While the International Space Station was traveling about 250 miles over the Pacific Ocean north of Papua New Guinea, Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor, captured the Dragon spacecraft at 7:21 a.m. EST using the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm.
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 scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Watch online at www.nasa.gov/live.
The Dragon lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Wednesday, Dec 5 with more than 5,600 pounds of research, equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory.
The International Space Station is an accessible space laboratory with unparalleled capability that is increasing knowledge of engineering and physical sciences, biology, the Earth, and the universe through research and technology demonstrations and providing the foundation for continuing human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit. NASA’s human research is closing the gaps in current scientific understanding of how best to predict, assess, and solve the problems that humans encounter while living and working in space, and extend that knowledge to protect the women and men who will go forward to the Moon and Mars.
The launch of the SpaceX Dragon cargo vessel slipped one day to Wednesday at 1:16 p.m. EST with meteorologists forecasting 90% favorable weather for launch. Meanwhile, the newest crew members aboard the International Space Station are getting used to their new home in space.
Dragon’s 16th mission to the orbital lab will deliver almost 5,700 pounds of science, crew supplies and hardware. The commercial space freighter is due to arrive at the station Saturday when astronauts Alexander Gerst and Serena Auñón-Chancellor will command the Canadarm2 to grapple Dragon around 6 a.m.
New station crew members Oleg Kononenko, Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are in their second day aboard the station. The trio are familiarizing themselves with station systems and safety procedures today. They began their mission Monday when they launched aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft at 6:31 a.m. and docked just six hours and two minutes later to the Poisk module. The new crew will stay in space until June.
Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst is getting for his return to Earth on Dec. 20 and began packing his personal items today. He’ll wrap up his mission with Flight Engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Sergey Prokopyev and land in Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz MS-09 crew ship after six-and-a-half months in space.
The Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:31 a.m. EST. The spacecraft will spend about three months attached to the space station before departing in February 2019. After it leaves the station, the uncrewed spacecraft will deploy several CubeSats before its fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere as it disposes of several tons of trash.
The spacecraft’s arrival brings close to 7,400 pounds of research and supplies to space station. Highlights of NASA-sponsored research to advance exploration goals and enable future missions to the Moon and Mars include:
Sensory input in microgravity
Changes in sensory input in microgravity may be misinterpreted and cause a person to make errors in estimation of velocity, distance or orientation. VECTION examines this effect as well as whether people adapt to altered sensory input on long-duration missions and how that adaptation changes upon return to Earth. Using a virtual reality display, astronauts estimate the distance to an object, length of an object and orientation of their bodies in space. Tests are conducted before, during and after flight. The investigation is named for a visual illusion of self-movement, called vection, which occurs when an individual is still but sees the world moving past, according to principal investigator Laurence Harris. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) sponsors the investigation.
Solidifying cement in space
The MVP-Cell 05 investigation uses a centrifuge to provide a variable gravity environment to study the complex process of cement solidification, a step toward eventually making and using concrete on extraterrestrial bodies. These tests are a follow-on to the previous studies known as Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification (MICS), which studied cement solidification in microgravity. Together, these tests will help engineers better understand the microstructure and material properties of cement, leading to design of safer, lightweight space habitats and improving cement processing techniques on Earth. This investigation is sponsored by NASA.
Investigations sponsored by the U.S. National Laboratory on the space station, which Congress designated in 2005 to maximize its use for improving quality of life on Earth, include:
From stardust to solar systems
Much of the universe was created when dust from star-based processes clumped into intermediate-sized particles and eventually became planets, moons and other objects. Many questions remain as to just how this worked, though. The EXCISS investigation seeks answers 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, then study the shape and texture of pellets formed.
Principal investigator Tamara Koch explains that the dust is made up of particles of forsterite (Mg2SiO4), the main mineral in many meteorites and related to olivine, also known as the gemstone peridot. The particles are about the diameter of a human hair.
Growing crystals to fight Parkinson’s disease
The CASIS PCG-16 investigation grows large crystals of an important protein, Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2, or 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. Crystals of LRRK2 grown in gravity are too small and too compact to study, making microgravity an essential part of this research.
Better gas separation membranes
Membranes represent one of the most energy-efficient and cost-effective technologies for separating and removing carbon dioxide from waste gases, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. CEMSICA tests membranes made from particles of calcium-silicate (C-S) with pores 100 nanometers or smaller. Producing these membranes in microgravity may resolve some of the challenges of their manufacture on Earth and lead to development of lower-cost, more durable membranes that use less energy. The technology ultimately may help reduce the harmful effects of CO2 emissions on the planet.
