Crew Fills Tuesday With Spacewalk Preps, Science and Cargo Ops

Expedition 61 Commander Luca Parmitano assists astronauts Andrew Morgan and Christina Koch in their U.S. spacesuits
Expedition 61 Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) assists NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan (left) and Christina Koch (right) in their U.S. spacesuits.

Tuesday was packed with more spacewalk preparations along with ongoing microgravity research aboard the International Space Station. The six-member Expedition 61 crew also conducted emergency response training and cargo transfers from a Japanese cargo craft.

NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Christina Koch are going out on their second spacewalk together Friday at 7:50 a.m. EDT. The duo today reviewed spacewalk procedures and set up the tools they will use to continue upgrading the station’s large nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries.

Commander Luca Parmitano serviced U.S. spacesuit components and practiced Canadarm2 robotics maneuvers to support Friday’s excursion. NASA TV coverage begins its live coverage of October’s second spacewalk at 6:30 a.m.

Morgan had a few moments set aside Tuesday to swap batteries inside Astrobee, the free-flying robotic assistant being tested aboard the orbiting lab. Afterward, he joined NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir inside Japan’s HTV-8 resupply ship to continue unpacking crew supplies and station hardware.

Koch switched to space gardening after spacewalk reviews and watered plants in the Columbus laboratory module. She and Meir finally wrapped up the workday with some light maintenance work in the station’s environmental health system.

All six crewmembers, including cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka, reviewed emergency roles and responsibilities after lunch today. The crew familiarized itself with safety gear, communication protocols, escape paths and evacuation procedures.

Crew Departure Preps, Biochemistry Research Start Workweek

Four Expedition 60 crewmembers and a spaceflight participant
Four Expedition 60 crewmembers and a spaceflight participant gather inside the Unity module for a meal. Pictured from left are, astronauts Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and Christina Koch of NASA, spaceflight participant and United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazzaa Ali Almansoori and NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague.

The nine-member crew aboard the International Space Station will split up Thursday and see three humans return to Earth. Meanwhile, there is still a multitude of space research to conduct as well as a new Japanese space freighter to unload.

Expedition 60 Commander Alexey Ovchinin and NASA Flight Engineer Nick Hague are in their final week aboard the orbiting lab. The homebound residents are packing up their Soyuz MS-12 crew ship and handing over their duties to the crewmates staying in space.

They will undock Thursday from the Rassvet module at 3:36 a.m. EDT along with spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori. The trio will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 7 a.m. (5 p.m. Kazakhstan time). All three returning crewmates reviewed their undocking and landing procedures today.

Astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan took turns today exploring how astronauts grip and manipulate objects in microgravity. Observations may inform the design of intelligent, haptic interfaces for future crews on deep space missions.

Morgan then explored increasing the purity of protein crystals in space to improve pharmaceutical and biochemistry research. Veteran cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov conducted his own biochemistry research in the Russian segment of the space lab studying how the microgravity environment impacts enzymes in the human body.

New Expedition 61 crewmates Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos continue settling in for their 189-day mission inside the orbiting lab. Meir reviewed Canadarm2 robotics procedures today to support upcoming spacewalks. She wrapped up the day observing protein crystals to support cancer research. Skripochka tested a specialized suit that counteracts the headward flow of fluids in astronauts due to microgravity. He finally checked out the Magnetic 3D Printer that explores the benefits of printing organic tissue in space.

Japan’s eighth station resupply ship, also known as the Kounotori, is open for business and Parmitano and NASA astronaut Christina Koch are unloading its cargo and new science hardware today. Kounotori is due for a month-long stay attached to the Harmony module for internal and external cargo operations. Ground controllers will be commanding the Canadarm2 to remove new lithium-ion batteries delivered on Kounotori’s external pallets. The robotics work will be setting up a series of power upgrade spacewalks planned for October.

Japan’s Kounotori Spaceship Attached to Station

Sept. 28, 2019: International Space Station Configuration.
Sept. 28, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are attached to the space station including Japan’s HTV-8 cargo craft with Russia’s Progress 73 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-12, MS-13 and MS-15 crew ships.

Ground controllers successfully installed the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Kounotori 8 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-8) to the Earth-facing port of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 10:09 a.m. EDT.

Named Kounotori, meaning “white stork” in Japanese, the craft delivered six new lithium-ion batteries and corresponding adapter plates that will replace aging nickel-hydrogen batteries for two power channels on the station’s far port truss segment. The batteries will be installed through a series of robotics and spacewalks the station’s crew members will conduct later this year.

