Liftoff! Multipurpose Laboratory Module “Nauka” Launches to Space Station

The Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) “Nauka” launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 10:58 a.m. on July 21, 2021.

The uncrewed Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) “Nauka” is safely in orbit following launch at 10:58 a.m. (7:58 p.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The MLM deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned. After Nauka completes eight days in free-flight to allow Russian flight controllers to evaluate its systems, the 43-foot long, 23-ton module will automatically link up to the port on the Earth-facing side of the Russian segment of the International Space Station, which will be vacated by the departure of Pirs. Docking is scheduled for 9:25 a.m. Thursday, July 29, with live coverage beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Nauka will serve as a new science facility, docking port, and spacewalk airlock for future operations. Pirs has been part of the space station since September 2001, functioning as a docking port for Russian visiting spacecraft and an airlock for Russian spacewalks.

Pirs will vacate the space station attached to the uncrewed ISS Progress 77 spacecraft, which is scheduled to undock at 9:15 a.m. Friday, July 23. Live coverage on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website will begin at 8:45 a.m. A few hours later, Progress’ engines will fire in a deorbit maneuver to send the cargo craft and Pirs into a destructive reentry in the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. Deorbit and reentry will not be covered on NASA TV.

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.

Watch Live as Russian Science Module Launches to Space Station

NASA Television, the agency’s website and the NASA app now are providing live coverage of a new Russian science module’s launch and automated docking to the International Space Station.

The uncrewed Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), named Nauka, the Russian word for “science,” is scheduled to launch at 10:58 a.m. EDT (7:58 p.m. Baikonur time) Wednesday, July 21, on a three-stage Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

NASA TV to Air Crew Dragon’s Port Relocation

The SpaceX Crew-1 Dragon maneuvers to another port on the International Space Station on April 5, 2021
The SpaceX Crew-1 Dragon maneuvers to another port on the International Space Station on April 5, 2021

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts on the International Space Station will relocate their Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft Wednesday, July 21, setting the stage for a historic first when two different U.S. commercial spacecraft built for crew will be docked to the microgravity laboratory at the same time.

Live coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. EDT on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and  Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will board the Crew Dragon spacecraft about 4:30 a.m. and undock from the forward port of the station’s Harmony module at 6:45 a.m. The spacecraft will dock again at the station’s space-facing port at 7:32 a.m.

The relocation will free up Harmony’s forward port for the docking of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, scheduled for launch Friday, July 30, as part of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2). The flight will test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner from launch to docking, atmospheric re-entry, and a desert landing in the western United States. The uncrewed mission will provide valuable data about Boeing’s crew transportation system, and help NASA certify Starliner and the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for regular flights with astronauts to and from the space station.

This will be the second port relocation of a Crew Dragon spacecraft. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission lifted off April 23 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and docked to the space station April 24. Crew-2, targeted to return in early-to-mid November, is the second of six certified crew missions NASA and SpaceX have planned as a part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Mission Prep Heats Up Amid Science and Medical Studies

Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) works with a science experiment within the Microgravity Science Glovebox. Credits: NASA
Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) works with a science experiment within the Microgravity Science Glovebox. Credits: NASA

Today, the Expedition 65 crewmates aboard the International Space Station continued down their checklists in preparation for the next day’s planned mission activities — to include a port-relocation maneuver and the launch of a new module that will replace the Pirs Docking Compartment. Pirs has only a few days left in its 20-year length of service to the orbiting outpost, as it will soon be jettisoned, along with the Progress 77 cargo craft, on Friday for a destructive re-entry in Earth’s atmosphere.

Investigations in materials science continued in between maintenance and mission prep, with NASA astronaut Megan McArthur conducting runs of the Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Ellipsoids, or InSPACE-4, study. Using magnetic fields, the experiment studies the assembly of tiny structures from colloids and their mechanical responses to interaction with light and heat.

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, meanwhile, worked with ULTRA Tweezers, an experiment that aims to gain understanding of an acoustic phenomenon theorized more than 30 years ago. The microgravity environment inherent to station will be particularly helpful in validating use of ultrasonic tweezers, or non-audible sound waves, to exert force on the objects they encounter.

Ongoing medical studies in eye health involved many of the crew members, with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and McArthur setting up the fundoscope for ocular examinations. These exams are remotely guided from medical experts on the ground and obtain images of the retinol surface, seeking any detectable changes to the astronauts’ eyes and vision.

Maintenance and housekeeping was a priority for another contingent of astronauts and cosmonauts. Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough continued an install with the newly deployed toilet system in Node 3 while his fellow crew member, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, obtained a potable bus sample from the Water Recovery System. The Russian cosmonaut duo of Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy continued with cargo transfer activities.

Many tasks were a prelude to the port relocation happening Wednesday, with Hoshide going over the final configuration, McArthur calibrating the Crew Dragon handheld gas detectors, and Pesquet reorganizing supplies in the Crew Dragon spacecraft, dubbed Endeavour.

