Science and spacewalk preparations kept the Expedition 68 crew busy throughout Wednesday. Meanwhile, the International Space Station is orbiting slightly higher after a docked cargo craft fired its engines during the morning.
NASA Flight Engineer Josh Cassada started his day supporting student-designed botany experiments packed inside specialized tubes delivered aboard Dragon. Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) peered at microscopic worms inside the Confocal microscope for deeper insight into how the nervous system adapts to weightlessness. Observations may help doctors keep astronauts healthy in space and design therapies for neuromuscular diseases such as Parkinson’s.
After working on advanced science experiments during the morning, all four astronauts joined each other and reviewed plans for Saturday’s spacewalk set to start at 7:25 a.m. EST. Cassada and Rubio will exit the station for a seven-hour job to install a new roll-out solar array on the station’s starboard truss structure. Mann and Wakata will support the duo in and out of their Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), or spacesuits, and operate the Canadarm2 robotic arm during the spacewalk.
Station Commander Sergey Prokopyev from Roscosmos worked inside the Zvezda service module replacing life support gear on Wednesday afternoon after completing a heart-monitoring session during the morning. Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin continued the heart research and attached sensors to himself to monitor his cardiac activity and blood pressure for 24 hours. Petelin then spent the rest of the day cleaning hydraulic components inside a Russian Orlan spacesuit. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina analyzed the Zarya module’s power supply system using an oscilloscope and infrared camera before conducting ventilation maintenance inside Zvezda.
A docked ISS Progress 81 space freighter fired its engines for 12 minutes early Wednesday raising the station’s altitude. The orbital reboost places the station at the correct altitude for an upcoming crew swap planned for early spring.
New science experiments delivered aboard a U.S. cargo craft are being activated aboard the International Space Station this week. The Expedition 68 crew is also preparing for upcoming spacewalks in December.
Flight Engineers Josh Cassada of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency also worked throughout Tuesday unpacking a variety of cargo from inside Dragon. The duo took turns removing frozen science samples from Dragon and transferring them into science freezers throughout the space station. The new science experiments shipped aboard Dragon will soon be offering new insights into botany, biology, and physics.
Wakata also spent some time setting up lights, batteries, and cameras on Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), or spacesuits, that Cassada and Rubio will wear during a spacewalk planned to begin at 7:25 a.m. EST on Saturday. The NASA astronauts will spend about seven hours in their EMUs installing a new roll-out solar array on the station’s starboard truss structure.
The roll-out-solar arrays, also known as International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Arrays, or iROSAs, are currently packed inside the Dragon’s unpressurized trunk. This week, mission controllers on the ground will remotely command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to extract the iROSAs from Dragon then place them on truss structure attachment points. From there, the spacewalkers will retrieve the roll-out solar arrays for the Saturday spacewalk, as well as a second spacewalk planned for December 19, and install them on the station’s starboard and port truss segments.
Commander Sergey Prokopyev from Roscosmos started his day attaching sensors to himself to measure his cardiac activity. Afterward, he replaced water in an Orlan spacesuit’s loops and checked out its water pumps. He and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin will conduct a future spacewalk to relocate a radiator from the Rassvet module to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina will operate the European robotic arm assisting the duo during their spacewalk.
NASA Flight Engineer Josh Cassada opened Dragon’s hatch and entered the spacecraft less than two hours after the private space freighter docked at 7:39 a.m. EST on Sunday. Shortly afterward, he was joined by fellow flight engineers Nicole Mann and Frank Rubio of NASA, and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The quartet then spent the rest of Sunday unloading critical science experiments and research samples for stowage aboard the orbiting lab.
Mann and Rubio partnered together on Monday setting up state-of-the-art biology hardware and transferring research samples delivered aboard Dragon into station facilities. The astronauts will soon research how microgravity affects the regeneration of skeletal stem cells potentially improving recovery from bone conditions on Earth and in space.
A pair of new roll-out solar arrays were also delivered inside Dragon’s unpressurized trunk section. Robotic controllers on the ground this week will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove the solar arrays and place them on attachments points located on the station’s truss structure. NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio are due to install the new solar arrays on a pair of spacewalks targeted to occur before the end of the year.
Roscosmos Commander Sergey Prokopyev checked out a computer-controlled 3D-printer today before working on orbital plumbing tasks. Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin worked on electronics maintenance then explored how electric and magnetic fields affect fluid physics in microgravity. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina collected air samples for analysis from the Zvezda, Zarya, Nauka, and Rassvet modules.
While the International Space Station was traveling over the Pacific Ocean, a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft autonomously docked to the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module at 7:39 a.m. EST, with NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada monitoring operations from the station.
The Dragon launched on SpaceX’s 26th contracted commercial resupply mission for NASA at 2:20 p.m. EST, Saturday, Nov. 26, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After Dragon spends about one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with cargo and research.
