The SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft undocked from the space-facing port of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 9:10 p.m. EDT to complete the first all-private astronaut mission to the orbiting laboratory. Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1).
The Crew Dragon is slowly maneuvering away from the orbital laboratory into an orbital track that will return the astronaut crew and its cargo safely to Earth, targeting a splashdown off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, targeted for 1:06 p.m. EDT Monday, April 25.
Ax-1 Commander Michael López-Alegría, Pilot Larry Connor, and Mission Specialists Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy will complete 17 days in space at the conclusion of their mission. SpaceX Dragon Endeavour, the Ax-1 spacecraft, will return to Earth with more than 200 pounds of science and supplies, including NASA experiments and hardware.
Joint operations with the Axiom and SpaceX mission teams end and NASA coverage of the mission concludes when the spacecraft exits the area of the space station, approximately 30 minutes after undocking.
Axiom Space leads independent mission operations for Ax-1 and will resume coverage of Dragon’s re-entry and splashdown beginning about an hour before splashdown at 12 p.m. Monday, April 25, on the company’s website.
The Expedition 66 crew kicked off the week working on robotics, spacesuits, and advanced research equipment. The International Space Station is also orbiting higher to get ready for a crew swap at the end of March.
Flight Engineers Raja Chari of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) started Monday collecting their blood samples then stowing them for future analysis. The duo then split up, as Chari spent the afternoon studying robotics mobility using the cube-shaped, toaster-sized Astrobee free-flyer. The Astrobatics investigation explores using hopping maneuvers to minimize propellant to inform future robotic missions. Maurer set up the Fluid Science Laboratory for the PASTA experiment that has implications for commercial applications such as pharmaceuticals, oil and fuels, paints and coatings, and more.
The crew is also revving up for a pair of spacewalks in mid-March to continue modifying the orbiting lab’s power systems. Maurer and NASA Flight Engineer Thomas Marshburn worked on U.S. spacesuit jet packs that an astronaut could use to maneuver to safety in the unlikely event of becoming untethered from the station. Marshburn also reviewed plans to assist spacewalkers from inside the space station including suit up procedures, hardware checks and a communications gear overview.
Orbital maintenance is key in space ensuring the station’s multitude of systems, including research and life support, operate safely and continuously. Astronaut Kayla Barron of NASA worked on payload components that support science experiments outside the space station’s Kibo laboratory module on its exposed facility unit. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei spent some time unpacking cargo from the Cygnus space freighter before swapping out gear inside the U.S. oxygen generation assembly.
The space station is orbiting slightly higher after Russia’s ISS Progress 79 cargo craft fired its engines for eight minutes on Friday evening. The orbital reboost maneuver puts the station at the proper altitude for the Soyuz MS-21 crew ship launch on March 18 and Vande Hei’s return to Earth on March 30 with cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov inside the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship.
The Expedition 66 crew kicked off Monday promoting space agriculture and observing how the human cell adapts to weightlessness. Two cosmonauts are also gearing up for the first spacewalk of 2022 set to begin next week at the International Space Station.
Growing plants in space is critical to keeping crews healthy as NASA and its international partners plan human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Just like humans living in space, microgravity affects plants and scientists want to learn how to successfully grow crops in space to sustain crews with less support from Earth.
Today, NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei harvested the shoots and roots of Arabidopsis plants grown on petri plates inside the Veggie facility. Fellow NASA Flight Engineer Raja Chari collected the harvested samples and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. The APEX-07, or Advanced Plant Experiment-07, study is looking at how microgravity affects genetic expression in plants.
NASA Flight Engineer Kayla Barron also worked in Kibo and set up the new Mochii electron-scanning microscope to identify trace particles aboard the station. NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn worked on life sciences experiments throughout Monday before inspecting and cleaning hatch seals in the station’s U.S. segment.
Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov partnered together during the morning on a pair of Russian studies looking at how space affects heart activity and arm muscles. The duo later spent the rest of the day setting up Russian Orlan spacesuits for a spacewalk set to begin on Jan. 19. The two cosmonauts will spend about seven hours in the vacuum of space outfitting the station’s newest modules, Nauka and Prichal.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced today the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to extend International Space Station (ISS) operations through 2030, and to work with our international partners in Europe (ESA, European Space Agency), Japan (JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), Canada (CSA, Canadian Space Agency), and Russia (State Space Corporation Roscosmos) to enable continuation of the groundbreaking research being conducted in this unique orbiting laboratory through the rest of this decade.
“The International Space Station is a beacon of peaceful international scientific collaboration and for more than 20 years has returned enormous scientific, educational, and technological developments to benefit humanity. I’m pleased that the Biden-Harris Administration has committed to continuing station operations through 2030,” Nelson said. “The United States’ continued participation on the ISS will enhance innovation and competitiveness, as well as advance the research and technology necessary to send the first woman and first person of color to the Moon under NASA’s Artemis program and pave the way for sending the first humans to Mars. As more and more nations are active in space, it’s more important than ever that the United States continues to lead the world in growing international alliances and modeling rules and norms for the peaceful and responsible use of space.”
Over the past two decades, the United States has maintained a continuous human presence in orbit around the Earth to test technologies, conduct scientific research, and develop skills needed to explore farther than ever before. The unique microgravity laboratory has hosted more than 3,000 research investigations from over 4,200 researchers across the world and is returning enormous scientific, educational, and technological developments to benefit people on Earth. Nearly 110 countries and areas have participated in activities aboard the station, including more than 1,500,000 students per year in STEM activities.
Instruments aboard the ISS, used in concert with free-flying instruments in other orbits, help us measure the stresses of drought and the health of forests to enable improved understanding of the interaction of carbon and climate at different time scales. Operating these and other climate-related instruments through the end of the decade will greatly increase our understanding of the climate cycle.
Extending operations through 2030 will continue another productive decade of research advancement and enable a seamless transition of capabilities in low-Earth orbit to one or more commercially owned and operated destinations in the late 2020s. The decision to extend operations and NASA’s recent awards to develop commercial space stations together ensure uninterrupted, continuous human presence and capabilities; both are critical facets of NASA’s International Space Station transition plan.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission continues to target a return to Earth no earlier than 7:14 a.m. EST Monday, Nov. 8, with a splashdown off the coast of Florida. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Endeavour, is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station at 12:04 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 7, to begin the journey home. Mission teams completed an undocking weather review on Saturday and are ‘go’ to proceed to the next weather review about six hours prior to the scheduled undocking time. Winds remain the main watch item for the return of the mission.
NASA will provide coverage of the mission on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.
NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Aki Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will complete 199 days in space at the conclusion of their mission. The spacecraft also will return to Earth with about 530 pounds of hardware and scientific investigations.
Endeavour now will forego a fly around maneuver to photograph the exterior of the International Space Station to allow for additional alternate splashdown locations off the coast of Florida.
NASA and SpaceX also have a backup undocking and splashdown opportunity available Monday, Nov. 8, if weather conditions are not favorable for the primary opportunity.
The NASA and SpaceX teams will determine a primary and alternate splashdown location from the seven possible landing locations prior to return, factoring in weather, crew rescue, and recovery operations. Additional decision milestones take place prior to undocking, during free flight, and before Crew Dragon performs the deorbit burn.
NASA and SpaceX closely coordinate with the U.S. Coast Guard to establish a safety zone around the expected splashdown location to ensure safety for the public and for those involved in the recovery operations, as well as the crew aboard the returning spacecraft.
With Crew-2 splashdown Monday, Nov. 8, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission is targeting launch no earlier than 9:03 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For this launch opportunity, the Crew Dragon Endurance is scheduled to dock to the space station around 7:10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 return coverage is as follows:
11:45 a.m. EST– Coverage begins for 12:04 p.m. undocking (NASA will provide continuous coverage from undocking to splashdown)
Monday, Nov. 8 7:14 a.m. EST– Splashdown
Crew-2 is the second of six NASA and SpaceX crewed missions to fly as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has delivered on its goal of safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station from the U.S. through a partnership with American private industry. This partnership is changing the arc of human spaceflight history by opening access to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station to more people, more science, and more commercial opportunities. The space station remains the springboard to NASA’s next great leap in space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and, eventually, to Mars.
