Four Expedition 65 crew members spent Thursday preparing for the third spacewalk to continue new roll-out solar array installation work. The other three International Space Station crew members continued with variety of space research.
Commander Akihiko Hoshide started his day swapping samples inside the Materials Science Laboratory. Those samples, such as metals, polymers and alloys, are exposed to high temperatures possibly leading to new applications or new materials on Earth and in space. The three-time station visitor also investigated how microgravity affects bacteria and ways to counteract harmful changes for the Oral Biofilms experiment.
The duo worked near the farthest set of existing solar arrays on the station’s left (port) side, known as P6. Glover built a bracket structure and worked with Rubins to attach the bracket and support struts to the mast canister, the base, of one of the P6 solar arrays, known as 2B. One of the bolts did not fully engage on the first attempt, so Rubins used a power drill to back it out and reseat it, then used a ratchet wrench to tighten the bolt, reaching a safe configuration. The bolt likely will need to be secured further before installing one of the new solar arrays that will be delivered to the space station later this year aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission.
Rubins and Glover then moved to begin identical assembly work for the bracket for the second of the P6 solar array pair, known as 4B. They completed the construction of upper support hardware and secured it to the space station’s exterior structure until work can be completed on the next spacewalk on Friday, March 5.
To ensure a sufficient power supply is maintained for NASA’s exploration technology demonstrations for Artemis and beyond as well as utilization and commercialization, NASA is augmenting six of the eight existing power channels of the space station with new solar arrays. The new solar arrays, a larger version of the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology, will be positioned in front of six of the current arrays, ultimately increasing the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts. The current solar arrays are functioning well but have begun to show signs of degradation, as expected, as they were designed for a 15-year service life.
This was the third career spacewalk for both Rubins and Glover. Rubins has now spent a total of 19 hours and 50 minutes spacewalking. Glover now has spent a total of 19 hours and 20 minutes spacewalking.
Space station crew members have conducted 235 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 61 days, 14 hours, and 11 minutes working outside the station.
During the spacewalk March 5, Rubins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi will venture outside the orbiting outpost to complete the installation of the 4B array modification kit and are expected to tackle additional work, including the venting of ammonia from the Early Ammonia System.
Rubins is extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing a spacesuit bearing red stripes and using helmet camera #22. Glover is extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the spacesuit without stripes and helmet camera #20.
Rubins and Glover will traverse out the station’s backbone truss structure to the far left (port) side set of solar arrays, the first pair of solar arrays deployed in December 2000 that have been powering the station for more than 20 years. The spacewalkers will work together to construct and begin installing bracket support structures at the base of the current solar arrays that will enable new solar arrays to be installed to augment the space station’s power supply.
The crew members of Expedition 64 are preparing to venture outside the International Space Station for a spacewalk expected to begin at approximately 6 a.m. EST and last about six and a half hours.
The crew is in the airlock and have donned their suits in preparation to exit the airlock and begin today’s activities to begin assembling and installing modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades.
As illustrated in a NASA animation, Rubins and Glover will be working near the farthest set of solar arrays on the station’s left (port) side, known as P6. They will work together to build bracket structures and attach the bracket and support struts to the mast canister, the base, of one of the P6 solar arrays, then will begin the identical work for the mast canister of the second of the P6 solar array pair. The modification kit will enable the new solar arrays to be installed in front of the existing arrays after their delivery to the space station later this year aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission.
Leading the mission control team today is Flight Director Marcos Flores with support from Art Thomason as the lead spacewalk officer.
The Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft was berthed to the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:16 a.m. EST Monday morning and subsequently bolted into place. Cygnus will remain at the space station until May, when the spacecraft will depart the station. Following departure, the Cygnus will dispose of several tons of trash during a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
The spacecraft, which launched at 12:36 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 20, on an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, brings approximately 8,000 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies to the orbiting laboratory to support the Expedition 64 and 65 crews. The Cygnus was captured earlier Monday morning at 4:38 a.m. EST.
Highlights of science investigations aboard this Cygnus include:
A new vision
Millions of people on Earth suffer from retinal degenerative diseases. These conditions have no cure, although treatments can slow their progression. Artificial retinas or retinal implants may provide a way to restore meaningful vision for those affected. In 2018, startup LambdaVision sent their first experiment to the space station to determine whether the process used to create artificial retinal implants by forming a thin film one layer at a time may work better in microgravity.
A second experiment by LambdaVision launching on NG CRS-15, Protein-Based Artificial Retina Manufacturing, builds on the first project, evaluating a manufacturing system that uses a light-activated protein to replace the function of damaged cells in the eye. This information may help LambdaVision uncover whether microgravity optimizes production of these retinas, and could assist people back on Earth.
Bringing advanced computing aboard the space station
Due to a need to prioritize reliability over performance, computing capabilities in space are reduced compared to capabilities on the ground, creating challenges when transmitting data to and from space. Although relying on ground-based computers is possible for exploration on the Moon or in low-Earth orbit, this solution will not work for exploration farther into the solar system. Launched in 2017, the SpaceborneComputer study ran a high-performance commercial off-the-shelf computer system in space with the goal of having the system operate seamlessly for one year. It successfully performed more than 1 trillion calculations (or one teraflop) per second for 207 days without requiring reset.
Spaceborne Computer-2 builds on the successes of this first study, exploring how off-the-shelf computer systems can advance exploration by processing data significantly faster in space with edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. This experiment plans to demonstrate that Earth-based data processing of current station science data can instead be performed on station. Eliminating the need for researchers to send all raw data back to Earth for analysis could speed scientists’ time-to-insight from months to minutes.
