Crew Maintains Station Operations and Space Research

The well-lit Middle Eastern cities along the Persian Gulf coast of the Arabian Peninsula to the north of Iran were photographed from the International Space Station during an orbital night pass.
The well-lit Middle Eastern cities along the Persian Gulf coast of the Arabian Peninsula to the north of Iran were photographed from the International Space Station during an orbital night pass.

The Expedition 63 crew serviced a variety of International Space Station hardware today ensuring research, power and life support systems continue operating in good condition. Heart research and team psychology studies also filled today’s science schedule.

Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA wrapped up science rack swap work that he began on Monday. He finished moving and reinstalling three advanced science facilities, known as EXPRESS racks, in three different lab modules. The rack exchanges will support future experiments being delivered on an upcoming Cygnus resupply mission from Northrop Grumman.

Afterward, Cassidy collected water samples from the potable water dispenser for analysis on Earth and on the station. The veteran astronaut also inspected U.S. module hatches and replaced pipes in the orbiting lab’s restroom, known as the Waster and Hygiene Compartment.

Three-time space station cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin strapped himself on an exercise bike this morning for an assessment of his cardiac activity in space. First-time space flyer Ivan Vagner assisted Ivanishin attaching sensors to the test subject and monitoring his activities during the hour-long test.

The Russian duo then checked battery temperatures and connections before studying how international space crews interact with mission controllers around the world. Ivanishin went on to set up advanced Earth observation gear while Vagner worked on power system diagnostics.

Busy Day of Science Rack Swaps and Life Support Work

A waxing gibbous moon is pictured above the Earth's horizon as the station orbited above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil.
A waxing gibbous moon is pictured above the Earth’s horizon as the station orbited above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil.

It was a busy Tuesday aboard the International Space Station as the Expedition 63 crew reorganized science racks and serviced life support hardware.

Since its inception, the main focus of the orbiting lab has been research that is only possible in microgravity. Scientists take advantage of these unique insights to improve health and industry for humans on Earth and in space. A variety of specialized racks throughout the station’s laboratory modules host numerous science experiments revealing phenomena only seen in weightlessness.

Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner partnered up today, moving three dedicated science racks, also known as EXPRESS racks, and installing them inside the U.S. Destiny, Japan’s Kibo and Europe’s Columbus lab modules.

A total of 11 refrigerator-sized EXPRESS racks are installed on the station supporting a multitude of experiments. The internationally sponsored studies are tended to by astronauts, remotely controlled by scientists on Earth, as well as programmed to run automatically.

Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin concentrated on life support maintenance tasks in the Russian segment of the space station. He replaced dust filters in the ventilation system in his side of the orbital lab before servicing an oxygen generator and a carbon dioxide filter.

Crew Studies Space Agriculture and Spacecraft Technology

Sunrise casts long shadows over a cloudy Philippine Sea
Sunrise casts long shadows over a cloudy Philippine Sea as the International Space Station orbited off the coast of the Philippines.

The Expedition 63 crew kicked off the work week exploring space agriculture and spacecraft technologies. The trio also split the day on upcoming mission preparations and International Space Station maintenance.

Ongoing botany studies on the station have been teaching scientists, engineers and astronauts how to grow crops in space, so crews can feed themselves farther away from Earth. Future astronauts on long-term missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond will need to be self-sufficient with less support from mission controllers and resupply missions.

Commander Chris Cassidy set up the Advanced Plant Habitat during the afternoon for upcoming grow operations in the research facility. The controlled plant growth chamber automates the delivery of nutrients and light to support a variety edible plants for harvesting, analysis and tasting.

Cassidy is also gearing up for a U.S. resupply mission due to replenish the orbiting lab in early October. The NASA astronaut is sharpening his robotics skills on a computer to get ready to capture Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft with the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

A Russian technology experiment is using acoustics to locate micrometeoroid impacts on the space station. The two flight engineers, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, partnered during the morning checking hardware and downloading data that may pinpoint the location of high-speed particle hits on the outside of the space lab.

The cosmonaut duo then spent the rest of Monday servicing life support gear and updating computer systems.

Station Controllers Resume Normal Ops as Crew Keeps Up Research

The night lights of the southeastern U.S. are pictured as the International Space Station orbited over the Gulf of Mexico.
The night lights of the southeastern U.S. are pictured as the International Space Station orbited over the Gulf of Mexico.

Mission controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center are returning to normal operations today after setting backup control centers at remote locations. The International Space Station support team returned to Houston after setting up remote operations earlier this week when Hurricane Laura neared the Texas-Louisiana border.

The three Expedition 63 crew members continued their standard science and maintenance tasks this week after orbiting above Laura and sending down video and imagery of the storm. This comes after a four-night stay in the station’s Russian segment during a test to locate the source of a minor cabin air pressure leak.

Today, Commander Chris Cassidy worked on swapping components on a U.S. oxygen generator. He replaced a hydrogen sensor then cleaned the critical life support device. Afterward, the NASA astronaut checked samples in the Materials Science Laboratory which processes experiments to discover new uses for a variety of materials such as metals, alloys, polymers, and more.

Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin worked Friday morning servicing communications gear inside the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. During the afternoon, the three-time station resident handed Russian radiation detection gear to Cassidy for deployment in the orbiting lab’s U.S. segment.

First-time space flyer Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos spent his day focusing on a variety of space technology studies using advanced photography gear. He explored ways to improve orbital navigation and improve the detection of landmarks on Earth.

Station Crew Re-Enters U.S On-Orbit Segments, Mission Control Preps for Storm

The International Space Station
The International Space Station was pictured by an Expedition 56 crew member aboard a departing Soyuz crew ship on Oct. 4, 2018.

The Expedition 63 crew ended its stay isolated in the Russian segment of the International Space Station this morning after an extended leak test. Mission Control also deployed remote teams to maintain 24/7 support for the station and its crew as Hurricane Laura approaches the Texas Gulf Coast.

Commander Chris Cassidy started the day reopening the hatches to the U.S. segment to begin resuming normal station operations. He reactivated U.S. life support equipment and restowed U.S. gear used during the crew’s weekend stay in the Zvezda service module.

Mission control will study the test data this week in an effort to determine the source of a cabin air leak detected in September of 2019. The rate is still well within segment specifications and presents no danger to the crew or the space station. The station’s atmosphere is maintained at a pressure comfortable for the crew members, and a tiny bit of that air leaks over time, requiring routine repressurization from nitrogen tanks delivered on cargo resupply missions.

Roscosmos Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin spent the morning reconfiguring the Russian segment of the orbiting lab. The veteran station cosmonaut checked pressure valves and communications gear while opening hatches to various Russian modules.

Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner, on his first station mission, started the day resetting Russian life support equipment and sampling the air in Zvezda for analysis. Vagner also had time for science during the afternoon studying the Earth’s nighttime atmosphere and exploring ways to improve locating landmarks on Earth for photography.

Meanwhile, personnel at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are monitoring Hurricane Laura and making general preparations at the center. A small team of flight controllers germane to monitoring and sending commands for the most important station systems were sent to a backup control center hub in central Texas in advance of the storm.

A full team of station flight controllers is getting set up at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to take over longer-term control of station systems should that become necessary. This backup activity is planned for each hurricane season or for some other extenuating circumstance and will be executed with no impact on critical station operations or the safety of the crew.

Crew Spending Another Day in Russian Segment

The three-member Expedition 63 crew aboard the International Space Station
The three-member Expedition 63 crew aboard the International Space Station with (from left) NASA astronaut and Commander Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts and Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

The three Expedition 63 crew members will spend another day inside the Russian segment of the International Space Station. Mission controllers are continuing their leak detection work today to collect more data.

All of the orbiting lab’s hatches will remain closed until Tuesday morning to give ground specialists additional time to collect data and monitor pressure readings in each module. The rate is still well within segment specifications and presents no danger to the crew or the space station.

The station’s atmosphere is maintained at pressure comfortable for the crew members, and a tiny bit of that air leaks over time, requiring routine repressurization from nitrogen tanks delivered on cargo resupply missions. In September 2019, NASA and its international partners first saw indications of a slight increase above the standard cabin air leak rate. Because of routine station operations like spacewalks and spacecraft arrivals and departures, it took time to gather enough data to characterize those measurements. That rate has slightly increased, so the teams are working a plan to isolate, identify and potentially repair the source.

Meanwhile, the station trio is staying comfortable in the Zvezda service module with access to the Poisk mini-research module,  the Progress 76 cargo craft and their Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and Roscosmos Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner mainly focused on Earth photography Monday. The station’s Russian segment has a variety of windows the crew can look out with advanced camera gear for their Earth observation activities.

Crew Spending Weekend in Station’s Russian Segment

The Expedition 63 crew will spend the weekend in the Russian segment's Zvezda service module during a cabin air leak test.
The Expedition 63 crew will spend the weekend in the Russian segment’s Zvezda service module during a cabin air leak test.

The three Expedition 63 crew members living aboard the International Space Station will spend the weekend inside the orbiting lab’s Russian segment. Commander Chris Cassidy and his crewmates Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin will stay in the Zvezda service module from Friday night into Monday morning.

The station’s atmosphere is maintained at pressure comfortable for the crew members, and a tiny bit of that air leaks over time, requiring routine repressurization from nitrogen tanks delivered on cargo resupply missions. In September 2019, NASA and its international partners first saw indications of a slight increase above the standard cabin air leak rate. Because of routine station operations like spacewalks and spacecraft arrivals and departures, it took time to gather enough data to characterize those measurements. That rate has slightly increased, so the teams are working a plan to isolate, identify, and potentially repair the source. The leak is still within segment specifications and presents no immediate danger to the crew or the space station.

All the space station hatches will be closed this weekend so mission controllers can carefully monitor the air pressure in each module. The test presents no safety concern for the crew. The test should determine which module is experiencing a higher-than-normal leak rate. The U.S. and Russian specialists expect preliminary results should be available for review by the end of next week.

The three station residents will have plenty of room in Zvezda this weekend. The module provides the living quarters that enabled permanent human habitation to begin nearly 20 years ago when the Expedition 1 crew arrived at the station Nov. 2, 2000. Cassidy, Vagner, and Ivanishin also will have access to the Poisk mini-research module and their Soyuz MS-16 crew ship for the duration of their stay.

