Science, Spacewalk Preps Ahead of Cargo and Crew Missions

Russia's ISS Progress 79 resupply rocket rolls out to its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan early in the morning on Oct. 25, 2021. Credit: RSC Energia
Russia’s ISS Progress 79 resupply rocket rolls out to its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan early in the morning on Oct. 25, 2021. Credit: RSC Energia

Life science and spacewalk preparations are just part of the busy schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The seven-member Expedition 66 crew is also gearing up for a Russian cargo mission and a commercial crew swap taking place over the next two weeks.

NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur joined Commander Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) in the Columbus laboratory module for muscle scans and measurements. The duo started Monday morning taking turns using an ultrasound device scanning each other’s neck, back and leg muscles. They got back together Monday afternoon after exercise sessions and measured each other’s muscle tone, stiffness, and elasticity. The measurements are part of the Myotones study which may improve muscle rehabilitation on Earth and in space.

In the U.S. Quest airlock, NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei began configuring tools and organizing the module for an upcoming spacewalk. Kimbrough also collected and stowed his blood samples before moving on to light orbital plumbing work. Vande Hei checked carbon dioxide monitors then updated station inventory systems.

Kimbrough is also getting ready for his return to Earth next month with his SpaceX Crew-2 crewmates McArthur, Pesquet and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). He and McArthur have started packing their spacecraft, Crew Dragon Endeavour, that will return the quartet to Earth for a splashdown off the coast of Florida ending their six-and-a-half month space mission.

However, the station will soon host eleven crew members just one day after the SpaceX Crew-3 mission launches from Florida on Oct. 31 at 2:21 a.m. EDT. Flying aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance will be Commander Raja Chari, Pilot Thomas Marshburn, Mission Specialist Kayla Barron, all NASA astronauts, with Mission Specialist Matthias Maurer of ESA.

But first, there will be a cargo mission blasting off toward the station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Russian ISS Progress 79 resupply ship will launch on Wednesday at 8 p.m. and dock on Friday at 9:34 p.m. to replenish the orbital residents. Cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov are training for that mission today practicing for the unlikely event they would have to take remote command of the Progress 79. The pair from Roscosmos trained on the Zvezda service module’s tele-robotically operated rendezvous unit, or TORU, that would take control during the Progress 79’s automated approach and rendezvous.

Crew Stepping Up Upcoming Cargo Mission and Crew Swap Preps

A vivid aurora streams over the Earth as the space station orbited above the southern Indian Ocean in between Australia and Antarctica.
A vivid aurora streams over the Earth as the space station orbited above the southern Indian Ocean in between Australia and Antarctica.

The Expedition 66 crew will have a restful weekend before stepping up preparations next week for an intense period of Russian resupply ship and SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle activities. However, the International Space Station residents are wrapping up the work week with a host of maintenance activities.

NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Mark Vande Hei worked on robotics activities in the NanoRacks Bishop airlock attached to the end cone of the Tranquility module during the afternoon. McArthur kicked off the work uninstalling the tiny GITAI robotic arm, located in Bishop, that is testing its abilities to perform routine support work saving the crew time. Vande Hei joined her afterward stowing the experimental robotic arm’s components, cleaning up Bishop, then closing its hatch.

Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) started his morning flushing the oxygen generation system’s hoses of contaminants. Then the three-time station resident turned his attention in the afternoon toward assisting the two NASA astronauts with the Bishop cleanup work.

Over in the European Columbus laboratory module, NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough uninstalled science hardware that tests new radiation measurement techniques to make way for orbital plumbing work. Commander Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) took over the plumbing duties and replaced water valves behind a research rack located in Columbus.

Two cosmonauts are sleeping in today after adjusting their shifts two days ago to monitor the undocking then the redocking of the ISS Progress 78 resupply ship. The automated maneuvers saw the Progress 78 back away from the Poisk module on Wednesday night then redock to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module just after midnight on Friday. Roscosmos Flight Engineers Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov were on duty checking the Progress’ systems ready to take over and remotely control the spacecraft from the Zvezda service module if necessary.

