Station Crew Back on Earth After 197 Days in Space

The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft
The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft that is carrying Expedition 55/56 crew members Ricky Arnold, Drew Feustel and Oleg Artemyev is pictured seconds away from landing under a parachute in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA TV

Three crew members who have been living and working aboard the International Space Station have landed safely in Kazakhstan.

Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold of NASA, along with Flight Engineer and Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos landed at 7:44 a.m. EDT (5:44 p.m. in Kazakhstan) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

The crew completed hundreds of experiments during its 197-day expedition. Highlights included an investigation to study ultra-cold quantum gases using the first commercial European facility for microgravity research, and a system that uses surface forces to accomplish liquid-liquid separation.

The crew also welcomed five cargo spacecraft that delivered several tons of supplies and research experiments. The 14th SpaceX Dragon arrived in April, shortly after the three crew members did, bringing supplies and equipment, and the 15th Dragon arrived in July. The ninth Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply spacecraft arrived in May before the end of Expedition 55. A Russian Progress completed a record rapid rendezvous of less than four hours in August. And, the seventh Japanese Konotouri cargo craft arrived just a week before the Expedition 56 trio departed for home.

Both Feustel and Arnold participated in dozens of educational events while in space as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station, reaching more than 200,000 students in 29 states. Feustel now has logged more than 226 days in space on three spaceflights, and Arnold more than 209 days on two missions.

The duo ventured outside the space station on three spacewalks to effect maintenance and upgrades during Expeditions 55 and 56. Their work included replacing and upgrading external cameras, including those that will facilitate the approach and docking of the Boeing Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon commercial crew spacecraft when they begin launching soon from American soil. The spacewalkers also replaced components of the space station’s cooling system and communications network, and installed new wireless communication antennas for external experiments. Feustel has accumulated 61 hours and 48 minutes over nine career spacewalks, and ranks third overall among American astronauts. Arnold has 32 hours and 4 minutes over five career spacewalks.

Artemyev conducted one spacewalk with fellow cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev to manually launch four small technology satellites and install an experiment called Icarus onto the Russian segment of the space station. The spacewalk timed out at 7 hours and 46 minutes, the longest in Russian space program history. Artemyev now has spent 366 days in space on his two flights.

Expedition 57 continues station research and operations with a crew comprised of Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos. Gerst assumed command of the station as Feustel prepared to depart.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are scheduled to launch Oct. 11 for a same-day arrival, increasing the crew size to five.

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


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U.S. Astronauts Capture Japanese Spaceship Loaded With Cargo

Japanese Cargo Ship Captured By Canadian Robotic Arm
Japan’s HTV-7 cargo ship is pictured shortly after being captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Credit: @Space Station

Using the International Space Station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2, Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA grappled the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kounotori H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) at 7:34 a.m. EDT and successfully completed the capture at 7:36 a.m. At the time of capture, the space station and cargo spacecraft were flying 250 miles above the north Pacific Ocean.

Next, robotic ground controllers will install HTV-7 on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module. NASA TV coverage of the berthing will begin at 10 a.m., 30 minutes earlier than originally scheduled, at https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html#media

The Japanese cargo ship, whose name means “white stork,” is loaded with more than five tons of supplies, water, spare parts and experiments for the crew aboard the International Space Station. The spacecraft also is carrying a half dozen new lithium-ion batteries to continue upgrades to the station’s power system.

In addition to new hardware to upgrade the station’s electrical power system, the HTV-7 is carrying a new sample holder for the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (JAXA-ELF), a protein crystal growth experiment at low temperatures (JAXA LT PCG), an investigation that looks at the effect of microgravity on bone marrow (MARROW), a Life Sciences Glovebox, and additional EXPRESS Racks.

For updates about the crew’s activities on the unique orbiting laboratory, visit: https://blogs-stage.nasawestprime.com/spacestation/. Get breaking news, images and features from the station on Instagram at: @iss and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

Japanese Rocket Blasts Off to Resupply Station

Japan's HTV-7 Resupply Ship Blasts Off
Japan’s H-IIB rocket with the HTV-7 resupply ship on top blasts off at 1:52 p.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 22 (2:52 a.m. Sept. 23 Japan standard time) from the Tanegashima Space Center.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s H-IIB rocket launched at 1:52 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Sept. 22 (2:52 a.m. Sept. 23 Japan standard time) from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. At the time of launch, the space station was 254 miles over the southwest Pacific, west of Chile.

