complex repair job on Saturday for the 8-year-old cosmic particle detector. Soon after the spacewalk, payload controllers reported stable cooling operations on the AMS, and are continuing to monitor its thermal conditions. The AMS will soon resume its search for evidence of dark matter and antimatter once the system checkouts are complete.

The crew are now turning their attention to packing Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship with trash and discarded hardware. Robotics controllers in Mission Control will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Cygnus on Friday at 9:35 a.m. EST after 88 days attached to the Unity module. The private cargo carrier will reenter Earth’s atmosphere over the South Pacific for a fiery, but safe disposal.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch started Monday on housecleaning tasks. They were joined by Morgan and Parmitano cleaning fans and filters and disinfecting surfaces containing microbes and condensation.

Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov is getting the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship ready for its return to Earth on Feb. 6. He will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan with Koch and Parmitano just three and half hours after undocking from the Poisk module. Koch will have lived in space continuously for 328 days on her first mission, second only to former astronaut Scott Kelly who lived in space 340 days for the single longest spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut.

Astronauts Wrap Up Spacewalk Repair Job on Cosmic Ray Detector

Astronaut Luca Parmitano during the final spacewalk to repair a cosmic ray detector
A helmet cam attached to the spacesuit of astronaut Andrew Morgan pictures astronaut Luca Parmitano during the final spacewalk to repair a cosmic ray detector.

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.

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.

Spacewalkers Finalizing Repairs on Dark Matter, Antimatter Detector

Astronauts assist spacewalkers
NASA astronauts Christina Koch (foreground) and Jessica Meir assist spacewalkers Luca Parmitano (left) and Andrew Morgan (right) before beginning today’s spacewalk. Credit: NASA TV

Two astronauts switched their spacesuits to battery power this morning at 7:04 a.m., EST aboard the International Space Station to begin a spacewalk planned to last about six-and-a-half hours. NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan and Expedition 61 Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will venture outside the International Space Station to complete repairs on a cooling system for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a cosmic ray detector. The duo will conduct leak checks for the spectrometer’s refurbished cooling lines and complete the work to resume operations of the cosmic ray detector.

Morgan is designated extravehicular crewmember 1 (EV 1), wearing the suit with red stripes, and with the helmet camera labeled #20. Parmitano is designated extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the suit with no stripes, and with helmet camera #18.

During the first three spacewalks in the complex series to repair the AMS, the astronauts carefully prepared the AMS and positioned materials, installed the upgraded cooling system, completed the power and data cable connection for the system. The intricate connection work required making a clean cut for eight existing stainless steel tube cooling lines connected to the AMS then connecting it to the new system through a process of metalworking known as swaging. Following the third spacewalk, the flight control team on Earth initiated power-up and confirmed the new system was receiving power and data.

In addition to revitalizing an important piece of scientific equipment, the process of creating the tools and procedures for these spacewalks is preparing teams for the types of spacewalks that may be required on Moon and Mars missions.

Watch the spacewalk on NASA TV and on the agency’s website.

Follow @space_station on Twitter for updates online. Learn more about the International Space Station online, including additional information about the current crew members.

NASA TV Is Live With Spacewalk Coverage for Cosmic Repair Work

Spacewalkers Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano
Spacewalkers (from left) Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano are pictured during a previous excursion to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

Expedition 61 NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will begin a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station at about 6:50 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 25. NASA Television coverage of the spacewalk will begin at 5:30 a.m.

Watch the spacewalk on NASA TV and on the agency’s website.

This will be the ninth spacewalk for the Expedition 61 crew, more than in any other increment in the history of the station. The two astronauts will venture outside the International Space Station for the last planned spacewalk in a series to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a cosmic ray detector.

These spacewalks are considered the most complex of their kind since the Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions. The AMS originally was designed for a three-year mission and, unlike Hubble, was not designed to be serviced once in space. More than 20 unique tools were designed for the intricate repair work, which included cutting and splicing of eight cooling tubes to connect to a new cooling system, and connecting a myriad of power and data cables.

Watch the animation for today’s spacewalk:

Recap briefings from the beginning of the AMS repair series for more detail:

For more information about the AMS science and spacewalks, listen to the recent podcasts:

Follow @space_station on Twitter for updates online. For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Expedition 61 Ready for Saturday Spacewalk During Human Research Today

An aurora blankets the Earth beneath a celestial night sky
An aurora blankets the Earth beneath a celestial night sky as the space station orbited 261 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North America.