Additional experiments on board HTV-8 include an upgrade to the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF-L), a small-sized satellite optical communication system (SOLISS), and a payload for testing the effects of gravity on powder and granular material (Hourglass).

For updates about the crew’s activities on the unique orbiting laboratory, visit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Get breaking news, images and features from the station on Instagram at: @iss and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

Slime and Cancer Research Before Japan Cargo Ship Arrives Saturday

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan stow biological research samples into a science freezer located inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Credit: NASA
NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan stow biological research samples into a science freezer located inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Credit: NASA

A Japanese space freighter is on track to deliver more than four tons of cargo to the International Space Station on Saturday morning. The Expedition 60 crew is preparing for its arrival while also researching a variety of microgravity phenomena.

Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan are practicing on a computer the techniques they will use to maneuver the Canadarm2 robotic arm and capture the HTV-8 resupply ship on Saturday. The duo will be in the cupola monitoring the cargo craft’s approach when Koch will command the Canadarm2 to reach out and grapple the HTV-8 at 7:15 a.m. EDT.

Astronaut Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) started his morning playing with slime for the Non-Newtonian Fluids in Microgravity experiment. Koch and Morgan joined him for the fun research being filmed for students on Earth to excite them about space research.

New station resident Jessica Meir of NASA began her day observing and photographing protein crystal samples in a microscope. The research is exploring cancer therapies targeting a protein responsible for tumor growth and survival.

Meir and the station’s other new crewmates, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates, joined the rest of the station crew to review their roles in the event of an emergency. All nine crewmembers practiced evacuating the station, communications and using safety hardware during the afternoon.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Nick Hague are less than a week away from returning to Earth after 203 days in space. They are finalizing packing and readying their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft for the undocking on Oct. 3. The duo will parachute to Earth with Almansoori aboard their Soyuz crew ship and land in Kazakhstan.

Expanded Station Crew Relaxes Before Cargo Delivery, Crew Departure

The International Space Station
The International Space Station is pictured orbiting Earth in October of 2018.

The Expedition 60 crew is relaxing today after welcoming three new space residents to the International Space Station on Wednesday. They will receive a cargo shipment on Saturday before turning their attention to a crew departure next week.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir took a five-hour and 45-minute ride to the orbiting lab on Wednesday with Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates. They blasted off from Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship and docked to the rear port of the Zvezda service module. Family and mission officials on the ground congratulated the trio shortly after the new crew boarded the station expanding the population of the space lab to nine.

All nine crewmembers are sleeping in today and will soon be getting ready for more space traffic. The new crew was briefed on station safety procedures and will be getting up to speed with life in microgravity over the next several days.

Japan’s HTV-8 space freighter has been orbiting Earth since Tuesday after launching to the station from the Tanegashima Space Center. It will arrive Saturday carrying over four tons of crew supplies, station hardware and new science experiments.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan will capture the HTV-8 on Saturday with the Canadarm2 robotic arm around 7:15 a.m. EDT. Ground controllers will then take over and remotely install the Japanese resupply ship to the Harmony module about three hours later. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the capture and installation activities starting at 5:45 a.m.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Nick Hague are getting ready for their return to Earth on Oct. 3. They will take Almansoori home with them aboard their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan.

New Crew Prepares for Launch as Japanese Cargo Heads to Station

Station crewmates pose for a portrait
(From left) Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates and Expedition 61 crewmembers Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and Jessica Meir of NASA pose for a photograph at the conclusion of a press conference.

Japan’s cargo craft is on its way to resupply the International Space Station as a Russian crew ship counts down to launch Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, the six Expedition 60 crewmembers orbiting Earth today continued their lab maintenance and space research to benefit humanity.

The HTV-8 space freighter lifted off Tuesday from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan packed with over four tons of station hardware, science experiments and crew supplies. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan will welcome the HTV-8 when they capture the cargo craft with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Saturday at about 7:15 a.m. EDT.

Back on Earth in Kazakhstan, three new station crewmates are in final preparations ahead of their liftoff Wednesday at 9:57 a.m. aboard the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship. Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates will ride to space with Expedition 61 crewmembers Jessica Meir and Oleg Skripochka. Less than six hours after launch they will dock to the rear port of the Zvezda service module.

Microgravity science kept the station inhabitants busy today as they wait for their new crewmates and cargo delivery. Flight Engineer Nick Hague strapped himself into an exercise bike and measured his aerobic capacity while attached to a variety of sensors. Astronaut Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) explored how living in space affects time perception before processing microbe samples for analysis.

