Busy Monday as Astronauts Grapple Dragon and Store Critical Experiments

At the Mission Control Center in Houston, Expedition 59 flight controllers monitor the capture and berthing of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft to the Harmony module of the International Space Station on May 6. Image Credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel
At the Mission Control Center in Houston, Expedition 59 flight controllers monitor the capture and berthing of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft to the Harmony module of the International Space Station on May 6. Image Credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel
This morning, just two days following its nighttime launch from the Florida coast, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft was captured and installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 9:32 a.m. EDT.

Expedition 59 astronauts David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Nick Hague of NASA successfully employed the space station’s robotic arm to grapple Dragon at 7:01 a.m., which brings the number of spaceships docked at the space station to six. Other vehicles visiting include Russia’s Progress 71 and 72 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-11 and MS-12 crew ships, as well as Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter.

Dragon’s arrival heralds a busy week for the crew. Today, NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch unpacked and activated time-critical experiments after completing checkout of the spacecraft. Fresh biological samples, such as kidney cells, were stowed in science freezers and incubators for later analysis. New lab mice were also quickly transferred and housed in specialized habitats to enhance research for an immune system study that aims to keep astronauts healthy for long-duration missions in space, which will become even more commonplace as our destinations extend to the Moon and beyond.

SpaceX’s 17th cargo flight to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract supports dozens of new and existing investigations. NASA’s research and development work aboard the space station contributes to the agency’s deep space exploration plans, including returning astronauts to the Moon’s surface in five years.

This latest commercial cargo delivery refreshed the orbiting laboratory with 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew Researches Immunity Response Leading Up to Next Dragon Launch Attempt

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is in position at Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, which will boost a Dragon cargo module to the International Space Station on the company’s 17th Commercial Resupply Services mission for NASA. Image Credit: NASA
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is in position at Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, which will boost a Dragon cargo module to the International Space Station on the company’s 17th Commercial Resupply Services mission for NASA. Image Credit: NASA
This morning’s SpaceX Dragon launch was scrubbed due to a drone ship power issue. Launch coverage for the next attempt begins at 2:30 a.m. EDT Saturday, May 4, for a 2:48 a.m. launch. Viewers can watch it unfold on NASA Television and the agency’s website. This cargo delivery will replenish the International Space Station with nearly 5,500 pounds of science, supplies and hardware.

Today onboard the space station, in addition to routine maintenance and housekeeping, mice are keeping the astronauts aboard busy with the Rodent Research-12 investigation. While David Saint-Jacques was occupied cleaning habitats and cameras and restocking food, Nick Hague, in addition to Flight Engineers Anne McClain and Christina Koch, spent time calibrating Mass Measurement Devices and establishing baseline readings.

Saint-Jacques and Hague spent some time to reviewing training and procedures for when they command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the Dragon cargo craft at the International Space Station, which is now scheduled for Monday, May 6, at 7 a.m. following a May 4 launch.

Mice could be key to studying immune response in humans. Spaceflight is known to affect immunity, but there’s little research that has been conducted to see how, in fact, humans would respond to a challenge to the body’s immunity in space. Since a mouse’s immune system parallels that of humans, these animal models enable us to learn and understand how astronaut health can be sustained in microgravity.

Station Back At Full Power While Crew Continues Important Research Studies

NASA astronaut Christina Koch sets up Fiber Optic Production, an investigation to create optical fibers in microgravity that may exhibit superior quality to those produced on Earth. Image Credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Christina Koch sets up Fiber Optic Production, an investigation to create optical fibers in microgravity that may exhibit superior quality to those produced on Earth. Image Credit: NASA
The crew of Expedition 59 was hard at work today setting up a litany of science experiments and conducting maintenance to the International Space Station that will help further NASA’s goal of returning to the Moon.

Some unplanned maintenance to replace a failed Main Bus Switching Unit-3 (MBSU), which was completed this morning by robotics ground controllers through the use of the space station’s Canadarm2 and Dextre, also known as the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator (SPDM), restored the orbiting laboratory to a nominal power configuration. Ordinarily, this intensive procedure would have required the station residents to perform an emergency spacewalk. However, swapping out the MSBU entirely through robotics work demonstrated that some of the capabilities explorers will need for the Moon and destinations beyond are being tested right now in low-Earth orbit.

