Three Space Travelers Countdown to Early Wednesday Launch

(From left) NASA astronaut Kate Rubins with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will launch to the space station for a six-month research mission.
(From left) NASA astronaut Kate Rubins with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will launch to the space station for a six-month research mission.

A trio of space travelers, including NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, is scheduled to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 1:45 a.m. EDT (10:45 a.m. Kazakhstan time) Wednesday, Oct. 14.

Beginning at 12:45 a.m., NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live coverage of the crew’s launch. Teams at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan are making final preparations for the liftoff of Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.

The launch will send the crew members on a two-orbit, three-hour journey to the space station, where they will join Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, temporarily increasing the orbiting laboratory’s population to six people.

It will be the second spaceflight for Rubins and Ryzhikov and the first for Kud-Sverchkov. During their six-month mission, the Expedition 64 crew will conduct research in technology development, Earth science, biology, human research and more. Work on the unique microgravity laboratory advances scientific knowledge and demonstrates new technologies, making research breakthroughs that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Below is the crew’s launch timeline in EDT:

Oct. 13 EDT  L-Hr/M/Sec Event

15:00:04pm 10:45:00        Crew wakeup at Cosmonaut Hotel
18:45:04pm    7:00:00        Crew departs Cosmonaut Hotel
19:30:04pm    6:15:00        Crew arrives at Site 254
20:00:04pm    5:45:00        Batteries installed in booster
20:15:04pm    5:30:00        Crew suit up
20:45:04pm    5:00:00        Tanking begins
21:40:04pm    4:05:00        Booster loaded with liquid oxygen; crew meets with officials
21:59:04pm    3:46:00        Crew walkout from 254; boards bus for the launch pad
22:04:04pm    3:41:00        Crew departs for launch pad at Site 31
22:40:04pm    3:05:00        First and second stage oxygen fueling complete
23:14:04pm    2:31:00        Crew arrives at launch pad at site 31
23:20:04pm    2:25:00        Crew boards Soyuz; strapped in to the Descent module

Oct. 14 EDT

00:10:04am    1:35:00        Descent module hardware tested
00:25:04am    1:20:00        Hatch closed; leak checks begin
00:45:00am   1:00:04        NASA TV LAUNCH COVERAGE BEGINS
00:45:04am    1:00:00        Launch vehicle control system prep; gyro activation
01:00:04am      :45:00        Pad service structure components lowered
01:01:04am      :44:00        Clamshell gantry service towers retracted
01:05:04am     :40:00         NASA TV: Crew pre-launch activities played (B-roll)
01:08:04am      :37:00        Suit leak checks begin; descent module testing complete
01:11:04am      :34:00        Emergency escape system armed
01:30:04am      :15:00        Suit leak checks complete; escape system to auto
01:35:04am      :10:00        Gyros in flight readiness and recorders activated
01:38:04am      :07:00        Pre-launch operations complete
01:39:04am      :06:00        Launch countdown operations to auto; vehicle ready
01:40:04am      :05:00        Commander’s controls activated
01:41:04am      :04:00        Combustion chamber nitrogen purge
01:42:04am     :03:00        Propellant drainback
01:42:21am      :02:43        Booster propellant tank pressurization
01:43:34am      :01:30        Ground propellant feed terminated
01:44:04am      :01:00        Vehicle to internal power
01:44:19am       :00:45        ISS FLIES OVER THE BAIKONUR COSMODROME
01:44:29am       :00:35        First umbilical tower separates
Auto sequence start
01:44:34am      :00:30        Ground umbilical to third stage disconnected
01:44:49am      :00:15        Second umbilical tower separates
01:44:52am      :00:12        Launch command issued
Engine Start Sequence Begins
01:44:54am      :00:10        Engine turbopumps at flight speed
01:44:59am      :00:05        Engines at maximum thrust
01:45:04am     :00:00        LAUNCH OF SOYUZ MS-17 TO THE ISS
01:53:50am     +8:46         Third stage separation and orbital insertion for the
                                                Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft

For launch coverage and more information about the mission, visit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @iss, ISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

Crew Missions Ramping Up During Robotics, Biology Research

The Expedition 64 crew poses in front of the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft that will launch the trio to the space station on Oct. 14. Credit: NASA/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin
The Expedition 64 crew poses in front of the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft that will launch the trio to the space station on Oct. 14. Credit: NASA/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin

The Expedition 63 crew is readying gear and suits today as they prepare to return to Earth in less than two weeks. Meanwhile, Thursday’s research aboard the International Space Station looked at robotics and biology.

