Crew Gets Ready for Cargo Missions, Opens New Airlock

Earth's atmospheric glow and the aurora blanket the horizon as the space station orbited above the North Atlantic.
Earth’s atmospheric glow and the aurora blanket the horizon as the space station orbited above the North Atlantic.

Two cargo rockets on opposite sides of the world are nearing their launch to resupply the Expedition 64 crew this month. A new science and cargo airlock installed late last year on the International Space Station is now open for business.

Russia’s Progress 76 (76P) cargo craft, packed with trash and discarded hardware, will depart the orbiting lab tonight completing a 201-day mission attached to the Pirs docking compartment. It will deorbit a few hours later for a fiery, but safe destruction over the South Pacific.

The 76P will be replaced after the Progress 77 (77P) cargo craft blasts off on Feb. 14 at 11:45 p.m. EST from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The 77P will dock to the vacant Pirs port a little more than two days later on Feb. 17 at 1:20 a.m. The launch and docking activities will be broadcast live on NASA TV.

The next cargo mission to resupply the station will be Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo ship lifting off atop an Antares rocket on Feb. 20 from Virginia. Cygnus will be delivering about 8,000 pounds of station hardware, science experiments, and crew supplies to replenish the orbiting lab on Feb. 22. It will be captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and installed to the Unity module‘s Earth-facing port.

Aboard the space station today, NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover configured and opened the NanoRacks Bishop airlock. Bishop was attached to the station’s Tranquility module on Dec. 19 two weeks after it was delivered inside the SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft. Bishop will enable more commercial research, satellite deployments, and cargo operations outside in the vacuum of space.

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