Crew Packing Dragon Cargo Craft and Researching Flames in Space

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship approaches the International Space Station on Dec. 8, 2019.

A U.S. cargo craft is getting ready to depart the International Space Station early next week loaded with research results and degraded hardware for analysis on Earth. Meanwhile, the Expedition 61 crew explored a variety of space phenomena including how flames spread in weightlessness.

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is being configured for its departure on Jan. 5 after a month attached to the Harmony module. Dragon will be released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Sunday at 9:41 p.m. EST and splashdown in the Pacific off the coast California a few hours later.

NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan is leading the packing activities today with assistance from fellow NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch. The trio will be preserving and loading finalized experiment results inside Dragon. Obsolete hardware exposed to the harshness of space will also be returned to Earth for engineering inspections.

3-D surround video recordings of station science operations has been ongoing aboard the orbiting lab for months and today was no exception. Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) set up the unique video camera this morning to record him and Koch as they worked on combustion research. The duo burned acrylic and fabric samples in the Microgravity Science Glovebox to help scientists understand how flames expand in space to increase fire safety.

Parmitano and Meir also partnered together in the afternoon for life support maintenance tasks. The duo checked out hardware inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module that condenses water vapor from air.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka spent Monday dividing their time between setting up communications gear and studying Russian science. The duo activated video hardware and explored advanced imaging techniques for locating targets on Earth to photograph.

Space Biology and Fire Research as Station Orbits Higher

NASA astronaut Christina Koch
NASA astronaut Christina Koch handles media bags that enable the manufacturing of organ-like tissues using the BioFabrication Facility, a 3-D biological printer.

The Expedition 61 crew is learning how to live and work in space and researching ways to adapt to long-term human spaceflight. Meanwhile, the International Space Station is orbiting higher today to support Russian spacecraft activities planned for 2020.

Rodents are being studied aboard the orbiting lab today since their physiology is similar to humans and reacts the same way to microgravity. NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan set up the Life Sciences Glovebox to research therapies that may prevent space-caused muscle and bone loss in mice. Commander Luca Parmitano and Flight Engineer Jessica Meir supported the research activities cleaning the rodent habitats and feeding the mice.

Safety in a spacecraft is crucial for the success of long-term mission to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Combustion research on the station helps scientists understand how a variety of materials burn and how flames expand in weightlessness. NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch used the Microgravity Science Glovebox today observing how different fabrics burn under controlled conditions. Results could improve fire safety on Earth and in space.

Veteran cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka conducted a variety of space research in the orbital lab’s Russian segment. The duo partnered together in the morning for an exercise study. Skvortsov also explored ways to detect micrometeoroid impacts on the station. Skripochka routed and installed cables supporting a study to observe and forecast Earth catastrophes.

Overnight, a docked Progress 74 cargo craft fired its engines in a sequence of two burns raising the space station’s orbit. The orbital maneuvers set the stage for upcoming Soyuz crew ship and Progress cargo craft missions scheduled in 2020.

BEAM and Dragon Work, DNA Studies Before Station Lifts Orbit

Expedition 61 flight engineers practice emergency response skills
Expedition 61 Flight Engineers (clockwise from bottom) Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir of NASA and cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos brush up on their emergency response skills.

It is back to work for the six-member Expedition 61 crew from the U.S., Russia and Italy after celebrating Christmas aboard the International Space Station. The space residents checked out BEAM and a commercial resupply ship and researched a variety of space phenomena.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan opened up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) today for some housecleaning work. He and fellow NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch relocated gear stowed in front of BEAM’s hatch and sampled the module’s air and surfaces for microbes. BEAM has been attached to the station since April 2016.

Koch then moved on to loading cargo inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft due to return to Earth on January 5. Flight Engineer Jessica Meir started the packing work today as the crew readies research results for splashdown in the Pacific Ocean aboard Dragon.

Meir also explored what microgravity does to genetics sequencing DNA samples with student-designed tools. Next, she ran a combustion experiment and observed how different samples burn and how flames spread in weightlessness.

Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) is also gathering hardware for return to Earth inside Dragon. He is packing the obsolete power and electronics gear retrieved during a series of spacewalks earlier this year. Engineers on the ground will analyze how years of exposure to the harsh space environment impacted the devices that powered multiple station systems.

Russia’s docked cargo craft, the Progress 74, will fire its engines twice beginning tonight to lift the station’s orbit to support Russian spacecraft activities in 2020. Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka readied the orbital lab today and shuttered windows for the orbital reboost.

Christmas Week Starts With Biology Research Aboard Orbiting Lab

The SpaceX Dragon and Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo ships
The SpaceX Dragon and Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo ships are pictured attached to the station as the orbital complex flew above the Laccadive Sea south of India.

The six Expedition 61 crewmembers aboard the International Space Station started Christmas week exploring how weightlessness affects biology. The orbital residents also focused on housekeeping and lab maintenance tasks.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan tested a specialized anti-gravity suit today that reverses the upward flow of fluids in humans caused by microgravity. Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov attached sensors to Morgan and assisted him into the suit. NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir scanned his veins and arteries with an ultrasound device downlinking the data real-time to doctors on the ground.

ESA (European Space Agency) Commander Luca Parmitano and Flight Engineer Christina Koch continued the upkeep of a variety life support hardware and science gear. Parmitano was sampling fluid throughout the station’s thermal control systems to ensure a safe breathing environment. Koch configured air ducts to prevent dust buildup then installed a new combustion experiment that will study how flames spread in space.

Over in the station’s Russian segment, veteran cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka juggled research and life support duties. He first checked on gear collecting data about the station’s external environment of gases and charged particles. Skripochka then logged his meals for a dietary study before turning on sensors recording his cardiac activity.