Two crews will launch to the station and another one will complete its mission this month. First, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will ride to the station aboard the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft with cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. The Expedition 64 trio crew will blast off from Kazakhstan on Oct. 14 to begin a 185-day mission aboard the orbiting lab.

Expedition 64 Commander Chris Cassidy will hand over the station “keys” to Ryzhikov the day before he completes his mission with Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. The three crew members will enter the Soyuz MS-16, undock from the Poisk module and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan on Oct. 21.

Cassidy joined Ivanishin and Vagner during the afternoon and checked for leaks inside the Sokol flight suits they will wear when they depart the station. Ivanishin and Vagner also continued gathering station gear and personal items they will soon pack inside their Soyuz crew ship.

As usual, science experiments are ongoing on the station whether with inputs from the crew or by remote operations from students and scientists on the ground. Robotics is a prime space research subject and Cassidy set up the AstroBee free-flying satellites today that students are learning to program to understand spacecraft maneuvers. The veteran NASA astronaut later installed new hardware on the Life Sciences Glovebox to support prolonged crew operations in the research device.

Ivanishin and Vagner were back on biology studies today exploring ways to prevent the loss of bone mass due to extended missions in space.

Crew Packs for Landing While Studying Space Tech and Biology

The Soyuz MS-16 crew ship is pictured docked to the International Space Station's Poisk module.
The Soyuz MS-16 crew ship is pictured docked to the International Space Station’s Poisk module.

The Expedition 63 trio is packing up and getting ready for its return to Earth as the International Space Station is orbiting slightly lower today. Meanwhile, advanced space science continues full speed ahead aboard the orbiting lab.

Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA is about to wrap up a 196-day mission in space with Roscosmos Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. The Russian duo has begun gathering hardware and other items that will be packed inside the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship for return to Earth. The three-member crew will enter the Soyuz, undock from the Poisk module and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan on Oct. 21.

Cassidy spent a busy Wednesday operating a range of science experiments investigating space technology, microbiology and botany. He started the day setting up the Avatar-X camera that seeks to demonstrate remote robotics that may inform the future of telemedicine. Next, he transferred microbe samples, shipped in a Cygnus cargo craft science freezer, that will be observed to learn how to control bacterial growth in space. Finally, Cassidy set up the Spectrum-001 hardware that will enable fluorescent imaging of protein markers and stress signaling in plants grown on the space station.

As the crew counts down to departure, Ivanishin worked on Russian power supply systems and checked radiation measurements. Vagner assisted Cassidy with the Cygnus science freezer work and checked on a pair of Russian studies looking at bone loss and space piloting techniques.

The space station is orbiting slightly lower after the docked Progress 75 spacecraft fired its engines for nearly seven minutes this morning. The “deboost” puts the station in the correct phasing for the  docking on Oct. 14 of the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship carrying the Expedition 64 crew aboard.

New Experiments Installed as U.S. and Russian Crew Ships Near Launch

The tip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm which grapples hardware, science experiments and approaching spaceships, is pictured as the station soared over the South Pacific Ocean.
The tip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm which grapples hardware, science experiments and approaching spaceships is pictured as the station soared into an orbital sunrise.

Four spaceships are parked at the International Space Station today as two new crews are due to launch by the end of October. In the meantime, the Expedition 63 crew has begun unpacking the nearly four tons of science experiments, crew supplies and station hardware from the newly arrived Cygnus cargo craft.

Commander Chris Cassidy has begun configuring brand new science experiments and research gear delivered on Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter. He started removing a variety of time-sensitive investigations from Cygnus’ science freezers on Monday and quickly transferred them into space station research racks. The new experiments will explore cancer treatments, space botany and life support systems among other important subjects benefitting humans living on Earth and in space.

Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner were once again testing a unique suit today designed to offset a common space symptom that sees blood pool toward a crewmember’s upper torso and head. The Lower Body Negative Pressure suit attempts to normalize blood flow to counteract some adverse effects of long-duration spaceflight and prepare the astronauts for the return to Earth’s gravity.

