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-stage-old.nasawestprime.com/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.

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.