Japan’s Ship Nears Departure Before October Cargo, Crew Missions

The SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Japan's HTV-9 resupply ship figure prominently in this photograph taken during the July 1 spacewalk.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Japan’s HTV-9 resupply ship figure prominently in this photograph taken during the July 1 spacewalk.

Canada’s versatile robotic arm, the 57.7-foot-long Canadarm2, is in place and ready to grapple and release Japan’s resupply ship from the International Space Station next week. The Expedition 63 crew is continuing to pack the cargo craft while training for its robotic release.

Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA will command the Canadarm2 to release the H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) on Tuesday at 1:35 p.m. EDT. Roscosmos cosmonaut and Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner will support Cassidy at the robotics workstation in the station’s “window to the world,” the cupola.

Both crewmates will be practicing the robotic maneuvers on a computer Friday and Monday to prepare for the HTV-9’s release. Cassidy finalized packing the HTV-9 with discarded gear and will close the hatch to the Japanese resupply ship on Monday. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the release activities on Tuesday at 1:15 p.m.

Space traffic will pick up again in October with a U.S. cargo ship slated to arrive and a crew exchange planned at the orbiting lab. Northrop Grumman is targeting early October for the rendezvous and robotic capture of its Cygnus cargo craft at the station.

On Oct. 14, three Expedition 64 crew members will launch aboard the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship toward the orbital lab. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will take a six-hour ride that day and dock to the Rassvet module beginning a six-month station mission.

One week later, Cassidy will end his mission along with Expedition 63 crewmates Vagner and Russian Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin. The trio will undock from the Poisk module in the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship on Oct. 21 and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan ending a 195-day research mission aboard the station.

Diverse Space Research and Station Robotics Fill Crew Day

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy collects trash for disposal during weekend housekeeping activities aboard the space station.
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy collects trash for disposal during weekend housekeeping activities aboard the space station.

The Expedition 63 crew trio continued ongoing space research and orbital housekeeping aboard the International Space Station today. Mission controllers are also preparing the Canadarm2 robotics arm for departure operations with Japan’s ninth resupply ship.

Commander Chris Cassidy split his Thursday shift with physics research in the morning and plumbing and electronics maintenance in the afternoon. The veteran NASA astronaut first checked samples inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace that levitates, melts and solidifies materials exposed to extreme temperatures. After lunch, he connected water recovery system cables then checked emergency communications gear.

Astrobee, a set of cube-shaped robotic free-flyers, was turned on today inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. The devices were autonomously maneuvering throughout Kibo and live-streaming video during the afternoon so engineers could monitor the operations.

Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner tackled their portion of research and maintenance today  in the Russian segment of the orbiting lab. Ivanishin once again continued his space biology and Earth studies. Vagner worked on another Earth observation experiment and also organized the Pirs docking compartment.

Attached to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module since May 25, Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) is nearing the end of its mission. Robotics controllers will maneuver the Canadarm2 in position on Friday before grappling and removing the HTV-9 from Harmony on Tuesday.

Cassidy will take over afterward and command the 57.7-foot-long robotic arm to release the HTV-9 into Earth orbit the same day. Nicknamed Kounotori, or “white stork” for its delivery mission, the Japanese resupply ship will end its mission two days later for a fiery, but safe demise over the South Pacific.

Crew Packs Japanese Ship, Studies Space Physics and Earth

Flying over southern Argentina, this photograph from the space station looks northward with the Sun's glint beaming on the Atlantic Ocean.
Flying over southern Argentina, this photograph from the space station looks northward with the Sun’s glint beaming on the Atlantic Ocean.

The Expedition 63 crew members are getting a Japanese spaceship ready for departure next week. In the meantime, the International Space Station trio was busy today with science, video communications and orbital plumbing.

Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin partnered up today loading Japan’s resupply ship with trash and old station gear. Cassidy will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Aug. 18 to release the H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) into Earth orbit for a fiery, but safe reentry into the atmosphere above the South Pacific. The HTV-9 arrived at the orbiting lab on May 25 delivering four tons of new science experiments, station hardware, crew supplies and fuel.

Cassidy started the morning setting up the Space Frontier Studio that live-streams science activities from inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module to audiences on the ground. The station commander from NASA then spent the afternoon installing new science hardware that will study gas-liquid flows in porous media in the Microgravity Science Glovebox. Results from the Packed Bed Reactor Experiment could benefit life support systems on the space station and future missions to the Moon and Mars.

Earth observations have been ongoing this week in the Russian segment of the space station. One long-running study has been monitoring natural and man-made conditions around the globe to forecast potential catastrophes. Ivanishin of Roscosmos was servicing photo equipment this morning for that experiment which measures radiation reflected from the Earth in a variety of wavelengths.

Cosmonaut Ivan Vagner worked during the morning servicing Russian plumbing hardware. The first-time space flyer then spent the rest of the day inventorying common office supplies such as printer cartridges, pens and tape.