The next cargo craft to replenish the crew will be the ISS Progress 79 when it launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the middle of next week. It will dock two days later to the aft port of Zvezda where it will stay for about seven months.

A crew swap is scheduled to begin in just over a week. The four astronauts of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission are due to blast off aboard the Crew Dragon Endurance on Oct. 31 at 2:21 a.m. from Florida toward the orbiting lab. Commander Raja Chari will lead Pilot Thomas Marshburn with Mission Specialists Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer inside Endurance and dock to the Harmony module’s forward port about 22 hours later.

Several days after that, four astronauts who have been on the station since April will return to Earth inside the Crew Dragon Endeavour completing the SpaceX Crew-2 mission. Kimbrough will lead McArthur, Hoshide and Pesquet back home for a retrieval by NASA and SpaceX personnel off the coast of Florida.

Crew Studies Space Physics and Ergonomics Before Cargo Craft Redocks

Expedition 65 Commander Thomas Pesquet installs fluid physics and materials research gear inside the Kibo laboratory module.
Expedition 65 Commander Thomas Pesquet installs fluid physics and materials research gear inside the Kibo laboratory module.

Five Expedition 66 crew members spent Thursday studying a variety of space phenomena while working on spacesuits and continuing the upkeep of the International Space Station. Two cosmonauts, in the meantime, will be monitoring the late night redocking of a Russian resupply ship.

NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, also commander and pilot of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission, split their day packing up station gear and personal items inside the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft. They and fellow astronauts Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet are due to return to Earth and splashdown off the coast of Florida in early November aboard Endeavour ending their six-and-a-half month space mission.

Kimbrough also joined NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei for ongoing spacesuit work taking place inside the U.S. Quest airlock during the morning. The duo prepared the U.S. spacesuits for an upcoming spacewalk planned for after the arrival of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission. McArthur stowed hardware and checked valves after wrapping up two days of maintenance on the orbiting lab’s oxygen generation system.

Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) worked a pair of crystal physics experiments throughout the day. One study may help improve manufacturing processes, the other may advance drug production and increase biochemistry expertise in space. Two-time ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Pesquet researched space ergonomics to help engineers design future space robot and spacecraft interfaces.

The ISS Progress 78 resupply ship from Roscosmos is trailing the station by over 100 miles after temporarily undocking from the Rassvet module on Wednesday evening. Cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov will be on duty when it redocks to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module just after midnight on Friday. The relocation maneuver will allow the Progress 78 to check the Nauka module’s propellant lines for leaks before the new science module’s thrusters resume orientation control.

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.

Crew Works Maintenance, Botany Before Resupply Ship Relocation

An aurora streams over the Earth as the space station orbited above the southern Indian Ocean in between Australia and Antarctica.
An aurora streams over the Earth as the space station orbited above the southern Indian Ocean in between Australia and Antarctica.

Life support, spacesuits and botany work filled Wednesday’s schedule for the Expedition 66 crew aboard the International Space Station. The orbital residents are also gearing up for a Russian resupply ship backing away from the station tonight and switching docking ports just over a day later.

Astronauts Megan McArthur of NASA and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) were back in the Tranquility module today replacing components inside the oxygen generation system (OGS). The duo started the work on Tuesday flushing OGS parts of contaminants. They closed out the work today and reactivated the U.S. life support device.

Commander Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) spent the afternoon in the U.S. Quest airlock working on a U.S. spacesuit. The two-time space station resident verified the resized suit is fully functional ahead of an upcoming spacewalk planned for later this year.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei serviced a pair of science freezers during the morning. Afterward, he cleaned debris around the Advanced Plant Habitat then photographed the condition of the botany research facility. Station Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, who is also commander of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission, is now packing cargo and turning his attention to early November’s return to Earth of he and his Crew-2 crewmates McArthur, Hoshide and Pesquet aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour.

Two Roscosmos cosmonauts are sleeping in today before monitoring tonight’s undocking of a Russian cargo craft from the Poisk module. They will shift their schedule again on Thursday when the ISS Progress 78 resupply ship redocks to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module just over a day later.

