New International Docking Adapter Being Prepped for Installation

Astronaut Kate Rubins
Astronaut Kate Rubins checks a U.S. spacesuit she will wear during a spacewalk planned for Aug. 19, 2016.

Flight controllers and the Expedition 48 crew are preparing for tonight’s International Docking Adapter extraction work and Friday morning’s installation spacewalk. The orbital residents are also continuing to load the SpaceX Dragon with gear and science for return to Earth.

Controllers on the ground checked the Canadian robotics systems they will use to remove the International Docking Adapter from the rear of the SpaceX Dragon tonight. The new adapter will be extracted with the Canadarm2 then maneuvered to a point about three feet away from its installation point. It will then be installed on the Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 which is attached to the forward end of the Harmony module.

The final and intricate installation work will be done during a 6.5 hour spacewalk scheduled to begin Friday at 8:05 a.m. EDT with astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins . The new adapter, the first of two, will enable new Commercial Crew vehicles being developed by Boeing and SpaceX to dock at the International Space Station in the future.

In the meantime, the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is still being loaded with gear ahead of its return to Earth on Aug. 26. Rubins spent the morning packing Dragon with research samples and used hardware for analysis back on Earth.

Crew Gets Ready for New Commercial Crew Port

Computer Rendering of a Spacewalker
This computer rendering depicts a spacewalker performing installation activities for the International Docking Adapter. Credit: NASA Johnson YouTube

Space station and Commercial Crew managers wrapped up a spacewalk briefing Monday afternoon discussing the installation of a new International Docking Adapter at the end of the week. Spacewalkers Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins will begin the installation work Friday at 8:05 a.m. EDT to enable future crew vehicles from Boeing and SpaceX to dock in the future.

The first major task begins Wednesday evening when the docking adapter is extracted from the rear of the SpaceX Dragon space freighter. The Canadarm2 will then maneuver the new adapter about three feet away from the forward end of the Harmony module. It will stay there until Friday when Williams and Rubins will complete the installation during a 6.5 hour spacewalk.

Meanwhile, Williams is loading gear into Dragon for return to Earth and retrieval by NASA and SpaceX engineers. Dragon’s last day at the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module is Aug. 26 when it will be grappled and then released by the Canadarm2 for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

The crew also explored a wide variety of space research today amidst the spacewalk preparations. A pair of cosmonauts studied how microgravity impacts fluid shifts from the lower body to the upper body. Rubins researched the physics of tiny particles suspended in water possibly benefiting materials manufacturing on Earth. Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi observed altered gene expression and DNA changes in mice and their offspring living in space.

Duo Reviews Spacewalk After Crew Vision Tests

Okavanga Delta
The Okavango Delta in Botswana was photographed Aug. 2 as the space station orbited over the southern part of the African continent. Credit: Gateway to Astronaut Photography

Two astronauts called down to Mission Control today and reviewed next week’s spacewalk. In the Russian segment of the International Space Station, a pair of cosmonauts replaced outdated communications gear. Crew members also collected blood samples and conducted vision tests for a variety of space research.

Commander Jeff Williams joined Flight Engineer Kate Rubins for more spacesuit work and a conference with flight controllers in Houston to review plans for next week’s 6.5 hour spacewalk. On Aug. 19 the duo will work outside the station to complete the installation of an International Docking Adapter to the Harmony module. The first of two adapters will enable Commercial Crew vehicles being developed by Boeing and SpaceX to dock in the future.

The entire Expedition 48 crew conducted vision tests throughout the morning. Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin and Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi then collected blood, urine and saliva samples for the Fluid Shifts experiment. That study observes how microgravity affects intra-cranial pressure and changes the shape of the eye.

In the afternoon, cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Anatoly Ivanishin worked in the Zvezda service module replacing older gear that communicates with systems throughout the Russian segment. Ovchinin also joined fellow Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka to explore how living in space changes the human heart.

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Communications Gear Work to Ready Station for Future

Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko
Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko is inside the seven-window cupola prepared to photograph the Earth below.

The International Space Station is being upgraded with new communications gear as NASA moves ahead with its Commercial Crew Program. Meanwhile, science taking place on the orbital laboratory today included human research and Earth photography.

Astronauts Tim Kopra and Tim Peake were back at work today installing hardware that will communicate with future commercial crew vehicles. The equipment will enable hardline and frequency communications with the private spacecraft during rendezvous, docking and mated activities.

Kopra also conducted a quarterly inspection of a treadmill ensuring it is in operable condition. He later conducted a ham radio pass with students at the University of North Dakota, the 1,000th such contact made possible by the ARISS program.

