Spacewalkers Conclude Today’s Spacewalk

Spacewalkers Victor Glover and Kate Rubins are pictured at the mast canister, installing bracket support struts to the base of the solar array on Feb, 28th 2021.
Spacewalkers Victor Glover and Kate Rubins are pictured at the mast canister, installing bracket support struts to the base of the solar array on Feb, 28th 2021.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover concluded their spacewalk at 1:16 p.m. EST, after 7 hours and 4 minutes. In the third spacewalk of the year outside the International Space Station, the two NASA astronauts began work to install modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades.

The duo worked near the farthest set of existing solar arrays on the station’s left (port) side, known as P6. Glover built a bracket structure and worked with Rubins to attach the bracket and support struts to the mast canister, the base, of one of the P6 solar arrays, known as 2B. One of the bolts did not fully engage on the first attempt, so Rubins used a power drill to back it out and reseat it, then used a ratchet wrench to tighten the bolt, reaching a safe configuration. The bolt likely will need to be secured further before installing one of the new solar arrays that will be delivered to the space station later this year aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission.

Rubins and Glover then moved to begin identical assembly work for the bracket for the second of the P6 solar array pair, known as 4B. They completed the construction of upper support hardware and secured it to the space station’s exterior structure until work can be completed on the next spacewalk on Friday, March 5.

To ensure a sufficient power supply is maintained for NASA’s exploration technology demonstrations for Artemis and beyond as well as utilization and commercialization, NASA is augmenting six of the eight existing power channels of the space station with new solar arrays. The new solar arrays, a larger version of the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology, will be positioned in front of six of the current arrays, ultimately increasing the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts. The current solar arrays are functioning well but have begun to show signs of degradation, as expected, as they were designed for a 15-year service life.

This was the third career spacewalk for both Rubins and Glover. Rubins has now spent a total of 19 hours and 50 minutes spacewalking. Glover now has spent a total of 19 hours and 20 minutes spacewalking.

Space station crew members have conducted 235 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 61 days, 14 hours, and 11 minutes working outside the station.

During the spacewalk March 5, Rubins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi will venture outside the orbiting outpost to complete the installation of the 4B array modification kit and are expected to tackle additional work, including the venting of ammonia from the Early Ammonia System.

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 Rubins and Glover Begin Spacewalk

NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins during a six-hour and 48-minute spacewalk on Sept. 1, 2016.
NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins during a six-hour and 48-minute spacewalk on Sept. 1, 2016.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover have begun their spacewalk outside the International Space Station to begin assembling and installing modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades.

The spacewalkers switched their spacesuits to battery power at 6:12 a.m. EST to begin the spacewalk, which is expected to last about six and a half hours.

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

Rubins is extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing a spacesuit bearing red stripes and using helmet camera #22. Glover is extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the spacesuit without stripes and helmet camera #20.

Rubins and Glover will traverse out the station’s backbone truss structure to the far left (port) side set of solar arrays, the first pair of solar arrays deployed in December 2000 that have been powering the station for more than 20 years. The spacewalkers will work together to construct and begin installing bracket support structures at the base of the current solar arrays that will enable new solar arrays to be installed to augment the space station’s power supply.

This is the 235th spacewalk in support of space station assembly.

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.

Cygnus Resupply Ship Bolted to Station’s Unity Module

Feb. 22, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are attached to the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft, and Russia's Progress 76 and 77 resupply ships and Soyuz MS-17 crew ship.
Feb. 22, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are attached to the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft, and Russia’s Progress 75 and 77 resupply ships and Soyuz MS-17 crew ship.

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft was berthed to the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:16 a.m. EST Monday morning and subsequently bolted into place. Cygnus will remain at the space station until May, when the spacecraft will depart the station. Following departure, the Cygnus will dispose of several tons of trash during a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

The spacecraft, which launched at 12:36 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 20, on an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, brings approximately 8,000 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies to the orbiting laboratory to support the Expedition 64 and 65 crews. The Cygnus was captured earlier Monday morning at 4:38 a.m. EST.