Roscosmos Flight Engineers Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov will be on duty monitoring the Progress 78’s undocking tonight at 7:42 p.m. EDT. However, there will be no live TV coverage of the undocking. NASA TV will be on the air on Thursday at 11:30 p.m. and broadcast its redocking to Nauka set for Friday at 12:23 a.m.

Virtual Reality, Spacesuits, Departure Preps Keeping Crew Busy

NASA astronaut Megan McArthur poses with an AstroBee robotic free-flying assistant inside the space station's Kibo laboratory module.
NASA astronaut Megan McArthur poses with an AstroBee robotic free-flying assistant inside the space station’s Kibo laboratory module.

Exercising wearing virtual reality goggles, replacing spacesuit components, and getting ready for this weekend’s crew departure were the main objectives for the Expedition 65 crew today. The residents aboard the International Space Station also juggled ongoing research and maintenance tasks amidst Russian filmmaking activities.

Daily exercise in microgravity is vital to maintain bone and muscle health in the weightless environment of the orbiting lab. Scientists are studying whether virtual reality may add an extra dimension of pleasure and satisfaction for a crew member during an exercise session in space. Commander Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) put on a virtual reality headset and strapped himself on to an exercise bike Wednesday morning for the Immersive Exercise study. The virtual reality sequence, including audio, is synchronized with the pedaling speed to increase the immersive sensation.

Pesquet then spent the afternoon with NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough working on a U.S. spacesuit. The duo swapped components to resize the spacesuit and checked out the suit’s communications gear.

Kimbrough earlier swapped out fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack before cleaning up the seven-windowed cupola. NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur spent her day deploying camcorders inside the Harmony module where the SpaceX Crew Dragon is docked.

In the Unity module, NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei set up networking hardware and software then moved on to cargo work inside Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter. Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) cleaned smoke alarms in the Kibo laboratory module then worked on botany and life science activities.

Cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy is preparing for his return to Earth this weekend inside the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship. Joining him for this morning’s Soyuz descent training session were Russian spaceflight participants Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko. Novitskiy will lead the duo aboard the Soyuz to a parachuted landing in Kazakhstan on Sunday at 12:36 a.m. EDT (10:36 a.m. Kazakh time).

Veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov spent Wednesday morning studying future spacecraft piloting and robotic techniques. First time space-flyer Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos photographed Shkaplerov during the session. The duo, including Novitskiy, then spent the afternoon on filmmaking activities with their two Russian space station guests.

International Astronauts to Swap Command; Soyuz Crew Launches on Tuesday

European astronaut Thomas Pesquet takes command of the space station from Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide today.
European astronaut Thomas Pesquet takes command of the space station from Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide today.

Expedition 65 Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will hand over command of the International Space Station today to ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet. Pesquet will command the station until he departs with Hoshide and NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough in mid-to-late November.

The four crewmates have been living on the orbital lab since April when they arrived aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour. The quartet will return to Earth next month inside Endeavour and parachute to a splashdown off the coast of Florida completing a six-month stay in space.

About 12 hours after Pesquet takes command of the orbiting lab, three Russian crewmates will launch toward the space station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov will ride inside the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship in between spaceflight participants Klim Shipenko and Yulia Peresild.

The trio will lift off inside the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship at 4:55 a.m. EDT on Tuesday and orbit the Earth twice before docking to the Rassvet module less than three-and-a-half hours later. Shkaplerov will stay in space until April while Shipenko and Yulia Peresild will return to Earth about 12 days later. The two spaceflight participants will ride back to Earth and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship with Roscosmos Flight Engineer Oleg Novitskiy.

NASA TV starts its live coverage of the change of command ceremony today at 3:20 p.m. EDT on the NASA app and the agency’s website. NASA TV will be back on the air on Tuesday at 4:15 a.m. broadcasting the launch, docking and crew greeting at the space station of the new Russian trio.

The seven residents aboard the station today started the work week servicing a variety of research hardware. Kimbrough cleaned the Life Science Glovebox today following two weeks of rodent research activities. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei swapped fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack and also helped McArthur organize food to open up more space on the station.

