Robotic Arm Releases Cygnus Before Fire Experiment Starts

Cygnus Departs Station
The Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft departs the International Space Station after its release from the Canadarm2. Credit: NASA TV

Expedition 47 robotic arm operator Tim Kopra of NASA commanded the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the Cygnus spacecraft at 9:30 a.m. EDT while the space station was flying above Paraguay. Earlier, ground controllers detached Cygnus from the station and maneuvered it into place for its departure.

After Cygnus is a safe distance away, ground controllers at Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio will initiate the sequence for Saffire-1, and controllers at Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia, will activate the experiment.  Cygnus will continue to orbit Earth for up to eight days as it transmits hi-resolution imagery and data from the Saffire experiment. Following complete data transmission, the Cygnus spacecraft will complete its destructive entry into the Earth’s atmosphere on June 22. NASA TV will not provide a live broadcast of the Saffire experiment or the Cygnus deorbit burn and re-entry, but imagery from Saffire will be posted on NASA.gov as it becomes available.

The Cygnus resupply craft launched March 22 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, for the company’s fifth NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/station

BEAM Closed as Crew Packs Spaceships for Departure

Astronaut Jeff Williams
Astronaut Jeff Williams works inside the BEAM before closing its hatches. Credit: NASA TV

BEAM’s hatches have been closed completing crew operations for the month. Meanwhile, a pair of spaceships is also being packed for departure this month.

After three days of operations inside BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module has been outfitted with sensors and other hardware. The next crew entry into the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module is targeted for August for more checks. BEAM will be attached to the International Space Station for two years of performance and durability tests.

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus space freighter is due to be released from the Unity module June 14 having arrived March 26. The Canadarm2 will grapple and release Cygnus into space where it will remain in orbit for tests until June 22. Three Expedition 47 crew members are counting down to their departure June 18. They are packing the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft that will return them to Earth after 186 days in space.

Today’s science activities included collecting air and breath samples for a bone marrow study. The crew also explored how astronauts adapt to detailed tasks requiring high concentration and also measured how lack of sleep in space affects cognitive performance.

Station Boosts Orbit before Heavy Spacecraft Traffic Period

Solar Arrays and Earth's Limb
The International Space Station’s solar arrays and the Earth’s limb were photographed during a Jan. 15, 2016, spacewalk.

The International Space Station raised its orbit again today as three crew members prepare for a March 1 landing while another trio gets ready for a March 18 launch. Meanwhile, advanced research continued inside the orbital laboratory to improve life on Earth and for future space residents.

Today’s orbital reboost places the station at the correct altitude for the March 1 undocking of Soyuz Commander Sergey Volkov and One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko. Their undocking will leave the Poisk module’s docking port vacant where a trio of Expedition 47 crew members will dock two-and-a-half weeks later inside the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft.

Today, the Expedition 46 crew participated in a variety of human research exploring how the heart adapts to life in space, the risk of atherosclerosis in astronauts and how microgravity affects an astronaut’s vision. The crew also sampled the station’s air and surfaces for microbes to learn how to prevent contamination in future spacecraft.

Another spacecraft is being prepared for departure Friday morning when it will be released from the grips of the 57.7 foot long Canadarm2 robotic arm. The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft is being loaded with trash before NASA astronauts Kelly and Tim Kopra release Cygnus using the robotics controls inside the seven-window cupola. NASA Television will cover the activities live Friday beginning at 7 a.m. EST.

Robotic Arm Releases Japanese Cargo Craft After Five Weeks at Station

Canadarm2 and HTV-5 Resupply Ship
The Canadarm2 robotic arm backs away from the just released “Kounotori” HTV-5 resupply ship. Credit: NASA TV

Following a slight delay, Expedition 45 Flight Engineer Kimiya Yui of JAXA, backed up by NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren, commanded the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to release JAXA’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)-5 from the International Space Station at 12:53 p.m. EDT while the spacecraft was flying 256 miles above the Southern Pacific, after it unberthed from the space station at 7:12 a.m. EDT.

The HTV-5 will now move away from the orbiting laboratory to a safe location where it will fire its engines to begin a controlled deorbit to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. The intense heat of reentry will cause the vehicle to burn up over the Pacific Ocean.

HTV-5 carried a variety of experiments and supplies to the space station, including the NanoRacks External Payload Platform, which can house multiple investigations in the open-space environment of the station, and the CALorimetric Electron Telescope investigation, an astrophysics mission that measures high energy particles to search for dark matter and the origin of cosmic rays.

HTV-5 also delivered materials to support the Twins Study, a compilation of 10 investigations designed to gain broader insights into the subtle effects of and changes that occur in the environment of space as compared to that of Earth by studying two individuals who have the same genetics, but are in different environments. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is participating from the space station while his identical twin Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut, is participating on Earth. The study includes a suite of integrated human space physiology and cellular-level experiments.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit: www.nasa.gov/station.

Orbital Trio Presses on With Year-Long Science and Dragon Preps

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly
ISS043E279114 (05/30/2015) — NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly works aboard the International Space Station on May 30, 2015 on a number of science experiments and maintenance of the stations equipment.

The three residents aboard the International Space Station conducted advanced microgravity science and trained for the arrival of the seventh SpaceX Dragon mission scheduled for the end of the month.

One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko partnered up for the Fine Motor Skills study, part of a suite of yearlong studies planned for the pair. That experiment explores how astronauts operate and repair interactive, touch-based and sensitive technologies in space. Kornienko later studied the possibility of using 3-D manuals, or virtual manuals, to improve training techniques on science hardware.

