Expedition 63 Awaits SpaceX Crew, Unpacks Japanese Cargo

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen on the launch pad in Florida during a brief static fire test on Friday, May 22, 2020.

The Expedition 63 crew is getting ready for the launch and arrival this week of two NASA astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade. This follows Monday morning’s arrival of a Japanese cargo craft that delivered over four tons of food, supplies and experiments to the International Space Station.

NASA and SpaceX managers completed their readiness reviews and have given the “go” for the launch of Commercial Crew astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. The duo will liftoff atop the Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday at 4:33 p.m. from Kennedy Space Center in Florida toward the station.

They will dock on Thursday at 11:39 a.m. to the Harmony module’s International Docking Adapter on the space station’s forward section. Two-and-a-half hours later the hatches will open, Behnken and Hurley will enter the station and the Expedition 63 crew will expand to five members to bring space research up to full speed aboard the orbiting lab.

The Crew Dragon will be docked adjacent to the newly-arrived H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) from Japan. The HTV-9 was installed to the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port a couple of hours after it was captured Monday at 8:13 a.m. with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. NASA Commander Chris Cassidy began unloading the HTV-9 with help from Roscosmos Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner shortly after its arrival on Memorial Day.

The final mission of Japan’s expendable resupply ship will stay at the station until late July. Japan’s next version of resupply ships (HTV-X) will be returnable and reusable providing more cargo capabilities.

Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin swapped out more fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack to maintain research operations inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. The refrigerator-sized research rack enables fuel, flame and soot research in microgravity.

Expedition 63 Awaits Japanese Cargo and American Crew

Japan's HTV-8 cargo craft and the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle
Japan’s HTV-8 cargo craft (left) is pictured gripped by the Canadarm2 robotic arm on November of 2019. The SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle is pictured at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Three Expedition 63 crewmates are orbiting Earth getting ready to welcome a Japanese cargo ship and the first crew to launch from America in almost a decade.

NASA Commander Chris Cassidy will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Japan’s ninth space freighter to visit the station on Memorial Day at 8:15 a.m. EDT. The H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) is delivering over four tons of crew supplies, space experiments and new lithium-ion batteries to upgrade station power systems. NASA TV’s live coverage begins Monday at 6:45 a.m.

Cassidy spent Friday readying the Harmony module for the HTV-9’s installation while also working on plumbing tasks. He’ll spend Saturday and Sunday relaxing aboard the International Space Station before turning his attention to the Japanese and American spaceships.

In Florida, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program are in final preparations for their launch aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon on Wednesday at 4:33 p.m. They will dock the next day at 11:39 a.m. to the station’s International Docking Adapter on the Harmony module’s forward port.

Cassidy with Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will welcome the Commercial Crew astronauts aboard the station when the hatches open about two-and-a-half hours later. Behnken and Hurley will join the Expedition 63 crew as Flight Engineers and ramp up space science aboard the orbiting lab.

Back onboard the space station, cosmonauts Ivanishin and Vagner spent Friday servicing a variety of Russian communications and life support hardware. The duo also continued inventorying station maintenance and repair equipment.

SpaceX Crew Preps for Launch as Japanese Cargo Heads to Station

The crew of the SpaceX Demo-2 mission NASA astronauts (from left) Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.
The crew of the SpaceX Demo-2 mission: NASA astronauts (from left) Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

The International Space Station will welcome a pair of different spaceships next week. Japan’s space freighter will arrive first on Monday followed by the first crewed mission from SpaceX on Thursday.

The H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) is in space racing toward the orbiting lab following its launch from Japan on Wednesday. The HTV-9, nicknamed Kounotori, or “white stork”, will arrive at the station Monday packed with over four tons of crew supplies, space experiments and new lithium-ion batteries to upgrade station power systems.

Commander Chris Cassidy will be on deck Monday in the cupola to command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the Kounotori at 8:15 a.m. EDT. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner will back up Cassidy and monitor the approach and rendezvous of the HTV-9. The duo has been training for a couple of weeks on a computer to get ready for Kounotori’s arrival. NASA TV’s live coverage of the robotic capture and installation will begin at 6:45 a.m. Monday.

The Expedition 63 crew is also preparing to welcome two NASA astronauts next week after they dock to the station inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle. The first Commercial Crew with Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken arrived in Florida Wednesday and is in final preparations for launch on May 27 at 4:33 p.m. from Kennedy Space Center. They will dock the following day at 11:39 a.m. to the Harmony module’s forward-facing International Docking Adapter.

Cassidy has been familiarizing himself this week with the Crew Dragon’s automated rendezvous and docking procedures. He set up a command and control device that will relay communications and telemetry back and forth with the Crew Dragon as it nears the space station next week.

Veteran Russian Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin has been keeping up with his lab maintenance tasks while his crewmates get ready for the Kounotori’s arrival. The three-time station resident serviced computers and life support gear and updated station inventory systems today.

Japanese Resupply Ship, SpaceX Crew Dragon Nearing Launch Dates

Japan's H-II Transfer Vehicle (left) and the SpaceX Crew Dragon (right) are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station this month.
Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (left) and the SpaceX Crew Dragon (right) are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station this month.

A Japanese cargo ship is poised to resupply the Expedition 63 crew just as a U.S. space freighter has completed its stay at the International Space Station. The three station residents are also getting ready to welcome two Commercial Crew members in just over two weeks.

Japan’s ninth H-II Transfer Vehicle cargo mission (HTV-9) is due to lift off on May 20 aboard an H-IIB rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center. The cargo craft from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is delivering fresh food and supplies, new science experiments and new lithium-ion batteries to upgrade the station’s power systems.

The HTV-9 will arrive at the station on May 25 where Commander Chris Cassidy, with Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner as back up, will capture the cargo craft with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Ground controllers will take over afterward and remotely install the HTV-9 to the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port where it will stay for two months.

Just two days later, NASA will launch the first crew from the United States since 2011 aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon. Veteran astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will take a 19-hour trip to the station while testing systems inside the Crew Dragon. It will automatically dock on May 28 to the International Docking Adapter located on the Harmony module’s forward port. After the hatches open, the duo will join the Expedition 63 crew to ramp up science and maintenance operations aboard the orbiting lab.