Hoshide installed the Tele-Luminescence Analysis System that observes tissues and genes in small animals in the Kibo laboratory module. Pesquet set up the Fluidics experiment for a couple of runs today to better understand how fuels behave in spacecraft fuel tanks.

Cargo Dragon Undocking Live on NASA TV

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle approaches the International Space Station for an autonomous docking to the Harmony module's forward international docking adapter
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle approaches the International Space Station for an autonomous docking to the Harmony module’s forward international docking adapter on Aug. 30, 2021.

NASA Television coverage is underway for departure of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from the International Space Station. The spacecraft is scheduled for automated release at 9:12 a.m. EDT.

Ground controllers at SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, will command Dragon to undock from the forward port on the station’s Harmony module. After firing its thrusters to move a safe distance away from the station, Dragon will execute a deorbit burn to leave orbit as it heads for a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Florida around 11 p.m.

Dragon launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Aug. 29 from Space Launch Complex 39A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and arrived at the station the following day with more than 4,800 pounds of science, supplies and cargo on SpaceX’s 23rd commercial resupply mission to the station for NASA.

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

Crew Dragon Endeavour Has Re-Docked to Station

The SpaceX Crew-2 Dragon is pictured after maneuvering to the Harmony module's space-facing international docking adapter.
The SpaceX Crew-2 Dragon is pictured after maneuvering to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV

Crew Dragon Endeavour with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and  Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, have re-docked to the International Space Station.

Crew Dragon autonomously undocked from the forward port of the station’s Harmony module at 6:45 a.m. and relocated to the space-facing port at 7:35 a.m. completing the second space station port change for the crewed spacecraft.

Next up for commercial crew, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station about one day following its launch at 2:53 p.m. Friday, July 30, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The uncrewed flight test, NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), will test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner from launch to docking, atmospheric re-entry, and a desert landing in the western United States. The uncrewed mission will provide valuable data about Boeing’s crew transportation system, and help NASA certify Starliner and the Atlas V rocket for regular flights with astronauts to and from the space station.

Crew-2 astronauts are targeted to return to Earth in early-to-mid November following a short handover with NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts targeted to launch on Sunday, Oct. 31.

Coverage Underway for Crew-2 Port Relocation

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour approaches the International Space Station
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour approaches the International Space Station on April 24, 2021

NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website are providing live coverage as four residents of the International Space Station prepare to take a spin around their orbital neighborhood in the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft, relocating it to prepare for the arrival of the agency’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and  Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet boarded the Crew Dragon spacecraft about 4:30 a.m. and are scheduled to undock from the forward port of the station’s Harmony module at 6:45 a.m. The spacecraft will dock again at the station’s space-facing port at 7:32 a.m.

This will be the second port relocation of a Crew Dragon spacecraft. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission lifted off April 23 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and docked to the space station April 24. Crew-2, targeted to return in early-to-mid November, is the second of six certified crew missions NASA and SpaceX have planned as a part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA TV to Air Crew Dragon’s Port Relocation

The SpaceX Crew-1 Dragon maneuvers to another port on the International Space Station on April 5, 2021
The SpaceX Crew-1 Dragon maneuvers to another port on the International Space Station on April 5, 2021

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts on the International Space Station will relocate their Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft Wednesday, July 21, setting the stage for a historic first when two different U.S. commercial spacecraft built for crew will be docked to the microgravity laboratory at the same time.

Live coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. EDT on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and  Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will board the Crew Dragon spacecraft about 4:30 a.m. and undock from the forward port of the station’s Harmony module at 6:45 a.m. The spacecraft will dock again at the station’s space-facing port at 7:32 a.m.

The relocation will free up Harmony’s forward port for the docking of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, scheduled for launch Friday, July 30, as part of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2). The flight will test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner from launch to docking, atmospheric re-entry, and a desert landing in the western United States. The uncrewed mission will provide valuable data about Boeing’s crew transportation system, and help NASA certify Starliner and the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for regular flights with astronauts to and from the space station.

This will be the second port relocation of a Crew Dragon spacecraft. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission lifted off April 23 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and docked to the space station April 24. Crew-2, targeted to return in early-to-mid November, is the second of six certified crew missions NASA and SpaceX have planned as a part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.