Spacewalk, Science and BEAM Work Keeping Crew Busy

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is pictured during a spacewalk to install solar array modification kits on the space station.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is pictured during a spacewalk to install solar array modification kits on the space station.

Two astronauts are gearing up for another spacewalk scheduled this Friday to continue maintenance on the outside of the International Space Station. The rest of the Expedition 64 crew set up advanced research hardware and also entered BEAM for cargo activities.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is readying tools and reviewing procedures for Friday’s spacewalk to continue installing solar array modification kits begun during Sunday’s spacewalk. She was joined by JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi on Tuesday as he assisted with spacesuit preparations. Flight Engineer Victor Glover partnered with Noguchi for the spacesuit work and collected water samples from the suits for microbial analysis.

Rubins and Noguchi will set their U.S. spacesuits to battery power inside the U.S. Quest airlock around 7 a.m. EST signifying the start of their spacewalk. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk at 5:30 a.m.

NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker checked out radiation and biological gear today. She first deployed an experimental radiation detector to validate its use on future Orion spacecraft carrying crews to the Moon. Next, Walker powered up the Bio-Analyzer for upcoming cellular and molecular analysis work aboard the orbiting lab.

Walker also joined Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins opening up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, for cargo work. The duo stowed hardware and replaced a wireless sensors inside the commercial module.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov focused on Russian science experiments in the station’s Russian segment. Ryzhikov wore a portable electrocardiogram that will record his electrical heart signals for 24 hours. Kud-Sverchkov serviced biology gear that enables investigations of cell cultures exposed to microgravity.

NASA TV Broadcasts Spacewalk on Sunday

From left, NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Jeff Williams are pictured during a spacewalk in September of 2016 performing solar array maintenance.
From left, NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Jeff Williams are pictured during a spacewalk in September of 2016 performing solar array maintenance.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover are scheduled to exit the International Space Station’s Quest airlock Sunday for a spacewalk to begin assembling and installing modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades.

The pair will set their spacesuits to battery power about 6 a.m. EST tomorrow, signifying the start of their spacewalk, which is expected to last about six and a half hours. NASA will begin its live coverage on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website at 4:30 a.m.

The current solar arrays are functioning well but have begun to show signs of degradation, as expected, as they were designed for a 15-year service life. The first pair of solar arrays were deployed in December 2000 and have been powering the station for more than 20 years. Later this year, the new solar arrays will be positioned in front of six of the current arrays, ultimately increasing the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts.

This will be the 235th spacewalk in support of space station assembly. Rubins will be designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1) and wear a spacesuit bearing red stripes. Glover will be extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing a suit with no stripes.

Rubins arrived at the space station Oct. 14, 2020, aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and Glover arrived at the space station in November as part of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission. This will be the third career spacewalk for each.

Watch a video providing an overview of the spacewalk and 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 in Final Spacewalk Preps, Studies Plants and Worms

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is pictured during a spacewalk in September of 2016 working on solar array maintenance.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is pictured during a spacewalk in September of 2016 working on solar array maintenance.

The Expedition 64 crew is in final preparations for Sunday’s spacewalk to ready the International Space Station for new solar arrays. The orbital residents are also tending to plants and observing worms to continue learning how space affects biology.

NASA Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Victor Glover will set their U.S. spacesuits to battery power on Sunday at around 6 a.m. EST signifying the start of the year’s third spacewalk. The duo will exit the station and spend about six-and-a-half hours upgrading power channels that will support new solar arrays to be delivered on upcoming SpaceX Dragon cargo missions. NASA TV begins its live spacewalk coverage at 4:30 a.m.

Rubins and Glover organized their spacewalk tools, checked their spacesuit tethers, and readied the U.S. Quest airlock today. On Saturday, they will finalize their preparations with assistance from Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi and hold a conference with spacewalk experts in Mission Control.

Friday’s research activities included watering plants and more worm observations. Noguchi refilled a water chamber then photographed the fast-growing, aroma-rich plants used for traditional medicine and food flavoring. NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker set up a microscope that Hopkins would use during the afternoon to observe worms for a gene expression and muscle strength study.

The crew’s two cosmonauts focused their activities in the Russian segment of the orbital lab today. Commander Sergey Ryzhikov worked on batteries and cameras. Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov had a fitness test on the Zvezda service module’s treadmill then serviced a variety of Russian science gear.

Crew Examines Worms, Explores Space Manufacturing During Spacewalk Preps

Three spaceships are pictured attached to the space station as the orbital complex flew 261 miles above the Bay of Bengal.
Three spaceships are pictured attached to the space station as the orbital complex flew 261 miles above the Bay of Bengal.

