Expedition 63 Awaits SpaceX Crew, Unpacks Japanese Cargo

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen on the launch pad in Florida during a brief static fire test on Friday, May 22, 2020.

The Expedition 63 crew is getting ready for the launch and arrival this week of two NASA astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade. This follows Monday morning’s arrival of a Japanese cargo craft that delivered over four tons of food, supplies and experiments to the International Space Station.

NASA and SpaceX managers completed their readiness reviews and have given the “go” for the launch of Commercial Crew astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. The duo will liftoff atop the Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday at 4:33 p.m. from Kennedy Space Center in Florida toward the station.

They will dock on Thursday at 11:39 a.m. to the Harmony module’s International Docking Adapter on the space station’s forward section. Two-and-a-half hours later the hatches will open, Behnken and Hurley will enter the station and the Expedition 63 crew will expand to five members to bring space research up to full speed aboard the orbiting lab.

The Crew Dragon will be docked adjacent to the newly-arrived H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) from Japan. The HTV-9 was installed to the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port a couple of hours after it was captured Monday at 8:13 a.m. with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. NASA Commander Chris Cassidy began unloading the HTV-9 with help from Roscosmos Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner shortly after its arrival on Memorial Day.

The final mission of Japan’s expendable resupply ship will stay at the station until late July. Japan’s next version of resupply ships (HTV-X) will be returnable and reusable providing more cargo capabilities.

Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin swapped out more fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack to maintain research operations inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. The refrigerator-sized research rack enables fuel, flame and soot research in microgravity.

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