Research and maintenance activities aboard the International Space Station continue into the new year while engineers and managers discuss Soyuz capabilities and potential next steps in response to the Soyuz MS-22’s external cooling loop leak.
The Expedition 68 crew remains in good condition, performing a variety of maintenance and research activities and looks forward to some time off on New Year’s Day. NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Josh Cassada, and Nicole Mann continued work to service the spacesuits used by Rubio and Cassada to install a new International Space Station Roll-out Solar Array.
With integrated crews on each other’s spacecraft, NASA and Roscosmos work jointly on any decisions related to crew safety including crew transportation. NASA and Roscosmos are continuing to conduct a variety of engineering reviews and are consulting with other international partners about methods for safely bringing the Soyuz crew home for both normal and contingency scenarios. A final decision on the path forward is expected in January.
As a part of the analysis, NASA also reached out to SpaceX about its capability to return additional crew members aboard Dragon if needed in an emergency, although the primary focus is on understanding the post-leak capabilities of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft.
Station teams also are preparing for the undocking and departure of the SpaceX CRS-26 cargo spacecraft on Monday, Jan. 9. The cargo Dragon is scheduled to return valuable scientific research samples through a splashdown off the Florida coast. Undocking is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. EST, with splashdown planned for Wednesday, Jan. 11. Live coverage of the undocking and departure will begin at 4:45 p.m. on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.
The seven Expedition 68 crew members wrapped up the work week cleaning up after a spacewalk and performing a variety of research operations. The space residents will spend a quiet weekend observing the Christmas holiday orbiting Earth aboard the International Space Station.
NASA Flight Engineers Frank Rubio and Josh Cassada worked throughout Friday cleaning up after conducting a seven-hour and eight minute spacewalk on Thursday. The duo started the day with standard post-spacewalk health checkups and measured each other’s temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate. Afterward, Rubio and Cassada stowed tools inside the Quest airlock and refilled water tanks inside their Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), also known as spacesuits.
The spacewalking pair successfully installed and deployed a roll-out solar array on the International Space Station’s Port-4 truss segment during the Dec. 22 spacewalk. During a previous spacewalk on Dec. 3, the two NASA astronauts spent seven hours and 28 minutes installing another roll-out solar array on the Starboard-4 truss segment on the opposite side of the station.
Science operations continued aboard the orbiting lab on Friday with NASA Flight Engineer Nicole Mann attaching sensors to herself and pedaling on an exercise bike. She was working out for the Cardiobreath investigation that observes how an astronaut’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems affect blood pressure in weightlessness. Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) worked all day in the Kibo laboratory module servicing a variety of research hardware and electronics components.
Roscosmos Commander Sergey Prokopyev worked on two different science experiments beginning Friday with cardiac research then spending the afternoon exploring ways to pilot futuristic spacecraft and robots. Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin began the day on a space physics study before researching ways international crews and mission controllers can improve communications. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina assisted Prokopyev in the morning with the heart study then wrapped up her day setting up Earth observation gear.
Expedition 68 Flight Engineers Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio of NASA concluded their spacewalk at 3:27 p.m. EST after 7 hours and 8 minutes.
Cassada and Rubio completed their major objectives for today to install an International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA) on the 4A power channel on the port truss. The iROSAs will increase power generation capability by up to 30%, increasing the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts.
It was the 257th spacewalk in support of space station assembly, upgrades, and maintenance, and was the third spacewalk for both astronauts.
Cassada and Rubio are in the midst of a planned six-month science mission living and working aboard the microgravity laboratory to advance scientific knowledge and demonstrate new technologies for future human and robotic exploration missions, including lunar missions through NASA’s Artemis program.
While Thursday’s spacewalk was underway, NASA Space Station Program Manager Joel Montalbano and Roscosmos Human Spaceflight Executive Director Sergei Krikalev participated in an audio-only media teleconference. The two space executives discussed the ongoing investigation of an external leak detected on the Soyuz MS-22 crew ship. Ground teams continue to assess data and options for the safe return of crew to Earth.
