Cygnus Departure Preps as Muscle Study and CubeSat Ops Wrap Up

New York City and New Jersey Area
New York City and part of the state of New Jersey are pictured in this photograph taken during a night pass on Nov. 23, 2017.

The Cygnus resupply ship is in its final week at the International Space Station and two astronauts are training for its departure on Monday. Meanwhile, a leg muscle study and CubeSat deployment operations are wrapping up today.

Cygnus is now being filled with trash after delivering close to 7,400 pounds of research and supplies to the Expedition 53 crew on Nov. 14. NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba are training to release Cygnus from the Canadarm2 next week following a 20-day stay at the Unity module.

The duo will be inside the cupola commanding the Canadarm2 to release Cygnus back into Earth orbit on Dec. 4. Following its departure from the station, Cygnus will stay in orbit until Dec. 18 before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere for a fiery demise over the Pacific Ocean.

Commander Randy Bresnik and cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy are completing a final run of the Sarcolab-3 experiment today. That research is observing how leg muscles adapt to microgravity using magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound devices.

Finally, a satellite deployer that ejected a set of CubeSats last week, has been brought back inside the Kibo lab module. One of the CubeSats deployed, the EcAMSat that was delivered aboard Cygnus, is now orbiting Earth researching how the E. coli pathogen reacts to antibiotics in space.

Muscle Research and Science Cargo Work Ahead of Thanksgiving

Astronaut Mark Vande Hei
Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei swaps out a payload card from the TangoLab-1 facility and places it into the TangoLab-2 facility.

The six-member Expedition 53 crew heads into Thanksgiving observing how living in space affects the human body and packing the Cygnus cargo craft. The orbital crewmates are also preparing for next month’s arrival of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

Veteran space station residents Paolo Nespoli and Sergey Ryazanskiy were back inside the Columbus lab module today examining what microgravity is doing to their leg muscles. The duo took turns strapping themselves in a unique exercise chair and attaching electrodes to their knees. Next, the pair used magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound devices to observe the changes taking place in their legs in space.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba transferred the TangoLab-1 multi-use science facility into the Cygnus space freighter for a demonstration today. TangoLab-1 is being tested inside Cygnus to determine the viability of using a cargo craft as a laboratory while docked at the International Space Station.

The next cargo craft to visit the station will be the SpaceX Dragon when it launches Dec. 4 aboard the Falcon 9 rocket from Florida. Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei trained today for the rendezvous and capture of Dragon when it arrives two days after its launch. Dragon will carry new science experiments to explore the Sun’s impact on Earth and improve the accuracy of a new diabetes implant device.

BEAM Work and Vision Checks for Crew Today

Astronaut Randy Bresnik
Astronaut Randy Bresnik enters the Bigelow Expandable Aerospace Module in July 31, 2017, when he was a Flight Engineer for Expedition 52.

More CubeSats were ejected from the International Space Station today to demonstrate and validate new technologies. Back inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 53 crew continued outfitting an experimental module and studying life science.

Two more tiny satellites were deployed from the Kibo laboratory module into Earth orbit today to research a variety of new technologies and space weather. One of the nanosatellites, known as TechEdSat, seeks to develop and demonstrate spacecraft and payload deorbit techniques. The OSIRIS-3U CubeSat will measure the Earth’s ionosphere in coordination with the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Commander Randy Bresnik was back inside the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) today with Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli and Joe Acaba. The astronauts are converting the experimental habitat into a cargo platform by replacing old BEAM hardware with new electronics and stowage gear.

Eye exams are on the schedule this week as two cosmonauts and two astronauts took turns playing eye doctor and patient today. Alex Misurkin and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos started first with the optical coherence tomography hardware using a laptop computer. Next, Nespoli and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei took their turn to help doctors on the ground understand the vision changes that take place in space.

BEAM Prepped for Cargo, CubeSats Deployed and Leg Muscles Scanned

CubeSat Deployed from Station
A deployer mechanism attached to the outside of the Japanese Kibo lab module ejects a CubeSat into Earth orbit.

An experimental module attached to the International Space Station is being prepared for upcoming cargo operations. Tiny research satellites were also ejected from the orbital lab while a pair of Expedition 53 crew members scanned their leg muscles today.