Kelly joined Commander Gennady Padalka in the afternoon for rendezvous training as they prepare for the next SpaceX Dragon launch scheduled for June 26. The duo will be in the cupola monitoring Dragon and waiting to capture it with the Canadarm2 when it arrives June 29.

Module Relocated Prepping Station for Commercial Crew

International Space Station
The International Space Station configuration as of May 27, 2015, shows the newly relocated Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM), two Soyuz crew vehicles and a Progress resupply vehicle. Credit: NASA

The Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) was successfully relocated from the Unity module to the Tranquility module at 9:08 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

The PMM was robotically relocated from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module on the International Space Station to the forward port of the Tranquility module in the next step to reconfigure the complex for the future arrival of U.S. commercial crew vehicles. Robotic flight controllers at Mission Control, Houston, working in tandem with the Mobile Servicing System (MSS) Operations Center at the Canadian Space Agency’s headquarters in St. Hubert, Quebec, Canada, used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to maneuver the 11-ton module a short distance to its new location. Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineer Scott Kelly of NASA supervised the commanding of the bolting of the PMM to Tranquility. The PMM’s hatch will be reopened tomorrow.

The operation opened the Earth-facing port of Unity as another berthing location for U.S. commercial cargo vehicles. Future U.S. commercial crew vehicles will arrive at the space-facing and forward ports of the Harmony module, which will continue its transformation later this year when a pair of International Docking Adapters (IDAs) will be delivered on the seventh and ninth NASA-contracted SpaceX cargo resupply missions. The IDAs will be attached to Pressurized Mating Adapters 2 and 3, enabling the station to host up to two U.S. commercial cargo and two U.S. commercial crew vehicles at any given time.

 

Watch NASA TV at 8 a.m. EDT for Robotics Move

The Permanent Multipurpose Module
ISS038-E-015272 (12 Dec. 2013) — The Permanent Multipurpose Module and the Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft docked to the Rassvet Mini-Research Module 1 are featured in this image photographed during Expedition 38.

The International Space Station’s Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) was detached from a berthing mechanism on the Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 5:50 a.m. EDT by robotics flight controllers at Mission Control, Houston, working in tandem with Canadian Space Agency (CSA) engineers at the robotics support center located at CSA Headquarters in St. Hubert, Quebec, Canada. Used as a supply depot for the orbital laboratory, the 11-ton PMM is being maneuvered to an installation position at the forward port of the Tranquility module through the use of the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2. NASA Television will provide coverage of the final steps of the installation and provide a replay of pertinent video from the start of the operation beginning at 8 a.m. EDT.

Once it is in the proper position, Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineer Scott Kelly of NASA will oversee the module’s final attachment to Tranquility. Virts and Kelly will reopen the hatch to the PMM at its new location tomorrow.

This move will clear the Unity port for its use as a second berthing location for U.S. commercial cargo spacecraft; the Earth-facing port on Harmony is currently used as the home port for U.S. cargo craft. The relocation of the PMM is the next step in the reconfiguration of the station that will allow U.S. commercial crew vehicles to dock to new docking ports on the forward and space-facing side of the Harmony module. That will provide a total of four ports for U.S. vehicles arriving at the orbital outpost.

Robotic Refueling and More Today on Station

Canadarm2 and Dextre
ISS041-E-049091 (30 Sept. 2014) — The International Space Station’s Canadarm2 and Dextre, also known as the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator (SPDM)

Station astronauts continued preparing for the next round of robotic refueling demonstrations while conducting various biomedical experiments and checkouts.

Expedition 43 commander Terry Virts worked with ground teams to prepare the airlock in the Japanese Experiment Module and extend the slide table carrying the new Robotic Refueling Mission-2 (RRM-2) hardware. Robotics controllers on the ground then used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to install the new task boards that will be used for the experiment. The objective of RRM-2 is to develop new technologies, tools and techniques that could eventually give satellite owners resources to diagnose problems on orbit and keep certain spacecraft instruments performing longer in space.

The crew is also engaging in the Cardio Ox experiment, the Space Aging study and the Body Measures experiment. More Rodent Research work took place, as the astronauts readied samples for return to Earth and checked out the rodents’ habitat.

Meanwhile, Russian ballistics specialists continue to work calculations to identify the most likely period for Progress 59’s entry back into the Earth’s atmosphere. The unmanned cargo craft experienced an unspecified problem shortly after separating from the third launch stage on April 28, resulting in the vehicle’s docking to the station being called off.

Crew Begins New Week With Focus on Biological Studies

Nepal seen from the space station
Astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted this picture over the weekend as the station passed over Nepal which was struck by a major earthquake. Credit: @StationCDRKelly

The Expedition 43 crew kicked off a new week by focusing on a number of biological experiments.

The crew participated in the Sprint study which evaluates the use of high intensity, low volume exercise training to minimize loss of muscle, bone, and cardiovascular function in crew members during long-duration missions.

Crew members also took part in Ocular Health checkouts as scientists search to better understand the vision changes some astronauts experience during spaceflight. They also collected samples for the Microbiome experiment which investigates the impact of space travel on both the human immune system and an individual’s microbiome.

Station commander Terry Virts did some troubleshooting on the Japanese airlock in preparation for the upcoming Robotics Refueling Mission-2 (RRM-2) operations. RRM-2, a joint study between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, investigates satellite repair and servicing techniques in space. Operators on the ground use the station’s special purpose dexterous manipulator, better known as Dextre, on the end of the Canadarm2, for fine robotics manipulation. Engineers are looking to determine whether it’s possible to refuel satellites and test electrical connections robotically.