A little more than 15 minutes after launch, the unpiloted H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7) cargo spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket and began its four-and-a-half rendezvous with the International Space Station.

On Thursday, Sept. 27, the HTV-7 will approach the station from below and slowly inch its way toward the orbiting laboratory. Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA will operate the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the spacecraft as it approaches. Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) will monitor HTV-7 systems during its approach. Robotic ground controllers will then install it on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module, where it will remain for several weeks.

NASA TV coverage of the Sept. 27 rendezvous and grapple will begin at 6:30 a.m. ET. Capture is scheduled for approximately 8:00 a.m. After a break, NASA TV coverage will resume at 10:30 a.m. for spacecraft installation to the space station’s Harmony module.

In addition to new hardware to upgrade the station’s electrical power system, the HTV-7 is carrying a new sample holder for the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (JAXA-ELF), a protein crystal growth experiment at low temperatures (JAXA LT PCG), an investigation that looks at the effect of microgravity on bone marrow (MARROW), a Life Sciences Glovebox, and additional EXPRESS Racks.

For updates about the crew’s activities on the unique orbiting laboratory, visit: https://blogs-stage.nasawestprime.com/spacestation/. Get breaking news, images and features from the station on Instagram at: @iss and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

Crew Plans Quiet Labor Day Weekend After Repair Work

The Soyuz MS-09 crew spacecraft from Roscosmos
The Soyuz MS-09 crew spacecraft from Roscosmos is pictured docked to the Rassvet module as the International Space Station was flying into an orbital night period.

The Expedition 56 crew resumed a regular schedule of work Friday on the International Space Station after spending the day Thursday locating and repairing a leak in the upper section of one of the two Russian Soyuz vehicles attached to the complex.

With the station’s cabin pressure holding steady, most of the crew pressed ahead with a variety of scientific experiments. Station Commander Drew Feustel of NASA prepared tools to be used in a pair of spacewalks late next month to complete the change out of batteries on the port truss of the outpost. Six new lithium-ion batteries will be transported to the station in September on the Japanese HTV Transfer Vehicle, or HTV-7 cargo craft, that will replace a dozen older nickel-hydrogen batteries in a duplication of work conducted last year on the station’s starboard truss.

Flight controllers at the Mission Control Centers in Houston and Moscow, meanwhile, continued to monitor pressure levels on the station following the patching of a small hole Thursday in the orbital module, or upper portion of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft. The Soyuz is docked to the Rassvet module on the Earth-facing side of the Russian segment. The tiny hole created a slight loss in pressure late Wednesday and early Thursday before it was repaired by Soyuz commander Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos.

The crew plans a quiet weekend before embarking on a busy schedule of research and routine maintenance work next week.

International Space Station Status

Aug. 22, 2018: International Space Station Configuration
International Space Station Configuration as of Aug. 22, 2018: Three spaceships are docked at the space station including the Progress 70 resupply ship and the Soyuz MS-08 and MS-09 crew ships.

The International Space Station’s cabin pressure is holding steady after the Expedition 56 crew conducted repair work on one of two Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the complex. The repair was made to address a leak that had caused a minor reduction of station pressure.

After a morning of investigations, the crew reported that the leak was isolated to a hole about two millimeters in diameter in the orbital compartment, or upper section, of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the Rassvet module of the Russian segment of the station.

Flight controllers at their respective Mission Control centers in Houston and Moscow worked together with the crew to effect a repair option in which Soyuz commander Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos used epoxy on a gauze wipe to plug the hole identified as the leak source. As the teams were discussing options, flight controllers in Moscow performed a partial increase of the station’s atmosphere using the ISS Progress 70 cargo ship’s oxygen supply. Flight controllers in Houston are continuing to monitor station’s cabin pressure in the wake of the repair.

Meanwhile, Roscosmos has convened a commission to conduct further analysis of the possible cause of the leak.

Throughout the day, the crew was never in any danger, and was told no further action was contemplated for the remainder of the day. Flight controllers will monitor the pressure trends overnight.

All station systems are stable and the crew is planning to return to its regular schedule of work on Friday.

International Space Station Status

Expedition 56 Crew Members
International Space Station Status
11:20 a.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 30. 2018

The crew aboard the International Space Station is conducting troubleshooting and repair work today after the discovery of a tiny leak last night traced to the Russian segment of the orbital complex.

