Station Trio Continues Research, Awaits New Crewmates

Expedition 50-51 Crew Members
Expedition 50-51 crew members (from left) Thomas Pesquet, Peggy Whitson and Oleg Novitskiy are pictured aboard an aircraft before landing at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The new Expedition 50 crew is in its first week aboard the International Space Station after a trio of Expedition 49 crew members left for Earth Saturday night. Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko are the sole occupants of the station right now awaiting three more crewmates due to launch in mid-November.

Kimbrough is tending a new garden of red romaine lettuce due to be harvested at the end of November. He is continuing the validation of greenhouse hardware to enable a fresh food supply for future crews venturing further and longer into space.

Cosmonauts Ryzhikov and Borisenko spent their time working on Russian life support systems and space research. The cosmonauts explored controlling rovers on a planetary surface from a spacecraft and also researched how microgravity affects pain sensitivity.

Back on Earth in Kazakhstan, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy are preparing for their mission to the space station. The Expedition 50-51 crew members are due to launch Nov. 17 to begin a six-month mission aboard the orbital laboratory.


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Soyuz Packed for Return While Cygnus Unloaded After Capture

Expedition 49 Crew Members
The six-member Expedition 49 crew poses for a portrait in the Destiny lab module. (Front row, from left) Kate Rubins, Anatoly Ivanishin and Takuya Onishi. (Back row) Shane Kimbrough, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko.

One spacecraft is being packed and readied for the return of three humans to Earth while a cargo craft is being unloaded and settling in for a one-month stay.

The Expedition 49 trio of Commander Anatoly Ivanishin and Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi are packing gear and preparing for their return to Earth Saturday night. The veteran cosmonaut and two first-time astronauts will wrap up their mission after 115 days in space.

They will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft. The ride back to Earth takes about 3-1/2 hours after undocking from the International Space Station.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus is the latest cargo ship to arrive at the International Space Station. It was captured and installed to the Harmony module on Sunday Oct. 23 after a six-day flight that began in Virginia.

The hatches were opened the day it arrived and the crew began unloading over 5,100 pounds of crew supplies and science gear. Cygnus is scheduled to depart in mid-November and release a set of nanosatellites before scientists remotely set fire inside the spacecraft for the Saffire-II experiment.


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Trio Getting Ready for Weekend Departure

Expedition 48-49 Crew Members
The departing Expedition 48-49 crew members (from left) Kate Rubins, Anatoly Ivanishin and Takuya Onishi.

Three Expedition 49 crew members are winding down their stay in space this week, as a new trio gets used to its new home on orbit. While all six International Space Station residents are in the midst of a crew transition, they are still continuing advanced space research and orbital lab maintenance.

Commander Anatoly Ivanishin spent the morning getting the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft ready for its Saturday night departure. He and Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi will board the Soyuz, undock from the Rassvet module and land in Kazakhstan ending a four-month mission. The trio spent Wednesday afternoon practicing their Soyuz descent procedures and packing gear.

Rubins also explored how living in space can affect brain functions such as perception, memory and motor control for the NeuroMapping study. Onishi spent some time on an education demonstration video for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

New station resident and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough is getting ready for the crew handover as he prepares to assume station control. He will become station commander during a change of command ceremony Friday afternoon. Expedition 50 will officially begin when the Soyuz MS-01 undocks Saturday night. Kimbrough is staying in space until February with fellow crewmates Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko.


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Crew Prepping Station for Lettuce Crops

NASA Astronaut Shane Kimbrough
NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough is pictured moments after entering the International Space Station after a two-day trip aboard the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft. Commander Anatoly Ivanishin (right) films the arrival of his new crewmates.

The newly-expanded Expedition 49 crew is getting ready to grow lettuce to learn how to grow fresh food in space. Meanwhile, the International Space Station is getting ready for another crew swap.

New station crew member Shane Kimbrough is installing hardware and plant pillows for the Veg-03 plant growth experiment. The study is a validation of the tools and procedures necessary to grow plants to provide fresh food for astronauts.

He and his Soyuz crewmates Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko are in their first week aboard the station. They are familiarizing themselves with their new home in space where they will live until February.

Astronauts Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi are researching how living in space affects breathing for the Airway Monitoring experiment.  The duo were in the U.S. Quest airlock performing measurements to determine how much nitrogen oxide is exhaled and is diffused in the blood.

Commander Anatoly Ivanishin is packing the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft that will carry him, Rubins and Onishi back to Earth Saturday night ending their four-month mission. They will be replaced in mid-November when Expedition 50-51 crew members Oleg Novitskiy, Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet arrive inside the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft.


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Station Robotic Arm Grapples Cygnus Resupply Ship

The Cygnus Resupply Ship
The Cygnus resupply ship slowly approaches the space station before the Canadarm2 reaches out and grapples it. Credit: NASA TV

Expedition 49 Flight Engineers Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Kate Rubins of NASA successfully captured Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft with the station’s robotic arm at 7:28 a.m. EDT. NASA TV coverage of operations to install Cygnus to the space station’s Unity module begins at 9 a.m.


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Astronauts Relaxing Ahead of Crew and Cargo Arrivals

Night time View of Western Europe
Western Europe is pictured at night by an Expedition 49 crew member.

