Robotics and Space Biology Today as Cosmonauts Look to Next Spacewalk

NASA astronaut Anne McClain checks out new Astrobee hardware
NASA astronaut Anne McClain works inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module checking out the new Astrobee hardware. The cube-shaped, free-flying robotic assistant could save the crew time performing routine maintenance duties and providing additional lab monitoring capabilities.

A pair of robotic arms from Canada and Japan continued swapping experiment hardware on the International Space Station over the weekend. Meanwhile, the Expedition 59 crew started the week exploring robotics and biology today while a pair of cosmonauts look to the next spacewalk.

The 57.7-foot-long Canadarm2 robotic arm started removing a pair of external investigations last week from the SpaceX Dragon’s unpressurized trunk. The remotely controlled Canadarm2 first grabbed the new Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) then handed it off to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) robotic arm for installation on the Kibo lab module’s external pallet.

The Canadarm2 next removed the Space Test Program-Houston 6 (STP-H6) experiment from Dragon and installed it on the station’s truss structure. STP-H6 provides a platform for studying space physics to improve spacecraft navigation and communication techniques. The Canadian robotic arm then removed the completed SCAN radio communications study from the truss and placed it inside Dragon’s trunk.

JAXA’s robotic arm also retrieved the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) experiment from the station and handed it off to the Canadarm2 for installation inside Dragon’s trunk. CATS successfully began demonstrating atmospheric monitoring after its delivery aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo craft in January 2015. CATS and SCAN will now burn up in the atmosphere when Dragon’s trunk separates from the resupply ship before it returns to Earth at the end of May.

Back inside the orbital lab today, NASA astronaut Anne McClain calibrated the Astrobee and mapped the Kibo lab module with the free-flying robotic assistant. Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch continued exploring how space changes the immune system, pathogens and kidney cells.

Two cosmonauts, Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin, are planning for the fourth spacewalk at the station this year on May 29. The duo is timelined for about six hours of experiment retrieval work, window cleaning and sample collecting on the station’s Russian segment.

Human Research as Canadian, Japanese Robot Arms Swap Experiments

Four Expedition 59 astronauts
Four Expedition 59 astronauts pose for a playful portrait inside the Harmony module. Clockwise from left are astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Anne McClain and Nick Hague.

The Expedition 59 crew focused intensely on human research today to improve the health of people on Earth and in space. The residents aboard the International Space Station are busy exploring how the human body and other organisms adapt to space helping NASA prepare to go to the moon by 2024.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain split Friday checking on the Kidney Cells experiment seeking innovative treatments for kidney stones, osteoporosis and toxic chemical exposures. Counteracting the space-exacerbated symptoms is critical to the success of a long-term spaceflight to the moon and Mars.

McClain started her day with Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin researching space-caused head and eye pressure. The quartet tested a specialized suit, the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit, that reverses the upward flow of blood and other fluids toward an astronaut’s head. The crewmates also participated in ultrasound scans of their eyes and veins for the long-running Fluid Shifts study.

In addition, a pair of Canadian and Japanese robotic arms on the station are coordinating to swap external payloads over the weekend. Two Earth and space research facilities inside the SpaceX Dragon’s trunk are being removed for installation on the station. An older atmospheric experiment that has completed its mission will be placed back in Dragon’s trunk.

The Canadarm2 robotic arm removed the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) from the Dragon’s unpressurized trunk. It handed off the OCO-3, a global carbon detection device, to Japan’s smaller robotic arm for installation on the Kibo lab module’s external pallet. Next, the Canadarm2 will extract and install the Space Test Program-Houston 6 hardware for space physics research on the station’s truss structure.

Finally, Japan’s robotic arm attached to Kibo will hand off the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) to the Canadarm2 for installation in Dragon’s trunk. Before Dragon splashes down in the Pacific at the end of May, its trunk with CATS inside will separate during reentry and burn up over Earth’s atmosphere.

A SpaceX Dragon resupply ship delivered CATS in January of 2015 for robotic installation on Kibo’s external pallet. CATS successfully demonstrated low cost atmospheric monitoring techniques from the station.

