Astronauts Relax as Station Science Command Celebrates 20 Years

Payload controllers are pictured working inside the Payload Operations Integration Center, the science command post for the space station located at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Payload controllers are pictured in January 2020 working inside the Payload Operations Integration Center, the science command post for the space station located at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Five astronauts from the Expedition 64 crew are relaxing today after supporting a pair of spacewalks last week. The two cosmonauts from Roscosmos were on duty running science and maintaining systems in the International Space Station’s Russian segment.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins led both spacewalks to install modification kits to ready the orbital lab for newer, more powerful solar arrays being delivered on upcoming SpaceX Dragon cargo missions. NASA Flight Engineer Victor Glover joined Rubins for the Feb. 28 spacewalk. Rubins completed the second spacewalk on March 5 with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

The spacewalkers were supported last week by NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins and Shannon Walker. The duo also had time off today having helped with the spacesuit maintenance and spacewalk preparations.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov stayed on duty Monday with Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. Ryzhikov explored ways to maintain safe, sterile conditions when performing biology research on the station. Kud-Sverchkov checked on air and water systems in the station’s Zvezda and Zarya modules.

Over the weekend, ISS Program officials and flight controllers informed the crew that another spacewalk will be conducted on Saturday, March 13, to complete a variety of tasks that could not be completed on a series of previous excursions.

Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will venture outside the Quest airlock to vent and relocate ammonia jumper cables, install a structural “stiffener” on the airlock thermal cover, and complete the connection of payload cables on the new Bartolomeo platform on the Columbus module. Other tasks will include the replacement of a wireless communications antenna on the Unity module. The spacewalk is scheduled to last approximately six and a half hours.

Since March 8, 2001, Marshall Space Flight Center has provided 24/7 support to science operations on the Space Station.

The Payload Operations Integration Center, POIC, is the science command post for the International Space Station. Located at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., it is the focal point for American and international science activities aboard the Space Station.

The team at the POIC manages the operations of science and research experiments aboard the Station. This group of dedicated professionals coordinates the use of valuable on-orbit resources, orchestrates delivery and retrieval of payloads, ensures safety for Space Station crews while working with payloads, and configures complex systems aboard the Space Station to support payloads.

Other members of the Payload Operations Center team train astronauts, cosmonauts, and ground personnel on payloads, and coordinate the plans for payload activities with scientists and control centers around the world.

The Payload Operations Center’s unique capabilities allow science experts and researchers around the world to perform cutting-edge science in the unique microgravity environment of space.

 

Spacewalkers Conclude Today’s Spacewalk

Spacewalkers Victor Glover and Kate Rubins are pictured at the mast canister, installing bracket support struts to the base of the solar array on Feb, 28th 2021.
Spacewalkers Victor Glover and Kate Rubins are pictured at the mast canister, installing bracket support struts to the base of the solar array on Feb, 28th 2021.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover concluded their spacewalk at 1:16 p.m. EST, after 7 hours and 4 minutes. In the third spacewalk of the year outside the International Space Station, the two NASA astronauts began work to install modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades.

The duo worked near the farthest set of existing solar arrays on the station’s left (port) side, known as P6. Glover built a bracket structure and worked with Rubins to attach the bracket and support struts to the mast canister, the base, of one of the P6 solar arrays, known as 2B. One of the bolts did not fully engage on the first attempt, so Rubins used a power drill to back it out and reseat it, then used a ratchet wrench to tighten the bolt, reaching a safe configuration. The bolt likely will need to be secured further before installing one of the new solar arrays that will be delivered to the space station later this year aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission.

Rubins and Glover then moved to begin identical assembly work for the bracket for the second of the P6 solar array pair, known as 4B. They completed the construction of upper support hardware and secured it to the space station’s exterior structure until work can be completed on the next spacewalk on Friday, March 5.

To ensure a sufficient power supply is maintained for NASA’s exploration technology demonstrations for Artemis and beyond as well as utilization and commercialization, NASA is augmenting six of the eight existing power channels of the space station with new solar arrays. The new solar arrays, a larger version of the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology, 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. 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.

This was the third career spacewalk for both Rubins and Glover. Rubins has now spent a total of 19 hours and 50 minutes spacewalking. Glover now has spent a total of 19 hours and 20 minutes spacewalking.

Space station crew members have conducted 235 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 61 days, 14 hours, and 11 minutes working outside the station.

During the spacewalk March 5, Rubins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi will venture outside the orbiting outpost to complete the installation of the 4B array modification kit and are expected to tackle additional work, including the venting of ammonia from the Early Ammonia System.

