Astronaut Commands Robotic Arm to Capture Cygnus Cargo Craft

The Cygnus spacecraft from Northrop Grumman
The Cygnus spacecraft from Northrop Grumman approaches the International Space Station for a robotic capture

At 5:28 a.m. EDT, Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Anne McClain of NASA used the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 to grapple the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft as David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency monitored Cygnus systems during its approach. Next, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. Roger Chaffee, on the bottom of the station’s Unity module.

The station was flying over northeast France at an altitude of 254 miles when it was captured.

NASA Television coverage of installation will begin at 7 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.

Learn more about space station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

NASA TV Coverage Begins of U.S. Cygnus Craft Approaching Station

Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Anne McClain
Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Anne McClain of NASA uses the robotics workstation inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module to practice Canadarm2 robotics maneuvers and Cygnus spacecraft capture techniques.

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Anne McClain of NASA will capture the spacecraft assisted by David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, who will monitor Cygnus systems during its approach for capture. They will use the space station’s robotic arm to take hold of the Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. Roger Chaffee. After Cygnus’ capture, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Unity module.

NASA Television coverage of capture has begun. Watch live online at www.nasa.gov/live

A timeline of remaining Cygnus and space station activities for the earliest capture attempt is below:

Time (EDT)   Event

4:14 a.m.      Cygnus within 300m of Space Station
4:21 a.m.      250m Hold Point Arrival
4:36 a.m.      250m Hold Point Departure
4:47 a.m.      Cygnus within 100 meters of Space Station
5:00 a.m.      30 meters Hold Point Arrival
5:05 a.m.      Earliest “Go” for Capture
5:19 a.m.      Capture Point Arrival
5:24 a.m.      “Go” or “No-Go” for Capture
5:30 a.m.      Capture

Learn more about space station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

NASA TV Broadcasts Friday Arrival of U.S. Resupply Ship to Station

Northrop Grumman's Cygnus space freighter
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter with its prominent cymbal-shaped UltraFlex solar arrays is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm in November of 2018.

A Northrop Grumman cargo ship carrying about 7,600 pounds of science and research investigations, supplies, and hardware is set to arrive to the International Space Station early Friday morning. The uncrewed Cygnus spacecraft launched at 4:46 p.m. EDT Wednesday, April 17 on an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

When Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. Roger Chaffee, arrives to the space station on Friday, April 19, Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Anne McClain will use the space station’s robotic arm to take hold of the spacecraft at about 5:30 a.m. Fellow crew member David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency will assist McClain. NASA astronaut Nick Hague will monitor Cygnus systems during its approach for capture. After Cygnus’ capture, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Unity module for a three-month stay.

Live coverage will begin on NASA TV at 4 a.m. and return to the air at 7 a.m. for installation coverage. Watch at www.nasa.gov/live

Learn more about space station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

U.S. Resupply Ship Poised for Launch as Crew Studies Life Science

The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus resupply spacecraft
The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus resupply spacecraft is seen during sunrise on Pad-0A, Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia

The U.S. Cygnus resupply ship from Northrop Grumman is encapsulated atop the Antares rocket and standing at its launch pad in Virginia. The Expedition 59 crew is training for its capture at the end of the week in the midst of ongoing life science aboard the International Space Station.

Cygnus will blast off Wednesday at 4:46 p.m. EDT from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. It will deliver about 7,600 pounds of science, supplies and hardware to the orbital residents. Flight Engineer Anne McClain, with astronaut David Saint-Jacques backing her up, will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and capture Cygnus Friday about 5:30 a.m.

The duo continued sharpening their robotics skills today as they practiced Friday’s Cygnus capture maneuvers and techniques on a computer. NASA TV will broadcast the space freighter’s launch and capture activities live.

McClain started the day setting up a mouse habitat that will house rodents to gain insight into the immune system’s response to long-term spaceflight. Saint-Jacques set up the 360° camera in Tranquility module for more virtual reality filming of crew life on the station.

Flight Engineer Christina Koch started Tuesday collecting and spinning her blood samples in a centrifuge for the Myotones muscle study. She then joined NASA astronaut Nick Hague for body measurements and ultrasound scans to research how microgravity impacts the biochemical properties of muscles.

Crew Trains to Capture U.S. Spaceship and Studies the Brain and Breathing

NASA astronaut Anne McClain
NASA astronaut Anne McClain is suited up in the U.S. Quest airlock preparing to begin what would be a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk on April 8, 2019.

The Expedition 59 crew is now training to capture a U.S. cargo ship when it arrives at the International Space Station next week. The orbital lab residents are also busy researching how living in space affects the human mind and body.

