Aboard the International Space Station, a flurry of research activity is underway before the Expedition 63 crew winds down to the weekend, along with essential maintenance tasks to ensure the longevity of the orbiting laboratory.
Commander Chris Cassidy crossed off a few housekeeping items, like replacing the carbon dioxide sensor for the Cell Biology Experiment Facility and stowing Rodent Research hardware for return on a future SpaceX mission, in addition to completing additional tests runs and closeout activities in support of the Fluidics experiment. Future spacecraft and their fuel systems will get a boost from this investigation, which uses the measurement of liquid displacement within a sphere to gather observations in how fluids behave inside a fuel tank.
Cassidy also spent time working with the Advanced Plant Habitat mounted in the station’s EXPRESS rack to gather sound-level measurements. The habitat itself provides a large and enclosed chamber with stringent environmental controls, designed to give commercial and other bioscience research suitable conditions in which to grow despite the hostile environment to the station’s exterior: space.
Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, cosmonauts from the Russian space agency Roscosmos, worked together to complete life-support hardware maintenance tasks such as inspecting and inventorying the gear. Ivanishin continued the routine chores, cleaning out the ventilation system within the Zvezda service module and also doing a check of Russian video-recording equipment.
After setting up an electrocardiogram for a 24-hour survey of his own heart health, Vagner terminated the test. In addition to investigating the effects of long-duration space travel on astronauts, he continued with setup and observation of our own planet using Earth photography. While the universe remain the ultimate unknown, there are still phenomena on Earth that scientists do not fully understand. For those particular mysteries, observations from station could prove eminently useful.
Astrobee is autonomous, and therefore no additional burden to the busy schedule of Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Masterminded to assist the spare-faring crew with routine chores and give controllers on the ground an easy way to survey the station’s interior, the robot is currently flying about to capture additional video and imagery for later study.
Cassidy spent significant time in the Columbus laboratory module installing Fluidics hardware and setting it up for test runs. The experiment itself consists of three small transparent spheres with a centrifuge to move the liquids within. Data compiled from the investigation will one day improve applications in space, optimizing fuel systems, as well as on Earth, providing insight into how oceans work and the phenomenon of “rogue waves.” In addition, Cassidy replaced components in the Waste and Hygiene Compartment and performed life-support maintenance.
Vagner, meanwhile, helped with the life-support maintenance and serviced the Russian oxygen generator. With Ivanishin accompanying, they tackled cleaning air vents and dust filters to ensure the smooth running of the orbiting outpost. Smoke detectors within the Zarya module were also changed out during the housekeeping work.
The Russian crewmates contributed to the space station’s legacy as a microgravity testbed by furthering research objectives, with Ivanishin monitoring and identifying catastrophic events through the aid of Earth photography. Vagner added to the heart health study his counterpart had completed earlier in the week by setting up his own wearable monitor for a 24-hour electrocardiogram evaluation.
At 4:32 p.m. EDT, a planned reboost will put the orbiting laboratory in the proper positioning for the anticipated Soyuz launch of Expedition 64 on Oct. 14, followed by the landing of the current crew on Oct. 21.
The three Expedition 63 crewmates continued working on tasks aboard the International Space Station that will not only extend the outpost beyond its current 20-year tenure maximizing science in space, but also facilitate human travel deeper into the solar system.
Commander Chris Cassidy was again in the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo laboratory module to continue setup with the Confocal Space Microscopy. The apparatus provides many advantages over conventional optical microscopy, some of which include the ability to control depth of field and collect sequential optical sections from thick biological specimens. Next up, Cassidy disconnected and stowed the Biomolecule Sequencer, which he had just used the day before with the Genes in Space 6 investigation.
The station commander also served as the test subject for additional ultrasound eye scans, performed by cosmonaut Ivan Vagner, who serves as the crew medical officer approximately 240 miles above Earth. It has now long been understood that crew members’ bodies change in a variety of ways during spaceflight, and some can even experience impaired vision. Gathering data on how ocular health changes during the course of a months-long mission will help inform scientists and mission planners for future expeditions requiring greater time in space and exploration at different destinations, like the Moon and Mars.
