Busy Monday as Astronauts Grapple Dragon and Store Critical Experiments

At the Mission Control Center in Houston, Expedition 59 flight controllers monitor the capture and berthing of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft to the Harmony module of the International Space Station on May 6. Image Credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel
At the Mission Control Center in Houston, Expedition 59 flight controllers monitor the capture and berthing of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft to the Harmony module of the International Space Station on May 6. Image Credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel
This morning, just two days following its nighttime launch from the Florida coast, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft was captured and installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 9:32 a.m. EDT.

Expedition 59 astronauts David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Nick Hague of NASA successfully employed the space station’s robotic arm to grapple Dragon at 7:01 a.m., which brings the number of spaceships docked at the space station to six. Other vehicles visiting include Russia’s Progress 71 and 72 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-11 and MS-12 crew ships, as well as Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter.

Dragon’s arrival heralds a busy week for the crew. Today, NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch unpacked and activated time-critical experiments after completing checkout of the spacecraft. Fresh biological samples, such as kidney cells, were stowed in science freezers and incubators for later analysis. New lab mice were also quickly transferred and housed in specialized habitats to enhance research for an immune system study that aims to keep astronauts healthy for long-duration missions in space, which will become even more commonplace as our destinations extend to the Moon and beyond.

SpaceX’s 17th cargo flight to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract supports dozens of new and existing investigations. NASA’s research and development work aboard the space station contributes to the agency’s deep space exploration plans, including returning astronauts to the Moon’s surface in five years.

This latest commercial cargo delivery refreshed the orbiting laboratory with 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware.

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.

SpaceX Cargo Craft Attached to Station

May 4, 2019: International Space Station Configuration.
May 6, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Six spaceships are docked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter and Russia’s Progress 71 and 72 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-11 and MS-12 crew ships.

Two days after its launch from Florida, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 9:32 a.m. EDT.

The 17th contracted commercial resupply mission from SpaceX (CRS-17) delivers more than 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory.

Here’s some of the science arriving at station:

Scientists are using a new technology called tissue chips, which could help predict the effectiveness of potential medicines in humans. Fluid that mimics blood can be passed through the chip to simulate blood flow, and can include drugs or toxins. In microgravity, changes occur in human health and human cells that resemble accelerated aging and disease processes. This investigation allows scientists to make observations over the course of a few weeks in microgravity rather than the months it would take in a laboratory on Earth.

The Hermes facility allows scientists to study the dusty, fragmented debris covering asteroids and moons, called regolith. Once installed by astronauts on the space station, scientists will be able to take over the experiment from Earth to study how regolith particles behave in response to long-duration exposure to microgravity, including changes to pressure, temperate and shocks from impacts and other forces. The investigations will provide insight into the formation and behavior of asteroids, comets, impact dynamics and planetary evolution.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations that 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. 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.

After Dragon spends approximately one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with about 3,300 pounds of cargo and research.

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.

Astronaut Commands Robotic Arm to Capture Dragon Cargo Craft

SpaceX Dragon Cargo Craft Captured
The SpaceX Dragon CRS-17 Cargo Craft captured and attached to the CanadaArm2.

While the International Space Station was traveling over the north Atlantic Ocean, astronauts David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Nick Hague of NASA grappled Dragon at 7:01 a.m. EDT using the space station’s robotic arm Canadarm2.

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 Saturday, May 4 with more than 5,500 pounds of research, equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Here’s some of the research arriving at station:

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) examines the complex dynamics of Earth’s atmospheric carbon cycle by collecting measurements to track variations in a specific type of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Understanding carbon sources can aid in forecasting increased atmospheric heat retention and reduce its long-term risks.

The Photobioreactor investigation aims to demonstrate how microalgae can be used together with existing life support systems on the space station to improve recycling of resources. The cultivation of microalgae for food, and as part of a life support system to generate oxygen and consume carbon dioxide, could be helpful in future long-duration exploration missions, as it could reduce the amount of consumables required from 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 Coverage Begins of the SpaceX Dragon Approaching Station

SpaceX Dragon Cargo Craft
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft approaches the International Space Station for a robotic capture

Flight control teams for the International Space Station and SpaceX are proceeding toward grapple of the Dragon cargo spacecraft this morning. Capture is expected around 7 a.m. EDT. NASA Television coverage has begun. Watch live at http://www.nasa.gov/live.

Expedition 59 astronauts David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Nick Hague of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to grapple Dragon around 7 a.m. Coverage of robotic installation to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module will begin at 9 a.m.

The Dragon lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Saturday, May 4 with more than 5,500 pounds of research, equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory.

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.

 

Station Back At Full Power While Crew Continues Important Research Studies

NASA astronaut Christina Koch sets up Fiber Optic Production, an investigation to create optical fibers in microgravity that may exhibit superior quality to those produced on Earth. Image Credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Christina Koch sets up Fiber Optic Production, an investigation to create optical fibers in microgravity that may exhibit superior quality to those produced on Earth. Image Credit: NASA
The crew of Expedition 59 was hard at work today setting up a litany of science experiments and conducting maintenance to the International Space Station that will help further NASA’s goal of returning to the Moon.