Fresh off their spacewalk Monday, astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are now practicing to capture Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. McClain will be at the robotics workstation in the cupola April 19 and command the Canadarm2 to capture Cygnus around 5:30 a.m. EDT. Saint-Jacques will back her up while Flight Engineer Nick Hague monitors Cygnus’ systems during its approach and rendezvous. The commercial cargo craft is due to launch April 17 at 4:46 p.m. from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Hague started his day with more brain research in the Japanese Kibo lab module. The NASA astronaut used a Doppler device to record his arterial blood flow waveforms. The data will help doctors understand how the brain regulates blood flow in microgravity.

The astronauts also researched how the station’s atmosphere affects breathing. The experiment studies how dust, particles and exhaled breath inflames a crewmember’s airways. Observations may reveal conditions that exacerbate or alleviate airway inflammation influencing future space missions.

SpaceX has announced April 26 as the launch date for its next Dragon cargo mission. The private space freighter will blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida arriving at the station April 28. This time Saint-Jacques will lead the robotics capture activities while Hague backs him up.

Crew Waits for Express Delivery, Works Human Research and Next Spacewalk

Greece, the boot of Italy and the island of Sicily
The International Space Station orbits 256 miles above the Aegean Sea. This view looks from east to west, from Greece to the boot of Italy and the island of Sicily. The sun’s glint radiates off the Ionian Sea in between the two nations.

Human research and spacewalk preparations are underway aboard the International Space Station today. A Russian cargo rocket is also preparing to blast off Thursday morning and resupply the Expedition 59 crew.

Astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch took turns this morning testing their vision. They tested their visual acuity and contrast sensitivity using an eye chart in the Destiny lab module.

The station residents also collected more blood and urine samples today aboard the orbital lab. They spun the samples in a centrifuge and stored them in a science freezer. Scientists will later analyze the samples on the ground to understand how living in space affects human physiology.

Upcoming spacewalkers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques reviewed next week’s spacewalk and tagged up with specialists on the ground. Both astronauts also checked out their spacesuit batteries and glove heaters.

They will set their spacesuits to battery power Monday at 8:05 a.m. EDT then exit the Quest airlock into the vacuum of space. The spacewalkers will spend about six-and-a-half hours installing truss jumpers to provide a redundant power source for the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

Watch a 3-D animation depicting Monday’s spacewalk activities

In Kazakhstan at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, a Russian Progress 72 (72P) resupply ship stands ready to launch on a two-orbit trip to the station. The 72P will liftoff Thursday 7:01 a.m. and dock to the Pirs docking compartment at 10:25 a.m. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and docking of the spaceship carrying more than three tons of food, fuel and supplies.

Resupply Rocket at Launch Pad as Astronauts Prep for Third Spacewalk

Russia's Progress 72 resupply rocket
Russia’s Progress 72 resupply rocket stands at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: Roscosmos

The Expedition 59 crew is ramping up for new supplies arriving at the International Space Station on Thursday and another spacewalk taking place on Monday. The orbital residents also managed to conduct ongoing microgravity science and life support maintenance today.

Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are readying their spacesuits and tools for a spacewalk set to begin Monday at 8:05 a.m. EDT. The spacewalking duo will install truss jumpers next week to provide a redundant power source to the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

Watch a 3-D animation depicting Monday’s spacewalk activities

Back on Earth, the Progress 72 (72P) resupply ship stands ready to blast off Thursday at 7:01 a.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Just two orbits later, it will catch up to the station carrying nearly three tons of food, fuel and supplies. It is scheduled to dock to the Pirs docking compartment at 10:25 a.m. where it will stay until the end of July. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and docking activities live.

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin will monitor the 72P’s approach and rendezvous from inside the Zvezda service module. The duo will be at the controls of the TORU, a backup manual docking system, to guide the 72P to a docking in the unlikely event the 72P’s automatic Kurs docking system fails.

The astronauts also worked throughout Tuesday collecting blood and urine samples, spinning the samples in a centrifuge and storing them in a science freezer for later analysis. The cosmonauts explored space-piloting techniques before moving on to plumbing and atmosphere revitalization tasks.

Astronauts Ready After Robotics Sets Up Worksite for Friday Spacewalk

NASA astronaut Nick Hague
NASA astronaut Nick Hague is tethered to the International Space Station during a six-hour, 39-minute spacewalk to upgrade the orbital complex’s power storage capacity.

Astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch have configured their spacesuits and reviewed procedures for tomorrow’s spacewalk at the International Space Station. Robotics controllers also readied the Port-4 (P4) truss structure so the spacewalkers can continue battery swaps and power upgrades outside the orbital lab.

Hague and Koch will set their spacesuits to battery power Friday around 8:20 a.m. inside the Quest airlock. They will exit Quest to swap old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries on the P4 truss. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the scheduled 6.5-hour spacewalk Friday at 6:30 a.m.

