Station Trio Checks Eyes, Keeps Lab in Tip-Top Shape

The three-member Expedition 63 crew aboard the International Space Station
The three-member Expedition 63 crew aboard the International Space Station with (from left) NASA astronaut and Commander Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts and Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

The Expedition 63 crew focused its attention today on maintaining International Space Station systems and keeping the orbiting lab in tip-top shape. More eye checks were also on the schedule as doctors seek to protect crew vision in microgravity.

Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA started his morning organizing science hardware inside the Columbus laboratory module from the European Space Agency (ESA). He reconfigured radiation detection gear and adjusted research racks to install stowage bags and create more space inside Columbus. Afterward, Cassidy removed an atmosphere monitor from the U.S. Destiny laboratory module then reinstalled and activated it inside the Harmony module.

The veteran NASA astronaut also partnered once again with experienced Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin for another eye exam, this time using optical coherence tomography gear. Crew members have reported vision issues and scientists are exploring why and seek to ensure healthy eyes while living in space.

Ivanishin, who is on his third station spaceflight, spent Thursday morning servicing power systems in the Russian segment of the orbiting lab. Before wrapping up his day with eye checks, he replaced Russian thermal sensors and updated the station’s inventory management system.

First time space-flyer Ivan Vagner participated in a variety public affairs events for Russian media. He had a live event in the morning where he discussed living aboard the space station. He also recorded messages celebrating Russian space achievements to be broadcast on Earth at later date. Vagner ended his day checking out spacecraft systems inside the Progress 75 cargo craft.

Flying Robots, Ultrasound Eye Scans Top Science Schedule

NASA astronaut and Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy sets up an Astrobee robotic assistant
NASA astronaut and Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy sets up an Astrobee robotic assistant, one of a trio of cube-shaped, free-flying robots, for a test of its mobility and vision system inside the Kibo laboratory module.

Flying robots and ultrasound eye scans were the top science activities aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 63 crew also serviced a variety of lab hardware and tested a wearable health monitor.

Free-flying robotic assistants called AstroBees were checked out as Commander Chris Cassidy once again tested their ability to autonomously navigate the orbiting lab. The veteran astronaut then shut down and docked the small cube-shaped devices inside the Kibo laboratory module from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).

Students on Earth will soon get a chance to “test-drive” the Astrobees in a competition for the best program to control the robotic devices. Researchers are also exploring the Astrobees’ potential to perform routine station duties so the crew has more time for critical science.

Cassidy also tackled more mundane tasks during the morning as he worked on space plumbing duties in the Kibo lab. The commander wiped leaking water and inspected plumbing connections in Kibo’s Water Recovery System.

In the afternoon, Cassidy had his eyes scanned by three-time station Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin using an ultrasound device. The ultrasound exam, with real-time inputs from doctors on the ground, looks at the health of the retina, cornea and optic nerve.

Ivanishin started his workday swapping fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack which enables safe studies of fuels, flames and soot in microgravity. First-time space flyer Ivan Vagner worked during the morning on Russian power supply systems before servicing water tanks in the Zvezda service module. Just after lunchtime, Vagner attached the Holter Monitor, a non-invasive medical device, to his chest that will measure his heart’s electrical activity.

Japanese Resupply Ship, SpaceX Crew Dragon Nearing Launch Dates

Japan's H-II Transfer Vehicle (left) and the SpaceX Crew Dragon (right) are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station this month.
Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (left) and the SpaceX Crew Dragon (right) are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station this month.

A Japanese cargo ship is poised to resupply the Expedition 63 crew just as a U.S. space freighter has completed its stay at the International Space Station. The three station residents are also getting ready to welcome two Commercial Crew members in just over two weeks.

Japan’s ninth H-II Transfer Vehicle cargo mission (HTV-9) is due to lift off on May 20 aboard an H-IIB rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center. The cargo craft from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is delivering fresh food and supplies, new science experiments and new lithium-ion batteries to upgrade the station’s power systems.

The HTV-9 will arrive at the station on May 25 where Commander Chris Cassidy, with Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner as back up, will capture the cargo craft with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Ground controllers will take over afterward and remotely install the HTV-9 to the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port where it will stay for two months.

Just two days later, NASA will launch the first crew from the United States since 2011 aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon. Veteran astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will take a 19-hour trip to the station while testing systems inside the Crew Dragon. It will automatically dock on May 28 to the International Docking Adapter located on the Harmony module’s forward port. After the hatches open, the duo will join the Expedition 63 crew to ramp up science and maintenance operations aboard the orbiting lab.

NASA Completes Negotiations for Additional Soyuz Seat in Fall

The International Space Station
The International Space Station is pictured from space shuttle Endeavour after its undocking in February 2010.

To ensure the agency keeps its commitment for safe operations via a continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station until commercial crew capabilities are routinely available, NASA has completed negotiations with the State Space Corporation Roscosmos to purchase one additional Soyuz seat for a launch this fall.

The agency received no responses from U.S. suppliers to a synopsis issued in the fall of 2019 for crew transportation in 2020. Boeing and SpaceX are in the final stages of development and testing of new human space transportation systems that will launch astronauts from American soil, including NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission scheduled for launch no earlier than May 27.

In case you missed it, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shared why the Demo-2 mission is essential.

U.S. Cygnus Resupply Ship Departs Station

In this frame from NASA TV, the U.S. Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman is pictured moments after being released from the space station's Canadarm2 robotic arm.
In this frame from NASA TV, the U.S. Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman is pictured moments after being released from the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm.

