Dragon Leaves Station, Returns to Earth with Valuable Science

Astronaut Andrew Morgan monitored the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship's release
Astronaut Andrew Morgan monitored the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship’s release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Tuesday morning. Credit: @AstroDrewMorgan

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 2:50 p.m. (11:50 a.m. PDT), approximately 300 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, marking the end of the company’s 20th contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The spacecraft returned more than 4,000 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo.

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

Generating a nutritional meal

Planning ways to supply food for a multi-year mission on the Moon or Mars may require making food and nutrients in space. BioNutrients demonstrates a technology that enables on-demand production of nutrients needed during long-duration space missions. Although designed for space, this system also could help provide nutrition for people in remote areas of our planet.

Toward printing human organs in space

Biological printing of the tiny, complex structures found inside human organs, such as capillaries, is difficult in Earth’s gravity. The BioFabrication Facility (BFF) attempts to take the first steps toward the printing of human organs and tissues in microgravity. The facility may also help maintain the health of crews on deep space exploration missions by producing food and personalized pharmaceuticals on demand.

Helping the heart

The Engineered Heart Tissues (EHTs) study looks at how human heart tissue functions in space. It uses unique 3D tissues made from heart cells derived from human induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (hiPSCs), essentially adult stem cells. Researchers expect significant differences in function, structure and gene expression between EHTs in microgravity and those on the ground. Understanding these differences could help them find ways to prevent or mitigate problematic changes on future long-duration missions.

Biofilm festival

Samples from the Space Biofilms investigation, which examines microbial species and their formation of biofilms, are returning on Dragon. Biofilms are collections of one or more types of microorganisms – including bacteria, fungi and protists – that grow on wet surfaces. Better control of biofilms may help maintain crewed spacecraft and protect the health and safety of crew members as well as help prevent the introduction of Earth-based microbes to planetary bodies on which humans land.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations providing opportunities for 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. Conducting science aboard the orbiting laboratory will help us learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.

For almost 20 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. As a global endeavor, 239 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,800 research investigations from researchers in 108 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

Live NASA TV Coverage of SpaceX Dragon Departure is Underway

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured attached to the Earth-facing port on the International Space Station's Harmony module.
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured attached to the Earth-facing port on the International Space Station’s Harmony module.

NASA Television coverage is underway for departure of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from the International Space Station. The spacecraft is scheduled for release at 9:05 a.m. EDT.

Dragon was detached robotically from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module earlier today after flight controllers at mission control in Houston delivered remote commands to the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan of NASA backed up the operation and will monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory.

After firing its thrusters to move a safe distance away from the station, Dragon will execute a deorbit burn to leave orbit, as it heads for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, 300 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, at about 2:50 p.m. (11:50 a.m. PDT). There will be no live coverage of deorbit burn or splashdown.

Dragon launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket March 6 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and arrived at the station three days later with science, supplies and cargo on SpaceX’s 20th commercial resupply mission to the station for NASA.

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.

NASA TV Broadcasts Dragon Departure Tuesday Morning

Astronaut Andrew Morgan will monitor the departure of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship
Astronaut Andrew Morgan will monitor the departure of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship when ground controllers command its robotic release Tuesday morning.

Filled with more than 4,000 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo, a SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft is set to leave the International Space Station Tuesday, April 7. NASA Television and the agency’s website will broadcast its departure live beginning at 8:45 a.m. EDT.

Robotic flight controllers at mission control in Houston will issue commands to release Dragon using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm, and Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan of NASA will back up the ground controllers and monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory.

Follow @space_station on Twitter for updates online. For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Station Gets Ready to Send off Cargo Ship and Welcome New Crew

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured during Expedition 58 before its release from the Canadarm2 in January of 2019.

A Russian rocket rolled out to its launch pad today as a new crew gets ready for liftoff to the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the Expedition 62 crew will send off a U.S. cargo craft on Tuesday packed with science and hardware.

Russia’s Soyuz MS-16 crew ship stands at its launch pad in Kazakhstan today after rolling out from its processing facility at daybreak. The rocket will launch on Thursday at 4:05 a.m. carrying NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. The new Expedition 63 trio will dock to the rear port of the Zvezda service module at 10:15 a.m. to begin a 195-day mission. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and docking activities live starting at 3 a.m.

NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir are loading the final critical research samples aboard the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship today. Dragon will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean carrying live mice, plant cells and other biological samples for analysis on Earth. Dragon is also packed with station hardware including spacesuit components for servicing and inspection.

Morgan will be monitoring departure activities when ground controllers command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Dragon on Tuesday at 9:15 a.m. EDT. This will end a 29-day stay at the Harmony module. Live NASA TV coverage begins at 8:45 a.m.