Space worms to the rescue
Tiny worms could help us determine the cause of muscle weakening that astronauts can experience in microgravity. Astronauts work out more than two hours a day aboard the space station to prevent bone and muscle loss caused by living in a microgravity environment during long-duration missions. Thanks to a new device for measuring the muscle strength of tiny C. elegans worms, researchers with the Micro-16 study can test whether decreased expression of muscle proteins is associated with this decreased strength. The device consists of a small microscope slide filled with little rubber pillars. The strength of the worms is measured by how much force the worms apply to the pillars as they move around the slide.
Preparing for the Moon
The International Space Station serves as a testing ground for technologies we plan to use on future Artemis missions to the Moon. The NASA A-HoSS investigation puts to the test tools planned for use on the crewed Artemis II mission that will orbit the Moon. Built as the primary radiation detection system for the Orion spacecraft, the Hybrid Electronic Radiation Assessor (HERA) was modified for operation on the space station.
Verifying that HERA can operate without error for 30 days validates the system for crewed Artemis mission operations. A related investigation, ISS HERA, flew in 2019 aboard the space station. ISS HERA provided data and operational feedback in preparation for the Orion spacecraft’s uncrewed Artemis I mission that will launch in 2021.
At 4:38 a.m. EST, Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency used the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 to grapple the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft as Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins of NASA monitored Cygnus systems during its approach. Next, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. Katherine Johnson, on the Earth-facing port of the station’s Unity module.
NASA Television coverage of installation will begin at 6 a.m., and installation of the Cygnus spacecraft to the space station is expected to be completed later this morning. Cygnus will remain at the orbiting laboratory for a three-month stay. Watch live on the agency’s website or on the NASA app.
The company’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft for its 15th commercial resupply services mission was named after NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, a Black woman who time and again broke through barriers of gender and race.
Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi will capture Cygnus, and NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins will be acting as a backup. After capture, the spacecraft will be installed on the Unity module’s Earth-facing port.
Russia’s ISS Progress 77 resupply ship delivered over a ton of nitrogen, propellant and oxygen early Wednesday morning to the International Space Station. Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is up next as it counts down to this weekend’s launch from Virginia to the orbiting lab.
The Progress 77 docked to the Pirs docking compartment on Wednesday at 1:27 a.m. EST following a two-day trip that began with a launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Commander Sergey Ryzhikov remotely guided the Progress 77 to its docking port with the TORU (tele-robotic rendezvous system) after the vehicle automatically switched over from the Kurs automated rendezvous system.
Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov then began a series of hours-long leak and pressure checks with the Progress 77. The duo finally opened the hatch to the new Russian cargo craft to begin transferring its cargo. Progress 77 will stay at the station for about 5 months when it will finally detach Pirs from the Zvezda service module’s Earth-facing port opening it up for the new Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.
Northrop Grumman is readying its next Cygnus cargo mission to launch this Saturday at 12:36 p.m. atop the Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus will be packed with about 8,000 pounds of science experiments, station hardware and crew supplies destined for the Expedition 64 crew.
Cygnus will orbit the Earth for nearly two days before its rendezvous with the station on Feb. 22. JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi will be on robotics duty early Monday and command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Cygnus at about 4:40 a.m. NASA Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins will back him up monitoring Cygnus’ approach and rendezvous.
The crew members of Expedition 64 are preparing to venture outside the International Space Station for a spacewalk expected to last about six and a half hours.
The crew is in the airlock and have donned their suits in preparation to exit the airlock and begin today’s activities working to upgrade a battery on the port 4 (P4) truss of the station.
The first task for today, as illustrated in a NASA animation, will be to install a final lithium-ion battery adapter plate on the port 4 (P4) truss. Hopkins and Glover also will replace an external camera on the starboard truss, install a new high-definition camera on the Destiny laboratory, and replace components for the Japanese robotic arm’s camera system outside the Kibo module.
Leading the mission control team today is Flight Director Vincent Lacourt with support from Sandy Fletcher as the lead spacewalk officer.
Hopkins and Glover will set their U.S. spacesuits to battery power around 7 a.m. EST Wednesday signifying the start of their spacewalk. NASA TV will begin its live coverage at 5:30 a.m. as both astronauts prepare to exit the station’s Quest airlock into the vacuum of space.
Their fellow astronauts Kate Rubins of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA will assist Hopkins and Glover during the first spacewalk. The duo practiced robotics maneuvers today on a computer and reviewed spacewalk procedures. Rubins will be the prime operator of the Canadarm2 robotic arm, with Noguchi backing her up, to assist both spacewalkers.
The second spacewalk will take place on Feb. 1 with the same two spacewalkers. This time they will wrap up battery maintenance on the port side of the orbiting lab’s truss structure. The duo will then move over to the Kibo laboratory module to remove and replace high-definition video cameras. NASA TV will again start at 5:30 a.m. with the spacewalk set to begin about 7 a.m.
The three other crew members aboard the orbiting lab focused on space research and lab maintenance throughout Monday.
NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker explored ways to produce vitamins and other nutrients to enhance a crew member’s diet while living in space for the BioNutrients study. Commander Sergey Ryzhikov joined his fellow cosmonaut Sergey Kud-Sverchkov for Russian research in the morning. Ryzhikov then moved on to packing a Russian cargo craft ahead of its Feb. 9 departure. Kud-Sverchkov worked on Earth observations then serviced computer gear.