Japanese Cargo Craft Departs from Station

The H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
The H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is pictured in the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic before it was attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module.

After delivering more than four tons of supplies and experiments to the International Space Station, an unpiloted Japanese cargo spacecraft is scheduled to depart the station today. Live coverage of the departure will begin at 1 p.m. EDT on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Earlier today, ground controllers used the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach the unpiloted H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) from an Earth-facing port of the station’s Harmony module, then moved the spacecraft into its release position. Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir of NASA will use the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the HTV at 1:20 p.m.

Named “Kounotori,” or “white stork” in Japanese, the unpiloted cargo spacecraft delivered six new lithium-ion batteries to replace aging nickel-hydrogen batteries used in two power channels on the space station’s port truss. HTV-8 also delivered scientific experiments, including an upgrade to the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF-L), a small-sized satellite optical communication system (SOLISS), and a payload for testing the effects of gravity on powder and granular material (Hourglass).

HTV-8 launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan Sept. 24, and the spacecraft was installed at the station Sept. 28.

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

Station Crew Readies for Japan, U.S. Cargo Missions

The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket
The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket that will launch the Cygnus cargo craft to the space station is seen at its Virginia launch pad.

A Japanese cargo craft is preparing to end its mission at the International Space Station, as a U.S. resupply ship stands ready to launch to the orbiting lab. The Expedition 61 crew is gearing up for the space traffic while also staying fresh on station emergency procedures.

Japan’s HTV-8 cargo craft, also called Kounotori, will complete its 34-day mission attached to the station’s Harmony module on Friday. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are sharpening their Canadarm2 robotic arm skills today as they train to release the Kounotori packed with trash and obsolete gear  at 1:20 p.m. EDT. It will fall to Earth over the Pacific Ocean and burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere on Saturday.

The 12th U.S.-made Cygnus resupply ship sits atop an Antares rocket and will blast off Saturday from Virginia at 9:59 a.m. EDT. The space delivery vehicle from Northrop Grumman will arrive Monday, when Meir with Koch as her backup will capture it at 4:10 a.m. EST with the Canadarm2. Robotic controllers on the ground will take over and remotely guide Cygnus and attach it to the Unity module where it will stay for 70 days.

NASA TV will cover all the mission activities live.

Three station crewmates brushed up on their emergency response skills today in the unlikely event they would need to evacuate the station in their Soyuz crew ship. Koch with Commander Luca Parmitano and Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov practiced quickly entering their Soyuz and simulated emergency undocking and descent procedures.

Crop Harvest on Station After Robotics, Human Research Today

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir waters plant pillows where Mizuna mustard greens are raised as part of the Veg-04B experiment.

The Expedition 61 crew harvested a space-grown crop today aboard the International Space Station. The orbital lab residents also tested robotics systems before exploring blood pressure and time perception in microgravity.

Space agriculture aboard the orbiting laboratory has been ongoing for several years to learn how to provide fresh food to space crews. NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan continued that research by cutting Mizuna leaves today for a taste test and stowing the leftovers in a science freezer for scientific analysis.

Morgan also took turns with Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) wearing virtual reality goggles and clicking a trackball for a time perception study. The investigation observes subjective time changes astronauts experience during space missions and back on Earth after missions.

The Astrobee free-flying robotic assistant had a test-run today as Parmitano calibrated the autonomous device’s systems. The ESA astronaut checked Astrobee’s abilities to navigate, dock and visually monitor activities inside the space station’s Kibo laboratory module.

The Cygnus resupply ship will launch Saturday at 9:59 a.m. EDT atop the Antares rocket from Virginia. Meir and NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch are practicing robotic techniques to capture Cygnus when it arrives two days later. Meir, with Koch backing her up in the cupola, will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and capture Cygnus Monday at 4:10 a.m. EST.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka spent Wednesday morning exploring how blood pressure responds to the lack of gravity. The duo split up in the afternoon as Skvortsov checked Russian communication and spacecraft systems. Skripochka worked on life support systems and explored how orbiting Earth affects the station’s magnetic field.

Spacesuits, Human Research, Robotics Training Ahead of Cargo Missions

Astronaut Jessica Meir works on the Combustion Integrated Rack
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir works to swap out a failed computer hard drive that supports experiments inside the Combustion Integrated Rack aboard the International Space Station’s U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

The six-member Expedition 61 crew juggled spacesuit maintenance and human research activities aboard the International Space Station today. The orbital residents are also getting ready to send off and receive resupply ships.

Two U.S. spacesuits are being serviced ahead of a series of spacewalks planned to repair a cosmic particle detector, also known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan are tentatively scheduled to venture outside the station in November and upgrade the AMS thermal control system.