Crew Relaxes as Two Robotic Arms Prepare for Payload Handoffs

The three crewmates who rode the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft
The three crewmates who rode the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft to the International Space Station gather inside the Rassvet module after conducting a periodic routine emergency drill. From left are, Soyuz Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and NASA Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch.

The Expedition 59 crew has a light duty day today with some science work on the schedule. Meanwhile, robotics controllers are preparing to swap external payloads in the unpressurized trunk of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.

NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch checked samples today as she continued exploring why pathogens become more virulent in space. Later, she set up hardware for the Kidney Cells experiment that seeks innovative treatments for humans on Earth and in space.

Astronaut Nick Hague of NASA retrieved sample trays from a materials exposure experiment brought back inside the Kibo lab module. Fellow NASA astronaut Anne McClain checked on mice being observed for changes to their immune systems in microgravity.

Two new experiments are ready for robotic extraction from the SpaceX Dragon and installation on the International Space Station starting Thursday night and into the weekend. An older experiment will be removed from the station and placed back in Dragon.

The remotely controlled Canadarm2 robotic arm will first extract the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) from Dragon’s trunk. Japan’s robotic arm will then take hold of the OCO-3 and install the global carbon detection device on Kibo’s external pallet. The Canadarm2 will then extract and install the Space Test Program-Houston 6 hardware for space physics research on the station’s truss structure.

Finally, the Japanese robotic arm will hand off the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) to the Canadarm2 for installation in Dragon’s trunk. CATS will burn up over Earth’s atmosphere when Dragon’s trunk separates during its reentry at the end of May. A SpaceX Dragon resupply ship delivered CATS in January of 2015 for robotic installation outside Kibo. CATS successfully demonstrated low cost atmospheric monitoring techniques from the station.

Science Aboard Station Today Impacts Astronaut Health Long-Term

Expedition 59 Flight Engineers (from left) Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques and Christina Koch
Expedition 59 Flight Engineers (from left) Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques and Christina Koch are gathered inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory.

The International Space Station has all but one of its seven ports occupied by two crew ships and four cargo ships today. With plenty of food, fuel and supplies, the Expedition 59 crew is busy conducting new science experiments delivered to the orbital lab.

The crew researched an array of space biology today including pathogen virulence, immune system changes and upper body pressure that can affect mission success. Human research and life science is key in microgravity as NASA learns to support healthy astronauts for longer missions farther into space.

NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch continued studying why pathogens increase in virulence due to the weightless environment of space. She performed inoculation procedures on cell cultures to help scientists understand critical cellular and molecular changes that occur on the absence of gravity.

Koch then joined fellow astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques in the afternoon exploring how the immune system responds during a long-term space mission. The crew is observing dozens of mice on the orbital lab to characterize the response changes since the mouse immune system closely parallels that of humans.

McClain also participated on more Fluid Shifts research with Flight Engineers Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Nick Hague. The trio worked with a variety of biomedical hardware today observing the impacts of increased head and eye pressure caused by microgravity. The long-running human research experiment seeks to reverse the upward flow of fluids and alleviate the symptoms reported by astronauts.

New Science Being Unpacked and Worked Aboard Orbital Lab

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is installed to the Harmony module
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is installed to the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port a few hours after it was captured by astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Nick Hague with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on May 6, 2019.

Six spaceships are now parked at the International Space Station and the Expedition 59 crew is working on the newest science delivered Monday. Astronauts will continue to live and work in space longer and scientists want to know how humans and a variety of other organisms adapt to support these missions.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain tended to several dozen mice delivered to the orbital lab Monday on the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. The rodents’ immune systems are similar to humans and scientists are monitoring them to detect any changes caused microgravity.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch set up the Microgravity Science Glovebox today to begin operations with the new Micro-14 pathogen study. Microgravity can increase the virulence of pathogens and doctors are seeking to understand the process to keep space crews safe and healthy.

Koch and McClain both started Tuesday unpacking frozen biological samples from Dragon. The duo stowed the samples into different science freezers aboard the station for later analysis and experimental work.

McClain, Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer Nick Hague also explored head and eye pressure caused by upward fluid shifts due to the effects of microgravity. The long-running human research experiment seeks to reverse the upward flow and alleviate the symptoms reported by astronauts.

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.