Dragon Being Loaded With Science for Return to Earth

SpaceX Dragon
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured attached to the Harmony module a few days after its arrival in July.

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is getting ready to return to Earth Friday morning loaded with gear and a variety of science for analysis. Another spacecraft, the Soyuz TMA-20M, will leave Sept. 6 and land in Kazakhstan with three International Space Station crew members.

Dragon delivered numerous science experiments July 20 that the Expedition 48 crew immediately unloaded and began working on. Two of those experiments set to return on Friday include the Heart Cells study and Mouse Epigenetics. That research explored how microgravity affects human heart cells and alters gene expression and DNA in mice.

The station will get an orbital reboost early Wednesday when the docked Progress 63 cargo craft fires its engines for over 12 minutes. The reboost will put the station at the correct altitude for the departure of the Expedition 48 trio next month.

Expedition 48 Commander Jeff Williams and cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin will return to Earth in two weeks after 5-1/2 months in space. Williams will be completing his fourth space mission and hold the NASA record for cumulative days in space. Skripochka will be completing his second mission and Ovchinin will be completing his first.

Astronauts Relaxing Before Pair of Spaceships Leave

Spacewalker
An astronaut works to install an international docking adapter during a spacewalk on Friday.

Three astronauts are relaxing today after a spacewalk on Friday and weekend cleanup work. Meanwhile, a pair of spacecraft will be departing the International Space Station over the next two weeks.

NASA astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins successfully installed a new international docking adapter Friday morning during a five hour and 58-minute spacewalk. Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi assisted the duo from inside the station, while all three cleaned up the Quest airlock afterward where they stowed their spacesuits and tools.

Williams is scheduled to return to Earth on Sept. 6 with cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin ending Expedition 48. The two cosmonauts began their departure preparations today to get the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft ready for undocking and landing in Kazakhstan.

Before Expedition 48 returns home in two weeks the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will leave the station this Friday at 6:10 a.m. EDT. The crew is loading the space freighter with gear and science for analysis by NASA engineers on the ground. Dragon will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean a few hours after its release Friday and be retrieved by SpaceX personnel.

Spacewalkers Begin Work to Install Commercial Crew Port

Spacewalkers Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins
Astronaut Jeff Williams is conducting the fourth spacewalk of his career. Astronaut Kate Rubins is conducting her first spacewalk. Credit: NASA TV

Two NASA astronauts switched their spacesuits to battery power this morning at 8:04 a.m. EDT aboard the International Space Station to begin a spacewalk planned to last some six and a half hours. Expedition 48 Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Kate Rubins will install the first of two international docking adapters (IDAs) that will enable future arrivals of Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew spacecraft.

The docking adapter arrived to the space station July 20 on a SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply spacecraft. On Wednesday, ground controllers used the Canadarm2 robotic arm, and its attached “Dextre” Special Dexterous Manipulator, to extract the IDA from the trunk of Dragon and position it just 2 feet away from Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 located on the forward end of the Harmony module.

Once the IDA is moved to a surface to surface contact with the PMA, Williams and Rubins will begin work to hook up tethers in advance of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Takuya Onishi sending commands to close the hooks between the two docking ports. Once the hooks are closed, Williams and Rubins will press ahead to mate power and data connectors for future use of the IDA.

Williams is wearing the spacesuit with a red stripe. Rubins is wearing the spacesuit with the white stripe. This is the fourth spacewalk in Williams’ career and the first for Rubins. It is the 194th spacewalk for the space station

NASA TV’s Public Channel (NTV-1) is broadcasting enhanced coverage of the spacewalk including operational commentary, in-studio experts and features. The Media Channel (NTV-3) is carrying a clean feed of video from the space station with operational commentary. Full schedule details are available at:

https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

Watch NASA TV Now for Spacewalk with Rubins and Williams

Astronauts Kate Rubins and Jeff Williams
Astronauts Kate Rubins and Jeff Williams are pictured in front of the U.S. spacesuits they will wear during a spacewalk Friday morning.

Expedition 48 Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Kate Rubins of NASA will begin a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station at 8:05 a.m. EDT Friday. NASA TV coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. NASA TV’s Public Channel (NTV-1) will broadcast enhanced coverage of the spacewalk including operational commentary, in-studio experts and features. The Media Channel (NTV-3) will broadcast a clean feed of video from the space station with operational commentary. Full schedule details are available at:

https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

Williams and Rubin will conduct the spacewalk to install and connect the first of two international docking adapters that will be used for the future arrivals of Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew spacecraft.

Follow @space_station on Twitter and #spacewalk for updates. For more information about the International Space Station, including current residents, visit:

www.nasa.gov/station

New Docking Adapter in Position for Spacewalk Friday Morning

Astronauts Kate Rubins and Jeff Williams
Astronauts Kate Rubins and Jeff Williams check the U.S. spacesuits they will wear Friday morning during a 6.5 hour spacewalk. Credit: NASA TV

A new port for commercial crew vehicles was robotically removed from the back of the SpaceX Dragon Wednesday night. The International Docking Adapter was placed in position for its installation Friday morning to a pressurized mating adapter attached to the Harmony module.