Parmitano also tested a device that measures an astronaut’s mass using Newton’s Second Law of Motion. The device applies a known force to an attached astronaut and the resulting acceleration is used to accurately calculate an astronaut’s mass.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch shared maintenance duties on a human organ printer, the BioFabrication Facility. Scientists are testing the 3D biological printing facility for its ability to print more cohesive organ structures in microgravity than on Earth.

Koch and Meir will also be on Canadarm2 robotics duty on Friday and Monday to support a pair of cargo missions. Koch, with Meir backing her up, will command the robotic release of Japan’s HTV-8 resupply ship Friday at 1:20 p.m. EDT. The HTV-8 is wrapping up a 34-day mission attached to the Harmony module.

They will switch roles on Monday when Meir takes charge of the Canadarm2 robotic arm and captures Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft at 4:10 a.m. EST. Koch will back her up in the cupola while Morgan monitors the Cygnus’ approach and rendezvous. Cygnus will launch Saturday at 9:59 a.m. atop the Antares rocket from Virginia.

Astronauts Explore How Space Impacts Brain and Muscles

Portions of the International Space Station
Portions of the International Space Station are pictured as the orbiting complex was flying into an orbital sunset.

Brain and muscle research were on today’s schedule of human research aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 61 crew also ensured the plumbing and air conditioning systems stay in tip-top shape.

The brain is able to optimize its blood flow even if the cardiovascular system cannot maintain an ideal blood pressure. Flight Engineer Jessica Meir explored the brain’s capacity to regulate that blood flow in space today. She used Doppler gear to measure her blood pressure in her finger artery and blood flow velocity in her cerebral artery. Scientists may use the data to help astronauts adjust to microgravity and ease the return to Earth after months or years in space.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan collaborated on the Myotones muscle tone in space study. The duo took turns measuring their arms and legs before scanning them with an ultrasound device. Observations may help doctors improve rehabilitation techniques for astronauts on long-duration missions and sedentary patients on Earth.

Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) put on his plumber’s hat today and replaced hydraulic components in the station’s bathroom located in the Tranquility module. He also deactivated science hardware that was tracking ocean-going vessels.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka stayed focused on the upkeep of the Russian segment of the orbiting lab. The duo charged Soyuz spacecraft batteries and cleaned fans and filters in the air conditioning system in their portion of the space station.

Crew Explores Space Biology, Reviews Particle Detector Repairs

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan waters plants on the station
NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan watered plants earlier this week to help NASA learn how to provide fresh food for crews on long-term space missions.

The six residents living aboard the International Space Station are busy today ensuring advanced microgravity research continues to provide benefits for citizens on Earth and in space. The Expedition 61 crew is also brushing up on repair techniques for a cosmic particle detector attached to the outside of the orbiting lab.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch juggled an array of life science activities throughout Thursday. Meir cared for plants for a new field of botany research exploring how to provide fresh food for long-term space crews. Meir later swapped out a failed computer hard drive that supports combustion experiments. Koch organized biology hardware for a study seeking therapies for aging-related conditions. Koch then serviced microbial DNA samples to understand how microorganisms adapt to weightlessness.

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) is due for an upgraded thermal control system after being installed on the outpost’s Starboard-3 truss structure in 2011. NASA is planning a series of spacewalks to restore the AMS-02 to full service. Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan are reviewing the tools and techniques necessary to complete the AMS repair job.

Over in the station’s Russian segment, composed of five modules, a pair of cosmonauts focused on hardware and systems maintenance. Alexander Skvortsov inspected lab windows and checked batteries. Fellow cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka worked on air conditioning and plumbing tasks inside the orbital lab. The duo also explored how to improve accuracy when detecting and photographing Earth landmarks.

Spacesuits, Science and Maintenance on Crew Schedule Today

Spacewalkers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch pose with their Expedition 61 crewmates
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch (right) are suited up and ready to go on the first all-woman spacewalk and posing with their Expedition 61 crewmates.

The Expedition 61 crew tackled a variety of maintenance jobs and microgravity science onboard the International Space Station today. The orbital residents are also gearing up for the departure of a Japanese cargo ship and more spacewalks tentatively scheduled for November.

Flight Engineer Christina Koch continued loading trash and obsolete gear in Japan’s resupply ship before stowing spacewalk tools and hardware today. Commander Luca Parmitano began his day getting up to speed on future spacewalks planned for the repair of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. Koch and Parmitano later joined together and installed new stowage racks inside the Permanent Multipurpose Module.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir spent all day Wednesday cleaning cooling loops inside the U.S. spacesuits she and Koch wore last week. Parmitano and Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan were also on spacesuit duty checking tethers and recharging the metal oxide canisters that scrub carbon dioxide from the suit atmosphere.