BEAM, officially called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, is being outfitted this week for future stowage operations. Excess gear, including inflation tanks and dynamic sensors, used during its initial expansion back in May of 2016 is being removed to make room for new cargo. BEAM’s old gear and trash will now be stowed in the Cygnus resupply craft for disposal early next month.

The Kibo lab module from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency was the site for the deployment of several CubeSats Monday morning. A mechanism attached to the outside of Kibo ejected the CubeSats that will orbit Earth and provide insights into antibiotic resistance, astrophysics and “space weather.” More CubeSats will be deployed Tuesday.

Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli and Sergey Ryazanskiy spent Monday exploring how the lack of gravity affects leg muscles. Nespoli strapped himself into a specialized exercise chair and attached electrodes to his leg with assistance from Ryazanskiy. The Sarcolab-3 experiment uses measurements from an ultrasound device and magnetic resonance imaging to observe impacts to the muscles and tendons of a crew member.

Astronauts Take on Science, Plumbing and Cargo Duties Today

 

Expedition 53 Crew Portrait
The six-member Expedition 53 crew poses for a portrait inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module with the VICTORY art spacesuit that was hand-painted by cancer patients in Russia and the United States. On the right (from top to bottom) are European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli, cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA.

Expedition 53 checked out a specialized microscope and worked on the International Space Station’s toilet today. More supplies and hardware are also being offloaded from the newly-arrived Cygnus cargo craft.

Commander Randy Bresnik opened up the Fluids Integrated Rack this morning to take a look at its Light Microscopy Module (LMM), an advanced space microscope. He was troubleshooting the device and swapping out its cables. The LMM provides a facility to examine the microscopic properties of different types of fluids in microgravity.

European Space Agency Paolo Nespoli worked on space plumbing throughout the day in the station’s restroom, the Waste and Hygiene Compartment (WHC). The veteran station resident removed and replaced valves and sensors in the WHC as part regular preventative maintenance.

More crew supplies and research gear are being unloaded from Cygnus today to outfit the crew and continue ongoing space science experiments. NASA astronaut Joe Acaba was unpacking food, batteries and computer gear for stowage throughout the station. The second-time station resident was also removing Genes in Space gear and blood sample kits for upcoming science work.

Cygnus Open for Business; Crew Unloading New Bacteria, Plant and Tech Studies

Cygnus Grappled with Canadarm2
The Cygnus spacecraft is pictured after it had been grappled with the Canadarm2 robotic arm by astronauts Paolo Nespoli and Randy Bresnik on Nov. 14, 2017.

The Expedition 53 astronauts are continuing to unload several thousand pounds of space cargo from the new Cygnus resupply ship that arrived Tuesday morning. Some of the new science cargo contains a bacteria that curiously loses its harmful properties in microgravity and CubeSats that will be deployed in Earth orbit.

The Cygnus is now installed on the Unity module and open for business. The astronauts entered the cargo craft Tuesday and started replenishing the station with almost 7,400 pounds of crew supplies, science experiments, spacewalk gear, station hardware and computer parts.

Some of the new research payloads will be looking at the space impacts on microbiology and botany. The advanced space research will explore the effectiveness of antibiotics on astronauts and observe how plants absorb nutrients in microgravity. Some pathogens for the STaARS Bioscience-5 study delivered aboard Cygnus have also been safely transferred to the NEXUS facility for later observation.

A couple of the newest technology experiments will deploy CubeSats to explore laser communications and hybrid solar panels. Scientists will study the ability of small satellites to communicate with each other using lasers and also explore if a combination of antenna and solar cells can speed up communication rates.