Two NASA astronauts are getting their tools and spacesuits ready for Sunday’s spacewalk to ready the International Space Station for new solar arrays. Meanwhile, the rest of the Expedition 64 crew focused on a variety of space research on Thursday.

NASA Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Victor Glover are finalizing their preparations for a planned six-and-a-half hour spacewalk set to begin Sunday at 6 a.m. EST. NASA TV will begin its live spacewalk beginning at 4:30 a.m.

Rubins and Glover configured spacewalk tools and checked U.S. spacesuits today before calling down to experts in Mission Control to report on their readiness. The duo today also continued reviewing the spacewalk procedures they will use to upgrade power channels that will soon support new solar arrays. Those solar arrays will be shipped on upcoming Space Dragon cargo missions for installation this year.

Science is always ongoing aboard the space station, not just with crew inputs but also remotely from scientists on the ground. Results and insights help improve industry, business and medicine on Earth and in space.

Worms are being observed on the station after their arrival on Monday inside the Cygnus resupply ship from Northrop Grumman. Astronauts Shannon Walker and Michael Hopkins examined the tiny worms with a microscope to explore how microgravity affects gene expression and muscle strength.

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi worked on advanced space science hardware to explore different space manufacturing techniques. He first installed the new Industrial Crystallization Facility that will demonstrate commercial crystal production available only in space. Next, he checked samples inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace that investigates the thermophysical properties of commercial materials exposed to extreme temperatures.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov split their day working on batteries, cameras and laptop computers.

Spacewalk Preps Rev Up as Space Science Continues

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker sets up science hardware components inside the Destiny laboratory module's Microgravity Science Glovebox.
NASA astronaut Shannon Walker sets up science hardware components inside the Destiny laboratory module’s Microgravity Science Glovebox.

The Expedition 64 crew members are revving up their spacewalk preparations as they juggle an array of advanced space science aboard the International Space Station today.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins spent Wednesday morning readying a pair of U.S. spacesuits that she and fellow NASA astronaut Victor Glover will wear on Sunday. Rubins was joined by astronauts Michael Hopkins of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) helping with the spacesuit fit checks today which consists of attaching the correctly sized leg, arm, glove and helmet components. All four astronauts called down to Mission Control in the afternoon to review Sunday’s spacewalk procedures.

Glover and Rubins will exit the station on Sunday about 6 a.m. EST to begin readying the station for upcoming solar array upgrades. Rubins will go out again on Friday, March 5, with Noguchi to work on coolant gear and communication systems. NASA TV will broadcast both spacewalks live.

Glover also had time for research work today as he serviced parts inside the Combustion Integrated Rack to support flame and fuel studies safely. NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker replaced communications gear inside the Human Research Facility that enables biological and psychological observations of astronauts.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov worked on batteries and cameras before incubating and photographing microbe samples. Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov checked out Russian life support systems and ventilation gear Wednesday afternoon.

Astronauts Get Ready for Spacewalks After U.S. Cargo Ship Arrives

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi works on U.S. spacesuit gear inside the Quest airlock.
JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi works on U.S. spacesuit gear inside the Quest airlock.

Spacewalks are the focus now aboard the International Space Station as the Expedition 64 crew begins unloading four tons of cargo delivered Monday aboard a U.S. space freighter.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover are gearing up for a spacewalk on Sunday, Feb. 28, to ready the station for upcoming solar array upgrades. They will set their U.S. spacesuits to battery power at approximately 6 a.m. EST signifying the start of their spacewalk planned to last six-and-a-half hours. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the spacewalk activities at 4:30 a.m.

NASA managers will discuss that spacewalk, including a March 5 spacewalk with Rubins and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, on Wednesday during a live briefing on NASA TV set for 2 p.m. The second spacewalk will see Rubins and Noguchi work on upgrading coolant gear and communication systems.

The duo spent Tuesday servicing their spacesuits and practicing safety procedures inside the Quest airlock. Glover cleaned the spacesuit cooling water loops and tested the quality of the water samples collected from the loops. Rubins reviewed the spacesuit caution and warning system then checked glove heaters, helmet cameras and batteries.

In the midst of the spacewalk preparations, the orbital residents have begun unpacking the Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply ship. NASA Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Shannon Walker have been offloading the new science hardware, crew supplies and station hardware stowed inside Cygnus. Noguchi transferred Cygnus’ science freezers containing biological samples into the station and installed them into specialized science racks. Rubins and Glover also assisted with the cargo transfers.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos started the day sampling the station’s air and surfaces for microbial analysis. Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov worked on Russian life support systems and station cameras.

