Japanese Cargo, SpaceX Crew Dragon Activities Ramping Up

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley participate in a fully integrated test of SpaceX Crew Dragon flight hardware at the SpaceX processing facility in Florida on March 30.

The International Space Station is getting ready for a new Japanese cargo mission and the first Commercial Crew before the end of the month.

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy joined Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner Friday afternoon to train for the arrival of a Japanese cargo craft after it launches on May 20 at 1:30 p.m. EDT. The duo practiced the robotic capture techniques they will use when they command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple Japan’s ninth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-9) when it arrives on May 25 at 8:15 a.m.

The HTV-9 is delivering over four tons of food, fuel and supplies including new lithium-ion batteries to finish updating the station’s power systems. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and capture activities live.

Two days after the arrival of Japan’s HTV-9 resupply ship, the first crew to launch from U.S. soil since 2011 will lift off from Florida to the orbiting lab aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are in preflight quarantine at the Kennedy Space Center counting down to their May 27 launch at 4:33 p.m.

The veteran astronauts, representing NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, will approach the station May 28 and dock to the Harmony Module’s forward-facing International Docking Adapter at 11:39 a.m. They will open the hatch about two-and-a-half hours later to join the Expedition 63 crew and ramp up space science activities.

Japanese Resupply Ship, SpaceX Crew Dragon Nearing Launch Dates

Japan's H-II Transfer Vehicle (left) and the SpaceX Crew Dragon (right) are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station this month.
Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (left) and the SpaceX Crew Dragon (right) are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station this month.

A Japanese cargo ship is poised to resupply the Expedition 63 crew just as a U.S. space freighter has completed its stay at the International Space Station. The three station residents are also getting ready to welcome two Commercial Crew members in just over two weeks.

Japan’s ninth H-II Transfer Vehicle cargo mission (HTV-9) is due to lift off on May 20 aboard an H-IIB rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center. The cargo craft from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is delivering fresh food and supplies, new science experiments and new lithium-ion batteries to upgrade the station’s power systems.

The HTV-9 will arrive at the station on May 25 where Commander Chris Cassidy, with Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner as back up, will capture the cargo craft with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Ground controllers will take over afterward and remotely install the HTV-9 to the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port where it will stay for two months.

Just two days later, NASA will launch the first crew from the United States since 2011 aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon. Veteran astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will take a 19-hour trip to the station while testing systems inside the Crew Dragon. It will automatically dock on May 28 to the International Docking Adapter located on the Harmony module’s forward port. After the hatches open, the duo will join the Expedition 63 crew to ramp up science and maintenance operations aboard the orbiting lab.

NASA Completes Negotiations for Additional Soyuz Seat in Fall

The International Space Station
The International Space Station is pictured from space shuttle Endeavour after its undocking in February 2010.

To ensure the agency keeps its commitment for safe operations via a continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station until commercial crew capabilities are routinely available, NASA has completed negotiations with the State Space Corporation Roscosmos to purchase one additional Soyuz seat for a launch this fall.

The agency received no responses from U.S. suppliers to a synopsis issued in the fall of 2019 for crew transportation in 2020. Boeing and SpaceX are in the final stages of development and testing of new human space transportation systems that will launch astronauts from American soil, including NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission scheduled for launch no earlier than May 27.

In case you missed it, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shared why the Demo-2 mission is essential.