Vagner, along with fellow cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, spent time transferring waste to the two cargo vehicles docked at station, Progress 75 and Progress 76. In addition, Ivanishin wiped down surfaces in the Russian segment and disconnected his electrocardiogram monitor after a full 24-hour test that surveyed the health of his heart.
NASA commercial provider Northrop Grumman announced that it will name the NG-14 Cygnus spacecraft, the cargo ship slated to launch Sept. 29 to replenish station with supplies and new science, after astronaut Kalpana Chawla. It is the company’s tradition to name each Cygnus after an individual who has played a pivotal role in human spaceflight, and Chawla was selected in honor of her prominent place in history as the first woman of Indian descent to go to space.
In the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo laboratory module, Cassidy spent the first part of his Tuesday with Aquatic Habitat, a unique closed-water circulatory aquarium capable of accommodating small freshwater fish such as medaka or zebrafish, which serve as ideal subjects in the study of vertebrates. The station commander performed lens collection for the Confocal Space Microscopy setup and closeout, helping to maintain the microscope capable of providing fluorescence images of biological samples that inform scientists on the ground about the fundamental nature of cellular and tissue structure and functions. Cassidy later used the Biomolecule Sequencer for Genes in Space 6, which evaluates how exposure to radiation affects the long-term health of astronauts. The investigation, part of a series, will aid in finding the optimal DNA repair mechanisms that cells use in microgravity.
Meanwhile, on the Russian segment, Ivanishin furthered understanding in how the heart performs during long-duration spaceflight by setting up, and then wearing, an electrocardiogram for a 24-hour period. The crew member also wiped down instrumentation during routine maintenance and configured Earth-observation hardware to capture changes in the planet below.
Vagner, too, did some housekeeping for the outpost, performing transfers to Progress 75 cargo ship tanks in anticipation of its deorbit in Earth’s atmosphere sometime in December. The cosmonaut also focused on the Pilot-T piloting spacecraft and robots study, which uses a mathematical assessment model to develop recommendations and improve the training for cosmonauts expected to perform complicated operator tasks such as docking or flying spacecraft.
New station Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are still in a handover period as they wrap up their first work week in space. The astronauts familiarized themselves today with medical kits, the food pantry, communication systems and safety procedures. They also continued researching space bubbles in microfluids and unpacked Japan’s HTV-9 resupply ship, which arrived six days before they did.
Commander Chris Cassidy started off Thursday working on the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace, a device that heats materials to very high temperatures and measures their thermophysical properties. The unique furnace may provide scientists insights into synthesizing and producing new materials. The veteran astronaut then spent the afternoon servicing U.S. spacesuit components ahead of a series of spacewalks planned for June.
New NASA Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken spent Thursday servicing space botany hardware and exploring bubbles in fluids. Both astronauts temporarily disassembled a plant habitat to access and replace environment control system gear. The duo also studied how bubbles affect microfluids to help produce oxygen on a spacecraft and deliver drugs though skin patches.
Roscosmos Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, worked throughout the orbital lab on Thursday ensuring ongoing research and maintenance operations.
Ivanishin was inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory swapping fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack to enable safe fuel and flame science. He also worked on cargo transfers inside the Progress 74 resupply ship. Vagner inspected surfaces inside the Russian portion of the space station. In the afternoon, the first-time space flyer set up a video camera to record crew activities for audiences back on Earth.
The three-member Expedition 62 crew is getting ready for a resupply mission scheduled to launch to the International Space Station no earlier than Thursday, Feb. 13, at 4:06 p.m. EST due to an unfavorable weather forecast in the next few days and the time required to address a ground support issue. The crewmates from the United States and Russia also ran advanced space science experiments while maintaining orbital lab systems.
NASA Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir split their time today between robotics training and microgravity research. The two U.S. astronauts used a computer to practice the techniques they will use to capture the Cygnus space freighter Saturday, Feb. 15.
