Dragon and Spacewalk Preps as New Crew Adapts to Space

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured in July of 2018
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured in July of 2018 approaching the International Space Station as both spacecraft were orbiting over the Greek island of Crete.

A Dragon is chasing the International Space Station today to be gracefully captured by a robotic arm early Saturday. The expanded Expedition 57 crew prepared for Dragon’s arrival while conducting science, spacesuit checks and a variety of other station activities.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft has been orbiting Earth for one day now carrying over 5,600 pounds of science, supplies and hardware for the crew. It is due to arrive Saturday around 6 a.m. when astronauts Alexander Gerst and Serena Auñón-Chancellor will command the Canadarm2 to grapple Dragon. The duo along with new Flight Engineer Anne McClain trained today for Dragon’s approach and rendezvous.

Gerst later worked on U.S. spacesuit maintenance cleaning their cooling loops. Serena worked on a cement study inside the orbital lab that could inform the construction of future lunar or Martian habitats.

McClain is getting used to her new home in space with fellow Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques who have been onboard the station since Monday. This is Kononenko’s fourth stint at the station and he is unpacking the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft that launched him and his crew to space. McClain and Saint-Jacques are first-time space residents and they worked on a visual perception and orientation study today. The duo also packed up biology research gear that will be stowed in Dragon for return to Earth after it arrives on Saturday.

Kononenko also joined Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev to ready a pair of Russian Orlan spacesuits for a spacewalk on Dec. 11. The duo will inspect the Soyuz MS-09 crew ship that will return Prokopyev, Gerst and Serena back to Earth Dec. 19 U.S. time.

Dragon Launch Slips One Day as New Crew Moves In

Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst
Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) peers out the International Space Station’s “window to the world,” the seven-windowed cupola. Just outside the cupola are two spacecraft including the Soyuz MS-09 crew craft and Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft with one of its cymbal-shaped UltraFlex solar arrays featuring prominently in the frame.

The launch of the SpaceX Dragon cargo vessel slipped one day to Wednesday at 1:16 p.m. EST with meteorologists forecasting 90% favorable weather for launch. Meanwhile, the newest crew members aboard the International Space Station are getting used to their new home in space.

Dragon’s 16th mission to the orbital lab will deliver almost 5,700 pounds of science, crew supplies and hardware. The commercial space freighter is due to arrive at the station Saturday when astronauts Alexander Gerst and Serena Auñón-Chancellor will command the Canadarm2 to grapple Dragon around 6 a.m.

New station crew members Oleg Kononenko, Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are in their second day aboard the station. The trio are familiarizing themselves with station systems and safety procedures today. They began their mission Monday when they launched aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft at 6:31 a.m. and docked just six hours and two minutes later to the Poisk module. The new crew will stay in space until June.

Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst is getting for his return to Earth on Dec. 20 and began packing his personal items today. He’ll wrap up his mission with Flight Engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Sergey Prokopyev and land in Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz MS-09 crew ship after six-and-a-half months in space.

Expedition 57 Crew Aboard Station Expands to Six

The six-member Expedition 57 crew
The six-member Expedition 57 crew (from left) Serena Auñón-Chancellor, David Saint-Jacques, Alexander Gerst, Oleg Kononenko, Anne McClain and Sergey Prokopyev gather for a portrait.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Oleg Konenenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos joined Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos aboard the International Space Station when the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the orbiting laboratory officially opened at 2:37 p.m. EST.

The arrival briefly restores the station’s crew complement to six until Auñón-Chancellor, Gerst and Prokopyev return to Earth Dec. 20. Expedition 58 officially begins once the three departing spacefarers undock from the space station.

McClain, Saint-Jacques and Konenenko will spend more than six months conducting hundreds of science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development, providing the foundation for continuing human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars. Some of the investigations they will conduct are sponsored by the U.S. National Laboratory on the space station, which Congress designated in 2005 to maximize its use for improving quality of life on Earth. Highlights of upcoming investigations include experiments in forest observation, robotic refueling, and satellite deployment.

The crew is scheduled to be onboard during the first test flights of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which will return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil.

In March, the station will again return to a full complement of six crew members when they are joined for Expedition 59 by NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos.

This is the first spaceflight for both McClain and Saint-Jacques and the fourth trip to the space station for Kononenko.

For continued coverage and more information about the mission, visit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @iss, ISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

Exp 58 Trio Docks to Station Six Hours After Launch Today

Soyuz Spacecraft Socks
The Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft carrying the Expedition 58 crew is pictured less than 20 meters from its docking port at the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV

The Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos docked to the International Space Station at 12:33 p.m. EST while both spacecraft were flying about 251 miles over the Atlantic Ocean.