Station Commander Oleg Skripochka is getting ready for his departure when he Morgan and Meir return to Earth on April 17. The veteran cosmonaut will be packing the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship with personal items and station cargo over the next week-and-a-half.

 

Science Packing, Robotics Work Ahead of Spaceship Traffic

The space station flies into an orbital sunset
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship (at right) and a pair of the space station’s main solar arrays foreshadow a trek into an orbital sunset.

A U.S. cargo craft is being packed for its return to Earth next week while robotics controllers get ready to install a new European science platform on the International Space Station. The Expedition 62 crew also continued its ongoing human research activities.

The reusable SpaceX Dragon space freighter is being loaded this week with thousands of pounds of science experiments and station hardware. Robotics controllers will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove Dragon from the Harmony module after its hatch is closed early Monday. Dragon will be released back into Earth orbit Monday at 9:52 a.m. EDT for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan will wrap up the science packing late Sunday. The duo will be transferring live mice, plant cells and other time-critical research samples into Dragon so scientists can understand how genetic expression changes in space.

Human research continued on board the station today as Meir examined and captured imagery of Morgan’s eyes with a fundoscope to learn how space-caused upward fluid shifts affect vision. Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos measured the station’s radiation environment then explored how future crews could pilot spaceships and robotic rovers on planetary expeditions.

Bartolomeo, an external science payload from the European Space Agency (ESA), will soon be installed on the outside of the Columbus laboratory. The complex installation work is being choreographed from the ground as flight controllers remotely command the Canadarm2 and the Dextre fine-tuned robotic hand. The ESA science device will enable the command and control of numerous external investigations on Columbus.

Back on Earth in Kazakhstan, the Expedition 63 crew continued reviewing its mission procedures today then took a break for traditional pre-launch activities. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will launch to the station April 9 aboard the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. After a six-hour ride to their new home in space, the trio will begin a 195-day mission aboard the orbital lab.

Exercise Research, Spaceship Packing During Robotics Work

The Canadarm2 robotic arm and Dextre extract Bartolomeo
The Canadarm2 robotic arm and Dextre, the fine-tuned robotic hand, are remotely controlled on Earth to extract Bartolomeo from the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

Exercise tests aboard the International Space Station today are helping doctors evaluate the best ways to keep crews healthy and fit on long-term space missions. The Expedition 62 crew also readied cargo and crew ships for departure as a variety of other life science experiments took place.

Aerobic fitness in space is critically important so astronauts can successfully support physically demanding mission events such as spacewalks and spaceship landings. NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan took turns testing their fitness on an exercise bike today while attached to sensors. Doctors will use the data to understand crew health and adapt exercise techniques so astronauts can maintain strong bones and muscles, and add to the body of knowledge that is helping astronauts readapt to gravity after long missions.

Afterward, Meir had a blood pressure check for the Vascular Echo cardiovascular study. Morgan checked on mice being observed for space-caused changes to their genetic expression.

The duo also continued loading the SpaceX Dragon resupply with station hardware and science experiments for analysis on Earth. Dragon will depart the station on Monday at 9:52 a.m. EDT and splashdown in the Pacific a few hours later. Meir and Morgan are also packing personal items to get ready for their return to Earth on April 17 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship.

Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos worked a pair of different Russian investigations today. He first studied how weightlessness affects blood circulation in the heart. The veteran cosmonaut then activated gear that observes the Earth’s atmosphere at nighttime in near-ultraviolet wavelengths.

The new Bartolomeo science platform from the European Space Agency is in the process of being installed to the outside of the Columbus laboratory module. Robotics controllers are remotely guiding Bartolomeo in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Ground teams will finalize the installation over two days.

Space Cardiac Research as Station Orbits Higher For Next Crew

An aurora accents Earth's atmospheric glow
An aurora accents Earth’s atmospheric glow underneath a starry sky as the glare from computer instrumentation reflects off a window in the cupola.

Cardiac research was a big part of the Expedition 62 crew’s schedule on Thursday. Meanwhile, the International Space Station is orbiting higher to get ready for April’s crew swap.

Two experiments taking place aboard the orbiting lab today are looking at cardiac function and the replenishment of heart cells in space. The NASA heart studies could lead to a better understanding of cardiac diseases and improved drug therapies on Earth. Astronauts living in space for months or years at a time could see strategies to maintain healthy cardiac function on long-term missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir nourished and preserved heart tissue samples for an experiment watching how heart cells adapt to microgravity. Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan got to work replacing hardware for an investigation producing heart cells that may treat cardiac abnormalities.

Veteran cosmonaut and station Commander Oleg Skripochka updated inventory after cargo activities inside the Progress 74 resupply ship. He also monitored radiation readings in the orbital lab and checked a variety of Russian video and computer gear.