Boeing’s Starliner Spacecraft Touches Down in New Mexico

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft lands
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft lands under three main parachutes in White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019. Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft completed the first touchdown on land of a human-rated space capsule in U.S. history Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico, wrapping up the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Starliner settled gently onto its air bags at 7:58 a.m. EST in a pre-dawn landing that helps set the stage for future crewed landings at the same site. The landing followed a deorbit burn at 7:23 a.m., separation of the spacecraft’s service module, and successful deployment of its three main parachutes and six airbags.

NASA and Boeing will host a postlanding news conference at 10 a.m. with:

  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
  • Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space and Launch Division
  • Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

The news conference will air live on NASA TV and the agency’s website.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

U.S. Starliner Spacecraft Fires Engines to Return to Earth

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft
Illustration of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Credit: Boeing

NASA TV and the agency’s website continue to provide live coverage of the landing of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.

At 7:23 a.m. EST, the spacecraft began its deorbit burn that puts Starliner on the right path to land at White Sands, New Mexico at 7:57 a.m. The service module has successfully separated from the crew module containing Rosie the rocketeer, an anthropometric test device whose sensors will provide teams on Earth valuable data for when crew members land in the Starliner.

At 7:53 the drogue parachute will be released, pulling out the spacecraft’s three main parachutes that will slow the capsule to a safe landing on Earth a little more than an hour before sunrise in the southwestern desert.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

NASA TV Broadcasting Live Landing Coverage of Starliner Today

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft launches
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft launches on Dec. 20, 2019, from Florida. Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

NASA and Boeing will provide live coverage of the landing on Sunday, Dec. 22, of the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, on return from its Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Starliner will execute a deorbit burn at 7:23 a.m. EST to begin its return to Earth, headed for a parachute-assisted landing at 7:57 a.m. at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico. NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide mission coverage ahead the spacecraft reentry and landing beginning at 6:45 a.m.

NASA and Boeing will host a postlanding news conference at 10 a.m. with:

  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
  • Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space and Launch Division
  • Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

The news conference will air live on NASA TV and the agency’s website.

The uncrewed Starliner spacecraft launched on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket Friday, Dec. 20, from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Though Starliner did not reach the planned orbit or dock to the space station as planned, Boeing still was able to complete a number of test objectives. Teams from NASA, Boeing and ULA worked quickly to ensure the spacecraft was in a stable orbit and preserved enough fuel for multiple landing opportunities.

Boeing Starliner updates provides the latest information from the Orbital Flight Test.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Boeing Starliner Orbital Flight Test Update

Station Preps for New U.S. Crew Ship in Middle of Space Research

NASA astronauts pose with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft behind them
NASA astronauts (from left) Nicole Mann, Michael Fincke, Suni Williams, Josh Cassada, and Eric Boe pose for a picture with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft behind them.

Boeing’s new CST-100 Starliner crew ship rolled out to its launch pad in Florida today. The Expedition 61 crew is preparing the International Space Station for Starliner’s arrival while continuing advanced space research.

The Starliner spacecraft sits atop an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance counting down to a liftoff Friday at 6:36 a.m. EST. This will be Boeing’s first Orbital Flight Test of the uncrewed vehicle that will dock to the station Saturday at 8:27 a.m.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch are getting ready for duty Saturday morning when they will monitor Starliner’s automated rendezvous and docking with the orbiting lab. The duo will then conduct leak checks, open the hatch and ingress the vehicle to begin a week of docked operations. Starliner is also delivering about 600 pounds of cargo to the crew and will return science samples to Earth after its departure on Dec. 28.

Meanwhile, microgravity science is always ongoing aboard the station to improve life for humans on Earth and in space. Today, NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan studied how weightlessness affects an optical material that can control the reflection and absorption of light. Results could improve solar power technology and electronic mobile displays.

Meir had her eyes scanned with an ultrasound device by ESA (European Space Agency) Commander Luca Parmitano for a look at her cornea, lens and optic nerve. She had a second eye exam using optical coherence tomography for a view of her retina.

The flight engineers in the Russian side of the space station checked on a pair of docked spaceships while working science and maintenance. Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka charged electronics gear in the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship. He also worked on plumbing systems in the Progress 74 cargo craft. Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov set up hardware for an Earth imaging study that explores the effects of natural and manmade catastrophes.

Crew Preps for U.S. Crew Ship, Tests New Zero-G Oven

NASA astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Jessica Meir work on science hardware aboard the International Space Station.
NASA astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Jessica Meir work on science hardware aboard the International Space Station.

The International Space Station is gearing up for the arrival of Boeing’s new CST-100 Starliner crew ship this weekend. Meanwhile, the Expedition 61 crew checked out a new baking oven, researched life science and replaced a treadmill belt.

Boeing’s first Orbital Flight Test of its first commercial crew vehicle is moving ahead toward launch Friday at 6:39 a.m. EST from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The uncrewed Starliner will approach the station for an automated docking on Saturday at 8:27 a.m. to the forward port of the Harmony module.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch are getting ready for Starliner’s arrival and its undocking planned for Dec. 28 at 12:44 a.m. The duo reviewed leak check, hatch opening and vehicle ingress procedures for the vehicle after its docking. Both astronauts also familiarized themselves with hatch closing, depressurization and leak check activities necessary before Starliner departs the station.

Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) tested the ability of the new NanoRacks Zero-G Oven to bake food in space today. He then joined Meir for eye exams in the afternoon.

A host of life science activities kept NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan busy all day Tuesday. Morgan first installed a new artificial gravity generator inside a Japanese incubator. Next, he removed a science freezer from the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship and installed it into the Columbus lab module.

Finally, veteran cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka spent the day replacing a treadmill belt in the Zvezda service module. One of two treadmills aboard the orbiting lab, the other is the COLBERT treadmill located in the U.S. Tranquility module.