Meanwhile, within the space station, Flight Engineers Anne McClain and Christina Koch prepped investigations vital to the next generation of space explorers. McClain spent time setting up mass measurement hardware for Rodent Research-12, which will examine the effects of spaceflight on the function of antibody production and immune memory. Koch stowed Fiber Optics Production hardware and checked Airway Monitoring experiment gear. Airway Monitoring will help ensure crew well-being by evaluating the occurrence and indicators of airway inflammation in the astronauts using ultra-sensitive gas monitors to analyze exhaled air.

In the Harmony module, NASA astronaut Nick Hague completed inventory and performed stowage work for the module’s Pressurized Mating Adapter-3. Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques worked with the Veggie PONDS experiment, adding water to the space botany gear. Understanding how plants respond to microgravity and demonstrating that reliable vegetable production is possible in space are important steps toward spacesuited boots on destinations like the Moon and Mars, where visiting vehicle visits to replenish the crew’s food supply will not be as regular as they are to the space station.

On the subject of visiting vehicles, commercial cargo provider SpaceX is poised to make its 17th resupply to the orbiting laboratory, with launch set for 3:11 EDT Friday, May 3. Dragon, which is filled with more than 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware, will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Housekeeping and Maintenance Punctuate Last Full Day of Expedition 58

From left, Expedition 59 crew members Christina Koch, Alexey Ovchinin and Nick Hague show solidarity before their upcoming launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
From left, Expedition 59 crew members Christina Koch, Alexey Ovchinin and Nick Hague show solidarity before their upcoming launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA

The last full day of Expedition 58—before the launch, docking and consolidation of crews to become Expedition 59—was mostly spent on housekeeping items for the continued, successful operation of the International Space Station. 

NASA astronaut Anne McClain floated through the Tranquility and Zvezda service modules, deploying acoustic monitors. She paused in the U.S. lab at an EXPRESS rack to install communications gear and perform additional maintenance. David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency also worked with EXPRESS today, moving Space Automated Bioproduct Labs from rack-1 to rack-2. This miniature laboratory within the larger orbiting laboratory supports life science research, hosting microorganisms (bacteria, yeast, algae, fungi, viruses, etc.), small organisms, animal cells, tissue cultures and small plants for evaluation in space.  

Expedition Commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos replaced fuel bottles on the Combustion Integrated Rack, which allows the crew members to conduct fluids and combustion studies in microgravity. 

Today in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, were certified for flight by the Russian state commission and held their final news conference.  

Tomorrow, the soon-to-be station residents will hitch a ride aboard a Soyuz MS-12 for blastoff at 3:14 p.m. EDT on, coincidentally, 3/14. After a relatively speedy six-hour flight, the Soyuz is expected to dock to station’s Rassvet module at 9:07 p.m. Expedition 59 will begin officially at the time of docking. 

The events will unfold live on NASA TV, with launch coverage beginning at 2 p.m. and docking coverage at 8:15 p.m., respectively. After a brief break, tune in at 10:30 p.m. for the hatch opening and welcome, which will return the orbiting laboratory’s population to six—including three NASA astronauts. And, just in time for Women’s History Month, this launch marks the fourth Expedition crew with two female astronauts.  

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

Before Launch and Spacewalks, Science Reigns Supreme Aboard Orbiting Lab

The Soyuz rocket is raised into vertical position on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
On March 12, 2019, the Soyuz rocket is raised into vertical position on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA

As the Soyuz MS-12 that will carry the Expedition 59 crew to the International Space Station Thursday was erected on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 58 resumed research and routine maintenance after their off-duty day Monday. 

NASA astronaut Anne McClain conducted botany work with the VEG-03 experiment, which builds on what scientists have initially learned about harvesting vegetation in space with VEG-01. This time around, testing will demonstrate plant growth with a new batch of crops, including red romaine lettuce, extra dwarf Pak Choi, red Russian kale and wasabi mustard. McClain also spent time on life-support system upkeep in the Kibo lab module and maintenance in the U.S. lab on an EXPRESS rack—hardware integral to providing structural interfaces and support for science experiments with power, data, cooling, water and other items needed for successful operations. 

