Crew Dragon Go For Splashdown, Station Science Continues

NASA and SpaceX mission managers met Thursday night and are proceeding, weather permitting, with the return to Earth of two astronauts. Meanwhile, space research to improve life for humans on and off the planet kept the Expedition 63 crew busy today.

Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are packing up to end a two-month mission aboard the International Space Station. They are scheduled to board the Crew Dragon spacecraft and undock on Saturday evening from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter. The duo would splashdown on Sunday wrapping up NASA’s first crewed mission since 2011. NASA TV will provide continuous coverage of the departure and Earth return activities.

The veteran astronauts also completed their science assignments today that saw studies into unique fluids, biomedicine, autonomous robotics and more. However, Commander Chris Cassidy, who is staying in space until October, was busy all-day researching water droplets, observing extreme temperatures and sequencing microbial DNA.

Hurley serviced science freezers that preserve biological samples for later analysis. He finally powered down the Astrobee free-flying robots that will soon see students competing to create the best algorithms to control the devices. Behnken finalized his work observing microgravity’s effects on water droplets to improve conservation and pressure techniques.

The orbiting lab’s two cosmonauts from Roscosmos, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, continued their schedule of science and maintenance today. Ivanishin worked on a variety of communications gear during the morning before activating Russian radiation detectors in the afternoon. Vagner once again photographed Earth landmarks today then sampled the station’s air and surfaces to analyze and identify microbes.

Astronauts Talk to Press on Friday Before Crew Dragon Departure

NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy are the U.S. members of the Expedition 63 crew.
NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy are the U.S. members of the Expedition 63 crew.

Two Flight Engineers and the Expedition 63 Commander, all from NASA, will talk to journalists Friday morning before the SpaceX Crew Dragon completes its stay at the International Space Station.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, NASA’s first commercial crew, have been aboard the orbiting lab since May 31. They have been packing the Crew Dragon spacecraft and testing its systems to get ready for this weekend’s scheduled undocking and return to Earth. NASA TV will provide continuous live coverage of their departure and splashdown activities.

The NASA station trio, including Commander Chris Cassidy, will answer questions Friday morning from a variety of reporters calling up to space. NASA TV will broadcast the Crew News Conference live beginning at 10:45 a.m. EDT.

Orbital science is still ongoing today amidst Hurley and Behnken’s departure preparations. Cassidy was observing how microgravity shapes water droplets possibly improving water conservation and water pressure techniques on Earth. Even the homebound duo put in some research time studying light-manipulating materials and starting up an experimental radiation detector.

Earth observations are part of the critical research program taking place onboard the station. First-time cosmonaut Ivan Vagner photographed Earth landmarks today to understand and forecast the effects of natural and man-made catastrophes. Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin continued unloading the new Progress 76 cargo craft while updating the station’s inventory system.

Crew Dragon Suit Checks as Station Begins Orbital Reboosts

This long-exposure photograph from the space station reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow blanketing the Earth's horizon.
This long-exposure photograph from the space station reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow blanketing the Earth’s horizon.

The Expedition 63 crew checked out SpaceX Crew Dragon suits today and stayed busy with a full slate of space research. The International Space Station also completed the first of three orbital reboosts to get ready for the next crew mission in October.

Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken inspected the suits they will wear when they return to Earth aboard the Crew Dragon spaceship. The duo tried on their suits for a fit check and ensured the components are in good condition. They are scheduled to depart the station on Saturday and splashdown the following day. NASA TV will cover all the departure activities live.

The homebound-duo started the day replacing environmental control system (ECS) hardware aboard the orbiting lab. That work required temporarily removing a plant habitat from the Unity module to access the ECS.

Commander Chris Cassidy had his hands full as he worked on specialized hardware that enables research into disordered solids, or glass, and materials heated to extreme temperatures. He first set up a Light Microscopy Module that will look at the microscopic transition of glass-forming materials. Next, he worked on the Electromagnetic Levitator that observes the thermophysical properties of liquid metallic alloys.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner stayed busy today as they checked out Orlan spacesuits, serviced life support gear and analyzed station air samples for impurities.

The docked Progress 75 resupply ship fired its engines this morning for five-and-a-half minutes slightly lifting the station’s orbit. There will be two more station reboosts before the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship launches in October with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. They will dock to the Rassvet module a few hours after launch to begin a six-month mission as the Expedition 64 crew.

Wide Range of Space Science Keeps Crew Busy

This picture from the station reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow that blankets the Earth's horizon.
This long-exposure photograph from the station reveals the Milky Way glittering above the Earth’s horizon.

The Expedition 63 crew tackled a wide range of advanced space science today as NASA’s first commercial astronauts near their departure. Robotics, genetics and fluids were just a portion of today’s research schedule as the International Space Station residents work with scientists helping to improve conditions for astronauts and Earthlings.