The space station raised its orbit to the correct altitude this afternoon to receive three new Expedition 63 crewmembers aboard the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship next month. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will launch and dock to the Poisk module on April 9 beginning a 195-day station mission.

Eight days later, the Expedition 62 crew will return to Earth and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship. Skripochka and Meir will have logged 205 days in space while Morgan is returning after 272 days on orbit.

Station Works External Science, Maintenance Before Next Crew Launch

NASA astronaut and Andrew Morgan takes photographs of the Earth
NASA astronaut and Andrew Morgan takes photographs of the Earth from the Window Observation Research Facility inside NASA’s Destiny laboratory module.

The Expedition 62 crew took a break today from its weeks-long space biology research aboard the International Space Station. Instead, the orbital residents focused on setting up an external science payload and maintaining life support systems.

Research takes place not only inside the space station, but also outside as scientists study how extreme temperatures and space radiation affect a variety of materials. NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan configured hardware today containing a materials science experiment for installation outside the orbital lab. He placed the gear inside the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock where it was depressurized. The Canadarm2 robotic arm will retrieve the experiment and externally install it on the station.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir started her day collecting samples of the station’s water for microbial analysis. In the afternoon, she serviced an experiment module that can generate artificial gravity environments before working on orbital plumbing at the end of her shift.

Veteran cosmonaut and station Commander Oleg Skripochka continued more communication tests today checking two-way audio and video satellite links. He also wrapped up a study that observed Earth’s upper atmosphere in visible and near-infrared wavelengths. At the end of the day, Skripochka shared his inputs for the long-running experiment researching the interactions between crews and mission controllers.

The new Expedition 63 crew is in Russia getting ready for its launch on April 9 aboard the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy with Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner are wrapping up two days of final qualification exams. The trio will soon head to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for final preparations before beginning their 195-day mission aboard the orbiting lab.

Robotic Arm Captures Dragon Packed With Science

The 20th SpaceX Dragon resupply mission approaches the space station
The 20th SpaceX Dragon resupply mission approaches the space station.

While the International Space Station was traveling more than 262 miles over the Northeast Pacific near Vancouver, British Columbia, Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Jessica Meir of NASA grappled Dragon at 6:25 a.m. EDT using the space station’s robotic arm Canadarm2 with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan acting as a backup.

Ground controllers will now send commands to begin the robotic installation of the spacecraft on bottom of the station’s Harmony module. NASA Television coverage of installation is now scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m. Watch online at www.nasa.gov/live.

Here’s some of the research arriving at station:

New Facility Outside the Space Station

The Bartolomeo facility, created by ESA (European Space Agency) and Airbus, attaches to the exterior of the European Columbus Module. Designed to provide new scientific opportunities on the outside of the space station for commercial and institutional users, the facility offers unobstructed views both toward Earth and into space. Potential applications include Earth observation, robotics, material science and astrophysics.

Studying the Human Intestine On a Chip

Organ-Chips as a Platform for Studying Effects of Space on Human Enteric Physiology (Gut on Chip) examines the effect of microgravity and other space-related stress factors on biotechnology company Emulate’s human innervated Intestine-Chip (hiIC). This Organ-Chip device enables the study of organ physiology and diseases in a laboratory setting. It allows for automated maintenance, including imaging, sampling, and storage on orbit and data downlink for molecular analysis on Earth.

Growing Human Heart Cells

Generation of Cardiomyocytes From Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-derived Cardiac Progenitors Expanded in Microgravity (MVP Cell-03) examines whether microgravity increases the production of heart cells from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). The investigation induces stem cells to generate heart precursor cells and cultures those cells on the space station to analyze and compare with cultures grown on Earth.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

NASA TV Broadcasts Station Astronauts Capturing Dragon Monday

NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir
NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir will be on duty in the cupola to capture the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

SpaceX Dragon is on track to arrive at the International Space Station tomorrow morning March 9, with an expected capture of the cargo spacecraft around 7 a.m. EDT. NASA Television coverage will begin at 5:30 a.m. Watch live at http://www.nasa.gov/live.

When it arrives to the space station, Expedition 62 Flight Engineers Jessica Meir of NASA will grapple Dragon, with Andrew Morgan of NASA acting as a backup. The station crew will monitor Dragon vehicle functions during rendezvous. After Dragon capture, ground commands will be sent from mission control in Houston for the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Harmony module. Coverage of robotic installation to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module will begin at 8:30 a.m.

Dragon lifted off on Friday, March 6, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The cargo spacecraft with more than 4,300 pounds of research, equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory. Dragon will join three other spacecraft currently at the space station

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.