Flying Robots, Ultrasound Eye Scans Top Science Schedule

NASA astronaut and Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy sets up an Astrobee robotic assistant
NASA astronaut and Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy sets up an Astrobee robotic assistant, one of a trio of cube-shaped, free-flying robots, for a test of its mobility and vision system inside the Kibo laboratory module.

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.

NASA Completes Negotiations for Additional Soyuz Seat in Fall

The International Space Station
The International Space Station is pictured from space shuttle Endeavour after its undocking in February 2010.

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.

In case you missed it, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shared why the Demo-2 mission is essential.

Progress Cargo Ship Docked to Station

April 25, 2020: International Space Station Configuration.
April 25, 2020: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are attached at the space station including the U.S. Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft and Russia’s Progress 74 and 75 resupply ships and Soyuz MS-16 crew ship.

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.

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

Russian Resupply Ship Headed for Station

The Progress 75 cargo craft moments after launch
The Progress 75 cargo craft moments after launching from the pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA TV

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.

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

NASA TV Launch Coverage is Underway

The Progress 75 cargo craft stands at its launch pad
The Progress 75 cargo craft stands at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: Roscosmos

NASA Television is live for the launch of a Russian Progress cargo spacecraft carrying almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 63 crew aboard the International Space Station. Watch live on NASA TV and the agency’s website now!

The Progress 75 spacecraft is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:51 p.m. EDT (6:51 a.m. Saturday, April 25, Baikonur time).

To join the conversation about the space station online, follow @space_station.

Station Science Promoting Earth, Space Therapies Ahead of Crew Swap

An aurora above the city lights and a beneath a starry sky
An aurora, above the city lights and a beneath a starry sky, fades into an orbital sunrise as the space station orbited above the Pacific Ocean off the coast of North America.

Expedition 62 is continuing a host of studies this week exploring how microgravity affects the human body. Researchers use the weightlessness environment of the International Space Station to provide advanced therapies for healthier humans on Earth and in space.

NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan wore a specialized suit, testing its ability to pull body fluids towards an astronaut’s feet. The Lower Body Negative Pressure suit is designed to prevent the space-caused upward fluid shifts and pooling in the head that create pressure on the eyes and cranium.

Fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir measured Morgan’s eye pressure with a tonometer Wednesday morning as doctors on the ground monitored in real-time. Commander Oleg Skripochka assisted the pair with the hardware and suit activities while the research operations took place in the Zvezda service module.

The trio split up in the afternoon for more space science and station maintenance tasks. The station residents also continued their daily routine of cardio and resistance exercises aboard the orbiting lab.

After lunchtime, Morgan set up gear that monitors airflow and where particles settle on the station. Meir tended to bone cell samples for insights into Earth ailments such as osteoporosis. Skripochka serviced an oxygen generator and plumbing hardware in the station’s Russian segment.

The space station will also boost its orbit on Thursday as it gears up for a crew swap in April. Expedition 62 is due to return to Earth on April 17 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship.

The Expedition 63 crew will launch to the station on April 9 inside the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy will lead Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner during the 195-day station mission.

Finally, the Cygnus space freighter that left the station on Jan. 31 ended its mission Tuesday night. It burned up safely in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean after several weeks of orbital engineering tests. The newest Cygnus is attached to the station’s Harmony module where it will stay until May.

Astronauts Relaxing Ahead of U.S. Cargo Mission

Noctilucent clouds, or night shining clouds
Noctilucent clouds, or night shining clouds, the highest clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere, are pictured from the International Space Station orbiting 269 miles above the South Pacific.

Two NASA astronauts are relaxing for the next couple of days as a U.S. space delivery nears its launch to the International Space Station. The Expedition 62 Commander is staying busy with the research and the upkeep of Russian orbital lab systems.

Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan are taking it easy Thursday and Friday as they look ahead to the arrival of the Cygnus cargo craft from Northrop Grumman. Cygnus launches Friday at 3:43 p.m. EST and will reach the station less than two days later. Morgan will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and grapple Cygnus on Sunday at about 4 a.m. Meir will assist and monitor the space freighter’s approach and rendezvous.

Mission controllers will take over and remotely guide the Cygnus in the grips of Canadarm2 and install it to the Unity module. The two NASA astronauts will open Cygnus’ hatch Sunday afternoon and begin unloading about 7,500 pounds of new science, crew supplies and station hardware. NASA TV will cover all the launch, capture and installation activities live.

Roscosmos Commander Oleg Skripochka started his day jogging on a treadmill for an exercise study. Afterward, the veteran cosmonaut worked on orbital plumbing tasks and housecleaning tasks in the station’s Russian segment.

Astronauts Wrap Up Third Spacewalk for Cosmic Particle Detector Repairs

Astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan
Astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan are pictured during a spacewalk to continue upgrading the station’s cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

Expedition 61 Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan concluded their spacewalk at 12:33 p.m. EST. During the six hour and two minute spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully installed a new cooling system for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS).