Flight Engineer Doug Hurley checked on AstroBee, a set of free-flying robotic assistants onboard the station, preparing it for a student programming competition later this year. Fellow NASA astronaut Bob Behnken studied how weightlessness forms water droplets to promote water conservation and improve water pressure in faucets and shower heads.

The duo continued packing their SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle ahead of their scheduled departure and splashdown this weekend. NASA TV is broadcasting manager briefings, the crew news conference, the undocking and return to Earth live.

Commander Chris Cassidy checked the DNA profiles of microbe samples swabbed from station surfaces. Cassidy identified the bacteria living on the station using the portable, off-the-shelf technology familiar in laboratories and classrooms.

Earth observations were the prime research focus in the Russian side of the orbiting lab today. Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner used specialized imaging hardware to look at Earth’s upper atmosphere and photograph areas to identify catastrophes and hazards.

Two Astronauts Prep for Homecoming After Spacewalk and Cargo Mission

NASA spacewalker Bob Behnken takes a "space-selfie" with his helmet visor up on his U.S. spacesuit.
NASA spacewalker Bob Behnken takes a “space-selfie” with his helmet visor up on his U.S. spacesuit.

The Expedition 63 crew has started the weekend following a spacewalk and a same-day delivery this week to resupply the International Space Station. Two NASA astronauts are also getting ready to return to Earth after a two-month stay in space.

Commander Chris Cassidy cleaned water loops today inside the U.S. spacesuits he and Flight Engineer Bob Behnken wore during Tuesday’s five-hour and 29-minute spacewalk. The skilled astronaut has chalked up 10 career spacewalks gaining nearly 55 hours of external lab maintenance experience. This was also the tenth spacewalk for Behnken netting him just over 61 hours of service outside the station.

Behnken is now turning his attention to readying the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle that will return he and fellow NASA astronaut Doug Hurley to Earth at the beginning of August. They will undock from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter on Aug. 1. The duo will splashdown on Aug. 2 ending NASA’s first crewed mission aboard a commercial spacecraft.

Behnken and Hurley packed clothing, personal items and other gear today inside the Crew Dragon. The two astronauts also tried on a specialized suit to help their bodies adapt to the conditions of Earth’s gravity upon their return.

Five spaceships are parked at the station after Thursday’s arrival of Russia’s Progress 76 (76P) resupply ship less than three-and-half hours after launch. Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin has begun unpacking some of the nearly three tons of cargo delivered aboard the 76P. Fellow Roscosmos cosmonaut Ivan Vagner assisted with the cargo transfers and updated the station’s inventory management system.

Behnken and Cassidy Conclude Ten Spacewalks Each

NASA spacewalkers (from left) Bob Behnken and Chris Cassidy
NASA spacewalkers (from left) Bob Behnken and Chris Cassidy set up the outside of the Tranquility module for the future installation of the NanoRacks airlock.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Chris Cassidy concluded their spacewalk at 12:41 p.m. EDT, after five hours and 29 minutes. The two NASA astronauts completed a number of tasks designed to upgrade International Space Station systems.

They began by installing a protective storage unit that includes two Robotic External Leak Locator (RELL) units the Canadian Space Agency’s Dextre robot can use to detect leaks of ammonia, which is used to operate the station’s cooling system.

Behnken and Cassidy then removed two lifting fixtures at the base of station solar arrays on the near port truss, or backbone, of the station. The “H-fixtures” were used for ground processing of the solar arrays prior to their launch.

They then completed tasks to prepare the outside of the Tranquility module for the arrival later this year of the Nanoracks commercial airlock on a SpaceX cargo delivery mission. After its installation, the airlock will enable be used to deploy commercial and government-sponsored experiments into space.

They also routed ethernet cables and removed a lens filter cover from an external camera.

This was the 10th spacewalk for each astronaut, tying them with Michael Lopez-Alegria and Peggy Whitson as the only other U.S. astronauts to complete 10 spacewalks. Behnken has now spent a total of 61 hours and 10 minutes spacewalking, which makes him the U.S. astronaut with the third most total time spacewalking, behind Lopez-Alegria and Andrew Feustel, and the fourth most overall. Cassidy now has spent a total of 54 hours and 51 minutes spacewalking and is ninth on the worldwide list for total time spacewalking.

Space station crew members have conducted 231 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 60 days, 12 hours, and 3 minutes working outside the station.

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.

Astronauts Behnken and Cassidy Start Spacewalk

A NASA astronaut Bob Behnken's"space-selfie"
NASA astronaut Bob Behnken’s spacesuit gloves and camera are reflected in his helmet’s visor in this “space-selfie” taken during a spacewalk on June 26, 2020.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Chris Cassidy have begun the final planned spacewalk during their mission at the International Space Station.

