Station Crew Ends Week Preparing for Eclipse 2017

The station crew will have three chances to see the solar eclipse from space. The third pass will offer the most coverage with the sun 84% obscured by the moon.

The Expedition 52 crew wrapped up a busy week on Friday with more science work, cargo unloading and cleanup after a Russian spacewalk on Thursday. They are also busy preparing for the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse on Monday with the chance at several unique views of the event.

The crew participated in several studies including Vascular Echo Ultrasound, a Canadian Space Agency investigation that examines changes in blood vessels and the heart while the crew members are in space. They also completed weekly questionnaires for the ESA Space Headaches investigation which collects information that may help in the development of methods to alleviate associated symptoms and improvement in the well-being and performance of crewmembers in space.

Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Sergey Ryazanskiy performed cleanup tasks following their Thursday spacewalk which lasted seven hours and 34 minutes. The duo completed a number of tasks including the manual deployment of five nanosatellites from a ladder outside the airlock.

Station crew members will have their cameras outfitted with special filters on Monday for three chances to photograph the solar eclipse from windows aboard the orbiting laboratory. For more information on their opportunities and what they expect to see, visit NASA’s Solar Eclipse website.


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Russian Progress 66 Launches Cargo to Station

The Russian 66 Progress launched at 12:58 a.m. Wednesday (11:58 a.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Russian Progress 66 launched at 12:58 a.m. Wednesday (11:58 a.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The unpiloted Russian Progress 66 launched at 12:58 a.m. Wednesday (11:58 a.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It is now orbiting the planet on course for the International Space Station

The vehicle will deliver almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies to the Expedition 50 crew.

The spacecraft is set to dock to the Pirs docking compartment at 3:34 a.m. Friday, Feb. 24. NASA TV coverage of rendezvous and docking will begin at 2:45 a.m. Progress 66 will remain docked at the station for almost four months before departing in June for its deorbit into Earth’s atmosphere.

This was the first launch of a Progress cargo ship from Baikonur since the Progress 65 supply craft was lost Dec. 1, 2016.

Busy Traffic Week Ahead for Space Station Crew

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the company's 10th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Liftoff was at 9:39 a.m. EST from the historic launch site now operated by SpaceX under a property agreement with NASA.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the company’s 10th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Liftoff was at 9:39 a.m. EST from the historic launch site now operated by SpaceX under a property agreement with NASA.

Two cargo craft are scheduled to deliver several tons of supplies and experiment hardware to the station this week.

SpaceX’s tenth commercial resupply mission lifted off at 9:39 a.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 19. The rocket launched from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This was the first commercial launch from Kennedy’s historic pad.

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Shane Kimbrough of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Dragon when it arrives at the station. Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will begin at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22 on NASA TV and the agency’s website, with installation coverage set to begin at 8:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, the unpiloted Russian Progress 66 is scheduled for 12:58 a.m. Wednesday (11:58 a.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The spacecraft is set to dock to the Pirs docking compartment at 3:34 a.m. Friday, Feb. 24.

Aboard the station, the crew continued preparations for the arrival of the vehicles and set up several scientific experiments and technology demonstrations.

The Miniature Exercise Device (MED-2) was installed for a technical evaluation. MED-2 aims to demonstrate if small robotic actuators can provide motion and resistance for crew workout sessions, reducing the size and weight of exercise equipment for long-duration space missions.

Station Crew Gearing Up for 2017

The Expedition 50 crew enjoys an international Christmas dinner aboard the space station.
The Expedition 50 crew enjoys an international Christmas dinner aboard the space station.

The Expedition 50 crew aboard the International Space Station spent the week working on an array of science, maintenance and spacewalking preparation to close out 2016.

Kimbrough and Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet are getting ready for a pair of spacewalks on Jan. 6 and 13. The spacewalks, in conjunction with remote robotics work, will complete the replacement of old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries on the station’s truss structure. The crew performed a loop scrub on their spacesuits, reviewed spacewalking procedures and did a fit verification with their suits on Friday.