Highlights of science investigations aboard this Cygnus include:

A new vision

Millions of people on Earth suffer from retinal degenerative diseases. These conditions have no cure, although treatments can slow their progression. Artificial retinas or retinal implants may provide a way to restore meaningful vision for those affected. In 2018, startup LambdaVision sent their first experiment to the space station to determine whether the process used to create artificial retinal implants by forming a thin film one layer at a time may work better in microgravity.

A second experiment by LambdaVision launching on NG CRS-15, Protein-Based Artificial Retina Manufacturing, builds on the first project, evaluating a manufacturing system that uses a light-activated protein to replace the function of damaged cells in the eye. This information may help LambdaVision uncover whether microgravity optimizes production of these retinas, and could assist people back on Earth.

Bringing advanced computing aboard the space station

Due to a need to prioritize reliability over performance, computing capabilities in space are reduced compared to capabilities on the ground, creating challenges when transmitting data to and from space. Although relying on ground-based computers is possible for exploration on the Moon or in low-Earth orbit, this solution will not work for exploration farther into the solar system. Launched in 2017, the SpaceborneComputer study ran a high-performance commercial off-the-shelf computer system in space with the goal of having the system operate seamlessly for one year. It successfully performed more than 1 trillion calculations (or one teraflop) per second for 207 days without requiring reset.

Spaceborne Computer-2 builds on the successes of this first study, exploring how off-the-shelf computer systems can advance exploration by processing data significantly faster in space with edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. This experiment plans to demonstrate that Earth-based data processing of current station science data can instead be performed on station. Eliminating the need for researchers to send all raw data back to Earth for analysis could speed scientists’ time-to-insight from months to minutes.

Space worms to the rescue

Tiny worms could help us determine the cause of muscle weakening that astronauts can experience in microgravity. Astronauts work out more than two hours a day aboard the space station to prevent bone and muscle loss caused by living in a microgravity environment during long-duration missions. Thanks to a new device for measuring the muscle strength of tiny C. elegans worms, researchers with the Micro-16 study can test whether decreased expression of muscle proteins is associated with this decreased strength. The device consists of a small microscope slide filled with little rubber pillars. The strength of the worms is measured by how much force the worms apply to the pillars as they move around the slide.

Preparing for the Moon

The International Space Station serves as a testing ground for technologies we plan to use on future Artemis missions to the Moon. The NASA A-HoSS investigation puts to the test tools planned for use on the crewed Artemis II mission that will orbit the Moon. Built as the primary radiation detection system for the Orion spacecraft, the Hybrid Electronic Radiation Assessor (HERA) was modified for operation on the space station.

Verifying that HERA can operate without error for 30 days validates the system for crewed Artemis mission operations. A related investigation, ISS HERA, flew in 2019 aboard the space station. ISS HERA provided data and operational feedback in preparation for the Orion spacecraft’s uncrewed Artemis I mission that will launch in 2021.

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.

Crew Preps New Airlock and Studies Variety of Space Phenomena

Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins works on hydroponics components for the Plant Water Management study.
Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins works on hydroponics components for the Plant Water Management study.

The Expedition 64 crew continued setting up a new science and cargo airlock for operations today since its installation last year on the International Space Station. The orbital residents also researched how microgravity affects humans, plants and physics.

The station’s Tranquility module was expanded in December with the addition of the new NanoRacks Bishop airlock. Flight Engineer Kate Rubins is finalizing its configuration today by connecting cables and installing components so Bishop can begin service. She was assisted by fellow NASA astronauts Shannon Walker and Victor Glover who began stowing cargo inside Bishop for the first time.

Glover started the morning with NASA Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module researching how the human nervous system adapts to weightlessness. The duo took turns seated in a specialized chair performing a series of dexterous manipulation tasks for the GRIP study. Insights may help engineers and doctors develop better spacecraft interfaces and treat neurological conditions on Earth.

