Making Space for SpaceX Crew Dragon, Spacewalk Prep and Science

Expedition 58 welcomes Crew Dragon
Expedition 58 crew members Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques and Oleg Konenenko welcome the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station after a successful docking on March 3, 2019, ushering in the era of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Image Credit: NASA TV

Expedition 58 capped off its busy weekend with additional outfitting for the SpaceX Crew Dragon, which had only completed its hard dock to the International Space Station yesterday morning as part of the Demo-1 uncrewed flight test.

After opening the hatch between the two spacecraft, the crewmates configured Crew Dragon for its stay at the orbiting laboratory. This work included installation of the intramodule ventilation system, which helps cycle air from Crew Dragon to station. The crew members ticked off additional items from their checklist, also installing window covers and checking valves before taking part in a welcoming ceremony for the visiting vehicle at 10:45 a.m. EST Sunday, which aired on NASA Television.

Today, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 58 Commander Oleg Kononenko went over emergency procedures specific to Crew Dragon’s stay in orbit. While Crew Dragon is designed to remain docked to the space station for up to 210 days, this test of the spacecraft will be much shorter, ending early Friday morning. Crew Dragon is expected to return to Earth with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at approximately 8:45 a.m. on Friday, March 8—a little more than six hours after its separation from station.

While Kononenko was focused on the Plasma Kristall-4 experiment, which investigates the liquid phase and flow phenomena of complex plasmas, for this week’s runs, McClain and Saint-Jacques spent most of the day in the Quest airlock. The pair worked on their EMU [Extravehicular Mobility Unit] spacesuits, making sure their suits fit in advance of a series of spacewalks currently slated for late March and early April.

Saint-Jacques also made time in the day to connect with junior high school and college students in Hallifax, Nova Scotia, through a space-to-ground downlink where he shared his perspective of living and working aboard the world’s only microgravity laboratory.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

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

SpaceX Crew Dragon Hatch Open

Expedition 58 crew members enter the SpaceX Crew Dragon
Expedition 58 crew members enter the SpaceX Crew Dragon for the first time. They are wearing protective gear to avoid breathing particulate matter that may shaken loose during launch.

Aboard the space station, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 58 commander Oleg Kononenko opened the hatch between the Crew Dragon and the orbital laboratory at 8:07 a.m. EST.

The crew members opened the hatch to Crew Dragon following standard leak checks and pressurization since the spacecraft completed its hard dock to the station at 6:02 a.m., the first autonomous docking of any U.S. spacecraft to the International Space Station.

In addition to carrying Ripley, an anthropomorphic test device outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on future astronauts who will travel in the Crew Dragon. NASA also sent more than 400 pounds of crew supplies and equipment to the space station, including bulk overwrap bags containing more than 1,000 food and drink packages for the crew.

For operational missions, Crew Dragon will be able to launch as many as four crew members and carry more than 220 pounds of cargo, enabling the expansion of the inhabitants of the space station, increasing the time dedicated to research in the unique microgravity environment, and returning more science back to Earth.

The Expedition 58 crew members will host a welcoming ceremony for the Crew Dragon that will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 10:45 a.m.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

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

SpaceX Crew Dragon Successfully Docks to Station

The SpaceX Crew Dragon
The SpaceX Crew Dragon is docked to the station’s international docking adapter which is attached to the forward end of the Harmony module. Credit: NASA TV

After making 18 orbits of Earth since its launch early Saturday morning, the Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module forward port via “soft capture” at 5:51 a.m. EST while the station was traveling more than 250 miles over the Pacific Ocean, just north of New Zealand.

As the spacecraft approached the space station, it demonstrated its automated control and maneuvering capabilities by arriving in place at about 492 feet (150 meters) away from the orbital laboratory then reversing course and backing away from the station to 590 feet (180 meters) before the final docking sequence from about 65 feet (20 meters) away.

The Crew Dragon used the station’s new international docking adapter for the first time since astronauts installed it during a spacewalk in August 2016, following its delivery to the station in the trunk of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on its ninth commercial resupply services mission.

For the Demo-1 mission, Crew Dragon is delivering more than 400 pounds of crew supplies and equipment to the space station. A lifelike test device named Ripley also is aboard the spacecraft, outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on humans traveling in Crew Dragon.

The Crew Dragon is designed to stay docked to station for up to 210 days, although the spacecraft used for this flight test will remain docked to the space station only five days, departing Friday, March 8.

Opening of the Crew Dragon hatch will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 8:30 a.m.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

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

Flowers Sent to Mission Control Celebrating SpaceX DM-1 Launch

Flowers Celebrating the SpaceX DM-1 Launch

The last time the Shelton family sent Mission Control Center (MCC) a bouquet of roses was July 9, 2011, the day after the last U.S. space shuttle launched. That was the 110th bouquet from the family and the last U.S. human spaceflight. The Shelton’s continued their tradition Saturday when they sent their 111th bouquet to MCC celebrating the launch of the first SpaceX Crew Dragon.

