Astronauts Release Cygnus Space Freighter From Station

The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter
The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Credit: NASA TV

Expedition 50 robotic arm operators Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) commanded the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the Cygnus spacecraft at 8:22 a.m. EST while the space station was flying 251 miles over the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of Colombia. Earlier, ground controllers detached Cygnus from the station and maneuvered it into place for its departure.

Once Cygnus is a safe distance away from the station, ground controllers at Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio and at Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia, will activate the Saffire-II experiment.

Cygnus also will release four LEMUR CubeSats from an external deployer on Friday, Nov. 25, sending them to join a remote sensing satellite constellation that provides global ship tracking and weather monitoring.

The spacecraft will remain in orbit until Sunday, Nov. 27, when its engines will fire twice, pushing it into Earth’s atmosphere, where it will burn up over the Pacific Ocean.

The Cygnus resupply craft launched Oct. 17 on an Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, for the company’s sixth NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission. The company’s seventh contracted resupply mission is targeted for spring 2017 on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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

Expedition 50 Launches on Two-Day Trip to Station

The Soyuz MS-03 Spacecraft Launches
The Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft launches Expedition 50 crew members Peggy Whitson, Oleg Novitskiy and Thomas Pesquet from Kazakhstan. Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The Soyuz MS-03 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 3:20 p.m. EST Thursday, Nov. 17 (2:20 a.m. Baikonur time, Nov. 18). At the time of launch, the space station was flying about 250 miles over the south Atlantic east of Argentina. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) are now safely in orbit.

Over the next two days, the trio will orbit the Earth for approximately two days before docking to the space station’s Rassvet module, at 5:01 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19. NASA TV coverage of the docking will begin at 4:15 p.m. Saturday.

To learn more about the International Space Station, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/station. For launch coverage and more information about the mission, visit: https://blogs-stage.nasawestprime.com/spacestation/. Get breaking news, images and features from the station on Instagram at: http://instagram.com/iss and on Twitter @Space_Station.

Kimbrough Returns to Houston, Whitson Continues Stay in Space

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough Arrives in Houston
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough (left) is greeted by Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa after his arrival in Houston just 24 hours after completing his 173-day mission in space.

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough is back in Houston just 24 hours after landing in Kazakhstan completing a 173-day mission in space. He arrived home aboard a NASA aircraft Tuesday morning while his two Expedition 50 crewmates, cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko, have returned to Moscow.

Three crew members are staying behind on the International Space Station beginning the Expedition 51 mission. They are waiting for a new pair of residents to arrive in less than two weeks. Commander Peggy Whitson is orbiting Earth and leading the station crew of Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

All three crew members are busy aboard the orbital laboratory today maintaining its systems and performing critical space research. Whitson explored how new lights on the station are affecting crew performance and reconfigured science hardware with help from Pesquet. Novitskiy worked on Russian life support systems and studied ways to improve piloting spacecraft on long-term missions.

Two new Expedition 51 crewmates, veteran cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronaut and first-time space flyer Jack Fischer, will join their orbiting crewmates April 10. The duo will blast off from Kazakhstan and take a six-hour, four-orbit ride to their new home in space aboard the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft.

Expedition 50 Crew Members Back on Earth

Soyuz MS-02 Spacecraft Lands
The Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft carrying three Expedition 50 crew members is pictured they very moment it landed in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA is among three crew members from the International Space Station (ISS) who returned to Earth Monday, after 173 days in space, landing in Kazakhstan at approximately 7:20 a.m. EDT (5:20 p.m. Kazakhstan time).

Also returning were Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The three touched down southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

Kimbrough now has spent 189 days in space on two flights. Borisenko now has 337 days in space on two flights. Ryzhikov logged 173 days in space on his first flight.

Expedition 51 continues operating the station, with NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson in command. Along with her crewmates Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency), the three-person crew will operate the station until the arrival of two new crew members. NASA’s Jack Fischer and Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos are scheduled to launch Thursday, April 20 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

Get the latest news, images and features from the station on Instagram and Twitter: http://instagram.com/iss and http://www.twitter.com/Space_Station.   

Crew Packing Soyuz for Monday Landing

Earth and Stars Viewed from Station
This long exposure photograph shows the Earth, its atmospheric glow and stars from the International Space Station.

Two NASA astronauts and a European Space Agency astronaut headed into the weekend with a light day Friday. Meanwhile, the three cosmonauts from Roscosmos packed a Soyuz spacecraft for departure and worked on maintenance and science.

Commander Shane Kimbrough, who is returning to Earth early Monday, took it easy Friday aboard the International Space Station. He and Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet mainly performed light duty tasks and continued their daily exercise to stay healthy in space.

Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko, who are returning home Monday with Kimbrough, continued packing the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft that will parachute the trio to a landing in Kazakhstan after a 173 days in space.

Ryzhikov, who is on his first mission, will command the Soyuz during its undocking and reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Borisenko and Kimbrough are both wrapping up their second visit to space.

Whitson will become station commander for the second time in her career Sunday less than 24 hours before her crewmates undock from the Poisk module. She stays behind with fellow Expedition 50-51 crew members Pesquet and Flight Engineer Oleg Novitskiy.

Trio Packs for Homecoming and Whitson’s Mission Extended

Expedition 50 Trio
Expedition 50 crew members (from left) Shane Kimbrough, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko will depart the station Monday April 10 ending their stay in space.

