Soyuz Rocket Rolls Out at T-Minus Two Days to Launch

The Soyuz rocket is raised into a vertical position
The Soyuz rocket is raised into a vertical position on the launch pad, Monday, March 19, 2018 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

A pair of U.S. astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut are just two days away from launching on a 50-hour, 34-orbit flight to the International Space Station. Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel will flank Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft and blast off Wednesday at 1:44 p.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz rocket that will shoot the new Expedition 55-56 trio to space rolled out to its launch pad early this morning. A train slowly hauled the rocket, as it laid horizontally on its side, from the processing facility to its pad where it was raised vertically for servicing ahead of its launch.

All three crewmates are veteran space-flyers and are due to arrive at their new home Friday when they dock to the Poisk module at 3:41 p.m.  NASA TV will broadcast all the launch and docking activities including the hatch opening and crew greeting ceremony live.

Waiting for them onboard the orbital laboratory are Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai and Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov who have been living in space since Dec. 17. The orbiting trio continues to ensure the station is flying in tip-top shape while conducting advanced space science to benefit humans on Earth and in space.

Station Orbiting Higher Ahead of New Crew and Cargo Missions

The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft is rotated to a horizontal position
In the Integration Facility at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft is rotated to a horizontal position March 14 to be encapsulated in the upper stage of a Soyuz booster rocket.

One week from today three individuals will blast off on a two-day trip to the International Space Station. They will join the three Expedition 55 crew members already in space who continue to research the effects of living in space while maintaining the orbital laboratory.

The Soyuz spacecraft that will carry one cosmonaut and two astronauts to their new home in space was encapsulated into its rocket today ahead of its March 21 launch. Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev will fly the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft ferrying him and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel to the station’s Poisk module on March 23.

Waiting for the trio are Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai. Today, the orbiting crewmates watered plants for a space crop study and scanned their eyes with an ultrasound device for ongoing health checks. They are also getting gear ready for the next spacewalk to conduct maintenance on the orbital lab.

The space station is orbiting a little higher today after a docked Russian cargo craft fired its engines for 1 minute and 48 seconds. The burn increased the lab’s altitude enabling future spacecraft operations including the undocking of the Expedition 54-55 trio in June and the docking of a new Russian space freighter in July.

Plant and Flame Studies Alongside Plumbing, Life Support Work

Baja California and the northwestern coast of Mexico
Baja California and the northwestern coast of Mexico are pictured with Russian spacecraft solar arrays in the foreground. The International Space Station was orbiting above the Mexican state of Sinaloa at the time this photograph was taken.

Aboard the International Space Station, the Expedition 55 crew continued exploring how plants adapt to gravity and began preparing for a suite of combustion experiments. The trio is also continuing the maintenance of the station’s life support systems and its microgravity science operations.

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle put his green thumb to work today supporting a pair of botany experiments. He set up gear for an upcoming run of the Plant Gravity Perception experiment that will monitor how plants perceive light and gravity. Tingle also watered and harvested red lettuce for consumption today for the ongoing Veggie-03 study.

After lunch, Tingle opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack and installed new gear to get ready for the Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiment (ACME). ACME is a set of five independent studies researching gaseous flames in space that may enable more fuel efficient and less polluting technologies.

Flight Engineer Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency worked on networking gear in the Kibo lab module before inspecting smoke detectors in the Columbus lab module. Kanai then collected data on new adjustable lights installed inside Kibo before conducting plumbing work in the station’s Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Finally, he and Tingle wrapped up the work day with an Earth photography session of Baja California and China.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov continued his work on Russian life support systems through the day. He ended his work day with a photographic inspection of a pair Russian docking modules.

Station Upkeep and Orbital Science as Ground Crew Trains

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle
NASA astronaut Scott Tingle checks on red lettuce growing inside the Columbus laboratory module’s Veggie facility for the Veg-03 experiment.

The three orbiting Expedition 55 crew members focused on maintenance of the International Space Station while studying Earth and biomedical sciences today. Meanwhile, a new set of station crewmates are in Kazakhstan for final training before beginning their mission in two weeks.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov once again worked throughout Wednesday on life support maintenance in the Russian segment of the orbital lab. Flight Engineer Scott Tingle worked in the U.S. side of the station installing new lights and performing six-month maintenance on the COLBERT treadmill.

