Astronaut Commands Robotic Arm to Capture Cygnus Cargo Craft

Cygnus Captured
The Cygnus space freighter is grappled by the Canadarm2 after a three-day trip to the space station.

At 5:26 a.m. EDT, Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA successfully captured Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft using the International Space Station’s robotic arm, backed by NASA Astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel. Robotic ground controllers will position Cygnus for installation to the orbiting laboratory’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module.

NASA TV coverage of operations to install the Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. James “J.R.” Thompson, to the space station’s Unity module will resume at 7:30 a.m.


Get weekly video highlights at: http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/

Cygnus Space Freighter Approaching Station

Orbital ATK's Cygnus resupply ship
Orbital ATK’s Cygnus resupply ship slowly maneuvers its way toward the International Space Station before its robotic capture and installation during Expedition 47 in March of 2016.

The International Space Station and Cygnus flight control teams are proceeding toward capture at approximately 5:20 a.m. EDT. Orbital ATK reports all spacecraft systems are ready for the final stages of rendezvous and space station flight controllers report the orbiting outpost is ready for the commercial spacecraft’s arrival.

The spacecraft will deliver scientific investigations including those that will study microbiology, physics, materials science, plant biology, liquid separation and more.

NASA Television coverage of capture has begun. Watch live online at www.nasa.gov/live.

A timeline of remaining Cygnus and space station activities for the earliest capture attempt is below:

Time (EDT)   Event

  • 4:05 a.m.      Cygnus within 300m of Space Station
  • 4:09 a.m.      250m Hold Point Arrival
  • 4:29 a.m.      250m Hold Point Departure
  • 4:40 a.m.      Cygnus within 100m of Space Station
  • 4:52 a.m.      Earliest “Go” for Capture
  • 4:53 a.m.      30m Hold Point Arrival
  • 5:12 a.m.      Capture Point Arrival
  • 5:14 a.m.      “Go” or “No-Go” for Capture
  • 5:20 a.m.      Capture

Learn more about the Orbital ATK CRS-9 mission by going to the mission home page at: http://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @Space_Station.


Get weekly video highlights at: http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/

Bone and Cardio Studies as Cygnus Nears Station

The ash plume from the Kilauea volcano
The ash plume from the Kilauea volcano on the big island of Hawaii was pictured May 12, 2018, from the International Space Station.

The Cygnus space freighter from Orbital ATK is closing in on the International Space Station ready to deliver 7,400 pounds of cargo Thursday morning. The Expedition 55 crew members are getting ready for Cygnus’ arrival while also helping researchers understand what living in space does to the human body.

NASA TV is set to begin its live coverage of Cygnus’ arrival at the orbital lab Thursday at 3:45 a.m. EDT. Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will be inside the Cupola and command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and capture Cygnus at 5:20 a.m. Robotics engineers at Mission Control will then take over and remotely install Cygnus to the Earth-facing port of the Unity module later Thursday morning.

The crew started its day collecting blood and urine samples for a pair of experiments, Biochemical Profile and Repository, looking at the physiological changes taking place in astronauts. Those samples are stowed in science freezers for return to Earth so scientists can later analyze the proteins and chemicals for indicators of crew health.

Another pair of experiments taking place today is looking at bone marrow, blood cells and the cardiovascular system. The Marrow study, which looks at white and red blood cells in bone marrow, may benefit astronaut health as well as people on Earth with reduced mobility or aging conditions. The Vascular Echo experiment is observing stiffening arteries in astronauts that resembles accelerated aging.

Captain’s Log – Week 12 on Station

The robot, Justin, which NASA Astronaut Scott Tingle controlled from the International Space Station.
The robot, Justin, which NASA Astronaut Scott Tingle controlled from the International Space Station. Engineers at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics in Germany set up the robot called Justin in a simulated Martian environment. Justin was given a simulated task to carry out, with as few instructions as necessary. The maintenance of solar panels was the chosen task, since they’re common on landers and rovers, and since Mars can get kind of dusty.

  • Crew: Captain Scott ”Maker” Tingle, USN
  • ISS Location: Low Earth Orbit
  • Earth Date: 4 March 2018
  • Earth Time (GMT): 13:30

Wow, time has gone by extremely fast. The mid-deployment phase will be short-lived for me this time, as the new crew (Drew Feustel, Ricky Arnold, and Oleg Artemyev) will arrive on March 23rd, and then we have at least one spacewalk on the 29th, followed by a planned SpaceX Dragon cargo craft arrival on the 4th of April. It’s a little strange being up here with only two other crewmates. We are still very busy, but the overall work effort is half of what it was just a week ago. My crewmate, Nemo (Norishige Kanai), and I are trying to use the time to prepare for the upcoming very busy schedule, and we have been having some great success getting a ton of details taken care of.