The crew completed the primary task to install the upgraded cooling system, called the upgraded tracker thermal pump system (UTTPS), completed the power and data cable connection for the system, and connected all eight cooling lines from the AMS to the new system. The intricate connection work required making a clean cut for each existing stainless steel tube connected to the AMS then connecting it to the new system through a process of metalworking known as swaging.

The astronauts also completed an additional task to install an insulating blanket on the nadir side of the AMS to replace the heat shield and blanket they removed during the first spacewalk to begin the repair work. The flight control team on Earth initiated power-up of the system and confirmed it is receiving power and data.

It is the first long day of a very busy several weeks for the space station crew, with two cargo resupply spacecraft launching to the station loaded with science investigations; a SpaceX Dragon is scheduled to lift off at 12:51 p.m. Wednesday, and a Russian Progress is set to launch Friday at 4:34 a.m. Crew members then will be focused on the spacecrafts’ arrivals and associated work. Meanwhile, teams on Earth will evaluate the date for the planned fourth spacewalk to conduct leak checks for the spectrometer’s refurbished cooling lines and complete the work to resume operations of the cosmic ray detector.

For more information about the AMS science and spacewalks, listen to the recent podcasts:

Parmitano has now conducted five spacewalks in his career for a total of 26 hours and 53 minutes, and Morgan has logged 39 hours and 32 minutes during six spacewalks since his arrival on the station in July. It was the 11th spacewalk at the station this year. Space station crew members have conducted a total of 224 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 58 days 15 hours and 43 minutes working outside the station.

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.

Belated Thanksgiving Meal Ahead of Spacewalk and New Cargo Ships

NASA astronaut and spacewalker Andrew Morgan
NASA astronaut and spacewalker Andrew Morgan is pictured during the second spacewalk on Nov. 22, 2019, to repair the International Space Station’s cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

The six-member Expedition 61 crew is relaxing today and enjoying a belated Thanksgiving meal after an intense week of biology research and spacewalk preparations. A Russian resupply ship also departed the International Space Station this morning as two more space freighters are poised to replenish the orbiting lab. The ISS Progress 73 cargo ship, loaded with trash, undocked from the Pirs Docking Compartment and was deorbited, burning up over the Pacific Ocean.

The four astronauts and two cosmonauts on the orbiting lab were off-duty today sharing a Thanksgiving meal together after working all day during the U.S. holiday. Most of the fixings that dress a turkey on a dining table on Earth were available aboard the station’s galley including cornbread, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan were busy on Thursday finalizing research operations as they collected blood and cell samples from rodents. Commander Luca Parmitano and Flight Engineer Christina Koch also assisted the duo in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Scientists on Earth will observe the samples to gain insights into afflictions such as cancer and diabetes potentially designing advanced therapies for humans on Earth and in space.

Morgan and Parmitano now turn their attention to Monday’s spacewalk to continue the complex repair job on a cosmic particle detector on the station’s truss. They will be employing complex and innovative repair techniques never performed in space to replace a faulty cooling pump on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. The spacewalkers will set their U.S. spacesuits to battery power at 6:50 a.m. EST on Monday signifying the start of their venture. NASA TV begins its live broadcast at 5:30 a.m.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka monitored the Progress 73 resupply ship as it undocked at 4:25 a.m. EST Friday completing its four-month mission at the station. It reentered the Earth’s atmosphere a few hours later and burned up safely over the south Pacific.

SpaceX is targeting Dec. 4 for the launch if its 19th commercial cargo mission to the space station. The Dragon space freighter would arrive on Dec. 7 delivering a variety of brand new research gear including Japan’s Hyperspectral Imager Suite, or HISUI.

Russia will follow SpaceX with the launch of its Progress 74 (74P) cargo craft on Dec. 6. The 74P will arrive on Dec. 9 for an automated docking to the Pirs docking compartment.

Station Focusing on Japanese Ship Departure and Space Biology

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir
With the Earth 250 miles below, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir is pictured tethered to the outside of the International Space Station during a seven-hour, 17-minute spacewalk she conducted with fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch (out of frame).

Japan’s resupply ship is nearing the end of its month-long stay at the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the Expedition 61 crew is exploring how microgravity impacts humans and plants today.

Fresh off her fourth spacewalk last Friday, NASA astronaut Christina Koch is packing the Japanese HTV-8 cargo craft with discarded hardware and trash for disposal. Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) joined Koch for the cargo transfers today.

Koch and NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir will be in the cupola on Friday, Nov. 1 commanding the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the HTV-8. It will reenter Earth’s atmosphere the following day for a fiery, but safe demise above the Pacific Ocean.

Parmitano and Koch switched roles during the afternoon from space movers to crew medical officers (CMO) examining Meir and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan. The CMOs operated an ultrasound scanner looking at the cornea, lens and optic nerve inside the eyes of Meir and Morgan.

Koch also researched surface tension in space to understand afflictions such as Alzheimer’s disease and design advanced materials. Meir tended to plants for an ongoing space agriculture study. Morgan installed new life science hardware inside the Kibo lab module’s Saibo biology research rack.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka set up acoustic gear testing the detection and location of micrometeoroid impacts on the space station. The duo spent the rest of the afternoon checking docking hardware on the Zvezda service module and the Pirs docking compartment.