October will be a busy month at the orbiting lab bringing a crew swap and four new Commercial Crew members. First, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will ride alongside Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov when they lift off Oct. 14 from Kazakhstan aboard the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship. The Expedition 64 trio will take a three-hour trip to their new home in space where they will stay until April of next year.

Just one week later, Cassidy will hand control of the station over to Ryzhikov and return to Earth with Ivanishin and Vagner. The trio will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft ending a 195-day research mission on the station.

Next, four more astronauts are scheduled to join Expedition 64 just one day after they launch aboard the first operational SpaceX Crew Dragon mission from Florida on Oct. 31. Commander Mike Hopkins of NASA will lead Pilot Victor Glover and Mission Specialists Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi during the 25-hour ride to the space station. The quartet will stay in space until the Spring.

Cygnus Hatch Open as Crew Works Medical Tests

The Cygnus is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm as the space station orbited above the Mediterranean Sea near the Middle East. Credit: @Ivan_MKS63/Twitter
The Cygnus is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm as the space station orbited above north Africa. Credit: @Ivan_MKS63/Twitter

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is open for business just five hours after it was attached to the International Space Station today. The Expedition 63 crew will now begin unloading almost four tons of crew supplies, new science experiments and an advanced space toilet.

After standard depressurization and configuration activities, Commander Chris Cassidy opened the hatch to Cygnus. He entered the cargo craft wearing goggles and a mask to protect against potential dust and debris which is normal procedure when entering a docked cargo ship for the first time. The U.S. resupply ship will stay attached to the Unity module until mid-December when its cargo mission ends.

Cassidy and Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner spent Monday morning monitoring Cygnus approach and rendezvous following its Friday night launch. Cassidy gave the command for the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and capture Cygnus at 5:32 a.m. EDT today. Mission controllers then took over the Canadarm2 and remotely installed Cygnus to Unity about an hour-and-a-half later.

Vagner later joined his fellow cosmonaut and Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin for medical tests while wearing the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit. The specialized suit prevents blood from pooling toward a crew member’s head, a common space symptom called “puffy face,” that may cause head pressure and vision issues. The duo also worked on a variety of Russian science and maintenance tasks today.

New Space Toilet, Advanced Science Shipped for Monday Arrival

Northrop Grumman's Antares rocket with the Cygnus space freighter atop blasts off from Virginia on its way to resupply the Expedition 63 aboard the space station.
Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket with the Cygnus space freighter atop blasts off from Virginia on its way to resupply the Expedition 63 aboard the space station.

The solar arrays have successfully deployed on Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft that is on its way to deliver nearly 8,000 pounds of scientific investigations, technology demonstrations, commercial products, and other cargo to the International Space Station after launching at 9:16 p.m. EDT Thursday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.

Coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival to the orbiting laboratory will begin Monday, Oct. 5 at 3:45 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Cygnus, while Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos monitors telemetry during rendezvous, capture, and installation on the Unity module’s Earth-facing port. NASA TV coverage of the spacecraft’s installation will begin at 7:30 a.m.

This delivery – Northrop Grumman’s 14th contracted cargo flight to the space station and the third under its Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract with NASA – will support dozens of new and existing investigations.

Included aboard Cygnus for delivery to the space station are:

 Improving how we ‘go’ in space

A new toilet is headed to the space station. Its features improve on current space toilet operations and help NASA prepare for future missions, including those to the Moon and Mars. The Universal Waste Management System (UWMS) demonstrates a compact toilet and the Urine Transfer System that further automates waste management and storage. The smaller footprint of the UWMS supports a possible increase in the number of crew members aboard the space station, as well as planning for future exploration missions.

 Energy and water from waste

The investigation Elucidating the Ammonia Electrochemical Oxidation Mechanism via Electrochemical Techniques at the ISS (Ammonia Electrooxidation) examines a process for ammonia oxidation in microgravity. An electrochemical ammonia removal system could serve as an innovative water recovery system on long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars and provide vital drinkable water in remote and arid areas on Earth.

 Adding radishes to the space salad

A new crop of vegetables is headed to the space station. While previous experiments have grown different types of lettuces and greens aboard the orbiting laboratory, the Assessment of Nutritional Value and Growth Parameters of Space-grown Plants (Plant Habitat-02) investigation adds radishes to the mix, cultivating seeds to see how different light and soil conditions affect growth. Findings could help optimize growth of the plants in space, as well as provide an assessment of their nutrition and taste.