Japanese Resupply Ship Departs Next Week

Japan's HTV-9 resupply ship is seen with the HTV-8 pallet inside containing old nickel-hydrogen batteries removed during a series of spacewalks earlier this year.
Japan’s HTV-9 resupply ship is seen with the HTV-8 pallet inside containing old nickel-hydrogen batteries removed during a series of spacewalks earlier this year.

A Japanese resupply ship will depart the International Space Station next week after nearly three months attached to the orbital lab. Meanwhile, the Expedition 63 crew continued a variety of science operations today.

JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, announced Tuesday, Aug. 18, as the release date for its H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) cargo craft. Ground controllers will remotely control the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple and remove the HTV-9 from the Harmony module. Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA will command the Canadarm2 to release the cargo craft into space completing an 85-day station mission. The HTV-9 will orbit Earth on its own for two more days and reenter the atmosphere above the South Pacific for a fiery, but safe demise.

The HTV-9 delivered four tons of gear on May 25 that included the new Space Frontier Studio for live broadcasts inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Cassidy set up the live-streaming hardware today for an event highlighting science activities inside Kibo.

Cassidy also completed fluid research work that took place inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module’s Microgravity Science Glovebox. The veteran astronaut disconnected, took apart and stowed the hardware that investigated water droplet behavior in microgravity. Results may promote water conservation and improve water pressure for Earth and space systems.

Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin continued working on a long-running Earth observation study on the Russian side the station. That experiment is helping scientists monitor and forecast natural and man-made catastrophes around the world.

Fellow cosmonaut and flight engineer Ivan Vagner worked during the morning testing broadband video communications gear. The first-time space flyer then spent the rest of the afternoon servicing the ventilation subsystem in the Zvezda service module.

Station Team Starts Workweek Researching Physics and Biotech

The sun's first rays burst over the Earth's horizon during an orbital sunrise as the International Space Station orbited above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia.
The sun’s first rays burst over the Earth’s horizon during an orbital sunrise as the International Space Station orbited above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia.

Advanced space physics and biotechnology research kicked off the week for the Expedition 63 trio aboard the International Space Station.

Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA started Monday operating a variety of science experiments that observe different microgravity phenomena. He continued researching water droplets in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module to promote water conservation and improve water pressure for space and Earth facilities.

The veteran astronaut, whose first mission was in 2009, also worked in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module maintaining the BioLab incubator. He opened up the space biology research device, that houses microbes, tissue cultures and small invertebrates, and checked fans, sensors and relative humidity.

Cassidy also joined his crewmates, cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, for body mass measurements aboard the orbiting lab today. The device uses a Newtonian method that applies a known force to an individual with the resulting acceleration providing a mass calculation in microgravity.

Ivanishin also spent Monday splitting his time between Earth observations and biomedical research. The three-time station visitor photographed global landmarks to observe and forecast the effects of man-made and natural catastrophes. He then moved onto to exploring the survivability of enzymes and bone marrow cells in the weightless environment.

First-time space flyer Ivan Vagner worked all day in the station’s Russian segment on biotechnology research. He collected microbe samples from the air and lab surfaces for incubation and analysis to understand and monitor conditions for safe and sterile space research gear.

Station Crew Works Japanese and Russian Research

Russia's Progress 76 resupply ship is pictured docked to the International Space Station's Pirs docking compartment. Below the orbiting lab are the city lights of southeastern Europe.
Russia’s Progress 76 resupply ship is pictured docked to the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment. Below the orbiting lab are the city lights of southeastern Europe.

Advanced space science, cargo transfers and orbital maintenance kept the three Expedition 63 crew members occupied Thursday aboard the International Space Station.

Commander Chris Cassidy spent a good portion of his day working inside JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo laboratory module. The experienced shuttle and station astronaut retrieved the Handhold Experiment Platform-2 (HXP-2), packed with several experiments, from inside Kibo’s airlock.

The HXP-2 was grappled by Japan’s robotic arm, removed from Kibo’s Exposed Facility and placed inside the airlock last week. The small research platform housed a variety of experiment samples exposed to the vacuum of space for observation.

Russia’s newest resupply ship, the Progress 76 (76P) which delivered nearly three tons of food, fuel and supplies last month, continued to be offloaded today. Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner unpacked electronics gear from the 76P and updated the space station’s inventory system.

Ivanishin then moved on to science exploring how bone marrow and enzymes adapt to weightlessness and studied Earth’s upper atmosphere. Vagner checked station smoke detectors and transferred waste fluids into the Progress 75 cargo craft.

Space Research, Orbital Plumbing Fill Crew’s Day

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy services microbial DNA samples for sequencing and identification aboard the space station's Harmony module.
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy services microbial DNA samples for sequencing and identification aboard the space station’s Harmony module.

The Expedition 63 crew, with one U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station, juggled an array of space research and orbital plumbing duties on Wednesday.

