The Expedition 61 crew split its time today between upcoming spacewalk preparations and continuous microgravity research. SpaceX is also preparing for a final test of its commercial crew ship before it launches humans.
The International Space Station is bustling with activity as two astronauts keep their U.S. spacesuits ready for another spacewalk set for Monday at 6:50 a.m. EST. NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch will wrap up installing new lithium-ion batteries upgrading the orbiting lab’s power systems. NASA TV will start its live coverage at 5:30 a.m.
The spacewalking duo also had time for science work in their busy schedule today. Koch provided inputs on how spaceflight is impacting her cognition and documented her meals for a nutrition study. Meir also documented her nutritional intake before researching how flames spread in space.
The Commercial Crew Program is set for a critical milestone as SpaceX readies its Dragon crew ship for major test. The uncrewed Crew Dragon vehicle will blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday at 8 a.m. and demonstrate its ability to safely escape in the event of a launch failure.
NASA and Boeing will provide live coverage of the landing on Sunday, Dec. 22, of the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, on return from its Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Starliner will execute a deorbit burn at 7:23 a.m. EST to begin its return to Earth, headed for a parachute-assisted landing at 7:57 a.m. at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico. NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide mission coverage ahead the spacecraft reentry and landing beginning at 6:45 a.m.
NASA and Boeing will host a postlanding news conference at 10 a.m. with:
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space and Launch Division
Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
The news conference will air live on NASA TV and the agency’s website.
The uncrewed Starliner spacecraft launched on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket Friday, Dec. 20, from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Though Starliner did not reach the planned orbit or dock to the space station as planned, Boeing still was able to complete a number of test objectives. Teams from NASA, Boeing and ULA worked quickly to ensure the spacecraft was in a stable orbit and preserved enough fuel for multiple landing opportunities.
The Starliner spacecraft sits atop an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance counting down to a liftoff Friday at 6:36 a.m. EST. This will be Boeing’s first Orbital Flight Test of the uncrewed vehicle that will dock to the station Saturday at 8:27 a.m.
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch are getting ready for duty Saturday morning when they will monitor Starliner’s automated rendezvous and docking with the orbiting lab. The duo will then conduct leak checks, open the hatch and ingress the vehicle to begin a week of docked operations. Starliner is also delivering about 600 pounds of cargo to the crew and will return science samples to Earth after its departure on Dec. 28.
Meanwhile, microgravity science is always ongoing aboard the station to improve life for humans on Earth and in space. Today, NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan studied how weightlessness affects an optical material that can control the reflection and absorption of light. Results could improve solar power technology and electronic mobile displays.
Meir had her eyes scanned with an ultrasound device by ESA (European Space Agency) Commander Luca Parmitano for a look at her cornea, lens and optic nerve. She had a second eye exam using optical coherence tomography for a view of her retina.
The flight engineers in the Russian side of the space station checked on a pair of docked spaceships while working science and maintenance. Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka charged electronics gear in the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship. He also worked on plumbing systems in the Progress 74 cargo craft. Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov set up hardware for an Earth imaging study that explores the effects of natural and manmade catastrophes.
Boeing is ramping up for the launch of its first commercial crew vehicle to the International Space Station this week. The Expedition 61 crew is preparing for the new U.S. crew ship’s arrival while working human research and space biology today.
Boeing is targeting 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20, for the launch of its first CST-100 Starliner crew ship to the orbiting lab. It will dock to the forward-facing port of the Harmony module on Dec. 21 and return to Earth on Dec. 28. This will be an uncrewed orbital flight test of Boeing’s new spaceship and sets the stage for launching crews once again from the United States.
NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch activated communications gear that will link up with the Boeing Starliner when it arrives Saturday. The C2V2 device (Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles) transmits telemetry from the approaching spacecraft to crew and ground controllers. The C2V2, used by the U.S. Dragon and Cygnus resupply ships, also enables an astronaut to remotely control a spacecraft if necessary.
ESA (European Space Agency)Commander Luca Parmitano and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan started Monday with hearing checks. The duo set up gear for the Acoustic Diagnostics study that measures hearing before, during and after a mission and assesses the noisy environment aboard the orbiting lab.
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir began her day on an exercise bike for a study measuring her aerobic and cardiovascular output. She then joined Koch in the afternoon feeding lab mice and cleaning their habitats.
Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka focused on life support and lab maintenance today. Skvortsov synchronized computers and cameras to station time and serviced an oxygen generator. Skripochka also checked out Russian laptop computers and radiation detection gear.
The Expedition 61 crew today is exploring how the brain, muscles and bones adapt to long-term exposure in weightlessness. The orbiting lab’s communications systems are also being continuously maintained.
Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano were back in the Columbus lab module today investigating how the central nervous system manages hand-eye coordination in space. The duo wore virtual reality gear using real-time visual and audible displays while coordinating a variety of body motions. The GRASP study explores how the brain adapts to the lack of a traditional up and down reference in space to ensure mission success farther away from Earth.
The musculoskeletal system also adjusts rapidly to the microgravity environment and studying mice aboard the orbiting lab helps reveal the impacts. Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch continued scanning rodents today in a bone densitometer before placing them back in their habitats. The new Rodent Research-19 study is investigating two proteins that may prevent muscle and bone loss while living off the Earth.
Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka ensured the upkeep of a variety of Russian space station systems. The duo connected a Progress cargo craft’s thrusters to the Zarya module’s fuel tanks. The veteran cosmonauts also checked out antenna gear, laptop computers and video recording equipment.