Expedition 68 Flight Engineers Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio of NASA began a spacewalk at 8:19 a.m. EST to install an International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA) to augment power generation for the 4A power channel on the station’s port truss structure.
Rubio, designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV1), is wearing a suit with red stripes. Cassada, designated extravehicular crewmember 2 (EV 2), is in an unmarked suit. Coverage of the spacewalk continues on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.
The crew members of Expedition 68 are preparing to exit the International Space Station‘s Quest airlock for a spacewalk expected to begin about 8:30 a.m. EST and last approximately seven hours.
NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio will exit the station’s Quest airlock to install an International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA) to augment power generation for the 4A power channel on the station’s port truss structure. The iROSAs will increase power generation capability by up to 30%, increasing the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts.
Rubio will serve as extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1) and will wear a suit with red stripes. Cassada will serve as extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2) and will wear the unmarked suit. The spacewalk will be the third for both Cassada and Rubio.
NASA astronauts Frank Rubio and Josh Cassada are now scheduled to begin a spacewalk at 8:30 a.m. EST Thursday to augment the International Space Station’s power generation system. Wednesday’s spacewalk was postponed for 24 hours so that the orbiting lab’s ISS Progress 81 cargo craft could fire its engines at 8:42 a.m. to maneuver the station and avoid an approaching piece of rocket debris.
Spacewalkers Rubio and Cassada will install another roll-out solar array, also known as an International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA), on the space station’s truss structure. This time the duo will maneuver to the opposite side of the station and install the fourth iROSA on the Port-4 truss structure. The external installation job will last about seven hours and broadcast live on NASA TV on the agency’s app and its website.
Expedition 68 Flight Engineers Nicole Mann of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will operate the Canadarm2 robotic arm to support the spacewalkers during the fine-tuned iROSA installation job. The duo will also assist Rubio and Cassada in and out of their spacesuits, also known as Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), in the Quest airlock before and after their spacewalk.
While Thursday’s spacewalk is under way, NASA space station program manager Joel Montalbano and Roscosmos human spaceflight executive director Sergei Krikalev will hold an audio-only media teleconference 11 a.m. The two space executives will discuss the ongoing investigation of an external leak detected on the Soyuz MS-22 crew ship on a live audio call streaming on NASA’s website at https://www.nasa.gov/live.
The International Space Station conducted a Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) today, Dec. 21, at 8:42 a.m. EST. The decision to conduct the maneuver was based on tracking data that showed a close approach to station of a fragment of Russian Fregat-SB upper stage debris.
During the manuever, the Roscosmos Progress 81 thrusters fired for 10 minutes, 21 seconds to provide the complex an extra measure of distance away from the predicted track of the debris. Without the maneuver, it was estimated that the debris could have passed less than a quarter of a mile from the station.
The decision to conduct the maneuver earlier this morning resulted in a postponement of today’s planned spacewalk by NASA astronauts Frank Rubio and Josh Cassada. The crew was never in any immediate danger.
While flight control teams were preparing for today’s U.S. spacewalk, updated tracking data on a fragment of Russian Fregat-SB upper stage debris showed a close approach to station. Based on this new data, flight control teams directed the crew to stop spacewalk preparations as the ground team stepped into procedures to perform a Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM.)
The maneuver will use the Roscosmos Progress 81 thrusters to provide the complex an extra measure of distance away from the predicted track of the debris. Thruster firing is targeted to occur at 8:42 a.m. EST. The crew is not in any immediate danger.
Without the maneuver, it is predicted that the fragment could pass within less than a quarter mile from the station.
NASA managers will assess the next possible opportunity to perform the day’s planned spacewalk to install a new set of roll-out solar arrays to augment the station’s power capabilities.
Rubio and Cassada spent Tuesday gathering their tools and preparing the Quest airlock for the 12th spacewalk of 2022. The pair were joined for the spacewalk preparations by Flight Engineers Nicole Mann of NASA, Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and Commander Sergey Prokopyev from Roscosmos. The quintet gathered together and reviewed Wednesday’s spacewalk procedures, tools, and components then called down to specialists on the ground for a readiness conference.