In the Quest airlock, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques completed additional prep work for upcoming spacewalks slated for March 22, 29 and April 8 by scrubbing cooling loops and performing leak checks on the spacesuits. After resupplying the Human Research Facility-2 rack, Saint Jacques added input to a questionnaire for Behavioral Core Measures, an investigation that seeks to create a standardized toolkit to rapidly and reliably assess the risk of adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions and psychiatric disorders that could occur with longer space missions. 

Meanwhile, Commander Oleg Kononenko from Roscosmos ticked off additional maintenance tasks by cleaning panels in the Zvezda service module and performing fluid transfers to the Progress 71 resupply ship. 

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

Station Crews Take a Breather in Anticipation of Launch on March 14

A view from the International Space Station taken Feb. 21, 2019.
A view from the International Space Station taken Feb. 21, 2019. Image Credit: NASA

This Monday, the Expedition 58 crew is taking a well-deserved break after a busy week prior wrapping up SpaceX’s inaugural flight of Crew Dragon to the International Space Station during Demonstration Mission-1, an uncrewed flight test. The vehicle departed station for a splashdown off the Florida Space Coast at 8:45 a.m. EST Friday, bringing NASA even closer to sending astronauts into space from American soil. 

The Expedition 59 crew, which will soon get their turn in orbit, is taking time to relax and review their launch day flight plan at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. On March 14, Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch are set to blastoff at 3:14 p.m. EDT and dock less than six hours later to the Rassvet module at the orbiting laboratory. Research investigations will get a boost in productivity with their arrival, which will bring the full crew complement to six. All launch and docking events will be carried live on NASA TV. 

Tomorrow, the Soyuz MS-12 that will carry the new crew crawls to the launch pad at Baikonur as Expedition 58 resumes science studies. 

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

Making Space for SpaceX Crew Dragon, Spacewalk Prep and Science

Expedition 58 welcomes Crew Dragon
Expedition 58 crew members Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques and Oleg Konenenko welcome the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station after a successful docking on March 3, 2019, ushering in the era of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Image Credit: NASA TV

Expedition 58 capped off its busy weekend with additional outfitting for the SpaceX Crew Dragon, which had only completed its hard dock to the International Space Station yesterday morning as part of the Demo-1 uncrewed flight test.

After opening the hatch between the two spacecraft, the crewmates configured Crew Dragon for its stay at the orbiting laboratory. This work included installation of the intramodule ventilation system, which helps cycle air from Crew Dragon to station. The crew members ticked off additional items from their checklist, also installing window covers and checking valves before taking part in a welcoming ceremony for the visiting vehicle at 10:45 a.m. EST Sunday, which aired on NASA Television.

Today, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 58 Commander Oleg Kononenko went over emergency procedures specific to Crew Dragon’s stay in orbit. While Crew Dragon is designed to remain docked to the space station for up to 210 days, this test of the spacecraft will be much shorter, ending early Friday morning. Crew Dragon is expected to return to Earth with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at approximately 8:45 a.m. on Friday, March 8—a little more than six hours after its separation from station.

While Kononenko was focused on the Plasma Kristall-4 experiment, which investigates the liquid phase and flow phenomena of complex plasmas, for this week’s runs, McClain and Saint-Jacques spent most of the day in the Quest airlock. The pair worked on their EMU [Extravehicular Mobility Unit] spacesuits, making sure their suits fit in advance of a series of spacewalks currently slated for late March and early April.

Saint-Jacques also made time in the day to connect with junior high school and college students in Hallifax, Nova Scotia, through a space-to-ground downlink where he shared his perspective of living and working aboard the world’s only microgravity laboratory.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

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

Crew Wraps Up Biomedical Studies; Films Station in Virtual Reality

Astronaut Anne McClain is pictured wearing a sensor on her forehead
Astronaut Anne McClain is pictured wearing a sensor on her forehead that is collecting data to determine how an astronaut’s “biological clock” changes during long-duration spaceflight. Image Credit: NASA

A pair of biomedical experiments are wrapping up today aboard the International Space Station as the Expedition 58 crew began its weekend. The orbital residents are also filming a virtual reality (VR) experience and working on plumbing and life support hardware.

Anne McClain of NASA removed sensors from her head and chest this morning that collected data about her circadian rhythm, or “biological clock,” and how it is adapting off Earth. Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques stowed the wearable Bio-Monitor hardware that monitors an astronaut’s vital signs during normal activities with minimum interference.