Morgan was back in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module this morning installing an incubator into the Saibo biology research rack. He then watered plants for a space agriculture study exploring how to provide fresh food for long-term space crews.

In the Russian segment of the orbiting lab, veteran cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov researched ways to improve geographic accuracy when photographing the Earth. Flight Engineer Oleg Skripochka continued testing acoustic gear to detect and locate micrometeoroid impacts on the station.

Eye Checks and Maintenance During Spacewalk Cleanup Today

Spacewalkers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir
Spacewalkers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are pictured during the first all-woman spacewalk that lasted seven hours and 17 minutes. View more spacewalk photos.

The Expedition 61 crew is cleaning up today after the first all-woman spacewalk at the International Space Station. Eye checks and lab maintenance also kicked off the workweek as two cosmonauts took the day off.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are stowing the tools they used on Friday during a seven-hour and 17-minute spacewalk. Koch is also packing a failed power controller for return to Earth after replacing it with spare unit during last week’s excursion. Meir recorded how she felt about the first spacewalk of her career for a 3-D virtual reality film.

During the afternoon, Meir joined Commander Luca Parmitano and fellow Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan for eye exams. The trio took turns peering into Optical Coherence Tomography hardware so ground doctors could check the astronauts’ retinas.

Morgan partnered with Koch in the morning transferring hardware from the Permanent Multipurpose Module to Japan’s HTV-8 resupply ship. The HTV-8 will complete its 34-day cargo mission at the station’s Harmony module on Nov. 1.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka are relaxing today after a busy week of space research and maintenance over the station’s Russian segment. The veteran space duo are each on their third long-duration mission at the orbiting lab.

Spacewalk Preps Today amid Cancer, Robotics and Agriculture Research

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir prepare for a spacewalk
NASA astronaut Christina Koch (right) poses for a portrait with fellow Expedition 61 Flight Engineer Jessica Meir of NASA who is inside a U.S. spacesuit for a fit check.

Science experiments continue aboard the International Space Station as two NASA astronauts prepare for their first spacewalk together, which is set to take place Friday. The Expedition 61 crew researched a variety of space phenomena today and reviewed procedures for tomorrow’s excursion.

Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will venture out into the vacuum of space on Friday to replace a failed power controller, also known as a battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU). The BCDU regulates the charge to the batteries that collect and distribute solar power to the orbiting lab’s systems. They will set their spacesuits to battery power around 7:50 a.m. EDT and exit the Quest airlock for the 5.5-hour repair job on the Port 6 truss structure. NASA TV begins its live coverage at 6:30 a.m.

Commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan will assist the spacewalkers. Parmitano will control the Canadarm2 robotics arm and Morgan will provide airlock and spacesuit support. All four astronauts gathered together today for a final procedures review.

In the midst of the spacewalk preparations, the crew continued ongoing microgravity science. The astronauts had time set aside today for researching cancer therapies, DNA sequencing, planetary robotics and space agriculture.

Morgan set up protein crystals critical to tumor growth and survival in a microscope for observation and photography. Koch continued exploring the viability of sequencing microbial DNA in microgravity.

Parmitano is readying hardware that will enable an astronaut on the station to control a robot on the Earth’s surface. Future astronauts could use the robotic technology to explore a planetary surface such as the Moon or Mars while orbiting in a spacecraft.

The crew is also in the second week of growing a crop of Mizuna mustard greens. Meir watered the Mizuna plants today for the ongoing space agriculture study to learn how to provide fresh food to space crews.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka had their own slate of human research to conduct today. The duo studied cardiac output changes and blood flow regulation including the effects of space on enzymes.

Koch, Meir Spacewalk Moves to Friday as Crew Adjusts Schedule

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are inside the Quest airlock preparing the U.S. spacesuits and tools they will use on their first spacewalk together.

NASA is targeting a spacewalk for no earlier than Friday to replace a failed power controller, also known as the battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU). The Expedition 61 crew is adjusting its schedule this week to accommodate the new spacewalk plans at the International Space Station.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are continuing their preparations for the upcoming excursion. The duo will set their suits to battery power on Friday at 7:50 a.m. when the spacewalk officially starts and exit the Quest airlock. NASA TV begins its live coverage beginning at 6:30 a.m.

The pair in their U.S. spacesuits will venture to the far side of the station on the Port 6 truss structure. Once there, the spacewalkers will take about five-and-a-half hours to replace the failed power regulator with a spare BCDU. The BCDU had been in operation since December 2000 and is due to return to Earth on the next SpaceX Dragon resupply ship for inspection. The device regulates the charge to batteries that collect and distribute power to the station.

Station managers will investigate the loss of the BCDU and reschedule the three battery replacement spacewalks for a future date. In the meantime, the five planned spacewalks to repair a cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, are still on the calendar for November and December.