Three crew members aboard the International Space Station are packing up their gear for a homecoming on Monday. NASA also decided to extend the mission of an astronaut living aboard the station since November.

Two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut will take a ride back to Earth early Monday inside the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft. Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko will have completed a 173-day mission in space when they land Monday at 7:21 a.m. EDT in Kazakhstan. NASA TV will broadcast the departure and landing activities live.

Kimbrough has accumulated six spacewalks over two missions, including the STS-126 mission aboard space shuttle Endeavour in 2008. Ryzhikov, who is on his first space mission, will be commanding the Soyuz spacecraft during its landing. Borisenko was last aboard the station in 2011 and is completing his second stint as a station crew member.

Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson has been granted a three-month extension to her already record-breaking career aboard the station. She will stay in space until September as a member of Expeditions 50, 51 and 52. NASA managers wanted to ensure the station maintained a six-person crew to maximize research while Russia temporarily reduces its crew to two cosmonauts.

Spacesuit Checks Ahead of Monday Crew Departure

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough is seen inside the Quest airlock at the end of a spacewalk on March 24, 2017.

The Expedition 50 crew is checking out U.S. spacesuits today and testing tiny internal satellites for research. Three crew members are also packing up for a ride back to Earth on Monday.

Commander Shane Kimbrough worked on a pair of spacesuits today following the completion of two spacewalks last month. He sampled and tested the cooling water that flows through the suits to keep astronauts cool in the extreme environment of outer space.

Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson conducted test runs of the SPHERES satellites today to demonstrate autonomous docking maneuvers. The bowling ball-sized miniature satellites (also known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) have been used for a variety of purposes including student algorithm competitions and fluid physics.

Kimbrough is winding down his stay in space with cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko. The trio this week is packing the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft with science samples, personal items and other cargo for a landing in Kazakhstan after 173 days in space. NASA TV will broadcast the crew departure activities live with landing scheduled for Monday at 7:20 a.m. EDT.

Station Prepares for April Crew Swap

Expedition 51 Crew Members
Expedition 51 crew members (from left) Fyodor Yurchikhin and Jack Fischer pose for a portrait in front of the Soyuz spacecraft mockup in Star City, Russia. Credit: NASA/Rob Navias

Three Expedition 50 crew members are getting ready to end their stay aboard the International Space Station and return to Earth April 10. Two Expedition 51 crew members, who will replace them, are in Russia finalizing their mission preparations before they launch April 20.

Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko have been living in space since October 19. The trio will enter the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft on Monday and undock from the Poisk module at 4 a.m. EDT. They will land in Kazakhstan at 7:20 a.m. ending their mission after 173 days in space. The crew departure and Soyuz landing will be televised live on NASA TV.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will take over command of the station the day before Kimbrough and his crewmates leave. Staying behind with Whitson will be European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet and cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos. This will be Whitson’s second stint as commander of the orbital laboratory having last led the Expedition 16 crew in 2008.

Back in Russia, two Expedition 51 crewmates, Jack Fischer of NASA and Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos, have completed their final qualification exams. They will fly to Kazakhstan on Wednesday for ceremonial duties, check out their Soyuz MS-04 rocket and wrap up mission training before launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Fluid Physics and Human Research Before Second Spacewalk

PMA-3 Relocation
The Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 is in the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm during its relocation and attachment to the Harmony module on March 26,2017.

The crew researched the effects of living in space and set up a specialized microscope for a physics experiment today. Two astronauts are also getting ready for a Thursday spacewalk to continue setting up the International Space Station for commercial crew vehicles.

Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet used a tape measure this morning and measured their arms, legs, hips, waist and chest. Researchers are studying how microgravity impacts body size and shape and are comparing crew measurements before, during and after a space mission.

Whitson later began setting up gear for the ACE-T-1 (Advanced Colloids Experiment Temperature Control-1) physics study. She opened up the Fluids Integrated Rack and reconfigured the Light Microscopy Module to research tiny suspended particles designed by scientists and observe how they form organized structures within water.

Commander Shane Kimbrough is getting ready for another spacewalk on Thursday at 8 a.m. EDT. This time he’ll go outside with Whitson to finish cable connections at the Harmony module where the Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 (PMA-3) was robotically attached on Sunday. The PMA-3 relocation gets the adapter ready for the new International Docking Adapter-3 set to be delivered on a future cargo mission.

Weekend Robotics Work Sets Up Thursday Spacewalk

Spacewalker Shane Kimbrough
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough takes an out-of-this-world selfie during a spacewalk on March 24, 2017.

The Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 (PMA-3) was robotically removed Sunday from the Tranquility module and attached to the Harmony module after being prepared during a successful spacewalk Friday. A second spacewalk is scheduled for Thursday at 8 a.m. EDT to finalize the PMA-3 cable connections on Harmony.

Download hi-res video of briefing animations depicting the activities of all three spacewalks.

Commander Shane Kimbrough disconnected cables from PMA-3 while still attached to Tranquility during a spacewalk on Friday. That work allowed ground controllers to use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to remotely grapple and remove PMA-3 from Tranquility and attach it to Harmony.

The relocation readies the PMA-3 for the future installation of the new International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3) set to be delivered on a future cargo mission. The IDA-3 will accommodate commercial crew vehicle dockings and provide the pressurized interface between the station and the adapter.

Thursday’s spacewalk will see Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson complete the PMA-3 attachment work on the Harmony’s space-facing port. The duo will also install computer relay boxes containing software upgrades to enable future commercial crew vehicle dockings at the International Space Station.