Cygnus Resupply Ship Bolted to Station’s Unity Module

Feb. 22, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are attached to the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft, and Russia's Progress 76 and 77 resupply ships and Soyuz MS-17 crew ship.
Feb. 22, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are attached to the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft, and Russia’s Progress 75 and 77 resupply ships and Soyuz MS-17 crew ship.

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft was berthed to the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:16 a.m. EST Monday morning and subsequently bolted into place. Cygnus will remain at the space station until May, when the spacecraft will depart the station. Following departure, the Cygnus will dispose of several tons of trash during a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

The spacecraft, which launched at 12:36 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 20, on an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, brings approximately 8,000 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies to the orbiting laboratory to support the Expedition 64 and 65 crews. The Cygnus was captured earlier Monday morning at 4:38 a.m. EST.

Highlights of science investigations aboard this Cygnus include:

A new vision

Millions of people on Earth suffer from retinal degenerative diseases. These conditions have no cure, although treatments can slow their progression. Artificial retinas or retinal implants may provide a way to restore meaningful vision for those affected. In 2018, startup LambdaVision sent their first experiment to the space station to determine whether the process used to create artificial retinal implants by forming a thin film one layer at a time may work better in microgravity.

A second experiment by LambdaVision launching on NG CRS-15, Protein-Based Artificial Retina Manufacturing, builds on the first project, evaluating a manufacturing system that uses a light-activated protein to replace the function of damaged cells in the eye. This information may help LambdaVision uncover whether microgravity optimizes production of these retinas, and could assist people back on Earth.

Bringing advanced computing aboard the space station

Due to a need to prioritize reliability over performance, computing capabilities in space are reduced compared to capabilities on the ground, creating challenges when transmitting data to and from space. Although relying on ground-based computers is possible for exploration on the Moon or in low-Earth orbit, this solution will not work for exploration farther into the solar system. Launched in 2017, the SpaceborneComputer study ran a high-performance commercial off-the-shelf computer system in space with the goal of having the system operate seamlessly for one year. It successfully performed more than 1 trillion calculations (or one teraflop) per second for 207 days without requiring reset.

Spaceborne Computer-2 builds on the successes of this first study, exploring how off-the-shelf computer systems can advance exploration by processing data significantly faster in space with edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. This experiment plans to demonstrate that Earth-based data processing of current station science data can instead be performed on station. Eliminating the need for researchers to send all raw data back to Earth for analysis could speed scientists’ time-to-insight from months to minutes.

Space worms to the rescue

Tiny worms could help us determine the cause of muscle weakening that astronauts can experience in microgravity. Astronauts work out more than two hours a day aboard the space station to prevent bone and muscle loss caused by living in a microgravity environment during long-duration missions. Thanks to a new device for measuring the muscle strength of tiny C. elegans worms, researchers with the Micro-16 study can test whether decreased expression of muscle proteins is associated with this decreased strength. The device consists of a small microscope slide filled with little rubber pillars. The strength of the worms is measured by how much force the worms apply to the pillars as they move around the slide.

Preparing for the Moon

The International Space Station serves as a testing ground for technologies we plan to use on future Artemis missions to the Moon. The NASA A-HoSS investigation puts to the test tools planned for use on the crewed Artemis II mission that will orbit the Moon. Built as the primary radiation detection system for the Orion spacecraft, the Hybrid Electronic Radiation Assessor (HERA) was modified for operation on the space station.

Verifying that HERA can operate without error for 30 days validates the system for crewed Artemis mission operations. A related investigation, ISS HERA, flew in 2019 aboard the space station. ISS HERA provided data and operational feedback in preparation for the Orion spacecraft’s uncrewed Artemis I mission that will launch in 2021.

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

JAXA, NASA astronauts Capture Cygnus Resupply Ship

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply ship is pictured about 30 meters away from the space station approaching its capture point near the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Credit: NASA TV
The Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply ship is pictured about 30 meters away from the space station approaching its capture point near the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Credit: NASA TV

At 4:38 a.m. EST, Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency used the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 to grapple the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft as Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins of NASA monitored Cygnus systems during its approach. Next, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. Katherine Johnson, on the Earth-facing port of the station’s Unity module.

NASA Television coverage of installation will begin at 6 a.m., and installation of the Cygnus spacecraft to the space station is expected to be completed later this morning. Cygnus will remain at the orbiting laboratory for a three-month stay. Watch live on the agency’s website or on the NASA app.

