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.

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.

U.S. Crew Ship Launch Plans Proceed; Mind and Body Research on Station

Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stands at the launch pad in Florida. Credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing are proceeding with plans for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test following a full day of briefings and a Flight Readiness Review that took place at the Kennedy Space Center.

Launch of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled for 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20, from Florida. The uncrewed flight test will be Starliner’s maiden mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The Expedition 61 crew today is exploring how the brain, muscles and bones adapt to long-term exposure in weightlessness. The orbiting lab’s communications systems are also being continuously maintained.

Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano were back in the Columbus lab module today investigating how the central nervous system manages hand-eye coordination in space. The duo wore virtual reality gear using real-time visual and audible displays while coordinating a variety of body motions. The GRASP study explores how the brain adapts to the lack of a traditional up and down reference in space to ensure mission success farther away from Earth.

The musculoskeletal system also adjusts rapidly to the microgravity environment and studying mice aboard the orbiting lab helps reveal the impacts. Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch continued scanning rodents today in a bone densitometer before placing them back in their habitats. The new Rodent Research-19 study is investigating two proteins that may prevent muscle and bone loss while living off the Earth.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka ensured the upkeep of a variety of Russian space station systems. The duo connected a Progress cargo craft’s thrusters to the Zarya module’s fuel tanks. The veteran cosmonauts also checked out antenna gear, laptop computers and video recording equipment.

Japan’s new high-resolution spectral Earth imager has been installed and activated on the Kibo lab module. HISUI, or Hyperspectral Imagery Suite, is a technology demonstration that will send data to agricultural and environmental industries for improved resource management.

Crew Inspects Spacesuits and Preps for Student Contest

Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka
Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka works with the free-floating, bowling ball-sized satellites (in orange and red) also known as SPHERES.

Two NASA astronauts are readying their spacesuits and gear ahead of an Aug. 19 spacewalk. More life science, including heart and DNA research, continued Friday. Finally, tiny internal satellites were tested before next week’s student competition.

Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Kate Rubins inspected the spacesuits they will wear in two weeks during a 6.5 hour spacewalk. The duo will complete the installation of an International Docking Adapter to the Harmony module. The first of two new adapters will allow Commercial Crew vehicles being developed by Boeing and SpaceX to dock in the future.

Rubins continued more work on the Heart Cells experiment today while Takuya Onishi, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, tended to the Mouse Epigenetics hardware. Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin joined Williams during the morning collecting and stowing biological samples for the Fluid Shifts study.

Next week, high school students will compete for the best algorithm to control self-contained, bowling ball-sized satellites inside the station. The algorithms control the tiny satellites and test mission and research functions to advance future space missions. Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka tested the satellites inside the Destiny lab module today for the SPHERES Zero Robotics competition.