The spacewalkers switched their spacesuits to battery power at 7:12 a.m. EDT to begin the spacewalk, which is expected to last between six and seven hours.

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

Behnken is extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing the spacesuit with red stripes, and using helmet camera #20. Cassidy is extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the spacesuit with no stripes and helmet camera #18.

The spacewalkers will be working on several tasks to upgrade systems and prepare for future station upgrades. Behnken and Cassidy will remove handling aids from two locations at the base of station solar arrays, prepare the outside of the Tranquility module for the arrival later this year of the Nanoracks commercial airlock, route ethernet cables, and remove a lens filter cover from an external camera.

This is the 231st spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance. It is the 10th spacewalk for both astronauts.

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.

NASA Announces Crew Dragon Splashdown Date

NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, are pictured inside the orbiting lab shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on May 31.
NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, are pictured inside the orbiting lab shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on May 31.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine today announced August 2 as the target splashdown date for DM-2 crew members Behnken and Hurley, with additional details on the return of this historic mission to come.

Spacewalk Preps and 45 Years of U.S.-Russian Space Cooperation Today

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy works during a six-hour spacewalk
Astronaut Chris Cassidy works during a spacewalk on July 16 to install lithium-ion batteries on the station. The orbiting lab was flying into an orbital sunrise at the time this photograph was taken.

It was 45 years ago today when American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts shook hands for the first time in Earth orbit. The Apollo crew ship commanded by NASA astronaut Tom Stafford docked to the Soyuz crew ship led by Alexei Leonov on July 17, 1975, signifying the beginning of international cooperation in space.

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner commemorated the event today with a call from U.S. and Russian dignitaries. The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project would lay the groundwork for the Shuttle-Mir project and the International Space Station program.

Watch the event on YouTube

Cassidy later joined his NASA crewmates Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to prepare for Tuesday’s spacewalk to wrap up battery swaps on the orbiting lab. Behnken and Cassidy will install the last lithium-ion battery on the station’s truss structure completing the 3.5 year-long power upgrade job. This follows Thursday’s six-hour spacewalk when the duo installed three lithium-ion batteries.

Before they go back inside the Quest airlock next week, the veteran spacewalkers will have one more job. The duo will get the Tranquility module ready for a new airlock built by NASA commercial partner NanoRacks. The airlock will enable public and private research on the outside of the station after its delivery on an upcoming SpaceX Dragon cargo mission.

Meanwhile, critical space science to benefit humans on and off the Earth continues aboard the station. Ivanishin explored how microgravity impacts blood circulation and pain sensitivity. Vagner collected radiation measurements then studied how crews may pilot spaceships and robots on future space missions.

NASA Astronauts Conclude Today’s Spacewalk

NASA astronaut pictured tethered on the space station’s truss structure during a spacewalk to swap batteries and route cables.
NASA astronaut pictured tethered on the space station’s truss structure during a spacewalk to swap batteries and route cables.

NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Robert Behnken concluded their spacewalk at 1:10 p.m. EDT, after six hours. The two NASA astronauts completed all the work to replace batteries that provide power for the station’s solar arrays on the starboard truss of the complex. The new batteries provide an improved and more efficient power capacity for operations.

The spacewalkers removed six aging nickel-hydrogen batteries for the second of two power channels for the starboard 6 (S6) truss, installed three new lithium-ion batteries, and installed the three associated adapter plates that are used to complete the power circuit to the new batteries. Mission control reports that all three new batteries are working.

The work nearly completes a 3.5-year effort to upgrade the International Space Station’s power system. At completion, 24 new lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates will replace 48 aging nickel-hydrogen batteries. In April 2019, one of the newly installed lithium-ion batteries on the near port truss blew a fuse, so two nickel-hydrogen batteries were re-installed to take its place. A new replacement lithium-ion battery arrived to the space station in January 2020 aboard the SpaceX Dragon on its 19th commercial resupply services mission and is stowed on the station’s truss until it can be installed during a future spacewalk later this year.

Behnken and Cassidy are scheduled to conduct one more spacewalk Tuesday, July 21, during which they will remove two lifting fixtures used for ground processing of the station’s solar arrays prior to their launch. They’ll also begin preparing the Tranquility module for the installation of a commercial airlock provided by NanoRacks and scheduled to arrive on a SpaceX cargo flight later this year. The airlock will be used to deploy commercial and government-sponsored experiments into space.

This was the ninth spacewalk for each astronaut. Behnken has now spent a total of 55 hours and 41 minutes spacewalking. Cassidy now has spent a total of 49 hours and 22 minutes spacewalking.

Space station crew members have conducted 230 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 60 days, 6 hours, and 34 minutes working outside the station.

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.