Ever since the Challenger accident, Mark and Terry Shelton have sent a vase of roses to Mission Control. The two live in the Dallas area and have no job connection to the space program. But they like to show their appreciation by including a rose for each crew member plus a single white one to represent astronauts who died in past accidents.

SpaceX DM-1 Launch
March 2, 2019 liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on its historic inaugural flight to the International Space Station.

Crew Studies How Space Affects the Mind and Heart

Astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Anne McClain
Astronauts (from left) David Saint-Jacques and Anne McClain wear a head-mounted display for the Time Perception study which hypothesizes that crews underestimate the duration of time in space.

The Expedition 58 crew explored how living in space impacts perception and psychology today. The trio also studied satellite navigation and continued reviewing this weekend’s arrival of the first SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques partnered up this morning inside Europe’s Columbus lab module for the Vection space perception experiment. The duo wore virtual reality goggles, earplugs and a neck brace to study microgravity’s effect on the vestibular system. They took turns performing a series of tasks documenting perception of motion, orientation, height and depth. Results may improve astronaut training and the design of future space habitats.

McClain then spent the rest of the day in the Japanese Kibo lab module operating a pair of tiny internal satellites for the SmoothNav study. The experiment is researching how autonomous satellites may benefit future public and private space exploration.

Saint-Jacques went in to the afternoon reviewing rendezvous and docking operations when the uncrewed SpaceX DM-1 spacecraft arrives Sunday at 6 a.m. EST. He wrapped up his workday helping psychologists understand the adverse effects of living in space on an astronaut’s cognition and behavior.

Commander Oleg Kononenko participated in a Russian cardiopulmonary study before installing communications gear in the Zvezda service module. In the afternoon, two-time station commander collected radiation readings and ensured the upkeep of Russian life support systems.

Virtual Reality Filming, Spacesuit Work Highlight Day on Station

A pair of U.S. spacesuits
A pair of U.S. spacesuits are pictured during servicing work inside the Quest airlock where U.S. spacewalks are staged.

Virtual Reality Film, Spacesuit Work Highlight Day on Station

Virtual reality filming and spacesuit cleaning highlighted the day aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 58 crew also configured a diverse array of life science and physics hardware.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain set up a virtual reality camera inside the Tranquility module after lunch today. She has been filming hours of footage this month depicting a first-person’s view of life throughout the station. The final film will be an immersive, cinematic experience to educate audiences on Earth about life in space.

McClain started the day installing mouse habitat gear inside the Cell Biology Experiment Facility. The research device, located in Japan’s Kibo lab module, will house mice for an upcoming accelerated aging and disease study.

Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques was back on spacesuit duty today scrubbing cooling loops and checking the conductivity of water samples. The astronaut from the Canadian Space Agency also tested cables inside the Materials Science Research Rack. The refrigerator-sized rack explores chemical and thermal properties of materials such as metals, alloys and polymers to create new and improved elements and applications.

In the Russian segment of the orbital lab, Commander Oleg Kononenko worked on ventilation systems and collected air samples from the Zarya and Zvezda service modules. The veteran cosmonaut also photographed hardware for a blood pressure study and tested Earth observation techniques using a camera equipped with small ultrasound emitters.

Back on Earth in Star City, Russia, three Expedition 59 crew members have wrapped up two days of classes and tests qualifying for their March 14 launch to the orbital lab. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch will end their stay at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center on Feb. 26 and fly to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan. The trio will lift off inside the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship and take a six-hour ride to their new home in space.

Experimental Fuel Hardware, Astrophysics and Life Science Fill Crew Day

Expedition 58 Flight Engineer Anne McClain of NASA
Expedition 58 Flight Engineer Anne McClain of NASA is pictured in the cupola holding biomedical gear for the Marrow experiment.

The International Space Station is hosting a robotic experiment that may help enable and refuel future missions to the moon and Mars. The Expedition 58 crew installed that hardware today then worked on a variety of life science, astrophysics and combustion science gear.

The Robotic Refueling Mission-3 (RRM3) experiment will demonstrate transferring and storing fuels and coolants such as liquid methane and a cryogenic fluid in space. Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques installed the RRM3 hardware today inside Japan’s Kibo lab module airlock. The gear will be deployed outside Kibo then transferred to an external logistics carrier. Once there, the Dextre “robotic hand” will begin operations demonstrating fluid transfers with a set of specialized tools.

The two astronauts also split their time conducting maintenance on a pair of space incubators. McClain worked on a mouse habitat replacing filters inside Kibo’s Cell Biology Experiment Facility. Saint-Jacques swapped a carbon dioxide controller in the Space Automated Bioproduct Lab (SABL). SABL supports research into microorganisms, small animals, animal cells, tissue cultures and small plants.