McClain then set up a VR camera to film a first-person’s view aboard the orbital lab in an immersive, cinematic experience. She finished the workday with Saint-Jacques on orbital plumbing work in the Tranquility module.

The Combustion Integrated Rack received more attention today as Saint-Jacques replaced hardware in the fuel and flame research platform. He also assisted McClain with the VR camera installation, set up audio equipment and filmed an introduction.

Commander Oleg Kononenko also up video gear today in Japan’s Kibo lab module and held a conference with Russian students and educators. The veteran cosmonaut then spent part of the afternoon conducting maintenance on life support equipment in the station’s Russian segment.

Crew Ends Week Researching Space Physics, Biology and Time

Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor checks on plants being grown for botany research aboard the International Space Station. NASA is exploring ways to keep astronauts self-sufficient as humans learn to live longer and farther out into space and beyond low-Earth orbit.
Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor checks on plants being grown for botany research aboard the International Space Station. NASA is exploring ways to keep astronauts self-sufficient as humans learn to live longer and farther out into space and beyond low-Earth orbit.
A crew of three from around the world are heading into the weekend aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 57 trio from the United States, Russia and Germany studied a variety of space phenomena today including physics, biology and time perception.

Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor joined Commander Alexander Gerst for eye checks first thing Friday morning. The duo then split up for a science-filled day and preparations for the next U.S. cargo mission.

Serena spent most of the day in the Japanese Kibo lab module mixing protein crystal samples and stowing them in an incubator for later analysis. She moved on to a little space gardening for the VEG-03 study before stowing gear that sequences ribonucleic acid, or RNA, from unknown microbes living in the station.

Serena also found time to set up a command panel for communications with a Cygnus cargo craft when it arrives to resupply the station Nov. 18. The resupply ship from U.S. company Northrop Grumman is being packed and readied for launch atop an Antares rocket Nov. 15 at 4:49 a.m. EST. from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Gerst spent over an hour in the European Columbus lab module today researching how astronauts perceive time in space including its physical and mental impacts. The German astronaut from ESA (European Space Agency) also configured a specialized microscope for more protein crystal observations.

Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev from Roscosmos continued his week-long research exploring complex plasmas, or ionized gases produced by high temperatures. The Russian experiment may benefit space physics research and improve spacecraft designs. The cosmonaut also swapped fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack to maintain ongoing flame and gas research aboard the station.

Station crew investigates quality of space-faring life with studies on cabin air, food systems

Space Algae in Veggie facility.
Space Algae culture bags are pictured after installation in the Veggie Facility. Image Credit: NASA
Today, Expedition 56 crewmates balanced work on science investigations in between housekeeping duties aboard the International Space Station.

The crew retrieved samplers as part of the Aerosol Sampling Experiment that had been deployed the day before in Nodes 1 and 3. After connecting them to chargers, they were redeployed for a second round of sampling. The battery-powered samplers pull in air and collect particles through thermophoresis, a process in which different particle types exhibit different responses to the force of a temperature gradient. The collected cabin air particles are later returned to Earth so investigators can study them with powerful microscopes.

The Veggie facility amped up production with an additional six space algae culture bags installed by the astronauts for future studies. The Space Algae investigation will further NASA’s understanding of how plants respond and grow in spaceflight using state-of-the-art omics approaches. Algae may perceive microgravity as a physical stress, which can trigger the production of high-value compounds. Scientists plan to sequence whole genomes of the space-grown algal populations to identify genes related to growth in spaceflight and evaluate how their composition changes in low-Earth orbit.

In addition, the crew continued the organization, packing and loading of items slated for return on SpaceX’s Dragon early next month.

Space enthusiasts should tune in to NASA Television this week as the Saint Louis Science Center and NASA’s Stennis Space Center each host educational downlinks as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station. The Earth-to-space call with the Saint Louis Science Center happens July 18 at 12:20 p.m. EDT and will include summer campers ranging from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Second to 10th graders participating in ASTRO CAMPs in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas will get their turn to engage with station residents about living and working in microgravity the following day, July 19, at 11:30 a.m. with Stennis hosting. Watch the events unfold live on NASA TV or the agency’s website.