New Station Astronauts March into Spacewalk Preparations

NASA Astronaut Scott Tingle
NASA astronaut Scott Tingle is inside the International Space Station’s window to the world, the seven-windowed cupola, where astronauts operate the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture visiting vehicles such as the SpaceX Dragon, the Orbital ATK Cygnus and Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle.

Three new Expedition 55 crew members are beginning their first full workweek aboard the International Space Station. They and the rest of the crew are getting ready for a spacewalk on Thursday and next week’s arrival of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are preparing for a spacewalk just six days after arriving at their new home in space. The duo reviewed their spacewalk procedures today with fellow astronauts Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai. The veteran spacewalkers will install communications antennas and replace a camera assembly during the excursion set to begin Thursday at 8:10 a.m. EDT. NASA TV broadcast the spacewalk activities live beginning at 7 a.m.

Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov has been packing a Russian resupply ship with trash and old gear readying it for its departure on Wednesday. The Progress 68 (68P) cargo craft will undock from the Pirs docking compartment Wednesday at 9:50 a.m. It will reenter Earth’s atmosphere April 25 for a fiery demise over the Pacific Ocean. The 68P has been attached to the station since Oct. 16.

The next cargo craft due to resupply the station is the SpaceX Dragon. After its launch April 2 at 4:30 p.m. Dragon will take a two-day flight to the station. The commercial cargo craft will be robotically captured and installed next Wednesday at 6 a.m. to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module.

Kanai and Tingle will be at the robotics controls inside the cupola when they capture Dragon with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. The duo practiced the Dragon rendezvous and capture procedures today. The crew has also been configuring the orbital lab for the new science experiments Dragon is delivering next week.

Astronauts Open BEAM and Prepare for Crew Departure

Expedition 53-54 Crew Members
Expedition 53-54 crew members (from left) Joe Acaba, Alexander Misurkin and Mark Vande Hei pose for a portrait inside the Japanese Kibo Laboratory module.

Three Expedition 54 crew members continued preparing for their return to Earth next week. A pair of astronauts also opened up BEAM today to stow a robotic hand and to check for contaminants.

Commander Alexander Misurkin joined his Soyuz MS-06 crewmates Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei and reviewed their procedures for next week’s descent into Earth’s atmosphere. The trio also familiarized themselves with the sensations they will experience flying through the atmosphere and feeling gravity for the first time after 168 days in space.

Misurkin will hand over command of the International Space Station to cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov on Monday at 2:40 p.m. EST. Misurkin, Vande Hei and Acaba will then close the hatch to their Soyuz spacecraft Tuesday at 2:15 p.m. and undock from the Poisk module 6:08 p.m. The trio will then parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 9:32 p.m. NASA TV will cover all the landing activities live.

Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai will stay behind on the station with Shkaplerov as commander officially becoming the Expedition 55 crew when their crew mates undock next week. They will be joined March 23 by new Expedition 55-56 crew members Oleg Artemyev, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel. The trio will launch March 21 and were in Red Square in Moscow today for traditional ceremonial activities.

Today, Tingle and Kanai opened up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) and stowed a degraded robotic hand, or Latching End Effector (LEE), that was attached to the Canadarm2. The LEE was returned inside the station after last week’s robotics maintenance spacewalk. The duo also sampled BEAM’s air and surfaces for microbes.

Spacewalkers Wrap Up Robotic Hand Transfers

Spacewalkers Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai
Spacewalkers Mark Vande Hei (foreground) and Norishige Kanai transfer a spare robotic hand to a long-term stowage area on the International Space Station.

Expedition 54 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have completed a spacewalk lasting 5 hours and 57 minutes.

The two astronauts concluded their spacewalk at 12:57 p.m. EST with the repressurization of the Quest airlock.

The spacewalkers moved two Latching End Effector (LEE), or hands, for the Canadian-built robotic arm, Canadarm2. They moved one to a long-term storage location for future use as a spare part and brought the other inside the space station to be returned to Earth. It will be refurbished and later relaunched to the orbiting laboratory as a spare.

Running well ahead of the timeline, the two spacewalkers also conducted a number of get ahead tasks, including the lubrication of the inside of the LEE installed on the International Space Station’s robotic arm during the Jan. 23 spacewalk. They also positioned an interface tool for the Canadian Space Agency’s robotic handyman Dextre, installed a grounding strap on a component of the LEE positioned on one end of the robotic arm, and adjusted a strut on a component on one of the station’s spare parts platforms. That component is a flex hose rotary coupler that transfers liquid ammonia across a connecting point on the station’s backbone to provide cooling for its systems.

It was the 208th spacewalk in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance, the fourth in Vande Hei’s career, and the first for Kanai, who became the fourth Japanese astronaut to walk in space.

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

 

Astronauts Step Outside Beginning Third Spacewalk of Year

Astronauts in Quest Airlock
Astronaut Joe Acaba (center) assists spacewalkers Norishige Kanai (right) and Mark Vande Hei (left) inside the Quest airlock Friday morning.