The crew participated in a variety of science experiments during the week including the Fluid Shifts study, which investigates the causes for  lasting physical changes to astronauts’ eyes; performed the final harvest of the Outredgous Romaine Lettuce from the Veggie facility, which is further demonstrating the ability to grow fresh plants in space to supplement crew diets; and continued preparing the station’s Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR) for the upcoming Cool Flames Investigation, which will provide new insight into the phenomenon where some types of fuels initially burn very hot, then appear to go out — but they continue burning at a much lower temperature, with no visible flames (cool flames).

Going into New Year’s weekend, the crew will enjoy their typical off-duty time on Saturday and Sunday. They also will have Monday, Jan. 2 off.

Oxygen Generator Back Online as Soyuz Nears Launch

At the Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Expedition 50-51 crew members Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (left), Oleg Novitskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos, center) and Peggy Whitson of NASA (right) pose for pictures Nov. 10 during preflight activities. They will launch Nov. 18, Baikonur time, on the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft for a six-month mission on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Alexander Vysotsky
At the Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Expedition 50-51 crew members Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (left), Oleg Novitskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos, center) and Peggy Whitson of NASA (right) pose for pictures Nov. 10 during preflight activities. They will launch Nov. 18, Baikonur time, on the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft for a six-month mission on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Alexander Vysotsky

The three Expedition 50 crew members today are working to unload cargo and set up new computer servers onboard the station. In Kazakhstan, the next trio to launch to the International Space are continuing their final prelaunch preparations.

Commander Shane Kimbrough completed work on Wednesday on the Oxygen Generation System (OGS) in the U.S. side of the International Space Station. The OGS was down for maintenance as he and ground specialists troubleshot the device due to a low voltage signature. Teams in Mission control conducted checkouts of the system today and reactivated it successfully, enabling OGS to once more supply oxygen to the space station crew. Final checkouts on the system are on the plan for Friday.

Today, Kimbrough set up new laptop computers to allow ground specialist to load required software. He also unloaded additional cargo from the attached Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft.

Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko performed routine maintenance on the ventilation system inside the Russian segment and took part in the Pilot-T experiment, which assesses the cosmonauts ability to perform complex tasks at different points during their spaceflight.

Three new station crew members are in Kazakhstan preparing for a Nov. 17 launch to the station. Veteran station residents Peggy Whitson of NASA and Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, along with first-time space flyer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency will take a two-day, 34-orbit trip to the station after their liftoff and stay in space till May. The group reviewed flight plans and took part in traditional preflight events, including a media day and the ceremonial raising of flags and planting of trees.


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BEAM Open for the First Time

BEAM First Ingress
NASA astronaut Jeff Williams floats in front of the entrance to the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM)

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams opened the hatch to the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) at 4:47 a.m. EDT Monday, June 6. Along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, Williams entered BEAM for the first time to collect an air sample and begin downloading data from sensors on the dynamics of BEAM’s expansion. Williams told flight controllers at Mission Control, Houston that BEAM looked “pristine” and said it was cold inside, but that there was no evidence of any condensation on its inner surfaces.

Additional ingress opportunities to deploy other sensors and equipment in BEAM are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. The hatch to BEAM will be closed after each entry.

Williams and the NASA and Bigelow Aerospace teams working at Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston expanded the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) by filling it with air during more than seven hours of operations Saturday, May 28. The BEAM launched April 8 aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and was attached to the International Space Station’s Tranquility module about a week later.

The BEAM is an example of NASA’s increased commitment to partnering with industry to enable the growth of the commercial use of space. The BEAM, which Bigelow Aerospace developed and built, is co-sponsored by Bigelow and NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division.

Crew Prepares Station for Several Ton Delivery

In a time-lapse exposure, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying an Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply spacecraft on a commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station.
In a time-lapse exposure, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying an Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply spacecraft on a commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station.

Many of the crew’s activities on Wednesday continued preparation for the arrival of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo craft, which launched successfully Tuesday night at at 11:05 p.m. EDT.

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams prepared one of the station’s payload racks for the new Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF). The AMF enables the production of components on the ISS for both NASA and commercial objectives. Parts, entire experiments, and tools can be created on demand.

