Spacewalk, Science and BEAM Work Keeping Crew Busy

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is pictured during a spacewalk to install solar array modification kits on the space station.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is pictured during a spacewalk to install solar array modification kits on the space station.

Two astronauts are gearing up for another spacewalk scheduled this Friday to continue maintenance on the outside of the International Space Station. The rest of the Expedition 64 crew set up advanced research hardware and also entered BEAM for cargo activities.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is readying tools and reviewing procedures for Friday’s spacewalk to continue installing solar array modification kits begun during Sunday’s spacewalk. She was joined by JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi on Tuesday as he assisted with spacesuit preparations. Flight Engineer Victor Glover partnered with Noguchi for the spacesuit work and collected water samples from the suits for microbial analysis.

Rubins and Noguchi will set their U.S. spacesuits to battery power inside the U.S. Quest airlock around 7 a.m. EST signifying the start of their spacewalk. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk at 5:30 a.m.

NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker checked out radiation and biological gear today. She first deployed an experimental radiation detector to validate its use on future Orion spacecraft carrying crews to the Moon. Next, Walker powered up the Bio-Analyzer for upcoming cellular and molecular analysis work aboard the orbiting lab.

Walker also joined Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins opening up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, for cargo work. The duo stowed hardware and replaced a wireless sensors inside the commercial module.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov focused on Russian science experiments in the station’s Russian segment. Ryzhikov wore a portable electrocardiogram that will record his electrical heart signals for 24 hours. Kud-Sverchkov serviced biology gear that enables investigations of cell cultures exposed to microgravity.

Spacewalkers Conclude Today’s Spacewalk

Spacewalkers Victor Glover and Kate Rubins are pictured at the mast canister, installing bracket support struts to the base of the solar array on Feb, 28th 2021.
Spacewalkers Victor Glover and Kate Rubins are pictured at the mast canister, installing bracket support struts to the base of the solar array on Feb, 28th 2021.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover concluded their spacewalk at 1:16 p.m. EST, after 7 hours and 4 minutes. In the third spacewalk of the year outside the International Space Station, the two NASA astronauts began work to install modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades.

The duo worked near the farthest set of existing solar arrays on the station’s left (port) side, known as P6. Glover built a bracket structure and worked with Rubins to attach the bracket and support struts to the mast canister, the base, of one of the P6 solar arrays, known as 2B. One of the bolts did not fully engage on the first attempt, so Rubins used a power drill to back it out and reseat it, then used a ratchet wrench to tighten the bolt, reaching a safe configuration. The bolt likely will need to be secured further before installing one of the new solar arrays that will be delivered to the space station later this year aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission.

Rubins and Glover then moved to begin identical assembly work for the bracket for the second of the P6 solar array pair, known as 4B. They completed the construction of upper support hardware and secured it to the space station’s exterior structure until work can be completed on the next spacewalk on Friday, March 5.

To ensure a sufficient power supply is maintained for NASA’s exploration technology demonstrations for Artemis and beyond as well as utilization and commercialization, NASA is augmenting six of the eight existing power channels of the space station with new solar arrays. The new solar arrays, a larger version of the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology, will be positioned in front of six of the current arrays, ultimately increasing the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts. The current solar arrays are functioning well but have begun to show signs of degradation, as expected, as they were designed for a 15-year service life.

This was the third career spacewalk for both Rubins and Glover. Rubins has now spent a total of 19 hours and 50 minutes spacewalking. Glover now has spent a total of 19 hours and 20 minutes spacewalking.

Space station crew members have conducted 235 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 61 days, 14 hours, and 11 minutes working outside the station.

During the spacewalk March 5, Rubins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi will venture outside the orbiting outpost to complete the installation of the 4B array modification kit and are expected to tackle additional work, including the venting of ammonia from the Early Ammonia System.

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

Astronauts Rubins and Glover Begin Spacewalk

NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins during a six-hour and 48-minute spacewalk on Sept. 1, 2016.
NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins during a six-hour and 48-minute spacewalk on Sept. 1, 2016.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover have begun their spacewalk outside the International Space Station to begin assembling and installing modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades.

The spacewalkers switched their spacesuits to battery power at 6:12 a.m. EST to begin the spacewalk, which is expected to last about six and a half hours.

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

Rubins is extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing a spacesuit bearing red stripes and using helmet camera #22. Glover is extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the spacesuit without stripes and helmet camera #20.