Morgan will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and grapple Cygnus. Meir will back him up and monitor the Cygnus’ approach and rendezvous. Ground controllers will take over the Canadarm2 after Cygnus’ capture and remotely install the cargo craft to the Unity module.
Morgan started his day sequencing DNA for the Genes in Space-6 experiment. The experiment places microbial samples inside the hand-held Biomolecule Sequencer to demonstrate the feasibility of space-based DNA sequencing. Results could boost astrobiology research on not just the space station, but also future spacecraft and planetary bodies.
Meir also spent a portion of Monday researching how flames spread in space. She burned a variety of fabric and acrylic samples inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for the Confined Combustion study. The research will inform the design and development of fire safety products and procedures for humans on Earth and in space.
Commander Oleg Skripochka spent his day in the Russian segment of the station. The veteran cosmonaut primarily serviced life-support gear before checking components on the Progress 74 cargo craft and updating an inventory database.
Boeing is ramping up for the launch of its first commercial crew vehicle to the International Space Station this week. The Expedition 61 crew is preparing for the new U.S. crew ship’s arrival while working human research and space biology today.
Boeing is targeting 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20, for the launch of its first CST-100 Starliner crew ship to the orbiting lab. It will dock to the forward-facing port of the Harmony module on Dec. 21 and return to Earth on Dec. 28. This will be an uncrewed orbital flight test of Boeing’s new spaceship and sets the stage for launching crews once again from the United States.
NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch activated communications gear that will link up with the Boeing Starliner when it arrives Saturday. The C2V2 device (Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles) transmits telemetry from the approaching spacecraft to crew and ground controllers. The C2V2, used by the U.S. Dragon and Cygnus resupply ships, also enables an astronaut to remotely control a spacecraft if necessary.
ESA (European Space Agency)Commander Luca Parmitano and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan started Monday with hearing checks. The duo set up gear for the Acoustic Diagnostics study that measures hearing before, during and after a mission and assesses the noisy environment aboard the orbiting lab.
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir began her day on an exercise bike for a study measuring her aerobic and cardiovascular output. She then joined Koch in the afternoon feeding lab mice and cleaning their habitats.
Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka focused on life support and lab maintenance today. Skvortsov synchronized computers and cameras to station time and serviced an oxygen generator. Skripochka also checked out Russian laptop computers and radiation detection gear.
The Expedition 61 crew is starting the workweek in between spacewalks and running a variety advanced space investigations. A set of small satellites is also being readied for deployment outside the International Space Station by midweek.
NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan and ESA (European Space Agency) Commander Luca Parmitano are gearing up for another spacewalk set to begin on Friday at 7:05 a.m. EST. Astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch spent an hour reviewing robotics procedures for Friday’s spacewalk. Meir then joined Parmitano and Morgan in the afternoon to study details supporting the second Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer repair spacewalk.
The Expedition 61 crew is focusing on a complex series of spacewalks set to start soon to repair a cosmic particle detector. The orbital residents also conducted an emergency drill aboard the International Space Station today.
The spacewalks will highlight advanced repair techniques, including cutting and reconnecting fluid lines, never performed during a spacewalk. Parmitano and Morgan are set to venture outside the station on Friday Nov. 15 to begin the first of at least four spacewalks to upgrade the AMS, a device that searches for dark matter and antimatter.
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch joined the upcoming spacewalkers today and reviewed tools and procedures for the excursions. The quartet then called Mission Control for a conference with experts on the ground about their spacewalking duties.
At the end of the workday, all six crew members, including cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka, practiced responding to an emergency simulation. The crew reviewed safety and medical gear, translated evacuation paths, practiced chest compressions (CPR) and coordinated communications.
The space station raised its orbit during the crew’s sleep period Thursday night when Russia’s Progress 73 resupply ship fired its thrusters for six minutes and 45 seconds. Now orbiting a mile higher at its perigee, the orbital complex is at the correct altitude for Russia’s next resupply ship, Progress 74, to dock on Dec. 3 after it launches Dec. 1.