Station Ramps Up for SpaceX Crew and Global Cargo Missions

The Progress 75 cargo craft stands at its launch pad
The Progress 75 cargo craft stands at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: Roscosmos

A Russian space freighter has rolled out to its launch pad ready to resupply the International Space Station this weekend. Meanwhile, the Expedition 63 crew is ramping up its preparations for the first Commercial Crew mission and more cargo activities planned for May.

Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA is looking forward to welcoming a pair of fellow NASA astronauts aboard the station at the end of May. Commercial Crew astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley are preparing for their launch aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship scheduled for May 27 at 4:23 p.m. The first crew to launch from U.S. soil since 2011 will dock one day later to the station and join Expedition 63 for a months-long mission.

The crew aboard the orbiting lab is also due to receive its first space delivery on Saturday at 1:12 a.m. EDT. Russia’s Progress 75 (75P) cargo craft will carry several tons of crew supplies and station hardware and automatically dock to the aft port of the Zvezda service module. The 75P will lift off on Friday at 9:51 p.m. from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for the short three-and-a-half hour flight to the station.

Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner are training for Saturday morning’s automated arrival of the 75P. The duo practiced remotely-controlled emergency rendezvous and docking techniques in the unlikely event the 75P wouldn’t be able to approach and dock to the station on its own.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft is being readied to end its stay attached to the station’s Unity module on May 11. Cassidy and Ivanishin packed trash and discarded gear inside Cygnus today for a fiery disposal in the atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean.

Finally, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is targeting May 20 for the launch of its ninth cargo mission to the station. JAXA’s HTV (H-II Transfer Vehicle) cargo craft, nicknamed Kounotori, would take a five-day trip before being captured and installed to the station with the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

Expedition 63 Starts Science, Readies for Cargo and Commercial Crew

NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Andrew Morgan
NASA astronauts (from left) Chris Cassidy and Andrew Morgan pose for a portrait inside the Quest airlock. Cassidy is a U.S. Navy SEAL and Captain. Morgan is an emergency physician and Colonel in the U.S. Army. Morgan returned to Earth on April 17.

The three-member Expedition 63 crew is beginning its first full workweek and kicking off science aboard the International Space Station. More space traffic continues this week, as Russia gets ready to launch its next Progress resupply ship late Friday.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy is on his third spaceflight and is in command of the orbiting lab. His two crewmates, Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, will be with Cassidy until October.

Cassidy worked Monday on physics research checking out the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. The experiment facility heats samples to ultra-high temperatures to observe thermophysical properties difficult to measure in Earth’s gravity.

Ivanishin and Vagner are getting ready for the arrival of a new space shipment due to arrive on Saturday at 1:23 a.m. EDT aboard the Progress 75 (75P) resupply ship. The 75P will launch Friday at 9:51 p.m. and take two orbits around the Earth before automatically docking to the rear port of the Zvezda service module. The duo tested a device on Monday that can remotely maneuver the 75P to a docking if necessary.

The two cosmonauts also collaborated on a variety of Russian space research throughout Monday. The pair looked at microgravity’s effect on pain sensitivity and bone tissue. During the afternoon, they explored how future space travelers may pilot spacecraft on planetary missions.

NASA and SpaceX announced May 27 for the first launch of humans from the United States since 2011. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley will lift off at 4:23 p.m. from Florida aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and test its systems. They will join the Expedition 63 crew a day later after docking to the forward port of the station’s Harmony module.

Crew Boards Soyuz Crew Ship and Closes Hatches

The Expedition 62 crew prepares to enter their Soyuz crew ship
The Expedition 62 crew prepares to enter their Soyuz crew ship after saying farewell to their station crew mates.

At 6:44 p.m. EDT, the hatch closed between the Soyuz spacecraft and the International Space Station in preparation for undocking. NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir and Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, are scheduled to undock their Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft at 9:53 p.m.

NASA Television will air live coverage of the undocking beginning at 9:30 p.m.; their landing in Kazakhstan is targeted for approximately 1:16 a.m. Friday.

At the time of undocking, Expedition 63 will begin aboard the station, with Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner comprising a three-person crew until the planned arrival of NASA’s Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon on the Demo-2 flight test.

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

Nutrition Studies, Spacewalk Preps Ahead of SpaceX Crew Escape Test

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir
NASA astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Jessica Meir work on their U.S. spacesuits

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.

Andrew Morgan of NASA worked on a secondary nutrition study that may produce vitamins and dietary supplements to support future long-term missions. Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) had hearing checks today then moved on with Morgan to support Monday’s spacewalkers.

Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos spent the day researching ways to maintain sterile conditions while conducting biotechnology experiments in space. Fellow cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka serviced combustion research gear and Earth observation hardware before exploring crew behavior.

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 TV Broadcasting Live Landing Coverage of Starliner Today

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft launches
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft launches on Dec. 20, 2019, from Florida. Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

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.

Boeing Starliner updates provides the latest information from the Orbital Flight Test.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Station Preps for New U.S. Crew Ship in Middle of Space Research

NASA astronauts pose with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft behind them
NASA astronauts (from left) Nicole Mann, Michael Fincke, Suni Williams, Josh Cassada, and Eric Boe pose for a picture with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft behind them.

Boeing’s new CST-100 Starliner crew ship rolled out to its launch pad in Florida today. The Expedition 61 crew is preparing the International Space Station for Starliner’s arrival while continuing advanced space research.

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 Crew Ship Preps for Launch as Crew Studies Space Biology

Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Christina Koch of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) Commander Luca Parmitano and NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir pose for a portrait in the entryway into the cupola. Image Credit: NASA
Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Christina Koch of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) Commander Luca Parmitano and NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir pose for a portrait in the entryway into the cupola. Image Credit: NASA

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.

U.S. Crew Ship Launch Plans Proceed; Mind and Body Research on Station

Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stands at the launch pad in Florida. Credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing are proceeding with plans for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test following a full day of briefings and a Flight Readiness Review that took place at the Kennedy Space Center.

Launch of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled for 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20, from Florida. The uncrewed flight test will be Starliner’s maiden mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

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.

Spacewalkers Complete Installation of Second Commercial Docking Port

Spacewalkers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan
Spacewalkers Nick Hague (top) and Andrew Morgan install the International Docking Adapter (IDA-3) to the Pressurized Mating Adapter on top of the station’s Harmony module.

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.

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

Watch Spacewalkers Install New Commercial Docking Port on NASA TV

NASA astronauts (from left) Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague
NASA astronauts (from left) Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague pose with the spacesuits they will wear during a six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk to install the International Docking Adapter-3.

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.

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