Dragon Released to Return Science and Supplies Back to Earth

SpaceX Dragon Release
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured moments after being released from the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft was released from the International Space Station today at 6:33 p.m. EST. Robotics controllers remotely commanded the Canadarm2 robotic arm to let go of the U.S. space freighter sending it on a solo trajectory back to Earth.

Astronaut Anne McClain monitored the activities from the cupola and watched Dragon perform a series of departure burns as it separated itself to a safe distance from the orbital lab. Integrated operations between mission controllers in Houston and SpaceX controllers in California stop when Dragon reaches a point about one kilometer away from the station.

SpaceX personnel will retrieve Dragon after it parachutes to a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean Monday at 12:15 a.m. (9:15 p.m. Sunday Pacific time) then tow it to port in southern California. This will be the first nighttime splashdown and recovery for the Dragon with plenty of moonlight to track its entry.

The commercial cargo vessel is taking home a variety of critical space research that will immediately be picked up by NASA engineers and distributed to scientists across the nation. Station hardware will also be extracted for analysis, refurbishment or discarding.

Dragon completes a 36-day mission attached to the station’s Harmony module after delivering more than 5,600 pounds of science and supplies on Dec. 8. Today’s departure leaves four spacecraft, including Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft, attached to the space station.

The next Dragon mission to the space station will be its first uncrewed demonstration mission designated SpaceX DM-1. The Commercial Crew Program’s first launch is currently targeted for February and will demonstrate ground systems, orbit to docking activities and landing operations.

Station, SpaceX Managers Set Dragon Release For Sunday Afternoon

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured attached to the International Space Station's Harmony module
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module as the orbital complex flew 258 miles above the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of South Africa.

To take advantage of calmer sea states in a different location in the Pacific Ocean, SpaceX and the International Space Station Program agreed to move the departure of the SpaceX-CRS-16 Dragon cargo craft from the station from early Sunday morning to late Sunday afternoon, setting up the first night splashdown and recovery of a Dragon vehicle.

Dragon’s hatch will be closed Sunday morning, and the spacecraft will be detached from the Harmony module around 3 p.m. EST Sunday.

Ground controllers will now release Dragon from the Canadarm2 robotic arm at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. NASA TV coverage of the operation without commentary will begin at 6:15 p.m. NASA Flight Engineer Anne McClain will monitor the release from the station’s cupola.

Dragon’s deorbit burn to begin its descent back to Earth is now scheduled at approximately 11:19 p.m. with splashdown scheduled at around 12:10 a.m. Monday (9:10 p.m. Pacific time) just west of Baja California.

Dragon’s Return to Earth Delayed, Crew Moves on to Research

The SpaceX Dragon above Alaska's Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module as the orbital complex flew 256 miles above Alaska’s Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft had its stay extended at the International Space Station a few more days. Mission managers observed inclement weather at Dragon’s splashdown site in the Pacific Ocean and decided against Dragon’s return to Earth today.

Meanwhile, Dragon’s hatch remains open and the Expedition 58 crew is tending to time-sensitive experiments targeted for return and analysis back on Earth. The Canadarm2 robotic arm has the Dragon firmly in its grips while the cargo vehicle is still attached to the Harmony module.

Robotics controllers will command the Canadarm2 to uninstall Dragon from Harmony on Saturday afternoon then slowly maneuver the U.S. space freighter to its release position. The Canadarm2 will then be commanded to release Dragon Sunday at 3:36 a.m. EST as astronaut Anne McClain monitors from the cupola. NASA TV will broadcast the departure live without commentary starting Sunday at 3:15 a.m.

Today, the three space station residents are back on science and maintenance duties with Dragon poised for a weekend departure. McClain of NASA is checking out and preserving the space research meant for return inside Dragon.

Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency assisted McClain first thing Thursday morning. He then moved on to the Vascular Echo study scanning his leg’s femoral artery with an ultrasound device to understand how living in space affects the cardiovascular system.

Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko explored ways to improve piloting techniques in space and participated in a psychological assessment. The four-time station resident also maintained Russian life support systems aboard the orbital lab.

Back on Earth, NASA and SpaceX are continuing to work on the activities leading toward the Demo-1, uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station. NASA and SpaceX are now targeting no earlier than February for the launch of Demo-1 to complete hardware testing and joint reviews. NASA and SpaceX will confirm a new target date after coordination with the Eastern Range and the International Space Station Program.