Some unplanned maintenance to replace a failed Main Bus Switching Unit-3 (MBSU), which was completed this morning by robotics ground controllers through the use of the space station’s Canadarm2 and Dextre, also known as the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator (SPDM), restored the orbiting laboratory to a nominal power configuration. Ordinarily, this intensive procedure would have required the station residents to perform an emergency spacewalk. However, swapping out the MSBU entirely through robotics work demonstrated that some of the capabilities explorers will need for the Moon and destinations beyond are being tested right now in low-Earth orbit.

Meanwhile, within the space station, Flight Engineers Anne McClain and Christina Koch prepped investigations vital to the next generation of space explorers. McClain spent time setting up mass measurement hardware for Rodent Research-12, which will examine the effects of spaceflight on the function of antibody production and immune memory. Koch stowed Fiber Optics Production hardware and checked Airway Monitoring experiment gear. Airway Monitoring will help ensure crew well-being by evaluating the occurrence and indicators of airway inflammation in the astronauts using ultra-sensitive gas monitors to analyze exhaled air.

In the Harmony module, NASA astronaut Nick Hague completed inventory and performed stowage work for the module’s Pressurized Mating Adapter-3. Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques worked with the Veggie PONDS experiment, adding water to the space botany gear. Understanding how plants respond to microgravity and demonstrating that reliable vegetable production is possible in space are important steps toward spacesuited boots on destinations like the Moon and Mars, where visiting vehicle visits to replenish the crew’s food supply will not be as regular as they are to the space station.

On the subject of visiting vehicles, commercial cargo provider SpaceX is poised to make its 17th resupply to the orbiting laboratory, with launch set for 3:11 EDT Friday, May 3. Dragon, which is filled with more than 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware, will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Astronauts Relax Today Before Robotics Work and Dragon Cargo Mission

Astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Nick Hague
Astronauts David Saint-Jacques (foreground) and Nick Hague are pictured April 24 training to capture the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft on the robotics workstation inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

The Expedition 59 astronauts are off-duty today relaxing before the planned launch and capture of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship this weekend. In Mission Control, robotics engineers are preparing to swap a failed power distributor outside the International Space Station.

On April 29, the space station team identified an issue with one of the station’s Main Bus Switching Units (MBSU) that distributes power to two of the eight power channels on the station.  There are no immediate concerns for the crew or the station. Flight controllers are scheduled to perform a series of maneuvers to robotically swap the failed MBSU for a spare on Wednesday, May 1 and Thursday, May 2. After the swap is complete, flight controllers will conduct a series of checkouts on the newly installed MBSU and take steps to return the station to full power capability to support SpaceX capture and berthing.

NASA and SpaceX are pressing ahead to launch Dragon no earlier than Friday May 3 at 3:11 a.m. EDT to deliver nearly 5,500 pounds of science, supplies and hardware. Astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Nick Hague will be in the cupola Sunday to command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Dragon around 7 a.m.

Flight Engineers Anne McClain and Christina Koch will help unpack and activate the time critical experiments after Dragon is installed on the Harmony module. New lab mice will be quickly transferred and housed in specialized habitats for an immune system study. Fresh biological samples, such as kidney cells, will be also stowed in science freezers and incubators for later analysis.

Space Research Continues on Station as NASA, SpaceX Move Off May 1 Launch

The Gulf of Mexico, Galveston Bay and Houston, Texas
The Gulf of Mexico, Galveston Bay and Houston, Texas, the home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, are pictured from the International Space Station 256 miles above the Lone Star State.

NASA has requested SpaceX move off from May 1 for the launch of the company’s 17th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.

On April 29, the space station team identified an issue with one of the station’s Main Bus Switching Units that distributes power to two of the eight power channels on the station.  There are no immediate concerns for the crew or the station. Teams are working on a plan to robotically replace the failed unit and restore full power to the station system. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available. The earliest possible launch opportunity is no earlier than Friday, May 3.

Meanwhile, the Expedition 59 crew explored a wide variety of microgravity science today including human research, robotics and space manufacturing techniques.

Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques jotted down his impressions of space life in a private journal this morning for the Behavioral Core Measures study. Later he installed new incubator hardware inside the Space Automated Bioproduct Lab for the Kidney Cells experiment that seeks innovative treatments for humans on Earth and in space.

Astrobee, a new free-flying robotic assistant, is being readied for testing today inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. NASA astronaut Anne McClain inspected and checked out the cube-shaped mini-robot’s components then activated the device to perform a flyaround. Astrobee could save the crew time performing routine maintenance duties and providing additional lab monitoring capabilities.

Engineers are also testing the feasibility of producing fiber optic cable in space. Microgravity reveals physical processes hidden by Earth’s gravity that may prove the superiority of space manufacturing. Flight Engineer Christina Koch contributed to that study today working on fiber samples in the Microgravity Science Glovebox that will be examined back on Earth for quality.