Rubins and Glover will traverse out the station’s backbone truss structure to the far left (port) side set of solar arrays, the first pair of solar arrays deployed in December 2000 that have been powering the station for more than 20 years. The spacewalkers will work together to construct and begin installing bracket support structures at the base of the current solar arrays that will enable new solar arrays to be installed to augment the space station’s power supply.

This is the 235th spacewalk in support of space station assembly.

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

NASA TV Coverage of Spacewalk Underway

Astronauts (from left) Kate Rubins and Victor Glover are pictured during previous spacewalks on the space station.
Astronauts (from left) Kate Rubins and Victor Glover are pictured during previous spacewalks on the space station.

NASA Television coverage of today’s spacewalk with NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover is now underway and is also available on the NASA app and the agency’s website.

The crew members of Expedition 64 are preparing to venture outside the International Space Station for a spacewalk expected to begin at approximately 6 a.m. EST and last about six and a half hours.

The crew is in the airlock and have donned their suits in preparation to exit the airlock and begin today’s activities to begin assembling and installing modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades.

As illustrated in a NASA animation, Rubins and Glover will be working near the farthest set of solar arrays on the station’s left (port) side, known as P6. They will work together to build bracket structures and attach the bracket and support struts to the mast canister, the base, of one of the P6 solar arrays, then will begin the identical work for the mast canister of the second of the P6 solar array pair. The modification kit will enable the new solar arrays to be installed in front of the existing arrays after their delivery to the space station later this year aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission.

Leading the mission control team today is Flight Director Marcos Flores with support from Art Thomason as the lead spacewalk officer.

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

NASA TV Broadcasts Spacewalk on Sunday

From left, NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Jeff Williams are pictured during a spacewalk in September of 2016 performing solar array maintenance.
From left, NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Jeff Williams are pictured during a spacewalk in September of 2016 performing solar array maintenance.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover are scheduled to exit the International Space Station’s Quest airlock Sunday for a spacewalk to begin assembling and installing modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades.

The pair will set their spacesuits to battery power about 6 a.m. EST tomorrow, signifying the start of their spacewalk, which is expected to last about six and a half hours. NASA will begin its live coverage on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website at 4:30 a.m.

The current solar arrays are functioning well but have begun to show signs of degradation, as expected, as they were designed for a 15-year service life. The first pair of solar arrays were deployed in December 2000 and have been powering the station for more than 20 years. Later this year, the new solar arrays will be positioned in front of six of the current arrays, ultimately increasing the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts.

This will be the 235th spacewalk in support of space station assembly. Rubins will be designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1) and wear a spacesuit bearing red stripes. Glover will be extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing a suit with no stripes.

Rubins arrived at the space station Oct. 14, 2020, aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and Glover arrived at the space station in November as part of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission. This will be the third career spacewalk for each.

Watch a video providing an overview of the spacewalk and learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew in Final Spacewalk Preps, Studies Plants and Worms

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is pictured during a spacewalk in September of 2016 working on solar array maintenance.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is pictured during a spacewalk in September of 2016 working on solar array maintenance.

The Expedition 64 crew is in final preparations for Sunday’s spacewalk to ready the International Space Station for new solar arrays. The orbital residents are also tending to plants and observing worms to continue learning how space affects biology.

NASA Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Victor Glover will set their U.S. spacesuits to battery power on Sunday at around 6 a.m. EST signifying the start of the year’s third spacewalk. The duo will exit the station and spend about six-and-a-half hours upgrading power channels that will support new solar arrays to be delivered on upcoming SpaceX Dragon cargo missions. NASA TV begins its live spacewalk coverage at 4:30 a.m.

Rubins and Glover organized their spacewalk tools, checked their spacesuit tethers, and readied the U.S. Quest airlock today. On Saturday, they will finalize their preparations with assistance from Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi and hold a conference with spacewalk experts in Mission Control.

Friday’s research activities included watering plants and more worm observations. Noguchi refilled a water chamber then photographed the fast-growing, aroma-rich plants used for traditional medicine and food flavoring. NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker set up a microscope that Hopkins would use during the afternoon to observe worms for a gene expression and muscle strength study.

The crew’s two cosmonauts focused their activities in the Russian segment of the orbital lab today. Commander Sergey Ryzhikov worked on batteries and cameras. Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov had a fitness test on the Zvezda service module’s treadmill then serviced a variety of Russian science gear.