Aboard the space station, Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos will welcome the new crew members when the hatches between the two spacecraft are opened following standard pressurization and leak checks.

Watch the hatch opening targeted for 2:35 p.m. and welcome ceremony to follow live on NASA TV and the agency’s website beginning at 1:45 p.m.

For continued coverage and more information about the mission, visit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @iss, ISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

New Crew Blasts Off Heading to Space Station Today

Expedition 58 Crew Blasts Off
The Expedition 58 crew blasts off inside the Soyuz MS-11 rocket today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome IN Kazakhstan to the International Space Station . Credit: NASA TV

The Soyuz MS-11 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 6:31 a.m. EST Monday, Dec. 3 (5:31 p.m. in Baikonur) and have safely reached orbit.  At the time of launch, the station was flying about 250 miles over central Kazakhstan southwest of the capital of Astana, 405 miles ahead of the Soyuz as it leaves the launch pad.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Oleg Konenenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos have begun their six-hour trip to the orbital laboratory where they will live and work for the next six-and-a-half months.

The arrival will briefly restore the station’s crew complement to six as they join Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, who are scheduled to remain aboard the station until Dec. 20.

Just days after their arrival, the crew members will capture the SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply spacecraft set to launch Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and deliver more than 5,800 pounds of critical research and supplies.

At 9:30 a.m., NASA TV will broadcast from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida a briefing to highlight the science and research on board the Dragon.

Following the science briefing, NASA TV will then broadcast beginning at 11:15 a.m. the arrival of the agency’s first asteroid sample return mission as the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is set to rendezvous with asteroid Bennu.

Coverage of the Soyuz docking to the International Space Station will begin on NASA TV’s media channel and the agency’s website beginning at 11:45 a.m. and be broadcast on all channels following the conclusion of OSIRIS-REx coverage expected at 12:15 p.m., with the spacecraft docking expected at 12:36 p.m.

Coverage of the hatch opening between the Soyuz and the space station will begin at 1:45 p.m.

For continued coverage and more information about the mission, visit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @iss, ISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

Watch NASA TV Now to See New Crew Launch to Station

The Soyuz booster MS-11 spacecraft is seen on the launch pad
The Soyuz booster MS-11 spacecraft is seen on the launch pad Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Live launch coverage is underway on NASA Television and the agency’s website for the targeted lift off at 6:31 a.m. EST (5:31 p.m. in Baikonur) of a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Oleg Konenenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos will begin a six-hour journey to the International Space Station.

The three will join Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos. The crew members will continue important research experiments in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.

This is the first spaceflight for both McClain and Saint-Jacques and the fourth trip to the space station for Kononenko.

For launch coverage and more information about the mission, visit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @iss, ISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

Spacewalk Preps and Muscle Research Keep Crew Busy

Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor
Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor researches the complex process of cement solidification in space. Results may impact possible construction processes and designs for space habitats on the surface of the Moon and Mars.

A Russian spacewalk is planned before three Expedition 57 crew members return to Earth aboard a Soyuz spacecraft just before Christmas. Meanwhile, in the middle of the spacewalk and departure preparations, the International Space Station residents today also explored how living in space impacts the human muscle system.

Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev will work outside the space station Dec. 11 to inspect the Soyuz MS-09 crew vessel. The Russian spacewalker will join veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko for a scheduled 6-hour inspection on the outside of the spaceship that will return the Expedition 57 crew home Dec. 19 U.S. time.

Prokopyev checked the Orlan spacesuits today that he and Kononenko will wear during the eighth spacewalk of the year. Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor assisted Prokopyev checking the Russian spacesuits for leaks.

Gerst and Auñón-Chancellor then moved on to a study that has been ongoing aboard the orbital lab since September of 2017 observing how muscles adapt to outer space. The duo set up the Columbus lab module for research operations and scanned their head and foot muscles with an ultrasound device. The data may help doctors improve fitness in space and develop treatments for muscle and aging problems on Earth.

Back on Earth, on opposite sides of the globe, a pair of rockets are getting ready to send a new crew and more science and supplies to the space station. Russia’s Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft will launch Kononenko and fellow crew members Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques from Kazakhstan to the station on Monday at 6:31 a.m. EST. The following day at 1:38 p.m. in Florida, the SpaceX Dragon will blast off to the station to deliver more than 5,600 pounds of cargo to resupply the station residents.