Expedition 47 Commander Tim Kopra and flight engineer Tim Peake continued their refresher training for the upcoming Cygnus grapple where Kopra will capture the vehicle using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm.

On Saturday, March 26, the Cygnus spacecraft will catch up to the orbiting laboratory. Kopra and Peake will capture Cygnus at about 6:40 a.m. NASA TV coverage of capture of Cygnus will begin at 5:30 a.m. Installation operations are expected to begin at 9:25 a.m. and NASA TV coverage will resume at 9:15 a.m.

Repair Tasks Dominate Tuesday for Expedition 46

Image shared by Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly with the caption "#Countdown Let's take this 16 sunsets at a time. 8 days to go tomorrow! #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace."
Image shared by Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly with the caption “#Countdown Let’s take this 16 sunsets at a time. 8 days to go tomorrow! #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace.”

The crew of Expedition 46 was engaged in a variety of repair tasks today across the orbiting laboratory. ESA astronaut Tim Peake replaced cables in the station’s Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, the primary tool for astronaut resistive exercise vital for maintaining bone and muscle mass while in microgravity. NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra worked to replace key components in the station’s Water Processing Assembly.

Peake also set up units for the NASA Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory (SABL), which is capable of supporting life science research on microorganisms, small organisms, animal cells, tissue cultures and small plants.

Meanwhile, Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko are just one week away from the conclusion of their one-year mission. The pair are set to land in Kazakhstan at 11:27 p.m. EST March 1.

New Technology Debuts as Crew Begins Week

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly performing checkouts for NASA's Project Sidekick, which makes use of Microsoft's HoloLens device.
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly performing checkouts for NASA’s Project Sidekick, which makes use of Microsoft’s HoloLens device.

Over the weekend, Expedition 46 commander Scott Kelly worked with ground controllers to successfully checkout the Sidekick device and internet connectivity. The project, which makes use of Microsoft’s HoloLens device, aims to enable station crews with assistance when and where they need it. This new capability could reduce crew training requirements and increase the efficiency at which astronauts can work in space.

Also on Saturday, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus resupply vehicle successfully deorbited at approximately 10:53 a.m. EST.

The crew engaged in a variety of scientific experiments on Monday, including research into colloidal structures vital to the design of advanced materials, human research on astronaut heart health and overall body changes, and protecting human fitness during long-duration spaceflight.

Kelly and his fellow Expedition 46 crew mates Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov are continuing to prepare for their landing on March 1, U.S. time. The landing will wrap up Kelly and Kornienko’s yearlong stay in space.

Spacewalk Ends Successfully But Early After Water Detected in Helmet

NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Tim Peake completed the primary task for their spacewalk on January 15, 2016 before it was ended early by Mission Control Houston. The astronauts replaced a failed voltage regulator that caused a loss of power to one of the station’s eight power channels last November, accomplishing the major objective for this spacewalk.

See photos from the spacewalk

The pair ended its spacewalk at 12:31 p.m. EST with the repressurization of the U.S. Quest airlock following an early termination after Kopra reported a small water bubble had formed inside his helmet.

“These procedures did their job, the team did their job and we flowed right into a nice, safe return into the airlock for these guys,” remarked NASA’s Chief Astronaut Chris Cassidy, who took part in the July 2013 spacewalk when ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano experienced a similar, but more serious, incident.

Listen to the full audio from the interview with NASA Chief Astronaut Chris Cassidy

Commander Scott Kelly assisted the crew members with an expedited removal of their spacesuits and helmets. Once they removed the spacesuits and helmets, the astronauts used a syringe to take a water sample and retrieve the helmet absorption pad to determine how much water was introduced. Engineers are already looking at data to find what may have prompted the water to form inside Kopra’s helmet.

The crew was never in any danger and returned to the airlock in an orderly fashion.

The 4 hour and 43 minutes spacewalk was the third for Kopra and the first for Peake, who both arrived to the station Dec. 15. It was the 192 in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory.

Teams will continue to look over data collected during the spacewalk and discuss forward plans in the days to come.