Astronauts and Robotics Experts Finalize Dragon Departure Work

The SpaceX Dragon and Station above the Indian Ocean
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module as the orbital complex orbited 261 miles above the Indian Ocean southeast of the continent of Africa. The Canadarm2 robotic arm vertically splits the frame prior to grappling the spacecraft ahead of planned departure activities.

The three Expedition 58 crew members have finished packing the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft with science experiments and hardware today. Final preparations for the vehicle’s departure are now on hold while teams wait for favorable weather in the splashdown area for Dragon’s return.

Dragon was scheduled for departure early Thursday morning from the International Space Station but mission managers made the decision to delay departure. Managers are assessing the backup release date of Sunday, Jan. 13 for Dragon’s return to Earth.

Robotics controllers maneuvered the Canadarm2 robotic arm Wednesday and grappled Dragon while it was still attached to the Harmony module. Prior to Dragon departure, they will remotely uninstall Dragon from Harmony and slowly guide it to its release position.

Astronaut Anne McClain will be in the cupola when robotics experts command the Canadarm2 to release Dragon finalizing its mission at the orbital lab. She’ll monitor its departure while her crewmates Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques work on their daily science and maintenance tasks.

Dragon, which arrived at the station Dec. 8, will orbit Earth a few more hours on its own before reentering the atmosphere. It will parachute to a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California where SpaceX personnel will retrieve the space freighter. They’ll deliver it to shore where NASA engineers will extract the precious cargo for immediate shipment to investigators around the country for analysis.

Crew Wraps Up Science Packing After Robotic Arm Grips Dragon

The coast of southern California and Baja California
When the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft returns to Earth it will splash down in the Pacific Ocean a few hundred miles off the coast of southern California and Baja California.

The SpaceX Dragon space freighter is in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm today as the Expedition 58 crew wraps up cargo transfers inside the vessel. The space trio is also on lab duty conducting a variety of microgravity research aboard the International Space Station.

Overnight, robotics controllers remotely commanded the Canadarm2 to grapple Dragon before its release from the Harmony module. Meanwhile, the hatches are still open and Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques continue loading time-critical space experiments inside the U.S. cargo craft.

The crew will shut the hatch to Dragon Wednesday and disconnect power cables. Then robotics controllers will take over, uninstall Dragon from Harmony overnight and maneuver it into release position. McClain will be in the cupola Thursday monitoring Dragon when it is released from the Canadarm2 around 4:35 a.m. EDT.

After its departure, Dragon will orbit Earth a few more hours before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California. SpaceX personnel will retrieve Dragon and return it to port where NASA engineers will extract the precious cargo for immediate shipment to investigators around the country.

Dragon Packed With Science Before Thursday’s Departure

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft and the Canadarm2 robotic arm
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft and the Canadarm2 robotic arm are pictured attached to the International Space Station as the orbital complex was 251 miles above the Atlantic Ocean about to fly over Morocco.

The Expedition 58 crew members are packing the SpaceX Dragon space freighter ahead of its return to Earth on Thursday. Ground controllers are also readying communications gear and robotics systems prior to Dragon’s departure from the International Space Station.

Astronauts Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency are wrapping up final transfers of completed science experiments in Dragon today. The duo is loading science samples from several experiments for return to Earth, where they will quickly be delivered to investigators around the country for analysis.

Engineers on the ground are testing communications and control gear that will be used to monitor and command Dragon after its release from the station. Robotics controllers are also powering up the Canadarm2 robotic arm today to grapple Dragon before its removal from the Harmony module.

Dragon Departing Station Next Week; Crew Studies Biology

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured attached to the International Space Station almost 257 miles above Quebec on New Year’s Eve.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is in its final week attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module. Meanwhile, robotics experts on the ground and the crew aboard the lab are working a wide variety of science activities today.

The Dragon space freighter has nearly completed its cargo mission to replenish the orbital laboratory after delivering over 5,600 pounds of science and supplies Dec. 8. Dragon will return to Earth Jan. 10 for retrieval in the Pacific Ocean loaded with completed science experiments and used hardware for analysis.

New space exposure experiments are being remotely installed outside the station today using a specialized robotic hand known as Dextre. Also, astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques collected biological samples today for stowage and later analysis. The duo then split up for more science work including testing crew brain function and removing science hardware that explores stem cells and other biological processes.