Cygnus Installed on Station With New Science Experiments

Nov. 14, 2017: International Space Station Configuration
Nov. 14, 2017: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including the Orbital ATK Cygnus, the Progress 67 and 68 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-05 and MS-06 crew ships.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:15 a.m. EST. The spacecraft will spend about three weeks attached to the space station before departing in early December. After it leaves the station, the uncrewed spacecraft will deploy several CubeSats before its fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere as it disposes of several tons of trash.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings close to 7,400 pounds of research and supplies to support Expedition 53 and 54. Highlights include:

  • The coli AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat) mission, which will investigate the effect of microgravity on the antibiotic resistance of E. coli, a bacterial pathogen responsible for urinary tract infection in humans and animals. Antibiotic resistance could pose a danger to astronauts, especially since microgravity has been shown to weaken human immune response. The experiment will expose two strains of E. coli to three different doses of antibiotics; one of these strains is deficient in the gene responsible for the increased antibiotic resistance in microgravity. Results from this investigation could help determine appropriate antibiotic dosages to protect astronaut health during long-duration missions and help us understand how antibiotic effectiveness may be increased in microgravity, as well as on Earth.
  • The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) project, which will study high-speed optical transmission of data and small spacecraft proximity operations. It will test functionality of laser-based communications using CubeSats that provide a compact version of the technology. Results from OCSD could lead to significantly enhanced communication speeds between space and Earth and a better understanding of laser communication between small satellites in low-Earth orbit.
  • The Biological Nitrogen Fixation in Microgravity via Rhizobium-Legume Symbiosis (Biological Nitrogen Fixation) investigation, which will examine how low-gravity conditions affect the nitrogen fixation process of Microclover, a resilient and drought tolerant legume. The nitrogen fixation process, a process by which nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into a usable form for living organisms, is a crucial element of any ecosystem necessary for most types of plant growth. This investigation could provide information on the space viability of the legume’s ability to use and recycle nutrients and give researchers a better understanding of this plant’s potential uses on Earth.
  • The Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA), a hybrid solar power panel and communication solar antenna that can send and receive messages, will test the use of this technology in CubeSat-based environmental monitoring. ISARA may provide a solution for sending and receiving information to and from faraway destinations, both on Earth and in space.

Learn more about the Orbital ATK CRS-8 mission by going to the mission home page at: http://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @Space_Station.

Robotic Arm Reaches Out and Grapples Cygnus

Robotic Arm Reaches Out and Grapples Cygnus
The Canadarm2 robotic arm is seen grappling the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship on Nov. 14, 2017. Credit: NASA TV

At 5:04 a.m., Expedition 53 Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) and Randy Bresnik of NASA successfully captured Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft using the International Space Station’s robotic arm. Robotic ground controllers will position Cygnus for installation to the orbiting laboratory’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module.

NASA Television coverage of installation will begin at 6:15 a.m., and installation of the Cygnus spacecraft to the space station is expected to be completed later this morning.

Learn more about the Orbital ATK CRS-8 mission by going to the mission home page at: http://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @Space_Station.

Cygnus Races To Station as Crew Studies Life Science and Space Crops

Cygnus Launches Aboard Antares Rocket
The Cygnus resupply ship launches aboard the Antares rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Cygnus resupply ship from Orbital ATK is less than 24 hours away from a rendezvous and capture at the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the Expedition 53 crew members are conducting human research and exploring growing crops in space.

Cygnus is in Earth orbit today conducting a series of orbital maneuvers refining its path to the space station Tuesday morning. Astronauts Paolo Nespoli and Randy Bresnik will be in the cupola early tomorrow waiting to capture Cygnus with the Canadarm2 at 4:50 a.m. EST. NASA TV will broadcast the capture and installation of Cygnus to the Unity module beginning at 3:15 a.m.

Bresnik and fellow NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba also worked on some biomedical experiments today helping doctors understand how humans adapt to microgravity. Bresnik collected his blood and urine samples and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. Vande Hei and Acaba measured and recorded their body mass to observe bone and muscle impacts of living in space.

Acaba is also harvesting and eating cabbage, lettuce and mizuna today to learn how plants grow in space. Results may help astronauts grow their own food helping NASA plan longer missions in outer space.

 

Lift Off of the Antares Rocket with Cygnus

The Antares rocket lifts off with the Cygnus cargo craft aboard
The Antares rocket lifts off with the Cygnus cargo craft aboard. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft lifted off at 7:19 a.m. EST and is on its way to the International Space Station.

About an hour and half after launch, commands will be given to deploy the spacecraft’s solar arrays.

Launch coverage will continue on NASA TV at http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv until shortly after spacecraft separation and then resume for solar array deployment, which is expected to last about 30 minutes.

A post-launch news conference will follow and is scheduled to begin on NASA TV at approximately 10:30 a.m.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.