Hopkins then spent the afternoon demonstrating hydroponics for the Plant Water Management study as a way to sustain plants in microgravity from germination through harvest. JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi jotted down his meals for the Nutrition study before swapping samples for a crystal growth/semiconductor study.

Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov were back on exercise research today studying how the lack of gravity impacts the effectiveness of a workout. The duo strapped sensors to themselves measuring their heart and breathing rate as they jogged on the Zvezda service module’s treadmill.

Nervous System, Exercise Research Fills Science Schedule Wednesday

Expedition 64 Flight Engineers (from left) Kate Rubins and Shannon Walker called down to the Centers for Disease Control and talked about science on the space station. Credit: NASA TV
Expedition 64 Flight Engineers (from left) Kate Rubins and Shannon Walker called down to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today and talked about science on the space station. Credit: NASA TV

Human research was the main science focus aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 64 crew members also worked on spacesuit maintenance.

The space-exposed human nervous system may impact how an astronaut grips and manipulates objects during a mission. NASA Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover participated in the GRIP study today that could help engineers and doctors develop better spacecraft interfaces and treat neurological conditions on Earth.

Glover also checked out components on safety jetpacks that an astronaut would use in the unlikely event a spacewalker became untethered from the space station. NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker worked during the afternoon on batteries that keep U.S. spacesuit life support systems powered during spacewalks.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins tried on the experimental AstroRad radiation protection vest during the afternoon testing it for fit and comfort while working. Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) serviced the Cell Biology Experiment Facility, an incubator that cultivates cells and plants for research, throughout the day.

Exercise research is also important as flight surgeons learn to maximize the effects of a crew member’s workout to account for the lack of gravity. Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov strapped sensors to themselves and jogged on the Russian treadmill on Wednesday. Data will be sent down to doctors to review how a cosmonaut’s body adjusts to working out in space.

Robotics, Emergency Training and Cargo Mission Preps on Station

Clockwise from bottom right are, Expedition 64 Flight Engineers and SpaceX Crew-1 members Soichi Noguchi, Michael Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor Glover during spacewalk preparations inside the U.S. Quest airlock.
Clockwise from bottom right are, Expedition 64 Flight Engineers and SpaceX Crew-1 members Soichi Noguchi, Michael Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor Glover during spacewalk preparations inside the U.S. Quest airlock.

Free-flying robotics and fluid physics dominated the research schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 64 crew also trained for an emergency while also preparing for upcoming U.S. and Russian cargo missions.

The Astrobee experimental robotic assistants were flying around inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module on Thursday. The cube-shaped, toaster-sized robots are being tested for their ability to autonomously navigate and maneuver inside the orbiting lab. NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins set up the robotic free flyers and live streamed their activities to ground specialists during the afternoon.

Rubins also set up a fluid physics experiment in the morning that NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker would work on the rest of the day. Walker was studying simpler, more advanced ways to manage fluid and gas mixtures inside spacecraft life support systems.

Walker would also join her flight engineer crewmates Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA for Crew Dragon emergency training. The quartet reviewed the procedures they would use in case the Crew Dragon encountered a chemical leak, depressurization or a fire.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov is readying the station’s Russian segment for upcoming resupply ship missions. The commander is packing the Progress 76 cargo craft with trash and discarded gear ahead of its Feb. 9 undocking. Ryzhikov also tested video communications gear that will be used when the Progress 77 space freighter approaches the station for a docking on Feb. 17.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship is due to arrive at the station on Feb. 22 carrying over 8,000 pounds of crew supplies, science experiments and station hardware. NASA will host a media teleconference on Feb. 11 to discuss the new research and technology demonstrations Cygnus is delivering.

Science Gear Work and Spacesuit Cleaning Follow Harvest

Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Shannon Walker collects leaf samples from plants growing inside the European Columbus laboratory.
Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Shannon Walker collects leaf samples from plants growing inside the European Columbus laboratory.

The Expedition 64 crew turned its attention to science hardware today following Tuesday’s harvest aboard the International Space Station. The orbital residents also cleaned up following two spacewalks to upgrade communications and power systems.