Japan’s new high-resolution spectral Earth imager has been installed and activated on the Kibo lab module. HISUI, or Hyperspectral Imagery Suite, is a technology demonstration that will send data to agricultural and environmental industries for improved resource management.
NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan concluded today’s spacewalk at 2:59 p.m. EDT. During the six-hour and 32-minute spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully installed the second of two international docking adapters (IDAs).
The IDAs will be used for the future arrivals of Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon commercial crew spacecraft. NASA’s commercial crew partnership with Boeing and SpaceX will restore launches of American astronauts from American soil on American rockets and maximize the time U.S. crews can dedicate to scientific research and technological advances aboard the orbiting laboratory to enable the agency’s ambitious goals for the Artemis lunar exploration program and future missions to the Moon and Mars. Regular human space transportation to the space station is a critical step to opening the space station for commercial business to enable the growth of the U.S. commercial space sector and the development of a robust low-Earth orbit economy.
The spacewalkers also completed additional routing for the station’s wireless internet.
Space station crew members have spent a total of 56 days, 23 hours, and 26 minutes during 218 spacewalks in support of station assembly, maintenance and upgrades. It was the fifth spacewalk in 2019, and the first for Morgan. During three spacewalks, Hague has now spent a total of 19 hours and 56 minutes outside the space station.
NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan, assigned as flight engineers for Expedition 60 aboard the International Space Station, will begin a planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk from inside the Quest airlock about 8:20 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21. Live NASA Television coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. The duo will assist in the installation of International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3) to Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 on the space-facing side of the station’s Harmony module.
NASA experts provided an overview of the spacewalk activities in a preview briefing Friday, Aug. 16.
IDA-3 will provide a second docking port to the International Space Station to accommodate the future arrivals of Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon commercial crew spacecraft. The docking port was launched to the station last month on a SpaceX Dragon on the company’s 18th commercial cargo resupply services mission to the station. IDA-2 was installed to the forward end of the Harmony module in the summer of 2016.
NASA’s commercial crew partnership with Boeing and SpaceX will restore launches of American astronauts from American soil on American rockets and maximize the time U.S. crews can dedicate to scientific research and technological advances aboard the orbiting laboratory to enable the agency’s ambitious goals for the Artemis lunar exploration program and future missions to the Moon and Mars. Regular human space transportation to the space station is a critical step to opening the space station for commercial business to enable the growth of the U.S. commercial space sector and the development of a robust low-Earth orbit economy.
Three NASA astronauts remain focused on preparations for next week’s spacewalk at the International Space Station. The rest of the Expedition 60 crew focused on biology research and a pair of docked spaceships.
Koch printed out checklists the spacewalkers will wear on their spacesuit cuffs and verified the spacesuits are the correct size. She also joined Hague and Morgan reviewing next week’s spacewalk procedures. The spacewalking duo also set up the Quest airlock where they will collect their tools and suit up ahead of their excursion.
Robotics controllers will remotely command the Canadarm2 to detach the IDA-3 from the rear portion of the SpaceX Dragon on Monday. They will maneuver the new docking port to a pressurized mating adapter on top of Harmony readying it for Wednesday’s spacewalk. Hague and Morgan in their U.S. spacesuits will then route cables and configure hardware readying the IDA-3 for new SpaceX and Boeing crew ships.
Luca Parmitano, a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut on his second station mission, worked on a biology experiment today with potential benefits for the medicine industry. He tended to stem cell samples growing in a specialized incubator to help researchers understand cell behavior in space.
Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov checked out two docked Soyuz crew ships today. The duo tested and recharged communications gear in the vehicles and continued packing gear for return to Earth.
This Monday, the Expedition 58 crew is taking a well-deserved break after a busy week prior wrapping up SpaceX’s inaugural flight of Crew Dragon to the International Space Station during Demonstration Mission-1, an uncrewed flight test. The vehicle departed station for a splashdown off the Florida Space Coast at 8:45 a.m. EST Friday, bringing NASA even closer to sending astronauts into space from American soil.
The Expedition 59 crew, which will soon get their turn in orbit, is taking time to relax and review their launch day flight plan at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. On March 14, Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch are set to blastoff at 3:14 p.m. EDT and dock less than six hours later to the Rassvet module at the orbiting laboratory. Research investigations will get a boost in productivity with their arrival, which will bring the full crew complement to six. All launch and docking events will be carried live on NASA TV.
Tomorrow, the Soyuz MS-12 that will carry the new crew crawls to the launch pad at Baikonur as Expedition 58 resumes science studies.
At 2:32 a.m. EST, Crew Dragon undocked from the International Space Station to begin the final phase of its uncrewed Demo-1 flight test. The spacecraft is slowly maneuvering away from the orbital laboratory into an orbital track that will return it and its cargo safely to Earth.
NASA will continue to provide live coverage until Crew Dragon is out of the immediate area of the station and will resume at 7:30 a.m. for the reentry, splashdown, and recovery.
In about five hours, the Crew Dragon will separate from its trunk whose exterior contains a solar array that provided power to Dragon and a radiator to reject heat.
Following separation, Crew Dragon’s thrusters will initiate the spacecraft’s deorbit burn at about 7:52 a.m. The 15-minute, 25-second burn will place the Crew Dragon on its final re-entry path into Earth’s atmosphere. The spacecraft is expected to splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at about 8:45 a.m., its speed slowed by an enhanced parachute system in which drogue parachutes will deploy about four minutes before landing to unfurl four main chutes less than a minute later.
After Crew Dragon lands in the Atlantic Ocean, SpaceX’s recovery ship will recover it and return it to Port Canaveral, Florida to conclude its mission.
SpaceX’s inaugural mission with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is an important end-to-end to test of the new system’s capabilities.