Among the science experiments Dragon is delivering to the space station are:
Big Hopes for Small Tomatoes
A continuous source of nutritious food is essential for long-duration exploration missions, and the typical pre-packaged astronaut diet may need to be supplemented by fresh foods produced in space. Researchers have been testing a plant growth unit on station known as Veggie and have successfully grown a variety of leafy greens. Veg-05, the next step in that work, focuses on growing dwarf tomatoes.
Picture of Health
Moon Microscope tests a kit for in-flight medical diagnosis that includes a portable hand-held microscope and a small self-contained blood sample staining device. An astronaut collects and stains a blood sample, obtains images with the microscope, and transmits images to the ground, where flight surgeons use them to diagnose illness and prescribe treatment.
The kit could provide diagnostic capabilities for crew members in space or on the surface of the Moon or Mars, as well as the ability to test water, food, and surfaces for contamination. The hardware also may enable improved medical monitoring on upcoming Artemis and Gateway missions.
Building Bigger Structures
On Earth, gravity deforms large objects such as the beams used in large-scale construction. Microgravity enables fabrication of longer and thinner structures without this deformation. Extrusion demonstrates a technology using liquid resin to create shapes and forms that cannot be created on Earth. Photocurable resin, which uses light to harden the material into its final form, is injected into pre-made flexible forms and a camera captures footage of the process. The capability for using these forms could enable in-space construction of structures such as space stations, solar arrays, and equipment.
The Space Exploration Initiative supports a range of microgravity and lunar research across science, engineering, art, and design. The experiment is packed inside a Nanoracks Black Box with several other experiments from the Massachussetts Institute of Technology Media Lab and is sponsored by the ISS National Lab.
Supplying adequate nutrition is a major challenge to maintaining crew health on future long-duration space missions. Many vitamins, nutrients, and pharmaceuticals have limited shelf-life, and the ability to make such compounds on-demand could help maintain crew health and well-being. BioNutrients-2 tests a system for producing key nutrients from yogurt, a fermented milk product known as kefir, and a yeast-based beverage.
The investigation kicks off phase two of the five-year BioNutrients program, headed by NASA’s Ames Research Center and managed by Game Changing Development in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. The program began with the launch of BioNutrients-1 in 2019. BioNutrients-2 employs a smaller system with a heated incubator that promotes growth of beneficial organisms.
The researchers also are working to find efficient ways to use local resources to make bulk products such as plastics, construction binders, and feedstock chemicals. Such technologies are designed to reduce launch costs and increase self-sufficiency, extending the horizons of human exploration.
Adding Solar Power
Two International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Arrays, or iROSAs, launched aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply mission for the agency and were installed in 2021. These solar panels, which roll out using stored kinetic energy, expand the energy-production capabilities of the space station. The second set launching in the Dragon’s trunk once installed, will be a part of the overall plan to provide a 20% to 30% increase in power for space station research and operations.
These arrays, the second of three packages, will complete the upgrade of half the station’s power channels. iROSA technology was first tested on the space station in 2017. Roll-out solar array technology was used on NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission and is planned for use on the Gateway lunar space station, a vital component of NASA’s Artemis program. The iROSA upgrades use the space station as a proving ground for the technology and research needed to explore farther into space.
Easing Gravity Transitions
Travelers to space all face the transition from one gravity field to another. On future exploration missions, astronauts may encounter three different gravity fields: weightlessness while traveling in space, the gravity of another planet, and Earth’s gravity when they return. These transitions can affect spatial orientation, head-eye and hand-eye coordination, balance, and locomotion, and cause some crew members to experience space motion sickness.
The Falcon Goggles hardware captures high-speed video of a subject’s eyes, providing precise data on ocular alignment and balance.
These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations currently being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars through NASA’s Artemis missions.
The SpaceX Dragon is on track to arrive at the International Space Station today, Sunday, Nov. 27, with an expected docking of the cargo spacecraft at about 7:30 a.m. EST. Live coverage is underway on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.
When it arrives at the space station, Dragon will dock autonomously to the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module.
Dragon successfully launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 2:20 p.m. EST, Saturday, Nov. 26, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying more than 7,700 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies to the International Space Station.
On Nov. 23, the team in Mission Control Houston performed a change in electrical power routing to remove one of the eight International Space Station power channels from use. This procedure was performed in response to unexpected readings and intermittent tripping of the 1B power channel in the overnight hours. When the power channel tripped, the batteries were no longer charged at expected levels so flight operators moved the 1B powered equipment from 1B to 1A. Space station systems are in a stable configuration, and the team is evaluating the event and discussing forward plans. Upcoming space station operations including Saturday’s launch of NASA and SpaceX’s 26th commercial resupply mission, as well as spacewalks are not impacted.
Today’s spacewalk with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin was postponed due to an issue with the water coolant system pump on Prokopyev’s Orlan spacesuit. The team is in the process of returning onboard systems to a nominal configuration. The duo, with assistance from European robotic arm operator Anna Kikina of Roscosmos, were slated to relocate a radiator from the Rassvet module to the Nauka science module on the International Space Station.