The launch of the Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman has slipped another day due to inclement weather at the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Atlantic coast. Cygnus is now scheduled to launch atop the Antares rocket Saturday at 4:01 a.m. EST with a much improved weather forecast.
The U.S. resupply ship will deliver approximately 7,400 pounds of food, fuel and supplies to the station two days later. Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Cygnus Monday at 5:20 a.m. Commander Alexander Gerst will back her up and monitor telemetry from the vehicle during its approach and rendezvous.
The Progress 71 (71P) cargo craft from Russia is at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan ready to blast off Friday at 1:14 p.m. EST. Prokopyev will be monitoring the Russian resupply ship when it arrives Sunday for an automated docking to the rear port of the Zvezda service module at 2:30 p.m.
The International Space Station Program is testing the use of artificial intelligence today to contribute to mission success aboard the orbital laboratory. Meanwhile, the space residents from the U.S., Germany and Russia continued more human research and prepared for the upcoming U.S. and Russian space deliveries.
CIMON, or Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN, is a free-flying robotic assistant based on artificial intelligence currently being tested on the station. The astronaut support device from ESA (European Space Agency) was powered up and commissioned today by the station commander inside the Columbus lab module. The CIMON technology seeks to demonstrate astronaut-robot interaction by answering crew questions, assisting with science experiments and navigating autonomously in the lab.
Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev and fellow crewmates Gerst and Auñón-Chancellor started Thursday with ongoing eye checks. Gerst and Serena swapped roles as Crew Medical Officer scanning each other’s eyes including Prokopyev’s using an ultrasound device with guidance from a doctor on the ground. The data is downlinked to Earth real-time and helps scientists understand how microgravity affects astronaut vision as well as the components and shape of the eye.
If all goes as planned, astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the HTV-7, also called the Kounotori, Wednesday at 11:50 a.m. EST. Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor will back up Gerst in the cupola monitoring the vehicle and its telemetry as it slowly backs away from the space station. The two astronauts reviewed departure procedures and practiced robotics controls on a computer today. NASA TV will broadcast live the space freighter’s departure beginning at 11:30 a.m.
Kounotori was captured Sept. 27 and delivered external station batteries and hardware to be configured during a pair of upcoming spacewalks. The resupply ship also replenished the station with advanced science experiments and equipment to benefit humans on Earth and in space.
However, it has one more payload to deliver for splashdown on Earth before the vehicle burns up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean. The HTV-7 will release a small reentry capsule packed with test cargo for retrieval by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The splashdown mission is a test of JAXA’s ability to return small payloads from space for quick delivery to researchers on Earth.
Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev worked on science and maintenance tasks throughout Monday in the orbital lab’s Russian segment. He started out researching how the space environment and solar radiation affects plasma-dust crystals. Prokopyev finished up his day photographing the condition of the Zvezda service module interior panels before disposing of obsolete hardware in the Progress 70 resupply ship.
NASA is working closely with its International Space Station partner Roscosmos to move forward on crew launch plans. Roscosmos plans to launch the Progress 71 resupply mission on Nov. 16, and is targeting the launch of the Expedition 58 crew including NASA astronaut Anne McClain for Dec. 3, pending the outcome of the flight readiness review.
Roscosmos completed an investigation into the loss of a Soyuz rocket last month that led to a suspension of Russian rocket launches to the station. One of four first stage rocket engines abnormally separated and hit the second stage rocket that led to the loss of stabilization of the Soyuz on Oct. 11. A statement from Roscosmos describes the cause…
“The reason for the abnormal separation is the non-opening of the nozzle cap of the “D” block oxidizer tank because of the deformation of the stem of the separation contact sensor (bending on 6 ˚ 45 ‘), which was admitted when assembling the “package” at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The cause of the LV accident is of operational nature and extends to the backlog of the “Soyuz” type LV “package”.”
Using the International Space Station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2, Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA grappled the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kounotori H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) at 7:34 a.m. EDT and successfully completed the capture at 7:36 a.m. At the time of capture, the space station and cargo spacecraft were flying 250 miles above the north Pacific Ocean.