Crew Examines Worms, Explores Space Manufacturing During Spacewalk Preps

Three spaceships are pictured attached to the space station as the orbital complex flew 261 miles above the Bay of Bengal.
Three spaceships are pictured attached to the space station as the orbital complex flew 261 miles above the Bay of Bengal.

Two NASA astronauts are getting their tools and spacesuits ready for Sunday’s spacewalk to ready the International Space Station for new solar arrays. Meanwhile, the rest of the Expedition 64 crew focused on a variety of space research on Thursday.

NASA Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Victor Glover are finalizing their preparations for a planned six-and-a-half hour spacewalk set to begin Sunday at 6 a.m. EST. NASA TV will begin its live spacewalk beginning at 4:30 a.m.

Rubins and Glover configured spacewalk tools and checked U.S. spacesuits today before calling down to experts in Mission Control to report on their readiness. The duo today also continued reviewing the spacewalk procedures they will use to upgrade power channels that will soon support new solar arrays. Those solar arrays will be shipped on upcoming Space Dragon cargo missions for installation this year.

Science is always ongoing aboard the space station, not just with crew inputs but also remotely from scientists on the ground. Results and insights help improve industry, business and medicine on Earth and in space.

Worms are being observed on the station after their arrival on Monday inside the Cygnus resupply ship from Northrop Grumman. Astronauts Shannon Walker and Michael Hopkins examined the tiny worms with a microscope to explore how microgravity affects gene expression and muscle strength.

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi worked on advanced space science hardware to explore different space manufacturing techniques. He first installed the new Industrial Crystallization Facility that will demonstrate commercial crystal production available only in space. Next, he checked samples inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace that investigates the thermophysical properties of commercial materials exposed to extreme temperatures.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov split their day working on batteries, cameras and laptop computers.

Spacewalk Preps Rev Up as Space Science Continues

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker sets up science hardware components inside the Destiny laboratory module's Microgravity Science Glovebox.
NASA astronaut Shannon Walker sets up science hardware components inside the Destiny laboratory module’s Microgravity Science Glovebox.

The Expedition 64 crew members are revving up their spacewalk preparations as they juggle an array of advanced space science aboard the International Space Station today.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins spent Wednesday morning readying a pair of U.S. spacesuits that she and fellow NASA astronaut Victor Glover will wear on Sunday. Rubins was joined by astronauts Michael Hopkins of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) helping with the spacesuit fit checks today which consists of attaching the correctly sized leg, arm, glove and helmet components. All four astronauts called down to Mission Control in the afternoon to review Sunday’s spacewalk procedures.

Glover and Rubins will exit the station on Sunday about 6 a.m. EST to begin readying the station for upcoming solar array upgrades. Rubins will go out again on Friday, March 5, with Noguchi to work on coolant gear and communication systems. NASA TV will broadcast both spacewalks live.

Glover also had time for research work today as he serviced parts inside the Combustion Integrated Rack to support flame and fuel studies safely. NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker replaced communications gear inside the Human Research Facility that enables biological and psychological observations of astronauts.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov worked on batteries and cameras before incubating and photographing microbe samples. Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov checked out Russian life support systems and ventilation gear Wednesday afternoon.

Astronauts Get Ready for Spacewalks After U.S. Cargo Ship Arrives

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi works on U.S. spacesuit gear inside the Quest airlock.
JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi works on U.S. spacesuit gear inside the Quest airlock.

Spacewalks are the focus now aboard the International Space Station as the Expedition 64 crew begins unloading four tons of cargo delivered Monday aboard a U.S. space freighter.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover are gearing up for a spacewalk on Sunday, Feb. 28, to ready the station for upcoming solar array upgrades. They will set their U.S. spacesuits to battery power at approximately 6 a.m. EST signifying the start of their spacewalk planned to last six-and-a-half hours. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the spacewalk activities at 4:30 a.m.

NASA managers will discuss that spacewalk, including a March 5 spacewalk with Rubins and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, on Wednesday during a live briefing on NASA TV set for 2 p.m. The second spacewalk will see Rubins and Noguchi work on upgrading coolant gear and communication systems.