Commander Chris Cassidy ran several test operations today of the Water Droplet Formation experiment that may improve fluid management on spaceships and faucets and showers on Earth. The veteran astronaut also analyzed water samples for microbes and checked on biology and robotics hardware.

Cassidy then switched roles from space scientist to high-flying plumber and serviced the station’s restroom, the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, located in the Tranquility module. He also exchanged water recovery system pumps inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.

Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos spent Wednesday morning working on power and electrical systems in the orbiting lab’s Russian segment. The experienced cosmonaut then moved onto fluid transfers into the Progress 76 resupply ship then studied ways improve to interactions between mission controllers and space crews.

Cosmonaut Ivan Vagner from Roscosmos started the morning communicating with students on Earth using a ham radio. The first-time space flyer then worked the rest of the day on a variety of maintenance tasks including replacing pumps and checking smoke detectors.

Station Crew Busy With Variety of Space Research

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy installs fluid research hardware inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module's Microgravity Science Glovebox.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy installs fluid research hardware inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module’s Microgravity Science Glovebox.

Free-flying robots, planetary bodies and water droplets were just part of Tuesday’s research plan aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 63 trio also serviced a variety of communications gear and life support systems.

NASA and its international partners are planning human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond and the space station represents a big step in that effort. The orbiting lab provides a unique platform to learn about the long-term effects of microgravity on a variety of systems.

A set of cube-shaped, robot assistants are flying around on their own today inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Engineers are looking at video and imagery downlinked from the Astrobee devices to understand how the autonomous free-flyers visualize and navigate their way around the station.

Commander Chris Cassidy took a look at dynamic granular material samples this morning that simulate planetary surfaces. The experiment is taking place inside ESA’s (European Space Agency) Columbus laboratory module and could inform future planetary exploration missions.

The veteran NASA astronaut also split his time between botany and fluid physics. Cassidy worked on the Plant Habitat-02 checking growth lights and installing an acoustic shield to protect the plants from station noises. Next, he moved onto commercial research to improve water conservation and water pressure techniques on Earth.

In the Russian segment of the station, the two cosmonaut flight engineers worked on their complement of orbital science and lab maintenance. Anatoly Ivanishin serviced video equipment and an air purifier before conducting Earth observations. Ivan Vagner collected air samples for microbial analysis and explored ways to improve interactions between mission controllers, students and space crews.

Crew Dragon Returns as SpaceX, Russia Prep Future Crew Missions

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley onboard splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley onboard splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Three humans are orbiting Earth today aboard the International Space Station following the return on Sunday of NASA’s first commercial crew.

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will stay in space until October. The orbital trio are continuing critical space research benefitting humans on and off the Earth as well as maintaining the orbital lab.

Back on Earth, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are adapting to Earth’s gravity following a two-month mission on the station. Representing NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, duo is the first crew to launch to space and splashdown on Earth inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle.

SpaceX has completed its demonstration mission phase and has already booked two operational Crew Dragon missions. Crew-1 is planned for later this year and Crew-2 is targeted for Spring 2021. Both commercial crew missions will launch four astronauts each to the space station to continue microgravity science.

Russia will launch three Expedition 64 crew members to the station one week before the Expedition 63 crew returns to Earth in October. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will liftoff inside the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship to begin a six-month mission aboard the orbital lab.

Splashdown of Two Astronauts Aboard the Space Crew Dragon

A SpaceX fast boat races toward the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft moments before it splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard. Credit: NASA TV
A SpaceX fast boat races toward the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft moments before it splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard. Credit: NASA TV

Two NASA astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, splashed down safely in the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Endeavour” in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, at 2:48 p.m. EDT. It is the first time a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft has returned from the International Space Station to complete a test flight, beginning a new era in human spaceflight.

NASA is continuing live coverage of the recovery.

Teams on the Go Navigator recovery ship, including two fast boats, now are in the process of securing Crew Dragon and ensuring the spacecraft is safed for the recovery effort. As the fast boat teams complete their work, the recovery ship will move into position to hoist Crew Dragon onto the main deck of Go Navigator with Behnken and Hurley inside. Once on the main deck, the crew will be taken out of the spacecraft and receive medical checks before a helicopter ride to Pensacola to board a plane for Houston.

The duo arrived at the orbiting laboratory on May 31, following a successful launch on May 30 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During their 62 days aboard station, Behnken and Hurley contributed more than 100 hours of time to supporting the orbiting laboratory’s investigations, participated in public engagement events, and supported four spacewalks with Behnken and Cassidy to install new batteries in the station’s power grid and upgrade other station hardware.

These activities are a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which has been working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil the International Space Station for the first time since 2011. This is SpaceX’s final test flight and is providing data about the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, splashdown and recovery operations.

The test flight also will help NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission that will occur following NASA certification, which is expected to take about six weeks.

The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This could allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, including helping us prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

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.