The Japanese cargo ship, whose name means “white stork,” is loaded with more than five tons of supplies, water, spare parts and experiments for the crew aboard the International Space Station.The spacecraft also is carrying a half dozen new lithium-ion batteries to continue upgrades to the station’s power system.
In addition to new hardware to upgrade the station’s electrical power system, the HTV-7 is carrying a new sample holder for the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (JAXA-ELF), a protein crystal growth experiment at low temperatures (JAXA LT PCG), an investigation that looks at the effect of microgravity on bone marrow (MARROW), a Life Sciences Glovebox, and additional EXPRESS Racks.
The Expedition 56 crew is ramping for a busy traffic period at the International Space Station during the next couple of weeks. This all comes as the orbital residents ensure BEAM’s operational life and continue ongoing microgravity science.
Japan’s seventh “Kounotori” resupply ship is nearing the orbital complex and closing in for a Thursday morning capture. Commander Drew Feustel practiced on a computer today the procedures he will use when he commands the Canadarm2 to grapple Kounotori around 8 a.m. NASA TV is broadcasting the live coverage of the HTV-7 arrival and capture starting at 6:30 a.m.
Feustel is also getting ready to return to Earth on Oct. 4 with crewmates Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos and Ricky Arnold. During the morning, the three crewmates checked the Sokol launch and entry suits they will wear when they reenter Earth’s atmosphere inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.
The commander also joined Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor opening up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) for maintenance and stowage work.The duo reinforced and stiffened struts inside BEAM to increase its safety margin and extend its operational life. They also stowed a variety of hardware inside the station’s newest module.
DNA sequencing from microbe samples is taking place onboard the station today to help scientists understand the impacts of living in space. The atomization of fluids continues to being studied potentially improving fuel efficiency on Earth and in spacecraft. A variety of space gear housing experiments and research samples was checked out today as part regularly scheduled maintenance.
Japan is poised to launch its HTV-7 resupply ship, nicknamed the Kounotori, loaded with over five tons of cargo to the International Space Station on Friday, U.S. time. Back on Earth, a new crew is preparing for its launch from Kazakhstan next month to the orbital lab.
JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) H-IIB rocket is set to blast off from the Tanegashima Space Center Friday at 4:59 p.m. EDT and send the Kounotori cargo craft on a four-day ride to the station. Commander Drew Feustel and will be in the Cupola Tuesday, with Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor as his backup, to command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the Kounotori at 7:30 a.m. The duo trained Thursday morning on a computer and practiced rendezvous procedures and robotics maneuvers.
More rodent research continued today as four astronauts teamed up to study how microgravity affects the gastroinstestinal systems of mice. In particular, scientists want to know how gut microbes react to the space environment and the impact it may have on astronaut health. Results will help doctors devise plans and treatments to keep astronauts healthy on long-term missions in outer space.
Two new Expedition 57 crew members are getting ready for their mission at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Moscow. Alexey Ovchinin from Roscosmos and Nick Hague from NASA are in Russia for qualification exams ahead of their launch and six-hour ride aboard the Soyuz MS-10 crew ship to the station on Oct. 11.
The Expedition 56 crew members conducted maintenance work on a variety of advanced science gear today to ensure ongoing space research aboard the International Space Station. The crew also continued a pair of exercise studies and trained to capture a Japanese cargo craft before tonight’s orbital reboost of the station.
Commander Drew Feustel spent Wednesday afternoon inside ESA’s (European Space Agency) Columbus laboratory module working on the Electromagnetic Levitator (EML). He installed a new storage disc and a high speed camera controller inside the EML. The space furnace enables research and observations of the properties of materials exposed to extremely high temperatures.
Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold worked in JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo laboratory module during the morning replacing valves inside the EXPRESS Rack-5. The science rack, which was delivered to the orbital lab in 2001, can host a variety of experiments operated by astronauts on the station or remotely by scientists on Earth.
Gerst and Feustel wrapped up the day with Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor reviewing next week’s arrival of JAXA’s HTV-7 resupply ship. The HTV-7’s launch is planned for Monday at 6:32 p.m. EDT and its capture with the Canadarm2 set for Sept. 14 at 7:40 a.m. NASA TV will cover both activities live.
Finally, the orbital lab is due to raise its orbit tonight in the second of three planned maneuvers to prepare for a crew swap in October. The Zvezda service module will fire its engines for 13 seconds slightly boosting the station’s orbit in advance of a pair of Soyuz crew ships departing and arriving next month.