Station Crew Splits Up Thursday before Next Cargo Mission

Expedition 61 astronauts
Clockwise from left are, NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano. Parmitano is the Expedition 61 Commander leading Flight Engineers Koch, Morgan and Meir aboard the International Space Station.

The crew aboard the International Space Station is preparing to split up while also getting ready for a U.S. space delivery.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is packing up and cleaning her crew quarters today ahead of her return to Earth early Thursday. She will board the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship on Wednesday about 9:30 p.m. EST with crewmates Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency).

The trio will undock Thursday at 12:50 a.m. then parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 4:12 a.m. (3:12 p.m. Kazakh time). NASA TV begins its live coverage Wednesday at 9 p.m. when the departing crew says farewell to their station counterparts and closes the Soyuz hatch.

This will cap a 328-day-long mission for Koch that began on March 14. She is now in second place for the single longest spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut surpassed only by former astronaut Scott Kelly with 340 days during his final station mission.

Expedition 62 will officially begin when Koch and her Expedition 61 crewmates undock from the Poisk module. Continuing their stay in space will be Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan. They will end their stay aboard the orbiting lab and return to Earth in April.

Meir and Morgan are getting ready for another mission that begins Sunday when Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft lifts off at 5:39 p.m. It will rendezvous with the station Tuesday where the duo will be in the cupola to capture Cygnus at 3:30 a.m. with the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

Ground controllers will then remotely command the Canadarm2 to install Cygnus to the Unity module where it will stay for 90 days. Cygnus will be delivering over 8,000 pounds of new research gear and crew supplies.

Station Preps for Crew Departure and New U.S. Cargo Ship

NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the Cold Atom Lab
NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the Cold Atom Lab that enables research into the quantum effects of gases chilled lower than the average temperature of the universe.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch and two fellow Expedition 61 crewmembers are in their final week aboard the International Space Station. The other three lab residents are gearing up for next week’s arrival of a U.S. space freighter.

Koch will wrap up a 328-day mission aboard the orbiting lab on Thursday. Koch blasted off to join the station crew on March 14 with Expedition 59-60 crewmates Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin. Hague and Ovchinin have since returned home on Oct. 3.

Koch will land in Kazakhstan Thursday at 4:12 a.m. EST (3:12 p.m. Kazakh time) aboard the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship with Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency). Skvortsov and Parmitano began their mission with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan on July 20. Morgan is due to return to Earth in April.

When Koch lands, her mission-stay will be second only to former astronaut Scott Kelly. He lived aboard the station for 340 continuous days for the single longest spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut.

She and her two homebound crewmates prepared today for the flight back to Earth. The trio familiarized themselves with the return procedures and the gravity loads they will experience upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere.

Expedition 62 officially begins when Koch and her crewmates undock Thursday at 12:50 a.m. Morgan and fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir will continue their stay in space with Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos.

Meir and Morgan are getting ready for the next Cygnus space freighter and its cargo of several tons of science experiments and crew supplies. Cygnus will launch Sunday at 5:39 p.m. and rendezvous with the station two days later for a robotic capture at 4:30 a.m.

U.S. Cygnus Space Freighter Departs Station After 88 Days

The U.S. Cygnus space freighter
The U.S. Cygnus space freighter is pictured moments after the Canadarm2 robotic arm released the 12th resupply ship from Northrop Grumman on January 31, 2020.

Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft departed the International Space Station’s at 9:36 a.m. EST after Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir of NASA commanded its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. At the time of release, the station was flying about 250 miles over the South Pacific just off the West Coast of Chile.

 

For this mission, Cygnus demonstrated a new release position for departure operations and incorporated the first ground-controlled release. The new orientation allowed for easier drift away from the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm.

 

Within 24 hours, Cygnus will begin its secondary mission deploying a series of payloads. The departing spacecraft will move a safe distance away from the space station before deploying a series of CubeSats: HuskySat-1 (University of Washington), SwampSat II (University of Florida), EdgeCube (Sonoma State University), and CIRis (Utah State University).