Mann and Wakata also took turns studying on a computer the Canadarm2 robotic arm maneuvers necessary to support the NASA spacewalkers when they install the roll-out solar array on the P4. The two flight engineers will be at the robotics workstation commanding Canadarm2 and assisting the spacewalking duo during the fine-tuned installation job.
The pair also had time on Tuesday for microgravity research work. Mann watered dwarf tomatoes growing inside the Veggie facility for the Veg-05 space agriculture study. Wakata checked cable connections on the Cell Biology Experiment Facility, a specialized incubator with an artificial gravity generator housing research samples for a bone healing study.
Before Prokopyev assisted the spacewalking team today, he worked on electronics maintenance and orbital plumbing tasks. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin assisted Prokopyev with the electronics work before studying advanced Earth photography techniques and exploring ways to pilot spacecraft and robots on future planetary missions. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina also worked on electronic component installations before checking radiation detection hardware and finally researching how international crews and mission controllers from around the world can improve communications.
Life science and cargo operations kicked off the week for the Expedition 68 crew aboard the International Space Station. Two astronauts are also planning to exit the orbiting lab on Wednesday for a seven-hour spacewalk.
NASA Flight Engineers Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann took turns with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata on Monday servicing research samples for an experiment exploring how bones heal in space. The investigation may provide insights into debilitating bone conditions helping advance bone healing therapies for patients on and off the Earth.
All three astronauts also partnered with NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio and worked throughout Monday inside the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter attached to the Earth-facing port of the Unity module. The quartet rotated in and out of the vehicle unpacking cargo including crew supplies, new science experiments, and station hardware, as well as stowing trash and old gear inside the space freighter for disposal.
Rubio then spent the afternoon installing multi-layer insulation inside the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter to which the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is docked. Wakata started his day preparing samples for an experiment run inside the Materials Science Laboratory, a space physics research device sponsored by ESA (European Space Agency). Mann photographed a student-designed study that is exploring new methods to degrade plastic waste in space.
Cassada and Rubio are planning to go on their third spacewalk together at 7:45 a.m. EST on Wednesday. The pair will install another roll-out solar array, also known as an International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA), on the space station’s truss structure. This time the duo will maneuver to the opposite side of the truss structure and install the station’s fourth iROSA on the Port-4 truss structure. The pair will spend about seven hours on the installation job live on NASA TV on the agency’s app and its website.
NASA and Roscosmos continue to evaluate an external cooling loop leak from the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft docked to the Rassvet module of the International Space Station. Temperatures and humidity within the Soyuz spacecraft remain within acceptable limits. Roscosmos has identified the source of the leak as the external cooling loop of the Soyuz.
As part of the ongoing evaluation and investigation, a robotic inspection of the suspected leak area was completed Dec. 18, using cameras on the Canadarm2 robotic arm. A small hole was observed, and the surface of the radiator around the hole showed discoloration. Roscosmos is evaluating the imagery to determine if this hole could have resulted from micrometeoroid debris.
Space station operations and research continue while station managers and international partners collect and analyze data, and work to develop a forward course of action for the Soyuz and its crew.
With help from the cosmonauts aboard the station, Roscosmos conducted tests on additional Soyuz systems on Dec. 16, including a short demonstration of the spacecraft’s propulsion system. So far, testing has shown no additional issues.
The leak was first detected around 7:45 p.m. EST Dec. 14, when pressure sensors in the cooling loop showed low readings. Data analysis indicates the majority of the cooling fluid had leaked out by 1:30 p.m. Dec. 15.
At the time of the leak, Prokopyev and Petelin were preparing to conduct a spacewalk. The spacewalk was postponed, so the cosmonauts did not exit the space station or become exposed to the leaking coolant.
Back inside station, Prokopyev and Petelin configured the Poisk module and its airlock to its normal status. Prokopyev later collected obsolete hardware for disposal aboard Cygnus and also tested a 3D printer. Petelin inspected cable connections and inventoried spare parts aboard the station. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina spent the morning exploring futuristic spacecraft and robotic piloting techniques then worked in the afternoon servicing an oxygen generator.