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

Watch NASA TV for Cygnus Arrival and Capture at Station

The Cygnus space freighter is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm in February of 2020 during Expedition 62.
The Cygnus space freighter is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm in February of 2020 during Expedition 62.

A Northrop Grumman cargo spacecraft carrying almost 8,000 pounds of science and research investigations, supplies, and hardware is set to arrive to the International Space Station today at 4:40 a.m. EST. The uncrewed Cygnus spacecraft launched at 12:36 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20, on an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The company’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft for its 15th commercial resupply services mission was named after NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, a Black woman who time and again broke through barriers of gender and race.

Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi will capture Cygnus, and NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins will be acting as a backup. After capture, the spacecraft will be installed on the Unity module’s Earth-facing port.

NASA Television coverage of capture has begun. Watch live on the agency’s website or on the NASA app.

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

U.S. Cargo Craft Deploys Solar Arrays, On its Way to Station

Northrop Grumman's Antares rocket blasted off with the Cygnus space freighter today at 12:36 p.m. EST from Virginia. Credit: NASA Wallops/Allison Stancil
Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket blasts off with the Cygnus space freighter  from Virginia. Credit: NASA Wallops/Allison Stancil

The solar arrays have successfully deployed on Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft that is on its way to deliver approximately 8,000 pounds of scientific investigations, cargo, and supplies to the International Space Station after launching at 12:36 p.m. EST Saturday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island in Virginia.

Coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival to the orbiting laboratory will begin Monday, Feb. 22, at 3:00 a.m. EST on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi will capture Cygnus, and NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins will be acting as a backup. After capture, the spacecraft will be installed on the Unity module’s Earth-facing port. NASA TV coverage of the spacecraft’s installation will begin Monday, Feb. 22, at 6:00 a.m. EST.

This delivery is Northrop Grumman’s 15th contracted cargo flight to the space station and will support dozens of new and existing investigations.

Included aboard Cygnus for delivery to the space station are:

A life support upgrade

The Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) is a crucial element of regenerative life support hardware that provides clean air and water to the space station crew. Current systems enable recovery of about 93% of the water and water vapor on the station. The system will get an upgrade thanks to the Exploration ECLSS: Brine Processor System. This investigation demonstrates technology to recover additional water from the Urine Processor Assembly. The brine processor’s dual membrane bladder allows water vapor to pass through while filtering out the brine and the majority of contaminants. Long-duration crewed exploration missions require about 98% water recovery, and this technology demonstration in brine processing will help achieve this goal. This Brine Processor System plans to close this gap for the urine waste stream of the space station.

A new vision

Millions of people on Earth suffer from retinal degenerative diseases. These conditions have no cure, although treatments can slow their progression. Artificial retinas or retinal implants may provide a way to restore meaningful vision for those affected. In 2018, startup LambdaVision sent their first experiment to the space station to determine whether the process used to create artificial retinal implants by forming a thin film one layer at a time may work better in microgravity.

Protein-Based Artificial Retina Manufacturing builds on the first project, evaluating a manufacturing system that uses a light-activated protein to replace the function of damaged cells in the eye. This information may help LambdaVision uncover whether microgravity optimizes production of these retinas, and could assist people back on Earth.

I dream of space

Strapped inside sleeping bags, astronauts often report getting a better night’s sleep during their stays aboard the space station than when lying on a bed on Earth. The ESA (European Space Agency) Dreams experiment will provide a quantitative look at these astronaut sleep reports. When crew members get ready for bed, they will add another step: donning a sleep monitoring headband. The investigation serves as a technology demonstration of the Dry-EEG Headband in microgravity while also monitoring astronaut sleep quality during a long-duration mission. Raw data will be available to scientists for analysis, and the crew can input direct feedback on their sleep via an application on a tablet. Sleep is central to human health, so a better understanding of sleep in space provides a more comprehensive picture of human health in microgravity.

Preparing for the Moon

The International Space Station serves as a testing ground for technologies we plan to use on future Artemis missions to the Moon. The NASA A-HoSS investigation puts to the test tools planned for use on the crewed Artemis II mission that will orbit the Moon. Built as the primary radiation detection system for the Orion spacecraft, the Hybrid Electronic Radiation Assessor (HERA) was modified for operation on the space station. Verifying that HERA can operate without error for 30 days validates the system for crewed Artemis mission operations. A related investigation, ISS HERA, flew in 2019 aboard the space station. ISS HERA provided data and operational feedback in preparation for the Orion spacecraft’s uncrewed Artemis I mission that will launch in 2021.