The duo spent Tuesday servicing their spacesuits and practicing safety procedures inside the Quest airlock. Glover cleaned the spacesuit cooling water loops and tested the quality of the water samples collected from the loops. Rubins reviewed the spacesuit caution and warning system then checked glove heaters, helmet cameras and batteries.

In the midst of the spacewalk preparations, the orbital residents have begun unpacking the Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply ship. NASA Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Shannon Walker have been offloading the new science hardware, crew supplies and station hardware stowed inside Cygnus. Noguchi transferred Cygnus’ science freezers containing biological samples into the station and installed them into specialized science racks. Rubins and Glover also assisted with the cargo transfers.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos started the day sampling the station’s air and surfaces for microbial analysis. Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov worked on Russian life support systems and station cameras.

Cygnus Resupply Ship Bolted to Station’s Unity Module

Feb. 22, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are attached to the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft, and Russia's Progress 76 and 77 resupply ships and Soyuz MS-17 crew ship.
Feb. 22, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are attached to the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft, and Russia’s Progress 75 and 77 resupply ships and Soyuz MS-17 crew ship.

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft was berthed to the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:16 a.m. EST Monday morning and subsequently bolted into place. Cygnus will remain at the space station until May, when the spacecraft will depart the station. Following departure, the Cygnus will dispose of several tons of trash during a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

The spacecraft, which launched at 12:36 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 20, on an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, brings approximately 8,000 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies to the orbiting laboratory to support the Expedition 64 and 65 crews. The Cygnus was captured earlier Monday morning at 4:38 a.m. EST.

Highlights of science investigations aboard this Cygnus include:

A new vision

Millions of people on Earth suffer from retinal degenerative diseases. These conditions have no cure, although treatments can slow their progression. Artificial retinas or retinal implants may provide a way to restore meaningful vision for those affected. In 2018, startup LambdaVision sent their first experiment to the space station to determine whether the process used to create artificial retinal implants by forming a thin film one layer at a time may work better in microgravity.

A second experiment by LambdaVision launching on NG CRS-15, Protein-Based Artificial Retina Manufacturing, builds on the first project, evaluating a manufacturing system that uses a light-activated protein to replace the function of damaged cells in the eye. This information may help LambdaVision uncover whether microgravity optimizes production of these retinas, and could assist people back on Earth.

Bringing advanced computing aboard the space station

Due to a need to prioritize reliability over performance, computing capabilities in space are reduced compared to capabilities on the ground, creating challenges when transmitting data to and from space. Although relying on ground-based computers is possible for exploration on the Moon or in low-Earth orbit, this solution will not work for exploration farther into the solar system. Launched in 2017, the SpaceborneComputer study ran a high-performance commercial off-the-shelf computer system in space with the goal of having the system operate seamlessly for one year. It successfully performed more than 1 trillion calculations (or one teraflop) per second for 207 days without requiring reset.

Spaceborne Computer-2 builds on the successes of this first study, exploring how off-the-shelf computer systems can advance exploration by processing data significantly faster in space with edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. This experiment plans to demonstrate that Earth-based data processing of current station science data can instead be performed on station. Eliminating the need for researchers to send all raw data back to Earth for analysis could speed scientists’ time-to-insight from months to minutes.

Space worms to the rescue

Tiny worms could help us determine the cause of muscle weakening that astronauts can experience in microgravity. Astronauts work out more than two hours a day aboard the space station to prevent bone and muscle loss caused by living in a microgravity environment during long-duration missions. Thanks to a new device for measuring the muscle strength of tiny C. elegans worms, researchers with the Micro-16 study can test whether decreased expression of muscle proteins is associated with this decreased strength. The device consists of a small microscope slide filled with little rubber pillars. The strength of the worms is measured by how much force the worms apply to the pillars as they move around the slide.

Preparing for the Moon

The International Space Station serves as a testing ground for technologies we plan to use on future Artemis missions to the Moon. The NASA A-HoSS investigation puts to the test tools planned for use on the crewed Artemis II mission that will orbit the Moon. Built as the primary radiation detection system for the Orion spacecraft, the Hybrid Electronic Radiation Assessor (HERA) was modified for operation on the space station.

Verifying that HERA can operate without error for 30 days validates the system for crewed Artemis mission operations. A related investigation, ISS HERA, flew in 2019 aboard the space station. ISS HERA provided data and operational feedback in preparation for the Orion spacecraft’s uncrewed Artemis I mission that will launch in 2021.

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.