Tingle started his day watering plants and photographing the United States during a coast-to-coast orbital pass today. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai completed setting up gear to measure nitric oxide that the crew members exhaled into the station’s environment and diffused in an astronaut’s blood system.

Back on Earth, the next three individuals to live and work on the space station are counting down to a March 21 liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The new Expedition 55-56 crewmates are at their crew quarters at the Cosmonaut Hotel today reviewing their Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft systems and mission procedures. Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev will be flanked by NASA Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel inside the Soyuz when they dock March 23 to the station’s Poisk module.

Busy Day Aboard Station Ahead of New Crew Launch

Waxing Gibbous Moon
A waxing gibbous moon was pictured above the Earth’s limb as the International Space Station orbited over the southern Indian Ocean just southeast of the African continent.

The orbiting Expedition 55 crew members participated in a variety of biology research and life support maintenance today. Their counterparts on the ground took part in traditional ceremonies today ahead of their liftoff to the International Space Station in two weeks.

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle started his day photographing and watering plants being grown for the Veggie-3 botany study. He later charged a pair of U.S. spacesuit batteries before inspecting emergency equipment including portable fire extinguishers and breathing apparatus.

Norishige Kanai, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, set up hardware to measure the levels and analyze the exhaled air in the station’s environment. Afterward, he positioned an infrared sensor arm to measure Dwarf Wheat leaf temperatures growing inside the Kibo laboratory’s Plant Habitat.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov spent Tuesday morning working on Russian environmental and life support systems. The veteran cosmonaut also activated video gear and checked the tension of an exercise treadmill shock absorber.

In the midst of all the orbital maintenance work, Shkaplerov still had time for a pair of science experiments. The commander explored the internal and external radiation the space station encounters along its flight path. He also researched how international crews interact with each other during different phases of a long term space mission.

Back in Kazakhstan, three new Expedition 55-56 crew members are counting down to their March 21 liftoff and two-day trip to the space station. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel raised the flags of their respective countries today at their Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters in Baikonur near their launch site. The trio is in final preparations training for their launch aboard the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.

New Crew Arrives at Launch Site Before March 21 Liftoff

Expedition 55 crew members
Expedition 55 crew members (from left) Ricky Arnold, Oleg Artemyev and Drew Feustel pose for pictures with their Russian Sokol launch and entry suits as part of the crew’s first vehicle fit check activities.

The next three International Space Station crew members arrived at their launch site Sunday at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are in final launch preparations ahead of their March 21 launch to their new home in space. They suited up in their Russian Sokol launch and entry suits today and climbed into their Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft for their first vehicle fit check activities.

Waiting for them onboard the orbital laboratory are Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai. Their new crewmates will dock on March 23 to the Poisk module inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.

Meanwhile, the current orbital residents are ensuring the station remains in tip-top shape and conducting ongoing microgravity science.

Shkaplerov worked on Russian life support equipment throughout the day and handed over radiation detection equipment to the U.S. astronauts. Tingle inspected the Destiny laboratory module’s large window and cleaned vents in the Tranquility module.

Kanai worked on a variety of scientific gear all day Monday. He disassembled and replaced the METEOR camera before some maintenance work on a physics furnace and science freezer. The rest of the afternoon Kanai worked on the Combustion Integrated Rack connecting cables and checking for leaks.

Three Up, Three Down, Another Three Prepare for Launch

Expedition 55-56 Crew Members
The next crew to launch to the International Space Station is the Expedition 55-56 crew. (From left) Drew Feustel, Oleg Artemyev and Ricky Arnold. Credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center/Andrey Shelepin and Irina Spektor

Three Expedition 55 crew members are back to work today on the International Space Station, having taken a day off Wednesday following the landing of the three Expedition 54 crew members on Tuesday. The departing space residents are back on Earth, having returned to their homes less than a day after landing.

Now on board the station, Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov is leading Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The three crewmates have been onboard the orbital laboratory since Dec. 19 and are due to return to Earth June 3. They will greet a new set of Expedition 55-56 crew members on March 23.

Those new residents, Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are in Star City, Russia completing training for their mission and will soon head to Kazakhstan for final launch preparations. They will blast off March 21 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft for a two-day ride to their new home in space.

Touchdown! Three Expedition 54 Crewmates Back on Earth

Expedition 54 Soyuz MS-06 Landing
Expedition 54 crew members (from left) Joe Acaba, Alexander Misurkin and Mark Vande Hei are wrapped in blankets after exiting the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft that landed in wintry conditions in Kazakhstan. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Three members of the Expedition 54 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS), including NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, have returned to Earth after months of performing research and spacewalks in low-Earth orbit.