Expedition 54 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency switched their spacesuits to battery power at 7 a.m. EST, signifying the official start of today’s planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station.

Watch the spacewalk live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Vande Hei is wearing the suit bearing the red stripes, and Kanai’s suit has no stripes. Views from a camera on Vande Hei’s helmet are designated with the number 18, and Kanai’s is labeled with the number 17. Vande Hei is designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV1) for this spacewalk, the fourth of his career. Kanai, embarking on his first spacewalk, is extravehicular crew member 2 (EV2). Kanai is only the fourth Japanese astronaut in history to conduct a spacewalk.

The first task for the two spacewalkers is to move a Latching End Effector (LEE), or hand, for the Canadian-built robotic arm, Canadarm2, from a payload attachment on the station’s Mobile Base System rail car to the Quest airlock. This LEE was replaced during an Expedition 53 spacewalk in October 2017 and will be returned to Earth to be refurbished and relaunched to the orbiting laboratory as a spare.

Once they have completed that activity, they will move an aging, but functional, LEE that was detached from the arm during a Jan. 23 spacewalk and move it from its temporary storage outside the airlock to a long-term storage location on the Mobile Base System, which is used to move the arm and astronauts along the station’s truss structure.

Station Prepping for Spacewalk After New Cargo Ship Arrives

Spacewalker Mark Vande Hei
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is pictured during a spacewalk that took place Jan. 23, 2018, to begin maintenance work on the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

The Expedition 54 crew is getting ready for a spacewalk Friday morning and beginning the work to unload a newly-arrived cargo delivery.

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai are completing their spacewalk reviews and readying their spacesuits and tools ahead of Friday morning’s excursion. The duo is scheduled to turn their spacesuits batteries on to internal power at 7:10 a.m. EST signifying the start of a planned six and a half hour spacewalk.

The spacewalkers will complete the transfer of a pair of older robotic hands, or Latching End Effectors (LEEs), that were once attached to the Canadarm2 robotic arm. One LEE will be transferred inside the Quest airlock while the other will be attached to the mobile base system. NASA TV will start its live coverage of the spacewalk activities beginning at 5:30 a.m.

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov opened the hatch to a new Progress cargo craft that arrived today at 5:38 a.m. The duo will start the work to offload a little over three tons of food, fuel and supplies from the resupply ship that will stay docked to the Zvezda service module until March.

Crew Waits for Russian Delivery Day Before U.S. Spacewalk

Soyuz and Progress spaceships
Russia’s Soyuz MS-07 crew ship (foreground) and Progress 68 cargo craft are seen docked to the Earth-facing ports of the International Space Station’s Russian segment. The Soyuz is docked to the Rassvet module and the Progress is attached to the Pirs docking compartment.

A Russian cargo craft is on its way to the International Space Station early Thursday as two astronauts get ready for a spacewalk on Friday.

The Progress 69 (69P) cargo craft is orbiting Earth today carrying three tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 54 crew. The 69P is due to complete its delivery when it docks Thursday at 5:43 a.m. EST to the Zvezda service module’s rear port. NASA TV will broadcast the rendezvous and docking live starting at 5 a.m.

Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov will be inside Zvezda monitoring tomorrow morning’s automated docking of the 69P. The cosmonauts are brushing up on their robotics skills today in the unlikely event they would need to use the station’s telerobotically operated rendezvous unit to manually dock the resupply ship.

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai are checking their tools and procedures they will use Friday morning during a planned six-and-a-half hour spacewalk. The spacewalkers will complete the transfer of a pair of older robotic hands, or Latching End Effectors (LEEs), that were once attached to the Canadarm2 robotic arm. One LEE will be transferred inside the Quest airlock while the other will be attached to the mobile base system.

Vande Hei and Kanai are scheduled to set their spacesuit batteries to internal power at 7:10 a.m. signifying the official start of the U.S. spacewalk. NASA TV will start its live coverage of the spacewalk activities beginning at 5:30 a.m.

SPHERES Science and Vision Checks Ahead of Friday Spacewalk

Russian Orlan Spacesuits
A pair of empty Russian Orlan spacesuits are pictured inside the airlock of the Pirs docking compartment. The spacesuits will be worn during a Feb. 2 spacewalk with cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov.

As the International Space Program gets ready for a pair of spacewalks in February, the Expedition 54 crew was busy setting up a pair of experimental internal satellites and conducting vision checks today.

NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei brought out a pair of tiny satellites, also known as SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites), for a run of the SmoothNAV experiment today. The study is researching how algorithms and sensors may help determine relative positions and velocities between spacecraft.

Both astronauts also joined Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai for eye exams during the afternoon. Tingle and Kanai first swapped roles as Crew Medical Officer checking each other’s eyes today using optical coherence tomography. Then Tingle joined Acaba and Vande Hei afterward for more eye checks using a fundoscope. Doctors on the ground remotely assisted the astronauts viewing their eyes in real time.

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov donned their Orlan spacesuits today to ensure a good fit and check for pressure leaks ahead of a spacewalk scheduled to start Friday at 10:30 a.m. EST. They’ll work outside for about 6.5 hours of maintenance on the Russian side of the orbital laboratory.

