BEAM Open for Cargo Transfers as Robotics, Eye Checks Continue

Portions of the space station, including BEAM seen at right attached to the Tranquility module, are seen in this picture taken in August.
Portions of the space station, including BEAM seen at right attached to the Tranquility module, are seen in this picture taken in August.

The Expedition 65 crew opened up BEAM today and transferred cargo for return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship. The orbital residents also worked on robotics, continued eye checks, and configured new life support gear.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) opened up the station’s first commercial module BEAM, Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, today for cargo work. He was assisted by ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet as they transferred some of the stowed hardware from BEAM into the Cargo Dragon for return to Earth at the end of the month.

Robotics has also kept the crew busy this week aboard the International Space Station. Today, NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough practiced capturing a cargo craft using a virtual Canadarm2 robotic arm on a computer. McArthur also checked audio sensors on the Astrobee robotic free-flyers that monitor the orbiting lab’s acoustic environment.

Kimbrough spent the afternoon finalizing connections of a new carbon dioxide (CO2) removal device in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Called the Four Bed CO2 Scrubber, the new life support gear seeks to demonstrate advanced technology that will support future human missions longer and farther into space.

Vision is a key factor during long term space missions and doctors on the ground continuously monitor how microgravity affects an astronaut’s eyes. Once again, NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei took on the crew medical officer role and scanned Roscosmos Flight Engineer Oleg Novitskiy‘s eyes with an ultrasound device. Vande Hei, who is staying in space until March 2022, then set up optical coherence tomography gear and imaged the veteran cosmonaut’s retinas.

Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov continued configuring Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module today. He connected ethernet cables and installed a laptop computer inside the new science module. Pesquet also trained on a pair of unique interfaces to operate the new European Robotic Arm that is attached to Nauka.

Monday Kicks Off with Japanese, U.S. Science and Spacewalk Preps

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough replaces life support components inside a U.S. spacesuit.
NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough replaces life support components inside a U.S. spacesuit.

The seven-member Expedition 65 crew kicked off the workweek working on Japanese science gear, a U.S. immune system study, and spacewalk preparations.

Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Thomas Pesquet joined station Commander Akihiko Hoshide for science maintenance in the Kibo laboratory module on Monday morning. The trio teamed up and installed an experiment platform in Kibo’s airlock, where it will soon be placed outside in the harsh environment of space.

Vande Hei then moved on and serviced donor cell samples for the Celestial Immunity study taking place inside the Kibo lab’s Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG). The experiment looks at cells launched to space and compares them to cell samples harvested on Earth to document the differences in weightlessness. Results could impact the development of new vaccines and drugs to treat diseases on Earth and advance the commercialization of space.

Pesquet later took photographs of U.S. spacesuit gloves for inspection ahead of two spacewalks planned for June. During those spacewalks, new solar arrays will be installed on the station’s Port 6 truss structure to augment the station’s power system. The first two of six new solar arrays will be delivered on the next SpaceX cargo mission planned for launch on June 3 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Hoshide checked power cables on the Confocal Space Microscope that provides fluorescence imagery of biological samples. Then he took turns with NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough, participating in a computerized cognitive assessment. Next, Kimbrough worked the rest of Monday in the Tranquility module’s Water Processing Assembly to repair a possible leak.

NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur opened up BEAM, or the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, and organized cargo during the morning. She then powered down and stowed the LSG after Vande Hei concluded Monday’s immunity research.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov spent the morning organizing Russian spacewalk tools. Afterward, the duo spent the rest of the day working on communications gear and ventilation systems.

Biology and Physics as Crew Enters BEAM, Preps for Spacewalk

A waning gibbous Moon is pictured just above the Earth's horizon on June 7, 2020.
A waning gibbous Moon is pictured just above the Earth’s horizon on June 7, 2020.

Tuesday’s science aboard the International Space Station encompassed life science, fluids and flames to help humans on Earth and in space. The Expedition 63 crew also configured spacewalk tools and opened up an expandable module.

Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA collected and stowed his blood and urine samples today for later analysis. He also set up an experiment that observes how fluids flow in micrometer-sized tubes to improve medical diagnostic devices on Earth and in spaceships.

Cassidy also joined NASA Flight Engineer Bob Behnken organizing and inspecting a variety of gear ahead of two spacewalks planned for June 26 and July 1. The duo will be swapping old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries on the Starboard-6 truss structure to upgrade the station’s power systems.

Behnken opened up and entered BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, to retrieve life support equipment during the afternoon. He also partnered up with fellow Flight Engineer Doug Hurley unpacking new science equipment from Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) resupply ship and installing it in Europe’s Columbus laboratory module.

Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin continued to service the Combustion Integrated Rack replacing fuel bottles to maintain safe fuel and flame research in the device. Insights could improve fire safety as well as combustion processes for Earth and space industries. His Russian colleague Ivan Vagner worked on a pair of Earth observation studies monitoring the effects of catastrophes and the development of forests.

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.

BEAM Opens for Tests; Crew Studies Biotech and Fluid Physics

NASA astronaut Nick Hague
NASA astronaut Nick Hague assembles and installs the Water Storage System inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

The International Space Station’s BEAM opened up today for environmental sampling and cargo stowage activities as NASA continues to test the commercial module.  The Expedition 59 crew also explored biotechnology and fluid physics to improve Earth applications and space habitability.

Astronauts Anne McClain, Christina Koch and David Saint-Jacques checked out BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, today to sample the air for microbes and stow spare hardware inside. BEAM had its stay at the station’s Tranquility module extended in November 2017 after a successful installation and expansion in the spring of 2016. The soft material module is providing extra storage space at the orbiting lab and additional technology demonstrations that may inform future missions.

After the BEAM work, McClain sampled algae grown inside the Photobioreactor to explore the viability of closed, hybrid life-support systems in space. Koch wrapped up a study observing how fluids slosh and wave in space to improve satellite fuel systems and increase knowledge of Earth’s oceans and climate.

Flight Engineer Nick Hague spent the majority of Thursday installing Water Storage System components in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. The space plumbing work consisted of installing a variety of hoses including power and data cables to the main Potable Tank Assembly.

Commander Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin started the morning taking breath and blood pressure measurements for a cardiopulmonary study. Next, they tested communication systems in the Soyuz MS-11 crew ship and spent the rest of the afternoon on a variety of Russian science and maintenance activities.

BEAM Stowage, Medical Procedures Review and Commercial Crew Update

Nighttime view of the Earth's limb with an aurora
A portion of the International Space Station’s solar arrays caps this nighttime view of the Earth’s limb with an aurora as the orbital complex orbited 258 miles above Ukraine and Russia.

The Expedition 58 crew opened up the International Space Station’s “closet” today stowing hardware inside the experimental module. The three orbital residents also reviewed medical emergency procedures and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program announced a crew update Tuesday.

The Bigelow Experimental Activity Module (BEAM) had its stay extended at the orbital lab in November of 2017. BEAM now serves as a cargo hold and continues to undergo tests of its ability to withstand the rigors of microgravity. Crews periodically check BEAM’s sensors to determine its ongoing suitability for spaceflight.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques entered BEAM today stowing a variety of station hardware inside the near three-year-old module. The added volume at the station enables more room for advanced space research at the orbital complex.

They later joined Commander Oleg Kononenko in the afternoon and reviewed procedures in the event a crew member experiences a medical emergency in space. Actions a crew can take if necessary include cardiopulmonary resuscitation, surgical procedures aboard the orbital lab or quickly returning an affected astronaut to Earth aboard the Soyuz spacecraft.

The Commercial Crew Program announced a crew change Tuesday afternoon with NASA astronaut Michael Fincke replacing NASA astronaut Eric Boe. Fincke now begins his training as a crew member for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner Crew Flight Test. Boe will now become assistant chief of the commercial crew office at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Crew Studies How Space Impacts Brain and Perception

The International Space Station
The International Space Station was pictured Oct. 4, 2018, from the departing Expedition 56 crew during a flyaround aboard the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft. Credit: Roscosmos/NASA

A pair of Expedition 57 astronauts spent the day exploring how humans think and work while living long-term in space. A cosmonaut also tested a pair of tiny, free-floating satellites operating inside the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor is helping doctors on the ground understand if an astronaut’s brain structure and mental abilities change in space. She took part in a behavioral assessment test today that involves the mental imaging of rotating objects, target accuracy during motion or stillness and concentrating on two tasks at the same time. The NeuroMapping experiment, which has been ongoing since 2014, is exploring an astronaut’s neuro-cognitive abilities before, during and after a spaceflight.

Scientists are also learning how an astronaut’s nervous system may be impacted by different gravitational environments such as the moon, asteroids or planets. The GRIP study from ESA (European Space Agency) is exploring how space residents interact with objects by monitoring their grip and load forces.

Commander Alexander Gerst from Germany strapped himself into a specialized seat in the Columbus lab module for the GRIP study today. He performed several motions in the seat while gripping a device collecting data measuring cognition, grip force and movement kinematics.

Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev set up the bowling ball-sized SPHERES satellites for a test run inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. The SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) are used for a variety of experiments including autonomous formation-flying, shipping liquids such as fuels and introducing students to spacecraft navigation techniques.

