It is the day before three new Expedition 65 crew members launch and dock to the International Space Station from Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, three orbital lab residents are preparing to return to Earth while the rest of the crew studies space science and keeps the station in tip-top shape.
The Soyuz MS-18 rocket that will liftoff Friday at 3:42 a.m. EDT with one NASA astronaut and two Roscosmos cosmonauts was blessed on Thursday by a Russian Orthodox priest. The traditional ceremony takes place at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad before each Soyuz crew mission.
Two veteran station residents, Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, will take a ride to the station with first time space-flyer Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos. Novitskiy will lead the short space flight to the station’s Rassvet module where the Soyuz crew ship will dock at 7:07 a.m. The hatches will open about two hours later and the trio will join seven new crewmates for a welcoming ceremony with officials on the ground. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and docking activities beginning at 2:45 a.m.
Little more than a week after the new crew’s arrival, three Expedition 64 residents will end their stay in space and land on Earth inside the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, alongside Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, will undock from the Poisk module officially ending their mission on April 16 at 9:33 p.m. They will parachute to a landing inside their Soyuz crew ship less than three-and-a-half hours later in Kazakhstan.
Science is keeping pace aboard the space station as the crew explored biotechnology and fluid physics today. The astronauts also worked on life support systems and U.S. spacesuit components.
Hopkins also serviced nitrogen and oxygen transfer gear inside the station’s Atmospheric Control System. Glover assisted NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker as she swapped parts on U.S. spacesuits. Finally, Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi installed a materials exposure study in the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock where it will soon be placed into the harsh space environment for observation.
The Expedition 64 crew members who arrived to the International Space Station Oct. 14, 2020, have successfully relocated their Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft. Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Kate Rubins of NASA and Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, undocked from the Earth-facing port of the station’s Rassvet module at 12:38 p.m. EDT, and Ryzhikov successfully piloted the spacecraft and docked again at the space-facing Poisk port at 1:12 p.m.
The relocation opens the Rassvet port for the arrival April 9 of another Soyuz, designated Soyuz MS-18, which will carry NASA’s Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos’ Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov to join the space station crew after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Rubins, Ryzhikov, and Kud-Sverchkov will conclude their six-month science mission aboard the station and return to Earth April 17 in the Soyuz MS-17.
This was the 19th overall Soyuz port relocation and the first since August 2019.
An uncrewed Russian Progress 77 spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment on the station’s Russian segment at 1:27 a.m. EST, two days after lifting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Sunday, Feb. 14 at 11:45 p.m. EST (9:45 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15, Baikonur time). The spacecraft were flying over Argentina at the time of docking.
The spacecraft is carrying a little more than one ton of nitrogen, water and propellant to the station and the Expedition 64 crew members who are living and working in space to advance scientific knowledge, demonstrate new technologies, and make research breakthroughs not possible on Earth.
Progress 77 is scheduled to remain docked to the space station’s Russian segment until later this year. Instead of undocking from Pirs, this time Progress will stay connected and detach Pirs from the Earth-facing side of the station’s Russian segment, where it has spent nearly 20 years in service as both a docking port and spacewalk airlock.
Progress then will fire its engines to initiate a destructive entry into Earth’s atmosphere for both the spacecraft and docking compartment. Pirs’ departure from the space station is scheduled to take place just days after the launch of the “Nauka” Multipurpose Laboratory Module on a Proton rocket from Baikonur. The multifunctional docking port and research facility will automatically dock to the port vacated by Pirs.
Emergency training took precedence aboard the International Space Station today with the Expedition 64 crew reviewing safety procedures and equipment. The orbital residents also had eye checks while gearing up for a busy period of spacewalks.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins joined her two crewmates from Roscosmos, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, at midday and practiced emergency escape procedures. The trio trained on a computer for the unlikely event they would have to evacuate the station and quickly undock inside their Soyuz MS-17 crew ship.
During the morning, NASA Flight Engineer Victor Glover inspected fire extinguishers and a variety of personal protective equipment including breathing gear components. The first-time space flyer then spent the rest of Tuesday afternoon servicing life support components inside U.S. spacesuits.
Glover is getting ready for a pair of spacewalks he and Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins of NASA will be conducting on Jan. 27 and Feb. 1. The duo will be setting up European science and communications hardware on the first spacewalk and configuring battery gear and high definition cameras on the second. NASA TV will preview the upcoming spacewalks on Friday beginning at 3 p.m. EST.
Two more spacewalks are planned for February with Rubins and Glover slated for the third spacewalk of 2021 to install new solar arrays. For the fourth spacewalk, Rubins will pair up with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi for more upgrade work on the orbital lab.
Finally at the end of the day, Rubins joined fellow NASA astronaut Shannon Walker for eye checks. The veteran station residents used optical coherence tomography with Walker leading the effort to image Rubins’ retinas to understand microgravity’s impact on eyes and vision.