While Koch and Morgan get ready for Saturday’s cargo delivery, the astronauts are also maintaining spacesuits and science hardware. Koch was cleaning cooling loops in U.S. spacesuits ahead of upcoming spacewalks planned in October. Morgan was servicing an advanced research furnace before wrapping up rodent research operations in the Life Sciences Glovebox.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Hague are still getting ready for their return to Earth next week. The duo reviewed descent maneuvers they will use when they undock from the Rassvet module on Oct. 3 inside the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft. The duo will parachute to Earth with Almansoori aboard their Soyuz crew ship and land in Kazakhstan.

Japanese, Russian Rockets Prepare to Launch Cargo and Crew This Week

The gantry arms close around the Soyuz MS-15 rocket
The gantry arms close around the Soyuz MS-15 rocket after it was raised into vertical position on the launch pad on Monday. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Japan is getting ready to launch its H-II Transport Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) cargo craft on Tuesday at 12:05 p.m. EDT to replenish the International Space Station crew. Russia has already rolled out its Soyuz MS-15 crew ship to its launch pad for a liftoff on Wednesday at 9:57 a.m. with three new crewmates. NASA TV will broadcast all mission activities live.

The HTV-8 space freighter from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is packed with over four tons of crew supplies, station hardware and new science experiments. The spacecraft, named Kounotori, will blast off on Tuesday from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan and arrive at the station Saturday. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan will capture Kounotori with the Canadarm2 robotic arm around 7:15 a.m. Ground controllers will then take over and remotely install the Japanese resupply ship to the Harmony module about three hours later.

Russia’s Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft rolled out early Monday from its processing facility in Kazakhstan and is now standing vertical at the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Two Expedition 61 crewmates, Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos, will lift off aboard the Soyuz with spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday. The trio will reach the orbiting lab less than six hours later and dock to the Zvezda service module at 3:45 p.m.

Meanwhile back in space, the six station residents started the workweek with ongoing microgravity research benefitting both Earth and space inhabitants. Two Expedition 60 crewmates are also preparing to depart the station next week after 203 days in space.

Koch was observing tiny free-flying satellites programmed with algorithms to maneuver in formation inside the Kibo laboratory module. Morgan was cleaning up after last week’s rodent research then joined NASA Flight Engineer Nick Hague for eye exams to understand the effects of eye pressure caused by headward fluid shifts in microgravity. Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) replaced fuel bottles in the Combustion Integrated Rack before processing samples for a study seeking insights into Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, Hague and station Commander Alexey Ovchinin are preparing to wrap up their mission that began in March. The two crewmates are packing crew provisions and checking their Sokol launch and entry suits ahead of their Oct. 3 return to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship. The duo will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan with Almansoori aboard, who will be completing his eight-day mission aboard the station.

Cancer Therapy, Gravity Suit Research Before Crew and Cargo Launches

The six-member Expedition 60 crew from the United States, Russia and Italy
The six-member Expedition 60 crew from the United States, Russia and Italy gathers for a portrait inside the International Space Station’s Harmony module. At the top from left, are NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, station commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague.

The Expedition 60 crew is getting ready to welcome a Japanese cargo craft and new space residents next week before splitting up the following week. Meanwhile, the orbiting lab residents are starting the weekend exploring potential cancer therapies and testing a suit that counteracts the effects of microgravity.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has set Monday, Sept. 23 at 12:30 p.m. EDT for the launch of its H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) cargo craft to resupply the space station. The HTV-8 will take a five-day trip before its capture with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and installation to the station’s Harmony module.

A pair of Expedition 61 crewmembers will blast off to the International Space Station on Wednesday with the tenth spaceflight participant to visit the orbiting lab. NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates will take a near six-hour ride aboard the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship and dock to the station’s Zvezda service module.

Almansoori will stay in space for eight days and return to Earth with station Commander Alexey Ovchinin and NASA Flight Engineer Nick Hague. The trio will undock from the Rassvet module in the Soyuz MS-12 spaceship on Oct. 3 and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan about three and a half hours later. Their departure signifies the official start of the Expedition 61 mission.

Science to benefit humans on Earth and astronauts in space is always ongoing and today was no exception. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan were processing protein crystal samples and loading them into an incubator for the Microgravity Crystals study. The research is exploring cancer therapies targeting a protein responsible for tumor growth and survival.

Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov checked out a specialized suit today that pulls body fluids, such as water and blood, towards the feet of a space resident. He monitored Ovchinin who wore the Lower Negative Body Pressure suit while testing its ability to counteract the headward fluid shifts caused by microgravity. Astronauts have reported increased head and eye pressure due to the upward flow after living for months at a time in weightlessness.