 

Northrop Grumman flight controllers in Dulles, Virginia, will initiate its deorbit and execute a safe, destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere at the end of February. 

 

The next Cygnus is set to launch to station on Feb. 9 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia carrying another batch of research.

 

The spacecraft arrived on station November 2 delivering cargo under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

NASA TV Broadcasts Cygnus Cargo Craft Departure

The U.S. Cygnus space freighter
The Cygnus space freighter is pictured moments before its capture on Nov. 4, 2019 with the Canadarm2 robotic arm commanded by NASA astronaut Jessica Meir.

A Northrop Grumman cargo ship, dubbed the SS Alan Bean, is set to depart the International Space Station Friday, Jan. 31. Live coverage of the spacecraft’s release will begin on NASA Television and the agency’s website at 9:15 a.m. with release scheduled for 9:35 a.m.

With Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir of NASA providing backup support, ground controllers will send commands to the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the unpiloted cargo spacecraft after ground controllers remotely unbolt the craft from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module and maneuver it into release position.

NG-12 Cygnus delivered 8,200 pounds of science and research investigations, supplies, and hardware to the International Space Station on Saturday, Nov. 2. The investigations range from research into human control of robotics in space to reprocessing fibers for 3D printing.

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

Cardiology, Combustion and CubeSats Before Cargo Ship Leaves

Astronauts (from left) Christina Koch, Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan
Astronauts (from left) Christina Koch, Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan pose for a portrait inside the cupola. The trio were on robotics duty monitoring the arrival and capture of the Cygnus space freighter on Nov. 4, 2019.

Cardiology, combustion and CubeSats filled Thursday’s research schedule as three Expedition 61 crewmates are one week away from returning to Earth. The Cygnus space freighter is also poised to depart the International Space Station on Friday and complete one more mission.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is nearing the end of her 328-day mission aboard the orbiting lab. She will land in Kazakhstan Feb. 6 aboard the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship with Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency). Koch blasted off to join the station crew on March 14 while Skvortsov and Parmitano began their mission on July 20.

When Koch lands, her mission-stay will be the second longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut behind former astronaut Scott Kelly. He lived aboard the station for 340 continuous days.

NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan juggled a pair of experiments this morning. He ran the Hourglass study observing how simulated planetary materials behave during different gravity conditions. Next, he cleaned a furnace that exposes materials to high temperatures and levitates them to research their thermophysical properties.

Parmitano started his day on cardiology research before switching to fire safety studies. The station commander first scanned portions of his body with an ultrasound device. The biomedical study is helping doctors understand what happens to the heart and blood vessels in space. He then moved on and burned a variety of fabric and acrylic samples. Scientists are using the data to model how flames spread in space to improve fire safety procedures and products in space and on Earth.

The Cygnus space freighter is packed, closed and ready for one more mission after its robotic release from the Canadarm2 Friday at 9:35 a.m. EST. It will deploy eight CubeSats for communications and atmospheric research several hours after departing the orbiting lab. Flight Engineer Jessica Meir installed the CubeSats, packed inside the SlingShot small satellite deployer, on Cygnus’ hatch Thursday afternoon.

Crew Works Human Research, CubeSats and Gears Up for Spaceship Departures

The Cygnus space freighter with its prominent cymbal-shaped solar arrays
The Cygnus space freighter with its prominent cymbal-shaped solar arrays is pictured attached to the Unity module. Behind Cygnus is one of the space station’s basketball court-sized solar arrays.

The Expedition 61 crew’s schedule was packed today as they researched space biology and packed a pair of spaceships for departure. Wednesday morning also saw the deployment of an experimental satellite outside the International Space Station.

Blood draws and eye checks are part of the crew’s regimen of biomedical activities to help doctors keep astronauts healthy during long-term space missions. Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) collected his blood samples this morning before spinning them in a centrifuge and stowing them in a science freezer for later analysis. NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir had her eyes scanned in the afternoon by fellow NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan using optical coherence tomography gear.