NASA Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins prepared the NanoRacks Bishop airlock on Wednesday for its upcoming pressurization. The experienced astronaut then finished the day inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship recharging computer tablets and updating orbital software.

The day before, Hopkins picked a variety of edible plants growing in the station’s Columbus laboratory module including pak choi, wasabi mustard, kale, and red romaine. He snacked on the leaves with his crewmates for a taste test and stowed samples for later analysis as part of the Veg-3 botany study. Space agriculture is key to the success and sustainability of future human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover split their day servicing hardware for a long-running suite of experiments known as ACME, or Advanced Combustion in Microgravity Experiments. The duo replaced a variety of components inside the device that hosts the fuel efficiency, pollution and fire safety investigations.

Glover started the day with fellow NASA astronaut Shannon Walker tearing down old video equipment that he and Hopkins uninstalled from Columbus during Monday’s spacewalk. Walker then joined JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi for post-spacewalk maintenance on the U.S. spacesuits Hopkins and Glover wore on Monday.

In the Russian segment of the station, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov worked on Zarya module upkeep and science photography tasks. Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov assisted Ryzhikov with the science photography then moved on to communications and life support work.

Astronauts Wind Down After Spacewalk, Reap Space Harvest

NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins takes an out-of-this-world "space-selfie" during Monday's spacewalk.
NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins takes an out-of-this-world “space-selfie” during Monday’s spacewalk.

Two spacewalkers and their assistants are winding down today following two spacewalks in less than a week. There was also a harvest today aboard the International Space Station as the Expedition 64 crew learns about space agriculture.

NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover completed their second spacewalk together on Monday wrapping up a years-long effort to upgrade the station’s power system. They relaxed Tuesday morning before spending the afternoon on a spacewalk conference and space botany.

The duo joined astronauts Kate Rubins of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA and called down to spacewalk engineers after lunchtime today. The quartet briefed the specialists on any concerns or issues they had during the Jan. 27 and Feb. 1 spacewalks.

Hopkins spent the rest of the afternoon harvesting plants growing inside the Columbus laboratory module’s Veggie facility. Afterward, he joined his astronaut crewmates including Flight Engineer Shannon Walker and snacked on the freshly picked pak choi, wasabi mustard, kale, and red romaine for a taste test.

In the station’s Russian segment, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov worked on computers, life science hardware and Zarya module maintenance. Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov worked on orbital plumbing tasks and radiation checks then work on a pair of Earth observation experiments.

Spacewalkers Wrap Up Battery Work and Camera Installations

The seven-member Expedition 64 crew poses for a portrait inside the space station's Kibo laboratory module.
The seven-member Expedition 64 crew poses for a portrait inside the space station’s Kibo laboratory module.

NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover concluded their spacewalk at 1:16 p.m. EST, after 5 hours and 20 minutes. In the second spacewalk of the year, the two NASA astronauts completed work to replace batteries that store power from the station’s solar arrays and upgrade several of the station’s external cameras. The duo finished their planned tasks ahead of schedule and also complete several get-ahead tasks in preparation for future spacewalks.

This spacewalk completes a four-year effort to upgrade the batteries of the International Space Station’s power system, replacing 48 aging nickel-hydrogen batteries with 24 new lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates. With the battery work complete, the focus turns to solar array augmentation.

Two additional spacewalks are planned for the near future. During the next spacewalk, Glover and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will work outside the station to prepare its power system for the installation of new solar arrays to increase the station’s existing power supply. For a following spacewalk, Rubins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi will continue upgrading station components. NASA will air a briefing and preview of the next two spacewalks after the dates are set.

This was the fourth spacewalk in Hopkins’ career, and the second for Glover.

Hopkins has now spent a total of 25 hours and 14 minutes spacewalking. Glover now has spent a total of 12 hours and 16 minutes spacewalking.

Space station crew members have conducted 234 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 61 days, 7 hours, and 7 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.