Cargo Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance away from the station prior to a deorbit burn later in the day that will begin its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. The spacecraft will make parachute-assisted splashdown around 11 p.m. off the coast of Florida. NASA Television will not broadcast the splashdown live, but will provide updates on the space station blog..
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 hours after splashdown. This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects.
Dragon launched Aug. 29 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy, arriving at the station the following day. The spacecraft delivered more than 4,800 pounds of research investigations, crew supplies, and vehicle hardware to the orbiting outpost.
The Expedition 65 crew spent Tuesday on a variety of biology experiments exploring how living in microgravity affects the human muscle system. The residents aboard the International Space Station are also intensifying their preparations for three spacewalks over the coming weeks.
Pesquet and Commandeer Akihiko Hoshide from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) started their morning research duties on another pair of muscle investigations. For the Anti-Atrophy investigation, Pesquet installed cell samples into Kibo’s Cell Biology Experiment Facility to test biomaterials that may prevent muscle loss in space as well as on Earth. Hoshide, also working inside Kibo, inserted cell samples into a specialized microscope to observe how they adapt to weightlessness for the Cell Gravisensing muscle atrophy study.
Hoshide then spent the rest of Tuesday with NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei getting ready for their first spacewalk together set for next week. They started configuring the U.S. Quest airlock and checking components on their U.S. spacesuits. McArthur joined them afterward and helped the duo suit up for a fit verification. Hoshide and Vande Hei will exit Quest on Aug. 24 to prepare the Port-4 truss structure for future Roll-Out Solar Array installation work.
Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are getting ready for two of their own spacewalks targeted for early September. They began collecting their spacewalk tools located in the station’s Russian segment and photographed them for inspection today. The cosmonaut duo from Roscosmos will exit the Poisk module for both excursions and outfit the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module for science operations.
When it arrives to the space station, Dragon will automatically dock to the space-facing side (zenith) of the station’s Harmony module with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur monitoring operations. Dragon lifted off on Thursday, June 3, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The cargo spacecraft with more than 7,300 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies will support dozens of investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory. Dragon will join four other spacecraft currently at the space station.
Four SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts are making final preparations ahead of their return to Earth this weekend. Some of the Expedition 65 crew members staying behind on the International Space Station are relaxing today while others are focusing on science and lab maintenance.
Mission managers have decided to send Crew Dragon Resilience and its four astronauts back to Earth on Sunday. Resilience will undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter during an automated maneuver on Saturday at 8:35 p.m. EDT. It will splashdown about six-and-a-half hours later in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida.
Hatch closure of the Resilience will be on Saturday at 6:20 p.m. with NASA TV beginning its broadcast at 6 p.m. Live continuous coverage of the undocking and splashdown activities starts at 8:15 p.m.
Resilience Commander Michael Hopkins and Pilot Victor Glover are finishing packing up personal items and emergency hardware inside Resilience today. They were assisted by Crew-1 Mission Specialists Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi who also loaded science freezers filled with research samples inside the Crew Dragon. When the Crew-1 astronauts land they will have spent 168 days in space since launching to the station on Nov. 15 last year.
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who rode to space aboard the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship, processed samples for the Food Physiology experiment amidst a mostly slow day for him. Glover finalized his science work early Friday as he collected and stowed his blood and urine samples for later analysis.
The station’s two cosmonauts, Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, stayed focused on maintenance in the orbiting lab’s Russian segment. The duo worked on power connections, ventilation systems and computer hardware throughout Friday.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Endeavour, began the final phase of its approach to the station at 3:31 a.m. EDT Saturday and is scheduled to dock at about 5:10 a.m. Crew Dragon is designed to dock autonomously, but the crew aboard the spacecraft and the space station will monitor the performance of the spacecraft as it approaches and docks to the forward port of the station’s Harmony module.