Two Expedition 55 Flight Engineers are using virtual reality and computer training today to prepare for next week’s spacewalk at the International Space Station. Robotics controllers from Houston and Japan are also maneuvering a pair of robotic arms for the upcoming spacewalk and satellite deployments.
NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel will conduct the 210th spacewalk at the space station beginning Wednesday, May 16 at 8:10 a.m. EDT. The veteran spacewalkers will work for about 6.5 hours swapping thermal control gear that controls the circulation of ammonia to keep external station systems cool. NASA TV begins its live coverage at 6:30 a.m.
The veteran spacewalkers checked the functionality a pair of jet packs that will be attached to their U.S. spacesuits next week. The jet packs, known as Simplified Aid For EVA Rescue (SAFER), provide mobility for spacewalkers in the unlikely event they become untethered from the station. The duo also wore virtual reality goggles to practice maneuvering their SAFER jet packs and reviewed their spacewalk procedures.
Robotics controllers from opposite sides of the world maneuvered a pair of robotic arms independently of each other today. Canada’s 57.7-foot-long robotic arm, nicknamed Canadarm2, was remotely positioned today by engineers in Houston in advance of next week’s spacewalk activities. Controllers from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency remotely operated the Kibo laboratory module’s robotic arm to prepare for the deployment of small satellites Friday morning.
Our crew just finished the final training event before the launch. Tomorrow, at 13:20 local time (Baikonur), we will strap the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft to our backs and fly it to low Earth orbit. We will spend 2.5 days in low Earth orbit before docking to the MRM-1 docking port on the International Space Station (ISS). There we will begin approximately 168 days of maintenance, service, and science aboard one of the greatest engineering marvels that humans have ever created.
Today was bittersweet. Ending a 2-year process of intense training was welcomed by all of us. We are very tired. Seeing our families for the last time was difficult. I am pretty lucky, though. My wife, Raynette, and the kids have grown up around military service and are conditioned to endure the time spent apart during extended calls-to-duty. We are also very much anticipating the good times we will have upon my return in June. Sean and Amy showed me a few videos of them mucking it up at Red Square before flying out to Baikonur. Eric was impressed with the Russian guards marching in to relieve the watch at Red Square. Raynette was taking it all in stride and did not seem surprised by any of it. I think I might have a family of mutants who are comfortable anywhere. Nice! And, by the way, I am VERY proud of all of them!
Tomorrow’s schedule includes a wake-up at 04:00, followed by an immediate medical exam and light breakfast. Upon returning to our quarters, we will undergo a few simple medical procedures that should help make the 2.5-day journey to ISS a little more comfortable. I’ve begun prepping with motion sickness medication that should limit the nausea associated with the first phases of spaceflight. I will continue this effort through docking. This being my first flight, I’m not sure how my body will respond and am taking all precautions to maintain a good working capability. The commander will need my help operating the vehicle, and I need to not be puking into a bag during the busy times. We suit up at 09:30 and then report to the State Commission as “Готовы к Полёту”, or “Ready for Flight”. We’ll enter the bus, wave goodbye to our friends and family, and then head out to the launch pad. Approximately 2 kilometers from the launch pad, the bus will stop. The crew will get out, pee on the bus’s tire, and then complete the last part of the drive to the launch pad. This is a traditional event first done by Yuri Gagarin during his historic first flight and repeated in his honor to this day. We will then strap in and prepare the systems for launch. Next is a waiting game of approximately 2 hours. Ouch. The crew provided five songs each to help pass the time. My playlist included “Born to Run” (Springsteen), “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (Guns and Roses), “Cliffs of Dover” (Eric Johnson), “More than a Feeling” (Boston), and “Touch the Sky” (Rainbow Bridge, Russian). Launch will happen precisely at 13:20.
I think this sets the stage. It’s 21:30, only 6.5 hours until duty calls. Time to get some sleep. If I could only lower my level of excitement!
Robotics engineers are setting up the worksite on the Port 6 truss today ahead of next week’s spacewalk. Ground teams are remotely maneuvering the Canadarm2 with the Dextre robotic hand attached to relocate a leaky pump flow control subassembly (PFCS). The Canadarm2 will then be positioned afterward to support Arnold’s and Feustel’s work next week.
The duo will work outside the station for about 6.5 hours to swap locations of 2 PFCS boxes. The PFCS controls the circulation of ammonia to keep station systems cool. Other spacewalk tasks planned in the timeline include swapping out a variety of communications gear.