The Expedition 61 astronauts are ready to finish repairing the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) after wrapping up their spacewalk preparations today. The International Space Station residents today also had time to explore what microgravity is doing to their muscles and digestive system.

Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano have readied the U.S. spacesuits they will wear for about six hours and thirty minutes beginning Saturday at 6:50 a.m. EST. They will finalize the complex thermal repairs on the AMS, a dark matter and antimatter detector, installed in 2011 on the Starboard-3 truss structure.

Morgan and Parmitano were joined by NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch for a final procedures review with mission controllers on the ground. Meir and Koch will operate the Canadarm2 robotic arm carefully making fine-tuned maneuvers to assist the spacewalkers at the AMS worksite.

Meir and Koch began their workday by performing scans of their neck, arm, leg and feet muscles with an ultrasound device. The scans are downlinked to doctors studying how weightlessness affects the biochemical properties of muscles. The pair also collected their blood samples and stowed them in a science freezer for the human research study. Insights my impact health strategies on future long-term space missions.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka spent Friday morning on a Russian digestion study today scanning their stomachs with another ultrasound device before and after breakfast. They split up in the afternoon working on a variety of station hardware maintenance and crew departure activities.

Spacewalk Preps Underway as Station Orbits Higher Ahead of Crew Departure

Astronaut Andrew Morgan
Astronaut Andrew Morgan holds on to a handrail during the second spacewalk to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on Nov. 22, 2019.

The International Space Station is orbiting higher today as three Expedition 61 crewmates get ready to return to Earth in two weeks. Meanwhile, two astronauts are finalizing preparations for a spacewalk early Saturday.

Russia’s Progress 74 cargo craft fired its engines twice boosting the space station’s altitude Thursday morning. The orbital adjustment sets up the correct trajectory for the undocking and landing of the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship on Feb. 6.

The Soyuz MS-13 will be commanded by Alexander Skvortsov returning home with astronauts Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano. The trio will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 4:14 a.m. EST (3:14 p.m. Kazakh time). Koch will have lived in space continuously for 328 days, second only to U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly with 340 days.

The third spacewalk of January 2020 is set to begin Saturday at 6:50 a.m. EST with live NASA TV coverage getting under way at 5:30 a.m. Parmitano with NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan will complete the complex thermal repairs on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a dark matter and antimatter detector.

Koch and fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir will assist the spacewalkers with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and are getting up to speed with the fine-tuned robotics maneuvers. They were joined by Morgan and Parmitano as the quartet reviewed spacewalk tasks and procedures.

Spacewalking Team Relaxing as Cosmonauts Work Science, Crew Departure

Astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan
(From left) Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan work on U.S. spacesuits they will wear on a spacewalk scheduled for Jan. 25.

The Expedition 61 spacewalking team aboard the International Space Station is taking a light-duty day ahead of this weekend’s excursion. Meanwhile, the Russian space residents researched human biology and prepared for a crew departure early next month.

Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano took it easy on Tuesday, relaxing before they begin a six-hour spacewalk on Saturday at 6:50 a.m. EST to repair a cosmic ray detector. The duo began organizing their spacewalk tools, custom-designed for the unique job, just after lunch today. NASA TV will start its live broadcast of the spacewalk at 5:30 a.m.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch spent an hour today reviewing Canadarm2 robotics procedures they will use to assist Saturday’s spacewalkers. Meir and Koch also spent the majority of the day relaxing, having completed two spacewalks in less than a week on Monday.

The Russian duo, cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka explored ways to maximize the effectiveness of space exercise. They also studied wearing and operating a specialized suit, the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit, which counteracts the upward flow of body fluids caused by microgravity.

Skvortsov is also packing the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship that will return him, Koch and Parmitano to Earth on Feb. 6. The trio will undock and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan. Koch will have accumulated 328 consecutive days in space upon landing second only to U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly with 340 days.

Spacewalkers Switch Focus to Final Repairs on Cosmic Ray Detector

Reflection in NASA astronaut Jessica Meir's spacesuit helmet
The reflection in NASA astronaut Jessica Meir’s spacesuit helmet is fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch photographing her crewmate during a spacewalk

The Expedition 61 astronauts have one more spacewalk planned this weekend and they will finish the repair of a cosmic ray detector. This will be the ninth spacewalk for the crew, more than in any other increment in the history of the International Space Station.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch have turned their attention from Monday’s spacewalk to help two crewmates going on a very different spacewalk on Saturday. The pair completed a spacewalk yesterday upgrading power systems on the Port-6 truss structure.

