Cygnus Resupply Ship Nears Launch as Next Spacewalks Booked

The Cygnus space freighter is pictured launching atop an Antares rocket from Virginia to the space station on April 17, 2019.
The Cygnus space freighter is pictured launching atop an Antares rocket from Virginia to the space station on April 17, 2019. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Expedition 64 crew is making final preparations today for the arrival of a U.S. resupply ship while keeping up the momentum of space research. The next two spacewalks also have been scheduled to continue hardware installations and upgrades at the International Space Station.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is counting down to its launch from Virginia on Saturday at 12:36 p.m. EST to the orbiting lab. It will rendezvous with the station on Monday when Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)  commands the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Cygnus at about 4:40 a.m. NASA Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins will monitor Cygnus’ approach and rendezvous as it reaches a point about 10 meters from the station.

The duo practiced a variety of robotics maneuvers on a computer today to capture Cygnus. The training simulates different approach scenarios for the U.S. space freighter as the astronauts familiarize themselves with the necessary robotic capture techniques.

Two more spacewalks are planned at the orbiting lab on Feb. 28 and March 5. On the first spacewalk, NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover will set up the station for upcoming solar array upgrades. For the second spacewalk, Rubins will be joined by Noguchi for maintenance on coolant and communication systems.

Today’s science work on the station encompassed physics, biology and human research. Flight Engineer Shannon Walker set up hardware in the Microgravity Science Glovebox to explore how liquids and gases behave together in space for the Packed Bed Reactor Experiment. Rubins continued swabbing station surfaces to collect microbe samples for DNA sequencing and analysis. Glover joined Noguchi wearing virtual reality helmets for a study researching how time perception and cognition is affected in weightlessness.

In the station’s Russian segment, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov serviced an array of life support systems and electronics gear. Cargo transfers from the ISS Progress 77 cargo craft are also ongoing.

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