The leak, which was detected Wednesday night by flight controllers as the Expedition 56 crew slept, resulted in a small loss of cabin pressure. Flight controllers determined there was no immediate danger to the crew overnight. Upon waking at their normal hour, the crew’s first task was to work with flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston and at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow to locate the source of the leak.

The leak has been isolated to a hole about two millimeters in diameter in the orbital compartment, or upper section, of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the Rassvet module of the Russian segment. This is a section of the Soyuz that does not return to Earth.

The rate of the leak was slowed this morning through the temporary application of Kapton tape at the leak site. Flight controllers are working with the crew to develop a more comprehensive long-term repair.

Once the patching is complete, additional leak checks will be performed. All station systems are stable, and the crew is in no danger as the work to develop a long-term repair continues.

International Space Station Status

Expedition 56 Crew Members
International Space Station Status
6 a.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 30. 2018

About 7 p.m. EDT Wednesday, International Space Station flight controllers in Houston and Moscow began seeing signs of a minute pressure leak in the complex.

As flight controllers monitored their data, the decision was made to allow the Expedition 56 crew to sleep since they were in no danger. When the crew was awakened at its normal hour this morning, flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston and at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow began working procedures to try to determine the location of the leak.

The six crew members, station Commander Drew Feustel, Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, gathered in the Russian segment of the station and, after extensive checks, reported that the leak appears to be on the Russian side of the orbital outpost.

Program officials and flight controllers are continuing to monitor the situation as the crew works through its troubleshooting procedures.

Russian Cargo Ship Leaves Station After Six-Month Stay

The Russian Progress 69 resupply ship approaches the aft end of the Zvezda service module
The Russian Progress 69 (69P) resupply ship approaches the aft end of the Zvezda service module where it docked Feb. 15, 2018.

Loaded with trash, the Russian Progress 69 cargo craft undocked from the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module at 9:16 p.m. CDT, 10:16 p.m. EDT, completing a six-month delivery run to the International Space Station.

The unpiloted Progress will move to a safe distance from the orbital laboratory for a week’s worth of engineering tests by Russian flight controllers before it is commanded to deorbit next Wednesday night. It will then burn up harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

The next Progress cargo ship to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Progress 71, is scheduled in late October.

Dragon Ends Stay at Station, On Its Way Home

SpaceX Dragon Released from Station
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft begins its separation from the space station after being released from the Canadarm2.

Robotic flight controllers released the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station’s robotic arm at 12:38 p.m. EDT, and Expedition 56 Serena Auñon-Chancellor of NASA is monitoring its departure.

Dragon’s thrusters will be fired to move the spacecraft a safe distance from the station before SpaceX flight controllers in Hawthorne, California, command its deorbit burn about 5:23 p.m. The capsule will splashdown about 6:17 p.m. in the Pacific Ocean, where the SpaceX recovery team will retrieve the capsule and its more than 3,800 pounds of cargo, including a variety of technological and biological studies.

NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization that manages research aboard the U.S. National Laboratory portion of the space station, will receive time-sensitive samples and begin working with researchers to process and distribute them within 48 hours of splashdown.

Dragon is the only space station resupply spacecraft currently capable of returning cargo to Earth, and this was the second trip to the orbiting laboratory for this spacecraft. SpaceX launched its 15th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station June 29 from Space Launch Complex 40 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a Falcon 9 rocket that also previously launched NASA’s TESS mission to study exoplanets.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following https://blogs-stage.nasawestprime.com/spacestation/@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.


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Astronauts Release U.S. Spacecraft Completing Cargo Mission

Cygnus Released
The Cygnus cargo craft slowly departs the space station after its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Credit: NASA TV

Expedition 56 Flight Engineers Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA commanded the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the Cygnus cargo spacecraft at 8:37 a.m. EDT. At the time of release, the station was flying 253 miles above the Southeastern border of Colombia. Earlier, ground controllers used the robotic arm to unberth Cygnus.

The departing spacecraft will move a safe distance away from the space station before deploying a series of CubeSats. Cygnus will remain in orbit for two more weeks to allow a flight control team to conduct engineering tests.

Cynus is scheduled to deorbit with thousands of pounds of trash on Monday, July 30, as it burns up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean while entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The satellite deployment and deorbit burn will not be broadcast on NASA Television.

The spacecraft arrived on station May 24 delivering cargo for Orbital ATK’s (now Northrop Grumman’s) ninth contracted mission under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

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