Yesterday I had a funny event, though. I was controlling a robot named “Justin” who was located in Munich. The research and demonstration events were so interesting and fun that I offered them my lunch hour to do an additional protocol and have a longer debrief session. The ground team responded happily and accepted the offer – any extra time with crew onboard the International Space Station (ISS) is valuable to our programs. Halfway through the event, the team needed a few minutes to shut down and restart the robot, and I surmised that since I was skipping my break, this would be a good time to use the toilet. And I did, use the toilet. And literally 3 minutes later I returned, waited another 2 minutes for the robot systems to connect, and we began another great session controlling Justin from ISS with no loss to science. Later that same day, I was approached by the ground team in Houston (not the test team I was working with in Munich) and queried if something was wrong, and why did I have to take a toilet break while we were executing valuable science? They were concerned that I might have a medical issue, as taking a break in the middle of some very valuable science is not normal for us to do while on ISS. It’s nice to know that we have literally hundreds of highly-trained professionals looking out for us.

 

Captain’s Log – Unusual Attitude Recovery

View inside the Crew Quarters where astronauts sleep
View inside the Crew Quarters where astronauts sleep on the International Space Station.

  • Crew: Captain Scott ”Maker” Tingle, USN
  • ISS Location: Low Earth Orbit
  • Earth Date: 25 February 2018
  • Earth Time (GMT): 21:00

While flying fast-moving jets, we practice the art of recovering from unusual attitudes. We close our eyes, and let the instructor put the jet in an unexpected attitude. Sometimes straight up, sometimes straight down, sometimes upside down, and sometimes anything in-between. The goal is to open our eyes, analyze the situation and make rapid and smooth corrections to power and attitude to effect a speedy recovery to straight and level flight without departing controlled flight, or having to endure high G’s, or experiencing big losses of altitude. Sometimes, when I crawl into my crew quarters on the space station, it is very dark – just like closing our eyes in the jet. And then, as I sleep, my body floats around and changes position. When I awake in total darkness, I have to figure out what attitude I am in relative to my crew quarters and then right myself.  “Unusual Attitude Recovery” can be pretty funny. And sometimes, my heart can get pumping as I awake and realize I don’t know what my attitude is. I execute my procedures to figure out what my attitude is, and then correct it. At first, it used to take me a while to realize. But now, it is second nature – and it always brings a smile to my face.

 

Station Crew Juggles Science, Cargo Mission and Spacewalk Preps

Astronaut Drew Feustel
Astronaut Drew Feustel is pictured outside of the Tranquility module during a spacewalk on May 16 to swap thermal control gear.

The Expedition 55 crew members had a full complement of work today as they conducted microgravity research, trained to capture a resupply ship and prepared for a June spacewalk.

Astronaut Norishige Kanai explored how living and working in space affects everything from fluid physics to the human body today. He first set up hardware to visualize how water atomizes in microgravity possibly improving the production of spray combustion engines. Next, he researched how spaceflight is impacting his brain structure and function, motor control, and multi-tasking abilities.

Later he joined fellow Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Ricky Arnold to practice the robotics techniques necessary to capture the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship. The trio trained on a computer to simulate the operation of the Canadarm2 when it reaches out and grapples Cygnus on Thursday.

The commercial space freighter is due to deliver over 7,400 pounds of crew supplies, station hardware and science experiments when it arrives Thursday at 5:20 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will broadcast live the approach, rendezvous and capture of Cygnus beginning at 3:45 a.m.

NASA Flight Engineer Drew Feustel worked on U.S. spacesuits today ahead of the next spacewalk planned for June 14. He scrubbed the spacesuit cooling loops, collected water samples and organized tools in the Quest airlock.

The veteran spacewalker has a total of eight spacewalks having worked in the vacuum of space for nearly 55 hours. He will partner with Arnold, who has four spacewalks for over 25 hours, June 14 to install high definition cameras on the Harmony module.

Cygnus In Space, Next Stop Station

Cygnus Spacecraft
The Cygnus spacecraft with its cymbal-like UltraFlex solar arrays deployed was pictured departing the space station Dec. 5, 2017 during Expedition 53.

The Cygnus spacecraft’s solar arrays have deployed.

See the launch of Cygnus on Instagram

The cargo ship will rendezvous with the International Space Station on Thursday, May 24. Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will grapple the spacecraft at approximately 5:20 a.m. EDT, backed by Ricky Arnold, and Drew Feustel will monitor Cygnus systems during its approach. They will use the space station’s robotic Canadarm2 to take hold of the Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. James “J.R.” Thompson. After Cygnus’ capture, ground controllers will command the robotic arm to rotate and install Cygnus onto the station’s Unity module. It is scheduled depart the space station in mid-July.

Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 3:45 a.m. Thursday, May 24. Installation coverage is set to begin at 7:30 a.m.