VIDEO: International Docking Adapter is Extracted from SpaceX Dragon

Two spacewalkers, Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Kate Rubins, will complete the installation work during a spacewalk scheduled to begin Friday at 8:05 a.m. EDT. The NASA astronauts will install cables and outfit the docking port that will enable future Boeing and SpaceX crew vehicles to dock at the International Space Station.

While the spacewalk preparations were under way, a Japanese astronaut and three cosmonauts conducted a variety of space research. Takuya Onishi tended to the mice being observed for the Mouse Epigenetics study. That experiment is researching altered gene expression and DNA changes in mice and their offspring living in space.

Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin explored ways of detecting micrometeoroid impacts on the outside of the station. He also joined Oleg Skripochka and studied how galactic and solar radiation genetically affects viruses that infect bacteria. Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin investigated how coulomb crystals and liquids are formed by charged macroparticles and researched how the heart beats in space.

New International Docking Adapter Being Prepped for Installation

Astronaut Kate Rubins
Astronaut Kate Rubins checks a U.S. spacesuit she will wear during a spacewalk planned for Aug. 19, 2016.

Flight controllers and the Expedition 48 crew are preparing for tonight’s International Docking Adapter extraction work and Friday morning’s installation spacewalk. The orbital residents are also continuing to load the SpaceX Dragon with gear and science for return to Earth.

Controllers on the ground checked the Canadian robotics systems they will use to remove the International Docking Adapter from the rear of the SpaceX Dragon tonight. The new adapter will be extracted with the Canadarm2 then maneuvered to a point about three feet away from its installation point. It will then be installed on the Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 which is attached to the forward end of the Harmony module.

The final and intricate installation work will be done during a 6.5 hour spacewalk scheduled to begin Friday at 8:05 a.m. EDT with astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins . The new adapter, the first of two, will enable new Commercial Crew vehicles being developed by Boeing and SpaceX to dock at the International Space Station in the future.

In the meantime, the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is still being loaded with gear ahead of its return to Earth on Aug. 26. Rubins spent the morning packing Dragon with research samples and used hardware for analysis back on Earth.

Crew Tries On Spacesuits, Conducts Heart and Meteor Research

Spacesuit Checks
Astronauts Kate Rubins and Jeff Williams try on their U.S. spacesuits. Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi and cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin assisted the duo. Credit: NASA TV

A pair of astronauts tried on U.S. spacesuits this morning ahead of a spacewalk next week. Afterward, the crew explored heart cells, fluid pressure in the head and the eyes and the composition of meteors.

NASA astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins are due to work outside the International Space Station on Aug. 19 for 6.5 hours. The duo tried on the spacesuits today they will wear during the spacewalk to complete the installation of the first of two International Docking Adapters to the Harmony module. Commercial Crew vehicles are being developed by Boeing and SpaceX that will dock to the new adapters in the future.

Rubins then moved on to observing heart cells with a specialized microscope. The heart cells are derived from stem cells that were manufactured from human skin cells.

Williams joined cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin for ultrasound scans and vision checks. That work was part of the Fluid Shifts study that is exploring how the lack of gravity influences head pressure and eye shape possibly affecting an astronaut’s vision.

Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi replaced a hard drive on a laptop computer that collects data on the composition of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere. Cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin participated in a study that seeks to improve the ability of a crew member to pilot a spacecraft.

Crew Heads to Launch Site Friday, First Commercial Crew Announced

Expedition 44/45 Crew Members
At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, Expedition 44/45 crew members (from left) Kjell Lindgren of NASA; Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency; and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency pose for pictures following a news conference July 8. Credit: NASA/Seth Marcantel

The International Space Station will get an orbital boost tonight to get ready for upcoming Soyuz crew missions. On the ground, three new crew members are preparing for their Friday departure to the launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The orbiting Expedition 44 trio, with Commander Gennady Padalka and One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko, is looking forward to expanding to three new crew members. Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui will take a six-hour ride July 22 in the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft for a five month stay in space.

On the station, Kelly is getting Japan’s Kibo airlock ready for next week’s deployment of 16 Cubesats over four days. Kornienko continued moving supplies from the new ISS Progress 60 space freighter. Padalka worked on the Vozdukh, a Russian carbon dioxide removal system, the Zvezda service module. All the crew members then practiced emergency evacuation procedures.

NASA announced today that four astronauts have been selected to train on commercial crew vehicles. Veteran astronauts Robert Behnken, Sunita Williams, Eric Boe and Douglas Hurley are now training for a commercial crew launch in 2017 as part of NASA’s journey to Mars.

Commercial Crew Astronauts
The first astronauts selected to train to fly to space on commercial crew carriers are (from left) Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Sunita Williams