Vande Hei, Acaba and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos landed at 9:31 p.m. EST (8:31 a.m. Feb. 28 in Kazakhstan) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

Their time on station marked the beginning of the first long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment, enabling NASA to double the time dedicated to research and achieve a record-setting week of research that surpassed 100 hours. Highlights from this research include investigations into the manufacturing of fiber optic filaments in microgravity, improving the accuracy of an implantable glucoses biosensor, and measuring the Sun’s energy input to Earth.

The crew also welcomed four cargo spacecraft delivering several tons of supplies and research experiments. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived at the station in November on the company’s eighth commercial resupply mission, followed in December by SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft on the company’s thirteenth resupply mission. Two Russian ISS Progress cargo craft arrived at the station in October and February.

Vande Hei logged 168 days in space on this, his first, mission. He ventured outside the space station on four spacewalks to perform work that included replacing and lubricating the Latching End Effectors on both ends of the Canadarm2. Acaba completed one spacewalk to lubricate an end effector and install new cameras on the station’s arm and truss. He now has accrued 306 days in space on three flights. Acaba and Vande Hei also participated in dozens of educational events while in space as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station.

Misurkin conducted one record-setting spacewalk with fellow cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov to replace an electronics box for a high-gain communications antenna on the Zvezda service module in February. The spacewalk timed out at 8 hours and 13 minutes, the longest in Russian space program history. Misurkin now has spent 334 days in space on two flights.

Now operating the station are Expedition 55 crew members Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel of NASA, and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos are scheduled to launch March 21 and arrive at the space station two days later, returning the crew size to six.

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

Expedition 54 Trio Undocks from Station, Begins Ride Home

Expedition 53-54 Crew Members
Expedition 53-54 Crew Members (from left) Joe Acaba, Alexander Misurkin and Mark Vande Hei are pictured in front of the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft before their launch on Sept. 13, 2017.

NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba and Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos undocked from the International Space Station at 6:08 p.m. EST to begin their voyage home to Earth.

The deborbit burn is targeted for 8:38 p.m., and will lead to a landing at 9:31 p.m. NASA Television coverage of deorbit and landing begins at 8 p.m. Watch their return to Earth online at: www.nasa.gov/live

Their time on station marked the beginning of the first long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment from three people to four, enabling NASA to double the time dedicated to research and achieve a record-setting week of research that surpassed 100 hours. Highlights from this research include investigations into the manufacturing of fiber optic filaments in microgravity, improving the accuracy of an implantable glucoses biosensor, and measuring the Sun’s energy input to Earth.

This mission was the first spaceflight for Vande Hei, the second for Misurkin, and the third for Acaba. Their cumulative time in space, respectively, is 168 days, 334 days, and 306 days.

With the undocking, Expedition 55 has now begun aboard the station with Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos as the Commander and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA, and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Three additional crew members arrive on March 23. Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel of NASA and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 21 for a two-day journey to join Expedition 55 on station.

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

Cosmonauts Swap Command Today Before Trio Comes Home

Expedition 54 Crew Members
Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin (far left) hands over command of the station to fellow cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov (far right). In the background (from left) are astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Norishige Kanai and Scott Tingle.

Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin handed over control of the orbital laboratory today to fellow cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov during a traditional Change of Command ceremony. Misurkin is returning to Earth tomorrow with NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei after 168 days in space.

Landing day begins Tuesday when Misurkin, Acaba and Vande Hei say farewell, enter their Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft and close the hatches at 2:50 p.m. They will don their Sokol launch and entry suits, check for air and pressure leaks and undock from the Poisk module at 6:08 p.m. The Expedition 54 trio will then parachute to a landing in south central Kazakhstan at 9:31 p.m. EST (Wednesday at 8:31 a.m. Kazakh time). NASA TV will broadcast all the landing activities live starting at 2:15 p.m.

Expedition 55 officially begins when Misurkin and his crewmates undock. Shkaplerov of Roscosmos is staying behind as commander until June 3 with Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

A new crew training in Russia is getting ready to replace the Earth-bound station residents in late March. Expedition 55-56 crew members Oleg Artemyev, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are preparing for their March 21 launch to the station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They will greet their new crewmates March 23 after docking to the vacated Poisk module inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.