International Crew to Ring in Christmas 50 Years After First Moon Trip

Expedition 58 Crew Portrait
The official Expedition crew portrait with (from left) NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency.

Three people from the U.S., Canada and Russia are orbiting Earth today getting ready to observe Christmas and experience New Year’s Eve from space aboard the International Space Station. Back on Earth, another three station crew members have returned to their home bases just 24 hours after completing a 197-day mission aboard the orbital lab.

The first time three humans spent Christmas in space was 50 years ago in 1968 during Apollo 8 and was also the first time a crew orbited the Moon. This Christmas astronauts Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency with cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos will be soaring about 250 miles above the Earth’s surface in a much larger spacecraft. The Expedition 58 trio will share a traditional meal aboard the orbital lab, share gifts and call down to family during their off-duty day.

Kononenko is beginning his fourth mission on the station and will spend his second Christmas in space. McClain and Saint-Jacques are getting used to life in space for the first time and will return to Earth in June with Kononenko.

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor returned to Houston late Thursday just one day after landing in Kazakhstan wrapping up her six-and-a-half month stay aboard the orbital lab. She parachuted to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft with her Expedition 57 crewmates Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos.

Expedition 57 Trio Back on Earth After 197-Day Space Mission

Expedition 57 crew members (from left) Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos are pictured shortly after landing in the snow-covered steppe of Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Three members of the International Space Station’s Expedition 57 crew, including NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, returned to Earth Thursday, safely landing at 12:02 a.m. EST (11:02 a.m. local time) in Kazakhstan.

Auñón-Chancellor and her crewmates, Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Soyuz commander Sergey Prokopyev, launched June 6 and arrived at the space station two days later to begin their mission.

The Expedition 57 crew contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the world-class orbiting laboratory. Highlights included investigations into new cancer treatment methods and algae growth in space. The crew also installed a new Life Sciences Glovebox, a sealed work area for life science and technology investigations that can accommodate two astronauts.

During the 197 days, they circled the globe 3,152 times, covering 83.3 million miles. This was the first flight for Auñón-Chancellor and Prokopyev and the second for Gerst, who – with a total of 362 days in orbit – now holds the flight duration record among ESA astronauts.

For the last 16 days of her mission, Auñón-Chancellor was joined by fellow NASA astronaut Anne McClain, marking the first time in which the only two U.S. astronauts on a mission were both women.

Prokopyev completed two spacewalks totaling 15 hours and 31 minutes. He and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos launched four small technology satellites and installed an experiment during a spacewalk Aug. 15. Then during a 7 hour, 45 minute spacewalk Dec. 11, he and Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos retrieved patch samples and took digital images of a repair made to the habitation module of the Soyuz MS-09 in which the Expedition 57 trio rode home. The space station crew located and, within hours of its detection, repaired a small hole inside the Soyuz in August. The spacecraft was thoroughly checked and deemed safe for return to Earth.

Auñón-Chancellor will return home to Houston, Gerst will return to Cologne, Germany, and Prokopyev will return to Star City, Russia, following post-landing medical checks and research activities.

The Expedition 58 crew continues operating the station, with Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos in command. Along with his crewmates Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, the three-person crew will operate the station for a little more than two months until three additional crew members launch Feb. 28, 2019 to join them.

For news and more information about the mission, visit http://www.nasa.gov/station and 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.

Expedition 57 Crew Departs Station, Begins Ride Back to Earth

The Soyuz MS-09 crew spacecraft
The Soyuz MS-09 crew spacecraft from Roscosmos is pictured after undocking from the International Space Station’s Rassvet module as both spacecraft orbited over southeast Mongolia..

NASA Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Soyuz commander Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos undocked from the International Space Station at 8:40 p.m. EST to begin their trip home.

Deorbit burn is scheduled for approximately 11:10 p.m., with landing in Kazakhstan targeted for 12:03 a.m. Thursday (11:03 p.m. local time). NASA will resume coverage on TV and online at 10:45 p.m. for deorbit burn and landing.

At the time of undocking, Expedition 58 began aboard the space station under the command of Roscosmos’ Oleg Kononenko. Along with his crewmates Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, the three-person crew will operate the station for a little more than two months.

Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos will launch aboard Soyuz MS-12 Feb. 28, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, to join their fellow crewmates following a six-hour journey. Expedition 59 will begin when the new trio docks to the space station.

For landing 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.