Astronauts Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi are having a light day today ahead of the arrival of three new crewmates Friday morning. The duo also is waiting for Sunday morning’s cargo delivery aboard the Cygnus resupply ship.

NASA TV will broadcast the Soyuz MS-02 space ship docking to the International Space Station beginning Friday at 5:15 a.m. EDT. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko will dock to the Poisk module, beginning their Expedition 49-50 mission which will last until February.

Two days later on Sunday morning, the Cygnus resupply craft from Orbital ATK will arrive with more than 5,100 pounds of cargo, including gear to support dozens of science investigations. Onishi and Rubins will be stationed in the cupola at the controls of the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple Cygnus following its journey to the complex.


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Cargo and Crew Ships Racing Toward Station

Three Crew Members Launch Aboard a Soyuz Rocket
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket launches with Expedition 49 crew members Shane Kimbrough, Andrey Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Two spaceships are racing to the International Space Station this weekend. One is delivering about 2,400 kilograms of crew supplies and science gear and another is carrying three new crew members.

The Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome early Wednesday and will dock to the International Space Station Friday morning. Expedition 49-50 crew members Shane Kimbrough, Andrey Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov will enter the Poisk module to begin their mission and live and work in space until February.

Though the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship launched first Monday night from Virginia, it is taking a slower approach to the station and will arrive Sunday. Mission managers decided to let the Cygnus take its time on orbit and let the new crew members arrive first. Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi will command the 57.7-foot-long Canadarm2 to capture Cygnus while NASA astronaut Kate Rubins backs him up. Ground controllers will then remotely control the robotic arm to install Cygnus to the Unity module for a month-long stay.

The next big mission event will be the departure of Rubins, Onishi and cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin. The Expedition 49 crew members have been in space since July and will return to Earth Oct. 29. Ivanishin is packing the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft with cargo and preparing the vehicle for its undocking and landing in Kazakhstan.


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New Crew Set to Blast Off After Cygnus Cargo Launch

Expedition 49-50 Crew Members
Expedition 49-50 crew members (from left) Shane Kimbrough, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko for a picture after the conclusion of a crew press conference Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016 at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

A U.S. cargo craft full of science gear and crew supplies is on its way to the International Space Station after a successful launch. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus resupply ship blasted off Monday night from Virginia on a mission to replenish the space station crew.

On the other side of the world in Kazakhstan, a Soyuz rocket is set to launch three Expedition 49-50 crew members to their new home in space early Wednesday morning. The new crew will arrive Friday morning and dock to the Poisk module after two days of flight tests on the upgraded Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko will live in space until late February.

Astronauts Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi were back at work Tuesday on life science experiments, helping doctors understand the effects of living in space. Rubins scanned Onishi’s arteries with an ultrasound for the Cardio Ox study that explores heart health. Onishi also participated in another pair of heart studies including Biological Rhythms 48 Hours, and Vascular Echo. Rubins tested the station’s water supply to improve the safety of future space missions.

Commander Anatoly Ivanishin worked on his share of Russian space research and is also getting ready to return at the end of the month. He will return home with Rubins and Onishi inside the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft ending a four-month mission.


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Solar Arrays Deployed, Cygnus Heads to Station

Cygnus Spacecraft and Solar Arrays
The Cygnus spacecraft and its solar arrays are displayed in this computer representation. Credit: NASA TV

The Cygnus spacecraft’s solar arrays have deployed.

The cargo ship will rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday, Oct. 23. It will be grappled at approximately 7:05 a.m. by Expedition 49 Flight Engineers Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Kate Rubins of NASA. After Cygnus’ capture, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Unity module. It is scheduled depart the space station on Nov. 18.

Science investigations aboard Cygnus on their way to the space station also include commercial and academic payloads in myriad disciplines, including:

  • Saffire II, the second in a series of experiments to ignite and study a large-scale fire inside an empty Cygnus resupply vehicle after it leaves the space station and before it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere to improving understanding of fire growth in microgravity and safeguarding future space missions.
  • Cool flames, an investigation into a phenomenon where some types of fuels initially burn very hot and then appear to go out — but actually continue to burn at a much lower temperature with no visible flames.
  • Controlled Dynamics locker- equipment that can minimize fluctuations and disturbances in the microgravity environment that can occur onboard a moving spacecraft that can enable a new class of research experiments.

NanoRacks Black Box- a platform that can provide advanced science capabilities and is specially designed for near-launch payload turnover of autonomous payloads including use of robotics, new automated MixStix and NanoLab-style research.

Cygnus Lifts Off on Six-Day Trip to Station

Liftoff of the Orbital ATK Antares Rocket
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft lifted off at 7:45 p.m. EDT and is on its way to the International Space Station. At the time of launch, the space station was traveling at an altitude of about 250 miles, over northwest Australia.

An hour and half after launch, commands will be given to deploy the spacecraft’s UltraFlex solar arrays.

Launch coverage will continue on NASA TV at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv until shortly after spacecraft separation then resume at about 9:05 p.m. for solar array deployment, which is expected to last about 30 minutes.

A post-launch news conference will follow and is scheduled to begin on NASA TV at approximately 10:00 p.m.