Science investigations aboard Cygnus on their way to the space station also include commercial and academic payloads in myriad disciplines, including:

  • The Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST), an investigation to identify unknown microbial organisms on the space station and understand how humans, plants and microbes adapt to living on the station
  • The Cold Atom Laboratory, a physics research facility used by scientists to explore how atoms interact when they have almost no motion due to extreme cold temperatures
  • A unique liquid separation system from Zaiput Flow Technologies that relies on surface forces, rather than gravity, to extract one liquid from another
  • The Ice Cubes Facility, the first commercial European opportunity to conduct research in space, made possible through an agreement with ESA (European Space Agency) and Space Applications Services.
  • The Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification (MICS) experiment is to investigate and understand the complex process of cement solidification in microgravity with the intent of improving Earth-based cement and concrete processing and as the first steps toward making and using concrete on extraterrestrial bodies.
  • Three Earth science CubeSats
    • RainCube (Radar in a CubeSat) will be NASA’s first active sensing instrument on a CubeSat that could enable future rainfall profiling missions on low-cost, quick-turnaround platforms.
    • TEMPEST-D (Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems Demonstration) is mission to validate technology that could improve our understanding of cloud processes.
    • CubeRRT (CubeSat Radiometer Radio Frequency Interference Technology) will seek to demonstrate a new technology that can identify and filter radio frequency interference, which is a growing problem that negatively affects the data quality collected by radiometers, instruments used in space for critical weather data and climate studies.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus Blasts off to Resupply the Station

Cygnus Blasts Off
The Cygnus spacecraft from Orbital ATK blasts off atop the Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft lifted off at 4:44 a.m. EDT and is on its way to the International Space Station. At the time of launch, the space station was traveling at an altitude of about 250 miles, over the central south Atlantic.

See the launch on Instagram

An hour and half after launch, commands will be given to deploy the spacecraft’s UltraFlex solar arrays. Launch coverage will resume on NASA TV at http://www.nasa.gov/live at about 5:45 a.m. for solar array deployment, which is expected to last about 30 minutes.

A post-launch news conference will follow and is scheduled to begin on NASA TV at approximately 7:00 a.m.

Cygnus Rolls Out to Pad Targeting Monday Launch

The Antares rocket from Orbital ATK
The Antares rocket from Orbital ATK makes its way to the launch pad at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Antares will launch the Cygnus spacecraft on a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft that will resupply the Expedition 55 crew on the International Space Station rolled out to its launch pad Thursday night. Cygnus is now targeted to blast off atop the Antares rocket Monday at 4:39 a.m. EDT from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. NASA TV will begin its live broadcast of the launch Monday at 4 a.m.

Orbital ATK and NASA managers moved Cygnus’ launch to no earlier than Monday to support further pre-launch inspections and more favorable weather conditions. Monday shows an 80% probability of acceptable weather for launch.

Cygnus is packed with 7,400 pounds of new science experiments, crew supplies and space station hardware. It is scheduled to arrive Thursday at the space station for its robotic capture at 5:20 a.m. NASA TV will cover the approach and rendezvous activities starting at 3:30 a.m.

Three NASA astronauts, Scott Tingle, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, have trained for weeks to get ready for Cygnus’ arrival on Thursday. Tingle will be operating the Canadarm2 from inside the Cupola and command the robotic arm to grapple Cygnus. Arnold will back him up on the robotics controls and Feustel will monitor Cygnus and it systems during its approach. Robotics engineers on the ground will then remotely install the commercial space freighter on the Earth-facing port of the Unity module later Thursday morning.

One of the new experiments being delivered aboard Cygnus to the orbital laboratory will study atoms frozen to a temperature 10 billion times colder than deep space. The Cold Atom Lab will observe the quantum phenomena possibly leading to advanced spacecraft navigation techniques and quantum sensors that can detect gravitational and magnetic fields.

Captain’s Log – Week 6 on Station

Newly arrived Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Anton Shkaplerov float into the Zvezda Service Module.
Newly arrived Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Anton Shkaplerov float into the Zvezda Service Module during an International Space Station tour and safety briefing.

  • Crew: Captain Scott ”Maker” Tingle, USN
  • ISS Location: Low Earth Orbit
  • Earth Date: 4 March 2018
  • Earth Time (GMT): 13:30

I did an interview with some students today, and I was asked a two-part question by one of the students. He asked, “What is the most exciting thing about being in space, and how did you keep yourself motivated to get there?”

I answered, “When you were very young, did you ever dream or wish you could fly? We all know it’s impossible, right? Imagine waking up one day and finding out you actually can fly! THAT is exciting! Now consider the contrary thought, what if you grew up and realized that flying wasn’t possible for humans, and you were at peace with this reality, and at peace shedding your childhood dream of flying? You will have several crossroads in your life, and you will have to decide which of these people you want to be. I too am amazed that I had the staying power to continue to dream as I did when I was a child. Words cannot describe how I feel when I fly through the International Space Station every day.”