Tomorrow, Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide, and Pesquet will board Endeavour about 4:30 a.m. EDT and undock from the forward port of the station’s Harmony module at 6:45 a.m. The spacecraft will dock again at the station’s space-facing port a short time later, at 7:32 a.m. This fly-around will free up Harmony’s forward port for the docking of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner as part of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission.

On July 21, catch the port relocation first on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. Live coverage begins at 6:30 a.m. EDT. Four hours later, at 10:30 a.m., launch coverage begins for the Multipurpose Laboratory Module. Named Nauka, after the Russian word for “science,” the newest addition to station will hitch a ride to space on a three-stage Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Simulation and Station Maintenance Preface a Busy Week for the Crew

Expedition 65 Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency reviews procedures on a computer tablet for the InSPACE-4 physics study. Credits: NASA
Expedition 65 Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency reviews procedures on a computer tablet for the InSPACE-4 physics study. Credits: NASA

As the week kicked off, the Expedition 65 crew members spent much of their Monday fine-tuning procedures in anticipation of Wednesday’s port-relocation activity, which will free up the Harmony’s forward port for the docking of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station. That vehicle is scheduled for launch Friday, July 30, as part of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 mission.

Science also continued aboard the orbiting laboratory, with NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei conducting experiment runs throughout the day for Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Ellipsoids, or InSPACE-4. This investigation studies the assembly of tiny structures from colloids using magnetic fields. Off the Earth and without the constraints of gravity, scientists are able to observe the assembly processes free from confining sample walls and sedimentation and to timescales not possible during simulation.

Vande Hei teamed up with fellow crewmate Shane Kimbrough to perform needed maintenance to the station’s toilet system, removing and replacing a hose for the assembly and completing a motor test and leak check. Station Commander Akihiko Hoshide, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut, along with NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, helped keep station experiments running optimally by removing two deployers from the Japanese Experiment Module Small Satellite Orbital Deployer and a hard drive from the Fluids and Combustion Facility, respectively.

Cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy, meanwhile, worked to transfer equipment for disposal to the Progress 77 cargo craft, which is set to undock — along with the Pirs Docking Compartment — from the International Space Station on Friday, July 23. A few hours later, Progress’ engines will fire in a deorbit maneuver to send the cargo craft and Pirs into a destructive re-entry in the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

Replacing Pirs, a module that has been part of the orbital outpost for the past 20 years, is the Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) named Nauka, the Russian word for “science.” The MLM is scheduled to launch on Wednesday, July 21, on a three-stage Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Most pressing for the team in space was a comprehensive onboard training session and simulation for the upcoming Crew Dragon port relocation, which will set the stage for a historic first — when two different U.S. commercial spacecraft built for crew will be docked to the outpost at the same time.

See all these mission events on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. Live coverage of the port relocation begins at 6:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday, July 21, with launch coverage of the MLM at 10:30 a.m. that same day. On Friday, July 23, coverage for the undocking of Progress 77 and Pirs beginning at 8:45 a.m. EDT Friday, July 23.

Cargo Dragon Departs Station, Returns to Earth Friday

July 8, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are docked at the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Russia's Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 77 and 78 resupply ships.
July 8, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are docked at the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 77 and 78 resupply ships.

With NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough  monitoring aboard the International Space Station, a SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Docking Adapter on the station’s space-facing port of the Harmony module at 10:45 a.m. EDT.

Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the space station during the next 36 hours. On Friday, July 9, Dragon will conduct a deorbit burn to begin its re-entry sequence into Earth’s atmosphere. Dragon is expected to splash down at approximately 11:29 p.m. in the Gulf of Mexico near Tallahassee, Florida. The splashdown will not be broadcast.

Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, delivering some science back into the hands of the researchers as soon as four to nine hours after splashdown. This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects. The Dragon’s departure will be the second splashdown of a U.S. commercial cargo craft off the Florida coast. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft returned to the Pacific Ocean, with quick-return science cargo processed at SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas, and delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Dragon launched June 3 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy, arriving at the station a little less than 16 hours later. The spacecraft delivered more than 7,300 pounds of research investigations, crew supplies, and vehicle hardware to the orbiting outpost. Dragon’s external cargo “trunk” carried six new ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays (iROSAs), two of which Expedition 65 crew members Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet, an ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut, installed during three spacewalks June 16, 20, and 25.

Some of the scientific investigations Dragon will return to Earth include:

  • Lyophilization-2 examines how gravity affects freeze-dried materials and could result in improved freeze-drying processes for pharmaceutical and other industries. Freeze-drying also has potential use for long-term storage of medications and other resources on future exploration missions.
  • Molecular Muscle Experiment-2 tests a series of drugs to see whether they can improve health in space, possibly leading to new therapeutic targets for examination on Earth.
  • Oral Biofilms in Space studies how gravity affects the structure, composition, and activity of oral bacteria in the presence of common oral care agents. Findings could support development of novel treatments to fight oral diseases such as cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@Space_Station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Instagram and ISS Facebook accounts.

Dragon Undocking Planned Thursday, Crew Focuses on Space Research

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle approaches the space station on June 5, 2021. At center right, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is also pictured docked to the Harmony module.
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle approaches the space station on June 5, 2021. At center right, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is also pictured docked to the Harmony module.