The two spacewalkers gathered their tools and were joined on Tuesday by Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai for a spacewalk procedures review. The foursome also checked in with mission controllers to discuss the upcoming spacewalk. Tingle and Kanai will assist the spacewalkers in and out of their spacesuits next week and help choreograph the excursion.
International Space Station officials will preview a pair of upcoming spacewalks live on NASA TV Tuesday. Meanwhile, Orbital ATK is getting its Cygnus resupply ship ready for launch in less than two weeks while the Expedition 55 crew focuses on biomedical studies today.
Two NASA astronauts are going out for a spacewalk May 16 to swap out thermal control gear that circulates ammonia to keep station systems cool. Station experts will be on NASA TV beginning at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday to preview next week’s spacewalk including a second spacewalk planned for June 14. Both excursions will be conducted by veteran spacewalkers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel.
Feustel and Arnold verified their spacesuits are sized correctly with assistance from astronauts Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Tingle also checked the batteries that power the U.S. spacesuits.
On May 20, just four days after the first spacewalk, Orbital ATK is planning to launch its Cygnus space freighter on a four day trip to the orbital laboratory. Cygnus will resupply the Expedition 55 crew with new science experiments, crew supplies, station hardware and gear that will be installed on the June 14 spacewalk.
Today’s science taking place onboard the station explored how microgravity affects blood pressure and blood vessels. Kanai started his day photographing his face to help scientists understand how the upward flow of fluids impacts intracranial pressure affecting a crew member’s eyes. He later attached sensors to his legs, scanned them with an ultrasound device and checked his blood pressure for the Vascular Echo study.
Following release from the International Space Station by ground controllers at 9:23 a.m. EDT, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at about 3 p.m. This marks the end of the company’s 14th contracted cargo resupply mission to the space station for NASA.
A boat will take the Dragon to the port at Long Beach, where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA. Dragon will be prepared for a return journey to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing.
Dragon is returning more than 4,000 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from a variety of technological and biological studies about the space station. Some of the science returning on this flight includes samples from the Metabolic Tracking study that could lead to more effective, less expensive drugs, the APEX-06 investigation examining how to effectively grow crops in space, and the Fruit Fly Lab–03 investigation to research disease genes and immunity to help prepare for future long-duration human space exploration missions.
Robotic flight controllers released the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station’s robotic arm at 9:23 a.m. EDT, and Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA is monitoring its departure.
Dragon’s thrusters will be fired to move the spacecraft a safe distance from the station before SpaceX flight controllers in Hawthorne, California, command its deorbit burn about 2:06 p.m. The capsule will splashdown about 3 p.m. in the Pacific Ocean, where recovery forces will retrieve the capsule and its more than 4,000 pounds of cargo, including a variety of technological and biological studies.
The deorbit burn and splashdown will not be broadcast on NASA TV.
NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization that manages research aboard the U.S. National Laboratory portion of the space station, will receive time-sensitive samples and begin working with researchers to process and distribute them within 48 hours of splashdown.
Dragon is the only space station resupply spacecraft currently capable of returning cargo to Earth, and this was the second trip to the orbiting laboratory for this spacecraft, which completed its first mission nearly two years ago. SpaceX launched its 14th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station April 2 from Space Launch Complex 40 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a Falcon 9 rocket that also previously launched its 12th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station.
The Expedition 55 crew members are getting their U.S. spacesuits and equipment ready for a spacewalk in two weeks. The Dragon cargo craft from SpaceX is nearly loaded with NASA science and gear ahead of its Saturday return to Earth.
NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are assembling hardware today that will be installed on the International Space Station when they conduct a spacewalk on May 16. The duo were assisted throughout the day by fellow NASA astronaut Scott Tingle scrubbing U.S. spacesuit water cooling loops and testing water samples for conductivity.
The veteran spacewalkers were mating repaired components from an external television camera group (ETVCG) that will be attached to the starboard side of the Destiny laboratory module. Their primary spacewalking task however, will be the swap out of thermal control gear that circulates ammonia to keep station systems cool.
Final packing is taking place inside the Dragon space freighter today as Tingle loads critical time-sensitive research samples inside the Earth-bound resupply ship. Robotics controllers will detach Dragon from the Harmony module Friday before releasing it Saturday at 9:24 a.m. from the grips of the Canadarm2. NASA TV will begin its live broadcast of the departure at 9 a.m. but will not televise its 3 p.m. splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship’s stay at the International Space Station has been extended until Saturday after unfavorable conditions were reported at the splashdown zone in the Pacific Ocean. In the meantime, time-sensitive payloads are still being readied for return to Earth as the crew wraps up final cargo packing.