The Cygnus spacecraft successfully departed the International Space Station three months after arriving at the space station to deliver about 7,500 of scientific experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory.

Within 24 hours of its release, Cygnus will begin its secondary mission, hosting the Spacecraft Fire Safety Experiment – IV (Saffire-IV), which provides an environment to safely study fire in microgravity. It also will deploy a series of payloads. Northrop Grumman flight controllers in Dulles, Virginia, will initiate Cygnus’ deorbit to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere Friday, May 29.

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Cygnus Ready for Science After Departure, Commander Takes Break

The wispy atmospheric layer of the air glow
The wispy atmospheric layer of the air glow crowns the Earth’s horizon in this nighttime photograph from the International Space Station as it orbited over the South Atlantic Ocean.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship is packed for departure on Monday and will continue more science before its ultimate demise at the end of May. Meanwhile, two Expedition 63 Flight Engineers are maintaining International Space Station operations as the Commander takes a break today.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy is relaxing today ahead of this weekend’s activities to ready a U.S. space freighter for its robotic release on Monday at noon EDT. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the cargo ship’s release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm beginning at 11:45 a.m.

The space veteran spent the week loading up the Cygnus space freighter with trash and preparing it for more science. Shortly after its departure, a controlled fire will be lit inside Cygnus for ongoing research into space fire safety. Next, tiny space research satellites, also known as CubeSats,  will be deployed outside the vehicle to improve space communications and GPS mapping technology.

Robotics controllers also attached the popular, but now-defunct HDEV (High Definition Earth Viewing) experiment on the outside of Cygnus for disposal. HDEV reached its end-of-life last year after five years in service providing live views of Earth to over 300 million viewers. The U.S. cargo craft will reenter Earth’s atmosphere at the end of the month for a fiery, but safe disposal above the South Pacific.

Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner started Friday studying how the heart adapts to a specialized suit that reverses the pooling of blood and water in a crewmember’s head caused by microgravity. They also took turns with an ongoing study that seeks to improve the detection and location of Earth landmarks for photography.

Ivanishin, a veteran of two previous station missions, then updated station inventory with the new cargo recently delivered aboard the Progress 75 cargo ship. Vagner, a first-time space flyer, collected radiation measurements and inspected the Zvezda service module’s windows.

Robotics, Cargo Mission and Photography Keep Station Crew Busy

63 Commander Chris Cassidy sets up an Astrobee robotic assistant
63 Commander Chris Cassidy sets up an Astrobee robotic assistant, one of a trio of cube-shaped, free-flying robots, for a test of its mobility and vision system.

NASA’s International Space Station commander configured robotic assistants today while continuing to get ready for next week’s U.S. cargo craft departure. The two Expedition 63 Flight Engineers from Roscosmos explored advanced space photography techniques and inventoried electronics gear.

Three-time space visitor Chris Cassidy is readying a trio of cube-shaped, free-flying robotic assistants for upcoming operations. The NASA astronaut and Navy captain swapped batteries in the advanced devices being tested for their ability to autonomously navigate the station and service small payloads. The program dubbed Astrobee is researching the potential of small robots to perform routine duties and monitor activities freeing up crew time for critical science.

A U.S. space freighter will leave the station Monday after nearly three months attached to the Unity module. Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship will be released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm at noon EDT on Monday completing its cargo mission.

Not only is Cygnus being packed with trash, but Cassidy prepared it for secondary missions to research space fires and deploy a set of CubeSats. Once Cygnus reaches a safe distance from the orbital lab, a small satellite deployer configuring on its hatch will eject a pair of nanosatellites. The shoe box-sized research satellites will research ways to improve space communication techniques and GPS mapping systems.

Over in the Russian segment, cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner concentrated on their set of tasks to maintain station operations. Ivanishin, who is on his third station mission, started his day with Vagner studying techniques to accurately detect and locate landmarks to improve Earth observations.

Ivanishin then spent the rest of the day servicing Russian life support gear and communications systems. First-time station resident Vagner inventoried electrical gear and checked network connections throughout the station’s five Russian modules.

Cygnus Readied for Departure, Crew Trains for Medical Emergency

April 25, 2020: International Space Station Configuration.
Four spaceships are attached at the space station including the U.S. Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft and Russia’s Progress 74 and 75 resupply ships and Soyuz MS-16 crew ship.

A U.S. cargo craft is one week away from completing its mission at the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the three-member Expedition 63 crew focused its attention today on emergency training and orbital maintenance.

On Monday May 11, the Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman will complete its mission attached to the station’s Unity module. Cygnus will serve a dual purpose after its departure as it takes out the trash and deploys a set of CubeSats for a variety of space research.

Commander Chris Cassidy is setting up a small satellite deployer, called the SlingShot, that will be installed on the hatch of Cygnus before its departure. The tiny satellites will test space communication technologies and advanced GPS mapping techniques.

Cassidy then joined Roscosmos Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner for an emergency drill after lunchtime. The trio practiced CPR techniques necessary in microgravity. The crewmates also reviewed medical hardware, communication and coordination in the event of a medical emergency aboard the orbiting lab.

Ivanishin started Monday morning photographing the interior of the station’s Russian segment to document spaces that could support new research gear and areas that may require repairs. Vagner explored ways to prevent science experiments or degraded station hardware from potentially contaminating the cabin atmosphere.