Spacewalkers Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will finalize thermal repairs on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) on Saturday. The AMS, installed in 2011 on the Starboard-3 truss structure, is an astrophysics device searching for evidence of dark matter and antimatter.

The duo will set their U.S. spacesuits to internal power Saturday at 6:50 a.m. EST signifying the official start of their spacewalk. NASA TV begins its live broadcast of the planned six-hour AMS repair excursion at 5:30 a.m.

Meir and Koch will be getting up to speed this week with the Canadarm2 robotics procedures necessary to assist Morgan and Parmitano during Saturday’s spacewalk. The quartet gathered together Tuesday afternoon and began reviewing the spacewalk plan with specialists in Mission Control.

Meir, Koch Complete Battery Swaps to Upgrade Station Power Systems

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir enters the Quest airlock
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir enters the Quest airlock to complete a spacewalk after swapping batteries on the International Space Station that store and distribute solar power collected for the solar arrays.

At 1:33 p.m. EST, Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch of NASA concluded their third spacewalk together. During the six hour and 58-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts successfully completed the battery upgrade for one channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays.

Today’s work included removing the last two nickel-hydrogen batteries from this area of the station’s backbone near the port solar array and moving them to an external platform. The batteries will be stored there until they can be disposed of in the next Japanese HTV cargo spacecraft after it delivers tons of supplies to the space station later this year. Meir and Koch also installed the sixth and final new lithium-ion battery, and ground controllers verified the new batteries powered up successfully to provide an improved and more efficient power capacity for station operations.

The spacewalkers concluded their work by paying tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Meir said he was a personal hero and looking down on planet Earth reminded her of his words: “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” Koch noted how much is owed to those who worked for civil rights and inclusion and “paved the way for not only us, but so many who have a dream.”

This was the second spacewalk outside the station in 2020. Space station crew members have now conducted 226 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have spent a total of 59 days, 6 hours, and 10 minutes working outside the station. It is the third time all spacewalkers have been women and the 45th spacewalk to include women.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and space station Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will conduct the next spacewalk Saturday, Jan. 25, to finish installing the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer’s (AMS) new cooling apparatus and lines and verify they are ready for use. Morgan and Parmitano began that work during three spacewalks in November and December 2019.

Today’s spacewalk was the third for Meir, who now has spent a total of 21 hours and 44 minutes spacewalking, and the sixth for Koch for a total of 42 hours and 15 minutes. Koch is third place behind Peggy Whitson and Suni Williams for cumulative time by a female spacewalker and 21st on the all-time spacewalk list for aggregate time.

Koch arrived to the orbiting laboratory in March 2019 and is nearing the end of an extended duration mission. She holds the record for longest single spaceflight by a woman and will return to Earth on Feb. 6. Her extended mission provides researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman to prepare for human missions to the Moon and Mars. Meir arrived in Sept. 2019 and is due to return in April.

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.

Meir, Koch Working In Vacuum of Space to Swap Station Batteries

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are pictured preparing for their first spacewalk together on Oct. 18, 2019.

Two NASA astronauts switched their spacesuits to battery power this morning at 6:35 a.m. EST to begin today’s spacewalk. Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch are entering into the vacuum of space for about six-and-a-half-hours to finish replacing nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries that store and distribute power generated by the station’s solar arrays on the station’s port truss. The lithium-ion batteries provide an improved power capacity for operations with a lighter mass and a smaller volume than the nickel-hydrogen batteries.

Watch the spacewalk on NASA TV and on the agency’s website.

Meir is designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing the suit with red stripes, and with helmet camera #11. Koch is designated extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the suit with no stripes, and her helmet camera is labeled #18.

Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan will assist the spacewalkers. Parmitano will control the Canadarm2 robotics arm and Morgan will provide airlock and spacesuit support.

The primary tasks for the spacewalkers after preparing their worksite will be to complete the replacement of older batteries on the far port truss of the station by removing the last two nickel-hydrogen batteries from that truss’ power system and installing a sixth and final new lithium-ion battery.

The astronauts are expected to tackle a number of additional tasks, if time permits, including the removal of lens filters from a pair of cameras on the station’s exterior.