Meir and Morgan started the day finishing up packing the Cygnus space freighter with trash and discarded gear before it leaves at the end of the week. Cygnus will be detached from the Unity module with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and released into Earth orbit on Friday at 9:35 a.m. EST. NASA TV will cover the release and departure live as mission controllers on the ground remotely command all the robotics work.

Cygnus has another mission to deploy eight CubeSats for communications and atmospheric research once it reaches a safe distance away from the orbiting lab. The space station also saw the deployment early this morning of a Department of Defense CubeSat that is testing space weather and satellite sensor technology. That satellite was deployed outside of the Kibo laboratory module using the specialized Cyclops deployer.

Christina Koch of NASA is returning to Earth next week after 328 days in space on her first mission. She will land in Kazakhstan with Parmitano and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov. The trio will board the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship, undock from the Poisk module and parachute to a landing Friday, Feb. 6, at 4:13 a.m. (3:13 p.m. Kazakh time).

Koch will be second only to former astronaut Scott Kelly who lived in space 340 days for the single longest spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut.

Ultra-Cold Science, CubeSats and Spaceship Departures Coming Up

Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano
Astronauts Andrew Morgan (left) and Luca Parmitano are pictured shortly after they began their mission aboard the International Space Station in July of 2019.

Ultra-cold science and nanosatellites kept the Expedition 61 crew busy on Tuesday while the International Space Station is getting ready for the departure of a cargo craft and crew ship.

The Cold Atom Lab (CAL) enables research into the quantum effects of gases chilled to nearly absolute zero, which is colder than the average temperature of the universe. NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch opened up the CAL today to swap and clean hardware inside the quantum research device.

Meir first joined NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan in the Kibo laboratory module to help him set up the Cyclops small satellite deployer. Morgan installed Cyclops, loaded with a Department of Defense experimental satellite, inside Kibo’s airlock for depressurization.

Mission controllers will then remotely command the Japanese robotic arm to grapple and deploy Cyclops outside Kibo overnight. The tiny satellite, packed with a variety of space weather and star tracker experiments, will be deployed into Earth orbit Wednesday morning.

Meir then installed a different small satellite deployer, this one called SlingShot, on the Cygnus space freighter attached to the Unity module. The SlingShot, attached to Cygnus’ hatch, will release a variety of small satellites after the U.S. cargo craft departs the space station on Friday at 9:35 a.m. EST. The suite of eight CubeSats will study different optical and communication technologies as well as atmospheric and natural phenomena.

Koch is getting ready to come home on Feb. 6 with fellow crewmates Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos. The trio performed leak checks today on the Sokol launch and entry suits they will wear aboard the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship when they parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan.

Upon landing, Koch will have lived in space continuously for 328 days on her first mission. She will be second only to former astronaut Scott Kelly who lived in space 340 days for the single longest spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut.

Science Soon Resumes on Cosmic Ray Detector, Crew Packs Cargo Ship for Departure

Spacewalkers Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano
Spacewalkers Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano work on get-ahead tasks after completing thermal repairs on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

Engineers on the ground have begun powering up the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer’s (AMS) thermal system following a successful repair spacewalk over the weekend. The Expedition 61 astronauts are now preparing a U.S. cargo craft for its departure at the end of the week.

It took four spacewalks over three months to restore and upgrade thermal operations on the AMS. Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano wrapped up the complex repair job on Saturday for the 8-year-old cosmic particle detector. Soon after the spacewalk, payload controllers reported stable cooling operations on the AMS, and are continuing to monitor its thermal conditions. The AMS will soon resume its search for evidence of dark matter and antimatter once the system checkouts are complete.

The crew are now turning their attention to packing Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship with trash and discarded hardware. Robotics controllers in Mission Control will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Cygnus on Friday at 9:35 a.m. EST after 88 days attached to the Unity module. The private cargo carrier will reenter Earth’s atmosphere over the South Pacific for a fiery, but safe disposal.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch started Monday on housecleaning tasks. They were joined by Morgan and Parmitano cleaning fans and filters and disinfecting surfaces containing microbes and condensation.

Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov is getting the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship ready for its return to Earth on Feb. 6. He will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan with Koch and Parmitano just three and half hours after undocking from the Poisk module. Koch will have lived in space continuously for 328 days on her first mission, second only to former astronaut Scott Kelly who lived in space 340 days for the single longest spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut.

Astronauts Wrap Up Spacewalk Repair Job on Cosmic Ray Detector

Astronaut Luca Parmitano during the final spacewalk to repair a cosmic ray detector
A helmet cam attached to the spacesuit of astronaut Andrew Morgan pictures astronaut Luca Parmitano during the final spacewalk to repair a cosmic ray detector.

Expedition 61 crew members Andrew Morgan of NASA and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) concluded their spacewalk at 1:20 p.m. EST. During the 6 hour, 16 minute spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully completed leak checks for the cooling system on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and opened a valve to being pressurizing the system. Preliminary testing shows AMS is responding as expected.

Ground teams will work over the next several days to fill the new AMS thermal control system with carbon dioxide, allow the system to stabilize, and power on the pumps to verify and optimize their performance. The tracker, one of several detectors on AMS, should be collecting science data again before the end of next week. The upgraded cooling system is expected to support AMS through the lifetime of the space station.

AMS is a joint effort between NASA and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and is led by Principal Investigator Samuel Ting, a Nobel laureate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The AMS team includes some 600 physicists from 56 institutions in 16 countries from Europe, North America and Asia. AMS has been capturing high-energy cosmic rays to help researchers answer fundamental questions about the nature of antimatter, the unseen “dark matter” that makes up most of the mass in the universe, and the even-more-mysterious dark energy that is speeding up the expansion of the cosmos.

The astronauts also completed an additional task to remove degraded lens filters on two  high-definition video cameras.

This was the fourth spacewalk by Morgan and Parmitano to repair the spectrometer and the 227th in support of station assembly, maintenance and upgrades. For Morgan, it was the seventh spacewalk of his career, for a total of 45 hours and 48 minutes, and the sixth for Parmitano, with a total of 33 hours and 9 minutes, who will return to Earth Feb. 6 in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to complete a six-and-a-half month mission on the outpost. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 59 days 12 hours and 26 minutes working outside the station. This was also the ninth spacewalk for the Expedition 61 crew, more than in any other increment in the history of the station.

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

Spacewalkers Finalizing Repairs on Dark Matter, Antimatter Detector

Astronauts assist spacewalkers
NASA astronauts Christina Koch (foreground) and Jessica Meir assist spacewalkers Luca Parmitano (left) and Andrew Morgan (right) before beginning today’s spacewalk. Credit: NASA TV

Two astronauts switched their spacesuits to battery power this morning at 7:04 a.m., EST aboard the International Space Station to begin a spacewalk planned to last about six-and-a-half hours. NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan and Expedition 61 Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will venture outside the International Space Station to complete repairs on a cooling system for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a cosmic ray detector. The duo will conduct leak checks for the spectrometer’s refurbished cooling lines and complete the work to resume operations of the cosmic ray detector.

Morgan is designated extravehicular crewmember 1 (EV 1), wearing the suit with red stripes, and with the helmet camera labeled #20. Parmitano is designated extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the suit with no stripes, and with helmet camera #18.

During the first three spacewalks in the complex series to repair the AMS, the astronauts carefully prepared the AMS and positioned materials, installed the upgraded cooling system, completed the power and data cable connection for the system. The intricate connection work required making a clean cut for eight existing stainless steel tube cooling lines connected to the AMS then connecting it to the new system through a process of metalworking known as swaging. Following the third spacewalk, the flight control team on Earth initiated power-up and confirmed the new system was receiving power and data.

In addition to revitalizing an important piece of scientific equipment, the process of creating the tools and procedures for these spacewalks is preparing teams for the types of spacewalks that may be required on Moon and Mars missions.

Watch the spacewalk on NASA TV and on the agency’s website.

Follow @space_station on Twitter for updates online. Learn more about the International Space Station online, including additional information about the current crew members.