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

Astronauts Rubins and Glover Begin Spacewalk

NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins during a six-hour and 48-minute spacewalk on Sept. 1, 2016.
NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins during a six-hour and 48-minute spacewalk on Sept. 1, 2016.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover have begun their spacewalk outside the International Space Station to begin assembling and installing modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades.

The spacewalkers switched their spacesuits to battery power at 6:12 a.m. EST to begin the spacewalk, which is expected to last about six and a half hours.

Watch the spacewalk on NASA TV, the NASA app, and on the agency’s website.

Rubins is extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing a spacesuit bearing red stripes and using helmet camera #22. Glover is extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the spacesuit without stripes and helmet camera #20.

Rubins and Glover will traverse out the station’s backbone truss structure to the far left (port) side set of solar arrays, the first pair of solar arrays deployed in December 2000 that have been powering the station for more than 20 years. The spacewalkers will work together to construct and begin installing bracket support structures at the base of the current solar arrays that will enable new solar arrays to be installed to augment the space station’s power supply.

This is the 235th spacewalk in support of space station assembly.

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

NASA TV Coverage of Spacewalk Underway

Astronauts (from left) Kate Rubins and Victor Glover are pictured during previous spacewalks on the space station.
Astronauts (from left) Kate Rubins and Victor Glover are pictured during previous spacewalks on the space station.

NASA Television coverage of today’s spacewalk with NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover is now underway and is also available on the NASA app and the agency’s website.

The crew members of Expedition 64 are preparing to venture outside the International Space Station for a spacewalk expected to begin at approximately 6 a.m. EST and last about six and a half hours.

The crew is in the airlock and have donned their suits in preparation to exit the airlock and begin today’s activities to begin assembling and installing modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades.

As illustrated in a NASA animation, Rubins and Glover will be working near the farthest set of solar arrays on the station’s left (port) side, known as P6. They will work together to build bracket structures and attach the bracket and support struts to the mast canister, the base, of one of the P6 solar arrays, then will begin the identical work for the mast canister of the second of the P6 solar array pair. The modification kit will enable the new solar arrays to be installed in front of the existing arrays after their delivery to the space station later this year aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission.

Leading the mission control team today is Flight Director Marcos Flores with support from Art Thomason as the lead spacewalk officer.

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

Russian Cargo Craft In Orbit to Station

Russia’s Progress 77 cargo rocket launched from its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Feb 14., 2021.

An uncrewed Russian Progress 77 carrying just over one ton of nitrogen, water and propellant to the International Space Station launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:45 p.m. EST (9:45 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15, Baikonur time).

The resupply ship reached preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned for a two-day rendezvous on its way to meet up with the orbiting laboratory and its Expedition 64 crew members.

After making 33 orbits of Earth on its journey, the spacecraft will automatically dock to the station’s Pirs docking compartment on the Russian segment at 1:20 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17. Live coverage on NASA TV of rendezvous and docking will begin at 12:30 a.m.

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

Watch NASA TV for Progress Spacecraft Launch

Russia’s Progress 74 cargo rocket launched from its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Dec. 6, 2019. Credit: Roscosmos

Beginning at 11:15 p.m. EST, NASA Television will provide live coverage of the launch and docking of a Russian cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station.

The uncrewed Russian Progress 77 is scheduled to lift off on a Soyuz rocket at 11:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15, Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to begin a two-day journey to the orbiting laboratory.

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

Spacewalk Coverage Live on NASA TV

NASA spacewalker Victor Glover works on Jan. 27, 2021, to ready the International Space for future solar array upgrades.

NASA Television coverage of today’s spacewalk with NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover is now underway and available on the agency’s website.

The crew members of Expedition 64 are preparing to venture outside the International Space Station for a spacewalk expected to last about six and a half hours.

The crew is in the airlock and have donned their suits in preparation to exit the airlock and begin today’s activities working to upgrade a battery on the port 4 (P4) truss of the station.

The first task for today, as illustrated in a NASA animation, will be to install a final lithium-ion battery adapter plate on the port 4 (P4) truss. Hopkins and Glover also will replace an external camera on the starboard truss, install a new high-definition camera on the Destiny laboratory, and replace components for the Japanese robotic arm’s camera system outside the Kibo module.

Leading the mission control team today is Flight Director Vincent Lacourt with support from Sandy Fletcher as the lead spacewalk officer.

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

Astronauts Go Into Weekend Prepping for Monday’s Spacewalk

NASA spacewalkers (front left) Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins are suited up and ready for the year’s first spacewalk as astronauts (rear left) Kate Rubins of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA join them for a portrait.

Four Expedition 64 astronauts are going into the weekend preparing for a spacewalk on Monday for battery and high definition camera work. The other International Space Station residents will spend their time on research, maintenance and exercise.