Astronauts Open BEAM and Prepare for Crew Departure

Expedition 53-54 Crew Members
Expedition 53-54 crew members (from left) Joe Acaba, Alexander Misurkin and Mark Vande Hei pose for a portrait inside the Japanese Kibo Laboratory module.

Three Expedition 54 crew members continued preparing for their return to Earth next week. A pair of astronauts also opened up BEAM today to stow a robotic hand and to check for contaminants.

Commander Alexander Misurkin joined his Soyuz MS-06 crewmates Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei and reviewed their procedures for next week’s descent into Earth’s atmosphere. The trio also familiarized themselves with the sensations they will experience flying through the atmosphere and feeling gravity for the first time after 168 days in space.

Misurkin will hand over command of the International Space Station to cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov on Monday at 2:40 p.m. EST. Misurkin, Vande Hei and Acaba will then close the hatch to their Soyuz spacecraft Tuesday at 2:15 p.m. and undock from the Poisk module 6:08 p.m. The trio will then parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 9:32 p.m. NASA TV will cover all the landing activities live.

Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai will stay behind on the station with Shkaplerov as commander officially becoming the Expedition 55 crew when their crew mates undock next week. They will be joined March 23 by new Expedition 55-56 crew members Oleg Artemyev, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel. The trio will launch March 21 and were in Red Square in Moscow today for traditional ceremonial activities.

Today, Tingle and Kanai opened up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) and stowed a degraded robotic hand, or Latching End Effector (LEE), that was attached to the Canadarm2. The LEE was returned inside the station after last week’s robotics maintenance spacewalk. The duo also sampled BEAM’s air and surfaces for microbes.

Dragon Resupply Mission Now Targeted for Friday Launch

Dragon Delivers BEAM
The Dragon resupply ship is pictured April 10, 2016, after it had been captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Inside Dragon was about 7,000 pounds of cargo including BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Aerospace Module.

NASA and SpaceX are now targeting no earlier than 10:35 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 15th, for the company’s 13th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. SpaceX is taking additional time for the team to conduct full inspections and cleanings due to detection of particles in 2nd stage fuel system. Next launch opportunity would be no earlier than late December.

A Dragon spacecraft will launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Dragon is now scheduled to arrive at the space station on Sunday, Dec. 17th.

On Sunday, Scott Tingle of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are also scheduled to launch at 2:21 a.m. (1:21 p.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station.

NASA Television coverage for launch and arrival activities are as follows:

Friday, Dec. 15

  • 10 a.m. – Launch commentary coverage begins
  • 12 p.m. – Post-launch news conference with representatives from NASA’s International Space Station Program and SpaceX

Sunday, Dec. 17

  • 1:15 a.m. – Soyuz MS-07 launch coverage begins
  • 4:30 a.m. – Dragon rendezvous at the space station and capture coverage begins
  • 7:30 a.m. – Installation coverage begins

Watch live on NASA Television and the agency’s website: www.nasa.gov/live.

Join the conversation online by following @space_station.

SpaceX Launch Slips, Cygnus Leaving and BEAM Stay Extended

SpaceX Dragon capsule as it reentered Earth's atmosphere
NASA astronaut Jack Fischer photographed the SpaceX Dragon capsule as it reentered Earth’s atmosphere (bright streak at lower left) before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California in July  2017. Read more about the SpaceX missions to the space station.

SpaceX has delayed the launch of its next Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station to no earlier than Dec. 12. Back on orbit, the Cygnus cargo craft is getting ready to leave the orbital lab and an experimental module has its stay in space extended for at least another three years.

NASA and our commercial cargo provider SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Dec. 12 at 11:46 a.m. EST for their 13th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. This new launch date takes into account pad readiness, requirements for science payloads, space station crew availability, and orbital mechanics. Carrying about 4,800 pounds of cargo including critical science and research, the Dragon spacecraft will spend a month attached to the space station.

The Cygnus cargo craft from Orbital ATK is leaving the station tomorrow after 22 days at the orbital lab. Astronauts Randy Bresnik, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba closed its hatches today and disconnected its station power systems.

Ground controllers uninstalled Cygnus from the Unity module Tuesday morning with the Canadarm2 and are conducting a series of communications tests to assist NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Next, Vande Hei and Acaba will command the Canadarm2 to release Cygnus back into Earth orbit tomorrow at 8:10 a.m. EST where it will stay until Dec. 18.

BEAM, formally known as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, is staying attached to the station for another three years with a potential to stay an extra year after that. While BEAM transitions to its new role as a cargo hold, engineers will continue studying its ability to resist radiation, space debris and microbes. Bigelow Aerospace and NASA signed the contract extension in November to continue demonstrating the reliability of expandable habitat technologies in space.