Ground specialists in Mission Control remotely commanded the Canadarm2 robotic arm and its “robotic hand” Dextre to set up the P4 worksite throughout week. The fine-tuned robotics maneuvers transferred the batteries between an external pallet and the P4 worksite over several days.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain is tentatively scheduled to join Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques on April 8 for another spacewalk. The spacewalkers will install truss jumpers to provide secondary power to the Canadarm2.

Meanwhile, McClain collected her blood and urine samples today for ongoing human research. She spun the samples in a centrifuge and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. Saint-Jacques worked on computer electronics maintenance throughout the day.

Expedition 59 commander Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin, both of Roscosmos, stayed focused on activities in the station’s Russian segment on Thursday. The duo spent the morning on life support maintenance before checking docked vehicle communications and photographing windows in the Zvezda service module.

Astronauts Release U.S. Spacecraft from Station

Cygnus Released from Canadarm2
The Cygnus is pictured moments after its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Credit: NASA TV

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft was released from the Canadarm2 at 11:16 a.m. EST and has departed the International Space Station. After an extended mission to deploy several CubeSats in multiple orbits, Cygnus is scheduled to be deorbited on Feb. 25 to enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean.

Expedition 58 Flight Engineers Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency used the station’s robotic arm to release the craft, dubbed the “SS John Young”, after ground controllers unbolted the cargo vehicle from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module earlier this morning.

This Commercial Resupply Services contract mission delivered dozens of new and existing investigations as Expedition 58 contributes to some hundreds of science and research studies. Highlights from the new experiments include a demonstration of 3D printing and recycling technology and simulating the creation of celestial bodies from stardust.

The Refabricator is the first-ever 3D printer and recycler integrated into one user-friendly machine. Once it’s installed in the space station, it will demonstrate recycling of waste plastic and previously 3D printed parts already on-board into high-quality filament, or 3D printer “ink.” This recycled filament will be fed into the printer as stock to make new tools and parts on-demand in space. This technology could enable closed-loop, sustainable fabrication, repair and recycling on long-duration space missions, and greatly reduce the need to continually launch large supplies of new material and parts for repairs and maintenance. The demonstration, which NASA’s Space Technology Mission and Human Exploration and Operations Directorates co-sponsored, is considered a key enabling technology for in-space manufacturing. NASA awarded a Small Business Innovation Research contract valued to Tethers Unlimited Inc. to build the recycling system.

The Experimental Chondrule Formation at the International Space Station (EXCISS) investigation will explore how planets, moons and other objects in space formed by simulating the high-energy, low-gravity conditions that were present during formation of the early solar system. Scientists plan to zap a specially formulated dust with an electrical current, and then study the shape and texture of the resulting pellets.

The Crystallization of LRRK2 Under Microgravity Conditions-2 (PCG-16) investigation grows large crystals of an important protein, leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), in microgravity for analysis back on Earth. This protein is implicated in development of Parkinson’s disease, and improving our knowledge of its structure may help scientists better understand the pathology of the disease and develop therapies to treat it. LRRK2 crystals grown in gravity are too small and too compact to study, making microgravity an essential part of this research.  This investigation is sponsored by the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, which Congress designated in 2005 to maximize its use for improving quality of life on Earth.

Cygnus launched Nov. 17, 2018, on an Antares 230 rocket from Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at Wallops, and arrived at the station Nov. 19 for the company’s 10th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station.

This was the seventh flight of an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft, and the fourth using Northrop Grumman’s upgraded Antares 230 launch vehicle featuring new RD-181 engines that provide increased performance and flexibility.

Cygnus Ready for Friday Departure and CubeSat Deployments

The Cygnus space freighter
The Cygnus space freighter is maneuvered by the Canadarm2 robotic arm shortly after its arrival and capture at the International Space Station on Nov. 19, 2018.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is just a day away from completing its tenth mission to the International Space Station. The Expedition 58 crew is training today for Cygnus’ robotic release on Friday and preparing it for one more mission afterward.

Cygnus is in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm today still attached to the Unity module. Robotics controllers will uninstall Cygnus from Unity early Friday and remotely maneuver the space freighter to its release position.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain will take over the robotics controls as David Saint-Jacques from the Canadian Space Agency backs her up inside the cupola. She will command the Canadarm2 to release Cygnus back into space at 11:10 a.m. EST Friday. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of Cygnus’ release starting at 10:45 a.m.

The two astronauts practiced the release of Cygnus today and finished the installation of the Slingshot small satellite deployer inside the spacecraft. Slingshot will eject a set of CubeSats from Cygnus once the cargo vessel reaches a safe distance from the station about eight hours after its release.

Friday’s Cygnus departure will leave a pair of Russian spacecraft docked to the station including the Progress 71 cargo craft and the Soyuz MS-11 crew ship. Two more spaceships are due to visit in March including a demonstration version of SpaceX’s first crew Dragon and the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft with three new Expedition 59-60 crew members.