 

Space Traffic Clear at Station Until October

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy applies a mission sticker inside the space station to signify the departure of Japan's HTV-9 resupply ship from the U.S. Harmony module.
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy applies a mission sticker inside the space station to signify the departure of Japan’s HTV-9 resupply ship from the U.S. Harmony module.

The Expedition 63 crew has turned its attention toward space science and lab maintenance after releasing a Japanese cargo craft from the International Space Station on Tuesday. More cargo and crew missions to replenish the orbiting lab are planned for October.

Commander Chris Cassidy switched off communications gear today used to send commands to Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) after its departure on Tuesday. The HTV-9 will orbit Earth until Thursday morning when it descends into the atmosphere for a fiery, but safe demise over the South Pacific.

The NASA commander spent the rest of the day working on orbital plumbing and life support gear. Cassidy removed and replaced the Waste and Hygiene Compartment’s recycle tank located in the Tranquility module. He also inspected out gear that analyzes organic compounds in the station’s air.

Veteran station cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin focused on battery work as he installed current converters throughout the lab’s Russian segment. First-time cosmonaut Ivan Vagner spent Wednesday morning working on more orbital plumbing before exploring ways to improve Earth photography techniques and determine how mission events impact the orbiting lab.

Space traffic will be clear at the space station for the rest of August and into September. The mission pace will pick back up in October with a U.S. Cygnus cargo ship from Northrop Grumman, the Expedition 64 crew and the SpaceX Crew-1 mission all to set to arrive within a period of three weeks.

Japanese Cargo Craft Completes Station Mission

Japan's HTV-9 resupply ship is on its own after being released from the Canadarm2 robotic arm completing a three-month cargo mission at the station.
Japan’s HTV-9 resupply ship is on its own after being released from the Canadarm2 robotic arm completing a three-month cargo mission at the station.

Eleven years after the launch of the first H-II Transfer cargo vehicle (HTV) to the International Space Station, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) HTV-9 departed the orbital laboratory today at 1:36 p.m. EDT.

Earlier today, flight controllers operating from NASA’s Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston used the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach the cargo spacecraft from the station’s Harmony module, then moved the spacecraft into its release position. Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the spacecraft from the station ending its three-month stay.

This was the final station departure of JAXA’s first-generation Kounotori, or “white stork,” cargo craft, nine of which have delivered more than 40 tons of supplies to space station crews.  JAXA is developing a new fleet of HTV cargo craft, the HTV-X, which is targeted for its first launch in 2022.

The spacecraft launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan on May 20, arriving May 25 to deliver about four tons of supplies and experiments to the orbital complex, including new lithium-ion batteries that were used to upgrade the station’s power systems. The new-technology batteries were installed through a series of spacewalks along the far port truss “backbone” of the station.

HTV-9 will be commanded by JAXA flight controllers at its HTV control center in Tsukuba, Japan, to move away from the station and, on Aug. 20, to fire its deorbit engine in a burn that will send it back into Earth’s atmosphere. Loaded with trash from the space station, the spacecraft will burn up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean.

For nearly 20 years, astronauts have continuously lived and work on the space station, testing technologies, performing science and developing the skills needed to explore farther from Earth. As a global endeavor, 240 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.

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.

International, Commercial Partners Gear Up for Cargo and Crew Missions

The Canadarm2 robotic arm is poised to grapple and remove Japan's HTV-9 resupply ship from the Harmony module.
The Canadarm2 robotic arm is poised to grapple and remove Japan’s HTV-9 resupply ship from the Harmony module.

Canada’s robotic arm is poised to remove Japan’s ninth and final H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-9) from the International Space Station on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Russia are preparing for the launch of their respective crew ships to the orbiting lab in October.

Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA will be at the robotics workstation on Tuesday and direct the 57.7-foot-long Canadarm2 to release the HTV-9 from its grip at 1:35 p.m. EDT. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner will back up Cassidy and monitor the release of the HTV-9 as it completes its 85-day cargo mission. NASA TV will cover the activities live starting at 1:15 p.m.

The HTV-9 will spend two more days orbiting Earth before a fiery, atmospheric demise over the South Pacific. JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is developing an upgraded fleet of HTV-X space station suppliers, replacing the HTV series of spaceships, targeted for their first launch in 2022.

The Expedition 63 and 64 crews are due to trade places at the orbiting lab beginning in mid-October. The Soyuz MS-17 crew ship is slated to blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Oct. 14 and dock to the station’s Rassvet module. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will then begin a six-month space research mission.

One week later on Oct. 21, Cassidy will wrap up his mission with crewmates Vagner and Russian Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin. The trio will enter the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship, undock from the Poisk module and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan ending a 195-day expedition in space.

NASA and SpaceX have announced the launch of the SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the station for no earlier than Oct. 23. Mike Hopkins of NASA will command the first operational flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft piloted by first-time NASA astronaut Victor Glover. They will be joined by Mission Specialists Shannon Walker of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA, both previous station residents.