 Identifying targeted cancer treatments

The Leveraging Microgravity to Screen Onco-selective Messenger RNAs for Cancer Immunotherapy (Onco-Selectors) investigation tests drugs based on messenger ribonucleic acids (mRNA) for treating leukemia. In normal gravity, the drugs to be tested are onco-selective, meaning they can distinguish cancer cells from healthy ones. Researchers expect any drugs that also demonstrate this trait in microgravity could make good candidates for safer, more effective, and affordable medicines to treat leukemia and other cancers. This could improve survival rates for thousands of people every year.

 Spacewalks in virtual reality

The International Space Station Experience (ISS Experience) is creating an immersive virtual reality series documenting life and research aboard the space station. Partnering with the ISS National Lab and TIME, a team from Felix and Paul Studios launched a customized 360-degree camera to the space station in December 2018 that crew members have used to record a few hours inside the station every week. Felix and Paul and partner NanoRacks further modified an additional camera to withstand the extreme conditions of space and are launching for use in filming a spacewalk. The new camera will be mounted to the Canadarm2 to capture a spacewalk from start to finish as well as footage of Earth and the exterior of the space station.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations currently being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars through NASA’s Artemis program.

In addition to science and research, this launch will also support commercial space endeavors. Estée Lauder’s New Advanced Night Repair serum will be photographed in the space station’s iconic cupola window as part of NASA’s efforts to enable commercial activities at the space station and develop a robust low-Earth orbit economy. The imagery will be used on the brand’s social media platforms. These opportunities can help catalyze and expand space exploration markets for many businesses.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

U.S. Cargo Poised for Launch; Robotics, Health Checks for Crew

Northrop Grumman's Antares rocket, with the Cygnus space feighter atop, stands at its launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility ion Virginia.
Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket, with the Cygnus space freighter atop, stands at its launch pad at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

A U.S. rocket stands at its launch pad ready to launch an advanced space toilet and new science experiments toward the International Space Station tonight. Back on orbit, the Expedition 63 trio worked on robotics, health checks and housecleaning today.

NASA and its commercial partner Northrop Grumman are counting down to tonight’s liftoff of the Cygnus space freighter atop an Antares rocket at 9:38 p.m. EDT from Virginia. Cygnus is packed with nearly 8,000 pounds of crew supplies and station gear due for a robotic capture on Sunday at 6:10 a.m.

Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner will be at the robotics workstation Sunday morning monitoring the approach and rendezvous of Cygnus. Cassidy will then command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple Cygnus when it reaches a point about 10 meters from the station. Afterward, engineers on the ground will take over the Canadarm2 and remotely install Cygnus to the Unity module where it will stay until mid-December.

During Thursday morning, Cassidy installed a new robotic 4K camera that looks outside a Kibo laboratory module window at the Earth below. Called Avatar-X, the camera demonstrates how users on the ground can remotely control the camera to view Earth or practice telemedicine in remote locations.

Next, Cassidy strapped himself into an exercise bike with assistance from Vagner for a periodic health check. Vagner spent the rest of the day on photography inspections and plumbing tasks. Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin took the morning off before spending the afternoon cleaning the ventilation system and researching how multi-cultural crews communicate.

U.S. Cargo Mission Nears Launch; More Leak Checks and Research

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy is at work inside the Kibo laboratory module from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy is at work inside the Kibo laboratory module from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).

The Expedition 63 crew continues preparing for Sunday’s scheduled space delivery of nearly 8,000 pounds of supplies and gear aboard Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter. As usual, advanced space science rounded out the day’s activities inside the International Space Station. The crew also continues work to try and isolate the precise location of an air leak that was recently isolated to the Zvezda Service Module.

An Antares rocket stands at its launch pad in Virginia ready to carry the Cygnus resupply ship to space when it launches on Thursday at 9:38 p.m. EDT. About nine minutes later, Cygnus will reach Earth orbit heading towards the space station for a Sunday arrival and robotic capture at 6:10 a.m.

Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner continued practicing their robotics skills Wednesday afternoon on a computer. The duo will be on deck inside the cupola Sunday morning ready to command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and grapple Cygnus. Ground controllers will take over the Canadarm2 afterward and remotely install Cygnus to the Unity module about two hours later.

Cassidy started the day working inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module setting up experiment hardware that enables science to take place outside the orbiting lab. The veteran astronaut also spent a few moments on light plumbing duty as he serviced the urine processing assembly located in the Tranquility module.

The two Russian cosmonauts, including three-time station resident Anatoly Ivanishin, focused on their complement of space research and lab maintenance throughout the day. The duo joined each other first for a space communications study utilizing a variety of photography and audio hardware. Next, Ivanishin moved to narrow the source of an air leak utilizing an ultrasonic leak detector. Vagner checked radiation measurements then swapped camera lenses and activated hardware for a pair of Earth observation studies.

UPDATE: Roscosmos has released new information, further isolating the leak location to the transfer chamber in the Zvezda Service Module. Additional leak detection operations will continue using the ultrasonic leak detector.

In terms of design, the Zvezda Service Module consists of four sections: three pressurized (Transfer Compartment, Working Compartment and Transfer Chamber) as well as the unpressurized Assembly Compartment housing the integrated propulsion unit.

The leak, which has been investigated for several weeks, poses no immediate danger to the crew at the current leak rate and only a slight deviation to the crew’s schedule.

Crew Continues Troubleshooting as Tests Isolate Small Leak

The International Space Station
The International Space Station is pictured orbiting Earth in October of 2018.

Late Monday night, the Expedition 63 crew was awakened by flight controllers to continue troubleshooting a small leak on the International Space Station that appeared to grow in size. Ground analysis of the modules tested overnight have isolated the leak location to the main work area of the Zvezda Service Module. Additional work is underway to precisely locate the source of the leak.

The leak, which has been investigated for several weeks, poses no immediate danger to the crew at the current leak rate and only a slight deviation to the crew’s schedule.

NASA astronaut and station commander Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner were instructed to move into the Russian segment to collect data at various locations in the Russian modules. The size of the leak identified overnight has since been attributed to a temporary temperature change aboard the station with the overall rate of leak remaining unchanged.

Previous leak checks were conducted in the U.S., European and Japanese modules in the U.S. segment of the station.

One by one, the crew closed hatches between Zvezda’s aft and forward sections and Zvezda’s passageways to the Pirs Docking Compartment and the Poisk module while using an ultrasonic leak detector to collect data. Throughout the night, pressure measurements were taken by U.S. and Russian specialists to try to isolate the source of the leak. At the completion of the overnight checks, the crew opened hatches once again between the U.S. and Russian segments and resumed regular activities.

The crew is preparing for this weekend’s arrival of the uncrewed Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft which is scheduled for launch Thursday night from the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, as well as the upcoming launch of the next trio of residents for the station. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov are at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, preparing for launch to the complex on Oct. 14.

Weather Delays U.S. Cargo Mission; Crew Back to Work After Leak Test

The three-member Expedition 63 crew aboard the International Space Station
The Expedition 63 crew with (from left) Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

A U.S. cargo mission will wait a couple of extra days for weather to clear before launching to resupply the International Space Station this week. Meanwhile, the Expedition 63 crew has resumed standard operations following a leak test over the weekend.

Scattered thunderstorms and rain are predicted at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia where Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship was originally targeted for liftoff Tuesday night. Mission managers rescheduled Cygnus’ launch for Thursday at 9:38 p.m. EDT setting its arrival and robotic capture at the station for Sunday at 5:20 a.m.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonaut Ivan Vagner practiced their robotics skills on a computer today to get ready to capture Cygnus with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Sunday morning. Cassidy will lead the capture activities while Vagner monitors the U.S. spacecraft’s approach and rendezvous.

NASA TV will broadcast live the launch and capture activities of the Cygnus space freighter. It will arrive at the station packed with nearly 8,000 pounds supplies and gear including an advanced space toilet and brand-new science experiments.

Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin once again opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack and replaced fuel bottles to support fuel and flames studies inside the research device. He then spent the rest of the day servicing laptop computers and life support systems.

The three-member crew exited their isolation in the Russian segment on Monday morning after a weekend of leak tests and resumed normal operations. Ground teams will analyze the leak test data in their ongoing work to determine the source of the increased leak rate at the station.