Robotics controllers will operate the Canadarm2 to detach Dragon from the International Space Station’s Harmony module on Friday. It will be remotely released into Earth orbit Saturday at 9:24 a.m. EDT before finally splashing down in the Pacific Ocean around 3 p.m. Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will be in the Cupola monitoring Dragon as it slowly backs away from the space station.
NASA TV’s live coverage of Dragon’s departure begins Saturday at 9 a.m. The space freighter’s parachuted splashdown 403 miles off the coast of Long Beach, Calif. will not be televised.
Two NASA astronauts are looking ahead to their next spacewalk scheduled for May 16. Veteran spacewalkers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel took their body measurements today to ensure a proper fit inside their U.S. spacesuits. The duo will work outside the orbital lab for about 6.5 hours to swap out thermal control gear that circulates ammonia to keep station systems cool.
Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, who will assist the spacewalkers in two weeks, began configuring the Quest airlock where the 210th spacewalk at the station will be staged. He also trained to detect and clean ammonia from the spacesuits should they become contaminated during the maintenance spacewalk.
Dragon’s departure was pushed back from Wednesday after SpaceX personnel observed high sea states in the Pacific Ocean splashdown zone southwest of Long Beach, California. Its remotely controlled release from the Canadarm2 is now scheduled for Saturday at 9:30 a.m. EDT with live NASA TV coverage beginning at 9 a.m. Dragon’s splashdown is targeted at about 3 p.m. but will not be seen on NASA TV.
Mice living on the station have been transferred to specialized habitats in Dragon. They will be studied on Earth to observe how their bones and muscles have changed during their stay in microgravity. Other critical biological samples preserved in science freezers, such as plants, insects and human tissue, have also been transferred into Dragon for retrieval and analysis.
The astronauts and cosmonauts living on the space station exercise every day to maintain strong bones and muscles on orbit. One of the workout machines, the Advanced Resistance Exercise Device (ARED), got a tune up today amid the Dragon close out activities. Flight Engineer Drew Feustel greased the ARED’s rails and rollers and inspected its x-axis rotation points.
The crew on board the International Space Station has been busy this month unloading the bounty of supplies and equipment brought up by the SpaceX Dragon and repacking it with cargo to be returned to Earth. If you’ve ever wondered what goes into a layover at the space station, check out chapter 14 of the new NASA ebook, The International Space Station: Operating an Outpost in the New Frontier. The book, which was written by space station flight directors, is now available to download for free at https://go.usa.gov/xQbvH.
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 14: Vital Visiting Vehicles – Keeping the Remote Outpost Crewed and Operating.
Purpose and Importance of Visiting Vehicles
On Earth, a person’s typical week might consist of a trip to the grocery store, several trips to the local home improvement store, taking out the trash and recyclables, and doing a few loads of laundry. If something is broken in the home, a replacement part is ordered and the homeowner must wait for a delivery. Or, he or she might need to schedule a professional to make the repair. Homeowners probably do not think about the water supply. They definitely do not worry about the supply of oxygen needed to breathe or the removal of carbon dioxide that is expelled from the human body.
The International Space Station (ISS) is a unique, world-class orbiting laboratory. It is also home to astronauts and cosmonauts. The logistics of keeping such a home running are complicated. In space, there are no grocery stores or home improvements stores. The “trash truck” only comes around every few months. Washers and dryers for clothing do not exist, and access to clean attire can take months. Much of the breathable air and drinkable water must be delivered. When supplies (e.g., bathroom tissue) are low, crew members cannot tap a few keys on the computer and wait for resupplies to arrive at the door. They call Mission Control and place their order, and then they wait.
Moving astronauts and cosmonauts, science experiments, food, water, air, spare parts, and other supplies to and from the ISS is a highly choreographed international operation that must be executed with near perfection, every time. Such an effort requires more than one spacecraft. This was never more evident than in an 8-month span between October 2014 and June 2015 when three different resupply missions were lost during or shortly after launch. Three different rockets from three different companies experienced three different failures. According to statistics, this scenario was supposed to be nearly impossible. Yet, it happened. Operations on board the ISS continued despite the lack of resupply.
So, exactly what does it take to keep the ISS resupplied? It starts with a procession of vehicles from around the world that visit the ISS.