Spacewalkers Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover will partner with astronauts Kate Rubins of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA over the weekend for spacewalk reviews, spacesuit checks and tool configurations. The quartet will also call down to mission controllers to discuss their readiness for Monday’s spacewalk.

The spacewalking duo will set their spacesuits to battery power about 7 a.m. EST signifying the official start time of their excursion. NASA TV will begin its live coverage at 5:30 a.m.

Hopkins’ and Glover’s first task Monday is to exit the Quest airlock and translate to the Port-4 truss structure for battery work. There they will install the final adapter plate and connect it to the final lithium-ion battery which is being robotically installed in advance of the spacewalk. This work will complete battery upgrades on the orbiting lab that had begun on previous station missions.

Next, the duo will maneuver to the opposite side of the station toward their starboard truss worksite and remove and replace high definition cameras then route ethernet cables. Finally, they will install a wrist vision camera on the Kibo laboratory module’s robotic arm.

During the spacewalk preparations on Friday, NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker tested the comfort of the experimental AstroRad radiation protection vest during an exercise session. She then installed tracking gear on an Astrobee robotic free flyer being tested for its ability to assist astronauts.

Walker later joined Rubins as crew medical officer and scanned the eyes of Hopkins and Noguchi with an ultrasound device. The ultrasound scans look at the crew member’s cornea, lens and optic nerve to gain  insights into eye and vision health in space.

New Year Brings Space Biology and U.S. Cargo Ship Departures

The Cygnus space freighter and SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship are being readied for departure on Jan. 6 and 11.

The seven-member Expedition 64 crew relaxed on New Year’s Day and went into the first weekend of 2021 researching space biology. The International Space Station residents are also packing a pair of U.S. resupply ships for departure this week and next.

Three astronauts spent Saturday and Sunday studying how microgravity affects vision and bone tissue in rodents. Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover of NASA spent the weekend observing several dozen mice to help scientists prevent vision and bone conditions that astronauts experience while living in space. JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi assisted the duo during the two life science experiments.

A different pair of biology studies is exploring how weightlessness impacts potential treatments for Earth and space-caused conditions. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins spent Sunday peering through a microscope at protein crystals which are much higher quality than those produced on Earth. Results from that experiment could inform ways to commercialize the development of cancer therapies in space. She also looked at engineered heart tissues to gain insights into aging and weakening heart muscles that humans experience on and off the Earth.

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker spent the weekend readying the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter and the SpaceX Cargo Dragon for their upcoming departures. Cygnus will be completing a 93-day stay and the Cargo Dragon a 35-day stay at the orbiting lab.

Rubins will monitor Cygnus’ departure first on Jan. 6 after mission controllers on the ground command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove it from the Unity module then release it into Earth orbit. Cygnus will orbit Earth on its own until Jan. 26 for flight tests and remotely controlled science experiments.

The Cargo Dragon will be loaded with samples from this weekend’s experiments and more, including space station hardware, for return to Earth on Jan. 11. Glover will monitor the first undocking of the Cargo Dragon from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. This will also be Dragon’s first planned splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.

Eyesight, Bone and Cancer Studies Fill Weekend After Christmas

This view from a window on the docked SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle looks at the coast of Brazil near the mouth of the Amazon River.

Following a day off on Christmas, the Expedition 64 crew went into the weekend with a variety of space biology to help researchers gain therapeutic insights not possible on Earth.

Long-term exposure to microgravity affects organisms adapted to living on Earth in many ways. That same weightless phenomena also reveals unique physical properties that doctors can use to develop advanced medicines and therapies.

A pair of studies taking place over the weekend explored new treatments for joint injuries and cancer. Saturday’s investigation observed samples of bone, cartilage, and synovium (connective tissue) housed in an artificial gravity chamber for insights into bone loss and joint damage. Sunday’s space research explored space-grown protein crystals, which are higher quality than those created on Earth, and their ability to target cancer cells.

A separate pair of investigations is examining several dozen mice aboard the International Space Station to learn about space-caused impacts to vision and bone tissue. The eyesight study seeks to understand whether the vascular changes created in space can impair visual function. Space radiation and fluid shifts toward the head are also suspected of affecting vision in 40 percent of space residents.

The second experiment is looking at genetic changes that occur in space and how they impact the degeneration/regeneration of bone tissue. Scientists are investigating how microgravity modifies the molecular mechanism of bone formation and cell growth.

The mice live in specialized research habitats on the station and are compared to a similar group of rodents on the ground. Following the completion of the studies, the mice will be returned to Earth inside the SpaceX Cargo Dragon spaceship in January for analysis by scientists in Florida. The results from both experiments may lead to better treatments for conditions affecting humans on and off the Earth.