U.S. Cargo Rocket at Launch Pad as Crew Works Science, Exercise Gear

Northrop Grumman's Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus space freighter rolls out to the launchpad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA/Brian Bonsteel
Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus space freighter rolls out to the launchpad at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA/Brian Bonsteel

The Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus space freighter has rolled out to the launchpad in Virginia counting down to its launch toward the International Space Station. While the Expedition 68 crew members await the new cargo mission, they studied blood flow to the brain, inspected space exercise gear, and prepared for future spacewalks.

Northrop Grumman’s next cargo mission is due to launch to the orbiting lab from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Sunday at 5:50 a.m. EST. The company’s Cygnus resupply ship, atop its Antares rocket booster, is loaded with about 8,200 pounds of crew supplies and station hardware, including new microgravity experiments benefitting humans on and off the Earth.

NASA Flight Engineers Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada will be at the robotics controls ready to capture Cygnus with the Canadarm2 robotic arm when it arrives at 5:50 a.m. on Tuesday. Both astronauts have been preparing for the Cygnus mission reviewing and practicing robotic capture maneuvers on a computer. Mann will command the Canadarm2 to capture Cygnus, while Cassada backs her up monitoring its approach and rendezvous.

Mann started her day attaching sensors to herself and researching how the brain regulates blood flow in weightlessness. Observations may help crew members adjust quicker when returning to Earth’s gravity and provide insights into blood pressure conditions. Afterward, Mann joined Cassada and inspected the station’s COLBERT treadmill located in the Tranquility module which enables astronauts to maintain musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health in space.

Astronauts Frank Rubio of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) partnered together on Wednesday servicing spacesuits in the Quest airlock. The duo cleaned the suits’ cooling loops, performed leak checks, and examined a variety of suit components. Rubio later rearranged the Unity module to make space for the arriving Cygnus cargo, while Wakata cleaned up the XROOTS space botany facility following this week’s tomato and pea harvest.

Two cosmonauts are reviewing procedures for upcoming spacewalks before the end of the year. Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin spent a few hours today training to exit the station in their Orlan spacesuits and continue outfitting and readying the European robotic arm for future payload operations. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Anna Kikina spent her day on life support and electronics maintenance while practicing advanced Earth photography techniques.

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.

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