McClain also replaced a laptop computer hard drive dedicated to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 experiment. The experiment is housed on the station’s truss structure and searches for antimatter and dark matter in addition to measuring cosmic rays. She later cleaned up gear supporting gaseous flame studies inside the Combustion Integrated Rack.

Back on Earth, three Expedition 59 crew members are a month away from joining the three orbital residents aboard the space station. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch are in Star City, Russia in final training before their March 14 launch to the orbital lab.

Time Perception Studies, Free-Flying Robotics on Station Schedule

The forward end of the International Space Station
The forward end of the International Space Station is pictured showing portions of five modules.

The Expedition 58 crew is helping scientists today understand how astronauts perceive time and orient themselves when living in space. The orbital residents are also working on CubeSat and free-flying robotics hardware aboard the International Space Station.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques wore virtual reality gear for the Time Perception experiment sponsored by the European Space Agency. The study takes place in the Columbus lab module and is researching the hypothesis that time and depth perception are altered in microgravity.

McClain of NASA started the day inside the Kibo lab module, opened the airlock and removed the CubeSat deployer. She disassembled and stowed the hardware in Kibo’s logistics module after it ejected a series of CubeSats into Earth orbit in January.

Astrobee is a new experimental program that uses three small free-flying assistants and is due to begin operations soon. Saint-Jacques installed the Astrobee docking station in the Unity module where the cube-shaped robotic helpers will be able to attach themselves in the future. The autonomous free-flyers may be able to help astronauts with simple duties and enhance monitoring abilities on the orbital lab.

Commander Oleg Kononenko spent Friday morning exploring how crew activities and the Earth’s magnetic field impact the structure of the space station. The experienced cosmonaut moved into the afternoon replacing dust filters before researching space navigation techniques.

Research into How Space Impacts Humans and Physics Continues

NASA astronaut Anne McClain
NASA astronaut Anne McClain works inside the Kibo laboratory module designed and built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The three residents onboard the International Space Station today worked with a diverse array of science hardware. The trio continues to explore what living in space is doing to their bodies and helped scientists promote healthier humans in space and on Earth.

Astronauts have reported increased head and eye pressure during long-duration space missions. The Expedition 58 crew is researching that phenomenon today to help doctors reverse the upward fluid shifts that affect space residents.

One solution being studied is a special suit that draws fluids such as blood and water toward the lower body to prevent swelling in the face and elevated head and eye pressure. Astronaut Anne McClain tried that suit on today and Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques used an ultrasound device to scan the activity. Commander Oleg Kononenko assisted the duo inside Russia’s Zvezda service module.

Afterward, McClain glided to the opposite end of the station in Japan’s Kibo lab module to work on the Two-Phase Flow fluid physics experiment. She set up and installed the research hardware inside Kibo’s Multi-purpose Small Research Rack. The experiment may enable engineers to design advanced thermal management systems for use on Earth and in space.

Saint-Jacques returned to biomedical studies today collecting and stowing more breath, blood and urine samples for later analysis. The ongoing research is helping scientists understand the long-term space impacts to bone marrow, red blood cells and the overall human physiology.

Saint-Jacques finally reviewed instructions to install a docking station on Friday for new cube-shaped, free-flying robots that will arrive at the station later this year. The Astrobee autonomous assistants may free up more science time for astronauts and allow mission controllers better monitoring capabilities.

Crew Studies Human Body and Checks Cooling Systems

David Saint-Jacques and Oleg Kononenko of Expedition 58
Astronaut David Saint-Jacques (right) of the Canadian Space Agency becomes a barber aboard the International Space Station and trims Expedition 58 Commander Oleg Kononenko’s hair with clippers attached to a vacuum hose.

Wednesday saw the Expedition 58 crew explore the inner workings of the human body in space and maintain cooling systems aboard the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain spent all day setting up cooling gear inside the U.S. Destiny lab module and Japan’s Kibo lab module. She drained and refilled water pumps inside the Fluid System Servicer and the Internal Thermal Control System. The life support systems help cool the station’s atmosphere and dispel heat generated by electrical systems.

Microgravity’s impact on the human physiology was the focus of Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques’ day. The Canadian Space Agency astronaut collected and stowed his breath, blood and urine samples for a variety of human research experiments. The research is supporting the long term-collection of human biological samples and observing bone marrow and blood changes.

Saint-Jacques also conducted ultrasound scans in the Zvezda service module for the Fluid Shifts study with assistance from Commander Oleg Kononenko and doctors on the ground. That research is seeking to reverse increased head and eye pressure that occurs in space.

Kononenko started Wednesday servicing Russian life support systems. The four-time station resident then spent the afternoon on more space research studying motion coordination, radiation exposure and crew psychology.