With NASA astronaut Victor Glover monitoring aboard the International Space Station, an upgraded SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Docking Adapter on the station’s space-facing port of the Harmony module at 9:05 a.m. EST.
It is the first undocking of a U.S. commercial cargo craft from the complex. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft were attached and removed from the space station using the station’s robotic Canadarm2.
Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the space station during the next 36 hours. On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Dragon will conduct a deorbit burn at 7:37 p.m. to begin its re-entry sequence into Earth’s atmosphere. Dragon is expected to splash down west of Tampa off the Florida coast about 8:27 p.m. The splashdown will not be broadcast.
The upgraded cargo Dragon capsule used for this mission contains double the powered locker availability of previous capsules, allowing for a significant increase in the research that can be carried back to Earth.
Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, delivering some science back into the hands of the researchers as soon as four to nine hours after splashdown. This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft returned to the Pacific Ocean, with quick-return science cargo processed at SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas, and delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Dragon launched Dec. 6 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, arriving at the station just over 24 hours later and achieving the first autonomous docking of a U.S. commercial cargo resupply spacecraft. The spacecraft delivered more than 6,400 pounds of hardware, research investigations and crew supplies.
NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Robert Behnken concluded their spacewalk at 1:39 p.m. EDT, after six hours and seven minutes. The two NASA astronauts completed all the work planned for this first of four spacewalks to replace batteries that provide power for the station’s solar arrays on the starboard truss of the complex as well as initial tasks originally planned for the second scheduled spacewalk next Wednesday. The new batteries provide an improved and more efficient power capacity for operations.
The spacewalkers removed five of six aging nickel-hydrogen batteries for one of two power channels for the starboard 6 (S6) truss, installed two of three new lithium-ion batteries, and installed two of three associated adapter plates that are used to complete the power circuit to the new batteries. Mission control reports that the two new batteries are working.
Cassidy and Behnken are scheduled to complete the upgrade to this initial power channel in a second spacewalk on July 1, during which they will install one more lithium-ion battery and one more adapter plate and remove the sixth nickel-hydrogen battery that will no longer be used.
This was the seventh spacewalk for both each astronaut. Cassidy now has spent a total of 37 hours and 21 minutes spacewalking, and Behnken has spent a total of 43 hours and 40 minutes spacewalking.
Space station crew members have conducted 228 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 59 days, 18 hours, and 33 minutes working outside the station.
Flying robots and ultrasound eye scans were the top science activities aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 63 crew also serviced a variety of lab hardware and tested a wearable health monitor.
Free-flying robotic assistants called AstroBees were checked out as Commander Chris Cassidy once again tested their ability to autonomously navigate the orbiting lab. The veteran astronaut then shut down and docked the small cube-shaped devices inside the Kibo laboratory module from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).
Students on Earth will soon get a chance to “test-drive” the Astrobees in a competition for the best program to control the robotic devices. Researchers are also exploring the Astrobees’ potential to perform routine station duties so the crew has more time for critical science.
Cassidy also tackled more mundane tasks during the morning as he worked on space plumbing duties in the Kibo lab. The commander wiped leaking water and inspected plumbing connections in Kibo’s Water Recovery System.
In the afternoon, Cassidy had his eyes scanned by three-time station Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin using an ultrasound device. The ultrasound exam, with real-time inputs from doctors on the ground, looks at the health of the retina, cornea and optic nerve.
Ivanishin started his workday swapping fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack which enables safe studies of fuels, flames and soot in microgravity. First-time space flyer Ivan Vagner worked during the morning on Russian power supply systems before servicing water tanks in the Zvezda service module. Just after lunchtime, Vagner attached the Holter Monitor, a non-invasive medical device, to his chest that will measure his heart’s electrical activity.
To ensure the agency keeps its commitment for safe operations via a continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station until commercial crew capabilities are routinely available, NASA has completed negotiations with the State Space Corporation Roscosmos to purchase one additional Soyuz seat for a launch this fall.
The agency received no responses from U.S. suppliers to a synopsis issued in the fall of 2019 for crew transportation in 2020. Boeing and SpaceX are in the final stages of development and testing of new human space transportation systems that will launch astronauts from American soil, including NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission scheduled for launch no earlier than May 27.
Traveling about 260 miles over Northwestern China, south of the Mongolian border, the unpiloted Russian Progress 75 cargo ship docked at 1:12 a.m. EDT to the Zvezda Service Module on the Russian segment of the complex.
Progress 75 will remain docked at the station for more than seven months before departing in December for its deorbit in Earth’s atmosphere.
For almost 20 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. As a global endeavor, 239 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,800 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries.
Carrying almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies for the International Space Station crew, The Progress 75 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:51 p.m. EDT (6:51 a.m. Saturday, April 25, Baikonur time).
The resupply ship reached preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned. Following a 2-orbit rendezvous, the Russian cargo spacecraft will dock to the orbiting laboratory at 1:12 a.m. NASA Television coverage of rendezvous and docking will begin at 12:30 a.m.