Crew Waits for Dragon Mission While Teams Troubleshoot Power Issue

Aurora and Night Sky
The Aurora and the night sky above Earth’s atmosphere are pictured from the space station. A portion of the station’s solar arrays and a pair of nitrogen/oxygen recharge system tanks are pictured in the foreground.

A SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is poised to lift off this week from Florida to the International Space Station. The Expedition 59 crew will welcome Dragon when it arrives three days later carrying nearly 5,500 pounds of cargo.

Dragon will be encapsulated atop the Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a countdown to its Wednesday launch at 3:59 a.m. EDT. Astronaut David Saint-Jacques will be at the controls of the robotics workstation Saturday commanding the Canadarm2 to capture Dragon around 6:45 a.m. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and capture activities live.

He and fellow flight engineers Nick Hague, Anne McClain and Christina Koch are familiarizing themselves with the complex cargo unpacking procedures today. Dragon is also carrying external cargo, including the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3, that will be removed by robotics controllers and installed on the station.

In the meantime, the space residents have been filming a virtual reality experience aboard the orbital lab. Today, McClain set up the 360-degree camera in the U.S. Destiny lab module to film herself talking about her space experience as her crewmates work around her.

Koch is helping engineers learn how to produce high quality optical fibers on the space station. The weightless environment of space provides the opportunity to explore manufacturing techniques that are superior to those on Earth. Results could improve space technologies as well as provide more Earth-bound benefits.

On the Russian side of the station, Commander Oleg Kononenko focused on lab maintenance ensuring life support systems are in tip-top shape. Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin spent a couple of hours cleaning Orlan spacesuits before checking radiation sensors and replacing fire extinguishers.

Monday morning, teams identified an issue with the International Space Station’s electrical power system and are working to identify the root cause and restore full power to the system. There are no immediate concerns for the crew or the station. An issue is being worked with a Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) that distributes electrical power to two of the eight power channels on the station. Flight controllers have been working to route power through the remaining six power channels. Electrical power generated by the station’s solar arrays is fed to all station systems through these power channels. Discussions are underway to determine any impacts to SpaceX’s CRS-17 cargo resupply mission targeted for launch May 1.

Crew Juggles Emergency Drill, Space Biology and Dragon Preps

NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the COLBERT treadmill
NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the COLBERT treadmill inside the Tranquility module.

The six-member Expedition 59 crew conducted a routine, periodic drill for response to emergencies today in the middle of a science-packed day. The astronauts also researched space biology while preparing for next week’s SpaceX Dragon cargo mission.

The space residents practiced communications, roles and responsibilities, and evacuating the station in the unlikely event of an emergency. The crew would split up, board their Soyuz spacecraft and undock quickly for a ride back to Earth. The two Soyuz crew ships docked to the International Space Station each hold three crewmembers.

NASA Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Anne McClain set up the ultrasound and optometry instruments today for more Fluid Shifts studies. Flight surgeons are exploring what happens to an astronaut’s veins and eyes due to the head-ward flow of fluids caused by microgravity.

Hague later checked out command and communications gear he and astronaut David Saint-Jacques will use when the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship arrives next week. Saint-Jacques will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Dragon early Friday, May 3, two days after it launches from Florida. Hague will monitor Dragon’s telemetry during its approach and rendezvous. NASA TV is broadcasting the pre-flight activities and mission events live.

Saint-Jacques and Flight Engineer Christina Koch also split the day feeding mice and cleaning cages for the Rodent Research-12 experiment. The study is investigating the immune system’s response to the conditions of long-term spaceflight.

Commander Oleg Kononenko focused much of his attention today on life support maintenance in the Russian segment of the orbital lab. Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin studied ways to maximize the effectiveness of exercise in the weightless environment of microgravity.

Biomedical and Botany Research Today as Station Preps for Sixth Spacecraft

The aurora australis, also known as the "southern lights"
The aurora australis, also known as the “southern lights”, is pictured as the International Space Station orbited 265 miles above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia.

Vein scans and eye checks were on the schedule today as the Expedition 59 crew continues ongoing biomedical studies. The International Space Station is also getting ready to host a sixth spacecraft when it arrives next week.

Scientists have been observing the space residents all week as they seek to understand the effects of the upward flow of body fluids in space. Flight Engineer Anne McClain worked on the Fluid Shifts experiment again today attaching body electrodes to NASA astronaut Nick Hague and conducting ultrasound scans of his veins. She also peered into his eyes using optical tomography coherence hardware. Results may help flight surgeons prevent the increased head and eye pressure caused by the upward fluid shifts astronauts report in space.

NASA is also learning how to support longer human missions farther out into space. Feeding crews without expensive cargo missions and fuel-consuming inventories is critical. As a result, the station provides a variety of greenhouse facilities for plant cultivation and research. Christina Koch of NASA set up new botany hardware today to enable the ongoing research and harvesting of lettuce and mizuna in space.

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is due to liftoff Tuesday at 4:21 a.m. EDT on its 17th contracted cargo mission to the station. Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques is training to capture Dragon with the Canadarm2 robotic arm when it arrives Thursday May 2 at 6:50 a.m. A pair of new experiments it is delivering will explore atmospheric carbon dioxide as well as X-ray frequency communication techniques.