Six spaceships, three U.S. and three Russian, are parked at the International Space Station after Monday’s arrival of the upgraded SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle. The Expedition 64 crew will spend the rest of December focusing on science as 2021 shapes up to be a busy year on the orbital lab.
Two Dragon spaceships, one cargo craft and one crew ship, are docked to the station’s Harmony module for the first time ever. The Cargo Dragon docked Monday afternoon to Harmony’s space-facing port where it will stay for one month. The Crew Dragon has been docked to Harmony’s forward port since Nov. 16 and will return four astronauts back to Earth in the spring.
Cargo Dragon’s hatch was opened shortly after its automated docking and the crew soon began unpacking and activating the first of 2,100 pounds of new science investigations. The U.S. resupply ship’s main payload, the NanoRacks Bishop science airlock, will be installed with the Canadarm2 robotic arm to the Tranquility module later this month.
NASA Flight Engineers Shannon Walker and Michael Hopkins began Tuesday offloading the Dragon-transported critical research samples and stowing them in science freezers to be examined later. Their crewmates Kate Rubins installed new science freezers in the station, while Victor Glover set up newly delivered habitats carrying rodents for analysis.
A new human stem cell experiment, Space Organogenesis, got underway today after JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi collected biological samples and research hardware from Dragon. Microgravity will give scientists insight into growing organs and observing genetic changes which could impact regenerative medicine.
In the Russian segment of the station, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov explored advanced space photography techniques before working on cargo operations with the docked Progress 76 resupply ship. His fellow cosmonaut, Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, worked on Earth observation hardware then serviced repair tools.