The second spacewalk is set to take place Feb. 15 at 7:10 a.m. when Vande Hei and Kanai exit the station to continue robotics maintenance on the Canadarm2. They’ll stow a pair of latching end effectors, or robotic hands, which had been detached from the Canadarm2 on two previous spacewalks, the first on Oct. 5, 2017 and the second on Jan. 23.

Rescheduled Robotics Work Makes Two Spacewalks in February

Astronaut Scott Tingle
Astronaut Scott Tingle works on a U.S. spacesuit inside the Quest airlock at the beginning of January 2018 before a pair of robotics maintenance spacewalks were scheduled to begin.

International Space Station managers have rescheduled a U.S. spacewalk postponed on Monday to mid-February. Meanwhile, the Expedition 54 crew is also preparing for a Russian spacewalk this Friday.

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai are planning to begin their spacewalk Feb. 15 at 7:10 a.m. EST to stow and reposition a pair of Latching End Effectors (LEEs). The LEEs are robotic hands attached to the tip of the Canadarm2 that grapple and release cargo ships and external station hardware.

During the 6.5-hour excursion, the spacewalkers will first move an older LEE from a bracket on the Mobile Base System on the truss to the Quest airlock. It was removed from Canadarm2 during a spacewalk last October. Next, a degraded LEE detached from Canadarm2 during the last U.S. spacewalk on Jan. 23 will be moved from an external stowage platform to the Mobile Base System. NASA TV will begin its live broadcast of the spacewalk at 5:30 a.m.

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov will exit the Pirs airlock in their Orlan spacesuits Friday at around 10:30 a.m. for 6.5 hours of Russian maintenance, highlighted by the swap out of an electronics system for the Zvezda Service Module’s high gain communications antenna. Live NASA TV coverage begins at 9:45 a.m.

Earlier today, Zvezda’s engines fired for 23 seconds to increase the station’s altitude and set up operations for the arrival of cargo and the departure of crew. The Progress 69 cargo craft will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Feb. 11, then 3 Expedition 54 crew members will depart the station in their Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft Feb. 27 for a landing in Kazakhstan later that day.

Crew Looking Ahead to Friday Russian Spacewalk

Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Alexander Misurkin
Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov (left) and Alexander Misurkin work inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module participating in eye exams using a fundoscope.

Expedition 54 is now focusing on Friday’s spacewalk to install and remove gear on the Russian side of the International Space Station. This comes after today’s spacewalk to work on the Canadarm2 robotic arm was postponed to mid-February.

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov will put on their Orlan spacesuits Friday and exit the Pirs airlock around 10:30 a.m. EST. The duo will be spacewalking for about six and a half hours to replace an electronics box for a communications antenna on the aft end of the Zvezda service module. The old box will be jettisoned into space to eventually burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

If time allows, the Russian spacewalkers may be able work a few more tasks. A pair of exposed experiments, Test and Biorisk, are due to be retrieved and brought back inside the station. The cosmonauts may also photograph the back of Zvezda, reposition a foot restraint and jettison old experiment gear.

Over the weekend space station managers postponed today’s spacewalk for robotics maintenance. Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai were expected to swap a Latching End Effector (LEE) on the tip of the Canadarm2 today installed last week on a spacewalk; however, Canadian Space Agency engineers uploaded a diagnostics software to identify the primary communications string anomaly and test the software upgrade on the spare LEE, eliminating today’s swap work. The final software patch will be uploaded in early February.

The duo is now planning for a mid-February spacewalk to bring an end effector inside the station removed from the arm during a spacewalk last October, and install the end effector removed last Tuesday on the mobile base system rail car on the station’s truss.

Station Officials Postpone Monday’s Spacewalk to Mid-February

Astronaut Norishige Kanai
Astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency tries on a pair of spacesuit sleeves inside the Quest airlock. To either side of Kanai are the U.S. spacesuits that were being readied for a pair of robotics maintenance spacewalks.

International Space Station officials have postponed Monday’s spacewalk to swap latching end effectors (LEEs) on the Canadarm2 robotic arm. The decision was made after the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and its robotics specialist team developed a diagnostics software patch confirming an anomaly noted in a primary communications string on the spare end effector installed during a prior spacewalk Jan. 23 was not hardware related, and can be corrected through the implementation of software. A confidence test verifying the software upgrade was successfully completed Saturday night.

During its initial power up after last Tuesday’s spacewalk swap, the spare latching end effector did not communicate as expected on the primary string, but did so on its backup communications string. As a result, Monday’s spacewalk by Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was replanned to return the original latching end effector to the arm in place of the spare. But the software solution confirmed on Saturday will not require the spacewalkers to venture out on Monday.

The original spacewalk by Vande Hei and Kanai to bring an end effector inside the station removed from the arm during a spacewalk last October, and install the end effector removed last Tuesday on the mobile base system rail car on the station’s truss, is expected to be executed by the two crew members in mid-February.

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