Peake spent a few moments collecting a saliva sample for a study that observes the human immune system in space. He is also helping engineers understand the factors necessary for a comfortable living space during long term missions.

Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko explored Earth photography techniques to better identify features on the ground. He also researched the effects of living in space on blood circulation.

Crew Readying Station for Future Commercial Crew Vehicles

Astronauts Tim Kopra and Tim Peake
Astronauts Tim Kopra and Tim Peake perform medical work in the Columbus laboratory module.

The three orbiting residents on the International Space Station worked on commercial crew vehicle equipment and lab maintenance today. The crew members also worked on life science and physics research to improve life for citizens on Earth and future space crews.

British astronaut Tim Peake started installing and routing cables that will enable communications with future commercial crew vehicles. The Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles, or C2V2, consists of both radio frequency and hardline connections that will be used during rendezvous, docking and mated activities at the space station.

Commander Tim Kopra installed and tested acoustic equipment in the U.S. Destiny lab module that will listen for air and pressure leaks. The tests will contribute to the development of a system that can differentiate between harmless background noise and potential leaks. Kopra also checked out gear that will support research on biological samples such as small plants, animal cells and microorganisms.

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko explored methods to detect and locate micrometeoroid impacts outside the station. The veteran cosmonaut also photographed areas on Earth impacted by natural or man-made disasters for the long-running Uragan experiment.

Crew Heads to Launch Site Friday, First Commercial Crew Announced

Expedition 44/45 Crew Members
At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, Expedition 44/45 crew members (from left) Kjell Lindgren of NASA; Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency; and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency pose for pictures following a news conference July 8. Credit: NASA/Seth Marcantel

The International Space Station will get an orbital boost tonight to get ready for upcoming Soyuz crew missions. On the ground, three new crew members are preparing for their Friday departure to the launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The orbiting Expedition 44 trio, with Commander Gennady Padalka and One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko, is looking forward to expanding to three new crew members. Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui will take a six-hour ride July 22 in the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft for a five month stay in space.

On the station, Kelly is getting Japan’s Kibo airlock ready for next week’s deployment of 16 Cubesats over four days. Kornienko continued moving supplies from the new ISS Progress 60 space freighter. Padalka worked on the Vozdukh, a Russian carbon dioxide removal system, the Zvezda service module. All the crew members then practiced emergency evacuation procedures.

NASA announced today that four astronauts have been selected to train on commercial crew vehicles. Veteran astronauts Robert Behnken, Sunita Williams, Eric Boe and Douglas Hurley are now training for a commercial crew launch in 2017 as part of NASA’s journey to Mars.

Commercial Crew Astronauts
The first astronauts selected to train to fly to space on commercial crew carriers are (from left) Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Sunita Williams

Station Managers “Go” For Sunday Spacewalk

U.S. astronaut Barry Wilmore
ISS042E277376 (02/16/2015) — U.S. astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore checks out his spacesuit in preparation for an extravehicular activity (EVA) or spacewalk. Wilmore is the commander of Expedition 42 onboard the International Space Station.

International Space Station managers met Friday morning and gave approval to proceed with U.S. EVA 31 on Sunday, March 1 as planned. The Mission Management Team reviewed the status of spacewalk preparations as well as an analysis of the minor seepage of water into the helmet of Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA following the last spacewalk on Feb. 25 after he was back in the crew lock section of the Quest airlock and the repressurization of the airlock had begun.

Spacewalk specialists reported that Virts’ suit — serial number 3005 — has a history of what is called “sublimator water carryover”, a small amount of residual water in the sublimator cooling component that can condense once the environment around the suit is repressurized following its exposure to vacuum during a spacewalk, resulting in a tiny amount of water pushing into the helmet.

A high degree of confidence was expressed that the suit’s systems are all in good shape and approval was given to proceed with the third spacewalk in this series of EVAs.

During Sunday’s spacewalk, Virts and Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore will deploy 400 feet of cable along the truss of the station and install antennas as part of the new Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles (C2V2) system that will provide rendezvous and navigational data to visiting vehicles approaching the station, including the new U.S. commercial crew vehicles.

It will be the 187th spacewalk in support of station assembly and maintenance, the fourth for Wilmore in his career and the third for Virts.

Swapping designations for this final scheduled spacewalk for Expedition 42, Virts will be designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV1) on Sunday and will wear the suit with the red stripes. Wilmore will be extravehicular crew member 2 (EV2) with no stripes on his suit.

NASA Television coverage on Sunday will begin at 5 a.m. Central time. The spacewalk will begin around 6:10 a.m. Central time and is expected to last about 6 hours, 45 minutes.