SpaceX CRS-22 undocking is planned for Thursday, July 8 at 10:35 a.m. EDT, with NASA TV coverage scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. NASA and SpaceX flight control teams continue to monitor the weather and splashdown locations. Certain parameters like wind speeds and wave heights must be within certain limits to ensure the safety of the recovery teams, the science, and the spacecraft. Additional opportunities are available on July 9 and 10. The space freighter’s departure had been scheduled for earlier this week but was postponed due to weather conditions off the coast of Florida.

Meanwhile, the Expedition 65 crew members stayed focused on a variety of science activities including human health, robotics and physics.

Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet took turns working out on an exercise cycle Wednesday for a fitness test. The veteran astronauts attached sensors to their chests and pedaled for an hour on the device more formally known as the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization, or CEVIS. The test took place in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module and measures how microgravity affects the duo’s physical exertion, or aerobic capacity.

NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur focused on electronics maintenance and robotics research throughout Wednesday. The two-time space visitor powered up a cube-shaped AstroBee robotic helper and tested new technology that monitors the acoustic environment of the station. SoundSee seeks to demonstrate that “listening” to station components can help detect anomalies in spacecraft systems that need servicing.

Space manufacturing using colloids is being investigated for the ability to harness nanoparticles to fabricate new and advanced materials. Station commander Akihiko Hoshide conducted three runs inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox of the InSPACE-4 study today that could improve the strength and safety of Earth and space systems.

The trio that launched to the station aboard the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship practiced an emergency evacuation drill during the morning. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei joined cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov and reviewed procedures such as donning gas masks, quickly entering the Soyuz spacecraft, undocking and reentering the Earth’s atmosphere.

Vande Hei later assisted McArthur with cable management work inside the Tranquility module. Novitskiy and Dubrov wrapped up the day disconnecting antenna cables inside their Soyuz vehicle.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Wednesday, July 21, for Crew Dragon Endeavour’s International Space Station port relocation operation. Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide Pesquet will suit up in their launch and entry spacesuits for Crew Dragon’s automated relocation maneuver from the forward to the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module. The maneuver frees up the forward port to prepare for the arrival of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission at the microgravity laboratory at the end of July.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@Space_Station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Instagram and ISS Facebook accounts.

Weather Delays Dragon Undocking, Crew Scans Veins for Health Checks

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur are pictured inside the cupola during the approach and rendezvous of the SpaceX Cargo Dragon on June 5, 2021.
NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur are pictured inside the cupola during the approach and rendezvous of the SpaceX Cargo Dragon on June 5, 2021.

Due to forecast extreme weather off the coast of Florida, SpaceX CRS-22 undocking is no longer planned for Wednesday, July 7. NASA and SpaceX flight control teams continue to monitor the weather and splashdown locations and are prepared to support undocking of the Dragon cargo spacecraft once conditions are safe to do so. Certain parameters like wind speeds and wave heights must be within certain limits to ensure the safety of the recovery teams, the science, and the spacecraft.

The next opportunity for undocking is July 8 at 10:35 a.m. EDT, with NASA TV coverage scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Additional opportunities are available on July 9 and 10. NASA will provide an update Wednesday, July 7 on the date for undocking following a weather briefing.

NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Shane Kimbrough worked on cargo transfers inside the Dragon today. Kimbrough then joined Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Thomas Pesquet and Commander Akihiko Hoshide at the end of the day and reviewed cargo craft emergency departure procedures. Pesquet set up a pair of computers inside the cupola in support of Dragon’s undocking and monitoring.

Hoshide and Kimbrough swapped roles as Crew Medical Officer today taking charge of vein scans with the Ultrasound-2 device. The duo took turns scanning each other’s neck, shoulder and leg veins. Hoshide also scanned McArthur’s veins as part of standard health checks with doctors on the ground monitoring.

Pesquet also had time Tuesday to wear the specialized Sidekick headset and examine the Tranquility module’s treadmill using augmented reality. The two-time station resident then moved on inspecting and photographing hatch seals on the Kibo laboratory module.

Roscosmos Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov stayed focused on Russian cargo and station life support activities. Novitskiy updated computer data files associated with the recent docking of the ISS Progress 78 resupply ship. Dubrov worked on orbital plumbing and thermal systems hardware.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@Space_Station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Instagram and ISS Facebook accounts.

Weather Pushes Dragon Undocking to No Earlier than July 7

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship is pictured approaching the space station on June 5, 2021.
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship is pictured approaching the space station on June 5, 2021.

Due to forecasted extreme weather off the coast of Florida, SpaceX CRS-22 undocking is now planned for no earlier than July 7. NASA Television coverage will begin at 10:45 am EDT. NASA and SpaceX flight control teams continue to monitor the weather and splashdown locations. Certain parameters like wind speeds and wave heights must be within certain limits to ensure the safety of the recovery teams, the science, and the spacecraft.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@Space_Station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Instagram and ISS Facebook accounts.