Astronaut Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) recorded himself on a 360-degree video camera as he demonstrated rotational dynamics with a soccer ball. The experiment is investigating the general behavior of free-flying objects in microgravity. Results could inform the design of small robots in space and even improve sports equipment on Earth.

Spacewalk Prep and Science Punctuate Launch Day for HTV-8

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s uncrewed cargo transfer craft, called HTV, will deliver supplies and new investigations to the International Space Station.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s uncrewed cargo transfer craft, called HTV, will deliver supplies and new investigations to the International Space Station. Here, the HTV-7 resupply ship is pictured after its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm as the space station orbited above the Pacific Ocean some 311 miles west of Baja California. Credit: NASA

Ten years after the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched its first H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) mission, today the HTV-8 “Kounotori” cargo craft will launch from the Tanegashima Space Center to the International Space Station. While launch is scheduled for 5:33 p.m. EDT, NASA Television will start its coverage at 5 p.m.  

Days after, on Saturday, Sept. 14, Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA, backed up by her NASA crewmate Andrew Morgan, will operate the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm from the station’s cupola to capture the 12-ton spacecraft as it approaches from below. Robotics flight controllers will then take over the operation of the arm to install HTV-8 to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module, where it will spend a month attached. Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will monitor HTV-8 systems during its approach to the station. 

Aboard the orbiting laboratory, preparations to receive the craft continue, with Koch and Morgan completing training to grapple the vehicle. They also performed several approaches with the Canadarm2 to simulate HTV capture. 

Expedition 60 crew members worked on experiments that will give researchers on the ground insight into plant germination in a microgravity environment, supporting the possibility of plant growth on the Moon or Mars for human consumption or other purposes. NASA astronaut Nick Hague took additional photo documentation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Palm Tree Growth Experiment, which observes and documents the root development of the Date Palm in space — and plant vital to the UAE ecosystem. 

Hague also assisted Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos with the Fluid Shifts investigation, using a Chibis Lower Body Negative Pressure suit to evaluate its feasibility as a countermeasure for postflight orthostatic intolerance, or the inability to maintain blood pressure while in an upright position. Though fluid loading and compression garments show promise in preventing this phenomenon, neither has proven completely effective for all phases of landing and egress; thus, research continues. 

Parmitano spent time recording an introduction for ISS Experience, previewing upcoming activities for the station crew. Filmed over many months, this cinematic virtual reality series will showcase living and working aboard the space station for viewers on the ground. He also worked with Rodent Research, powering down and stowing the habitat in a storage locker for later use. 

The crew also ramped up extravehicular activity, or spacewalk, preparations, gathering and configuring tools for an upcoming spacewalk that will upgrade batteries on the outside of the orbiting laboratory. 

Meanwhile, approximately 250 miles below, the Expedition 61 prime crew of cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori flew from the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, to their launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to finalize pre-launch training for a Sept. 25 launch on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft to the space station. 

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

Dragon Splashes Down in Pacific Ocean Packed With Science and Cargo

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured above the Canadian Rocky Mountains
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured above the Canadian Rocky Mountains after it departed the International Space Station today. Credit: @Astro_Christina

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 4:21 p.m. EDT (1:21 p.m PDT), approximately 300 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, marking the end of the company’s 18th contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The spacecraft returned more than 2,700 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo.

Some of the scientific investigations Dragon will return to Earth include:

Bio-Mining in Microgravity

The Biorock investigation provides insight into the physical interactions of liquid, rocks and microorganisms in microgravity and improving the efficiency and understanding of mining materials in space. Bio-mining eventually could help explorers on the Moon or Mars get needed materials on site, lessening the need for precious resources from Earth and reducing the amount of supplies explorers must take with them.

Mechanisms of Moss in Microgravity

Space Moss compares mosses grown aboard the space station with those grown on Earth to determine how microgravity affects its growth, development, and other characteristics. Tiny plants without roots, mosses need only a small area for growth, an advantage for their potential use in space and future bases on the Moon or Mars. This investigation also could yield information that aids in engineering other plants to grow better on the Moon and Mars, as well as on Earth.

 Improving Tire Manufacturing from Orbit

The Goodyear Tire investigation uses microgravity to push the limits of silica fillers for tire applications. A better understanding of silica morphology and the relationship between silica structure and its properties could provide improvements for increased fuel efficiency, which would reduce transportation costs and help to protect Earth’s environment.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations aimed at keeping astronauts healthy during space travel and demonstrating technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, including missions to the Moon by 2024 and on to Mars. Space station research also provides opportunities for other U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments, and products that improve life on Earth.

For more than 18 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. A global endeavor, more than 230 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,500 research investigations from researchers in 106 countries.

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