Today’s spacewalk would have continued the duo’s previous spacewalk on Nov. 17where they prepared the radiator for its relocation. A back-up date for today’s spacewalk is to be determined.
Four Expedition 68 astronauts will relax on Thanksgiving day as three cosmonauts continue preparing for a spacewalk on Friday. The International Space Station residents are also expecting a space delivery this weekend bringing new roll-out solar arrays and science experiments.
Three NASA astronauts and one astronaut from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) spent Wednesday performing numerous research, cargo, and maintenance tasks. The quartet will also be off-duty the next day observing the U.S. holiday before going into a busy weekend.
NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio turned on the Ultrasound 2 device on Wednesday and scanned the leg, neck, and shoulder veins of JAXA Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata to observe the effects of microgravity on humans. Earlier, Rubio had partnered with fellow NASA astronaut Josh Cassada and inspected spacewalking tethers before participating in a NanoRacks botany experiment. Wakata checked ethernet connections inside the Columbus laboratory module.
Cassada began his day filming a demonstration showing how to measure the mass of everyday objects in weightlessness. Afterward, he unpacked cargo from the Cygnus space freighter that arrived on Nov. 9. NASA Flight Engineer Nicole Mann spent most of Wednesday working on life support maintenance in the Harmony module. She wrapped up her day organizing cargo that will be packed inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for return to Earth after it arrives in a few days.
The Dragon resupply ship is attached to the top of the Falcon 9 rocket and is standing at the launch pad targeting a liftoff at 2:20 p.m. EST on Saturday from Kennedy Space Center. It will arrive on Sunday for an automated docking at 7:30 a.m. to the Harmony module’s space-facing port. Dragon will deliver a pair of new roll-out solar arrays, new space agriculture and biotechnology studies, and food, fuel, and crew supplies. NASA TV, on the agency’s app and website, begins its launch coverage at 2 p.m. on Saturday and docking coverage at 6 a.m. on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin are outfitting their Orlan spacesuits and checking them for leaks ahead of a spacewalk scheduled to begin at 6:15 a.m. on Friday. The duo will spend about seven hours on Friday relocating a radiator from the Rassvet module to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. Cosmonaut Anna Kikina readied the European robotic arm and practiced the robotics maneuvers today she will use to help the spacewalkers move the radiator at the end of the week.
Due to poor weather conditions in the area along Florida’s Space Coast for today’s planned launch of SpaceX’s 26th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station, SpaceX and NASA now are targeting liftoff for 2:20 p.m. EST Saturday, Nov. 26, from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Launch coverage will begin at 2 p.m. EST on NASA TV, the agency’s website, and the NASA app.
A launch Saturday would lead to docking Sunday, Nov. 27, for the Dragon to deliver important research, crew supplies and hardware to the crew aboard the orbiting laboratory. Docking coverage will begin at 6 a.m. with the spacecraft planned to arrive at the space station around 7:30 a.m.
The Expedition 68 crew continues gearing up for more spacewalks at the International Space Station before the end of the year. Meanwhile, a U.S. cargo craft is counting down to its launch this week to resupply the seven-member crew living aboard the orbiting lab.
Two astronauts and two cosmonauts are preparing for five spacewalks to be conducted outside the space station in less than two months. One set of spacewalks is augmenting the station’s power generation system. The other set of spacewalks is deploying a radiator and installing an airlock on the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.
Flight Engineers Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio prepared the station for new roll-out solar arrays during a spacewalk on Nov. 15 after assembling a mounting bracket on the station’s starboard truss structure. The roll-out solar arrays are due to be installed on the new mounting bracket on Nov. 29 by a pair of spacewalkers soon to be named by mission managers. On Monday, Flight Engineers Nicole Mann and Koichi Wakata reviewed the robotics procedures necessary to support the successful installation of the solar arrays
The roll-out solar arrays are packed inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Dragon is scheduled to lift off atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket at 3:54 p.m. EST on Tuesday and arrive at the station for an automated docking at 5:57 a.m. on Wednesday. Dragon is also delivering new space agriculture and biotechnology studies, as well as food, fuel, and crew supplies. NASA TV, on the agency’s app and website, begins its launch coverage at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and docking coverage at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
After Dragon is docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing, or zenith port, robotics controllers on the ground will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach and remove the roll-out solar arrays from Dragon’s unpressurized trunk. The controllers will then remotely guide the Canadarm2 to stage the roll-out solar arrays on truss structure attachment points. From there the spacewalkers will access the solar arrays to begin the upcoming installation work.
Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin spent Monday setting up the Poisk airlock, organizing tools, and studying procedures for their second spacewalk together planned to begin at 6:15 a.m. on Friday. The duo, with assistance from European robotic arm operator Anna Kikina, will relocate a radiator from the Rassvet module to the Nauka science module. The Roscosmos spacewalkers prepared the radiator for its relocation during a spacewalk on Nov. 17.