Cygnus In Space, Next Stop Station

Cygnus Spacecraft
The Cygnus spacecraft with its cymbal-like UltraFlex solar arrays deployed was pictured departing the space station Dec. 5, 2017 during Expedition 53.

The Cygnus spacecraft’s solar arrays have deployed.

See the launch of Cygnus on Instagram

The cargo ship will rendezvous with the International Space Station on Thursday, May 24. Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will grapple the spacecraft at approximately 5:20 a.m. EDT, backed by Ricky Arnold, and Drew Feustel will monitor Cygnus systems during its approach. They will use the space station’s robotic Canadarm2 to take hold of the Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. James “J.R.” Thompson. After Cygnus’ capture, ground controllers will command the robotic arm to rotate and install Cygnus onto the station’s Unity module. It is scheduled depart the space station in mid-July.

Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 3:45 a.m. Thursday, May 24. Installation coverage is set to begin at 7:30 a.m.

Science investigations aboard Cygnus on their way to the space station also include commercial and academic payloads in myriad disciplines, including:

  • The Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST), an investigation to identify unknown microbial organisms on the space station and understand how humans, plants and microbes adapt to living on the station
  • The Cold Atom Laboratory, a physics research facility used by scientists to explore how atoms interact when they have almost no motion due to extreme cold temperatures
  • A unique liquid separation system from Zaiput Flow Technologies that relies on surface forces, rather than gravity, to extract one liquid from another
  • The Ice Cubes Facility, the first commercial European opportunity to conduct research in space, made possible through an agreement with ESA (European Space Agency) and Space Applications Services.
  • The Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification (MICS) experiment is to investigate and understand the complex process of cement solidification in microgravity with the intent of improving Earth-based cement and concrete processing and as the first steps toward making and using concrete on extraterrestrial bodies.
  • Three Earth science CubeSats
    • RainCube (Radar in a CubeSat) will be NASA’s first active sensing instrument on a CubeSat that could enable future rainfall profiling missions on low-cost, quick-turnaround platforms.
    • TEMPEST-D (Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems Demonstration) is mission to validate technology that could improve our understanding of cloud processes.
    • CubeRRT (CubeSat Radiometer Radio Frequency Interference Technology) will seek to demonstrate a new technology that can identify and filter radio frequency interference, which is a growing problem that negatively affects the data quality collected by radiometers, instruments used in space for critical weather data and climate studies.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus Blasts off to Resupply the Station

Cygnus Blasts Off
The Cygnus spacecraft from Orbital ATK blasts off atop the Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft lifted off at 4:44 a.m. EDT and is on its way to the International Space Station. At the time of launch, the space station was traveling at an altitude of about 250 miles, over the central south Atlantic.

See the launch on Instagram

An hour and half after launch, commands will be given to deploy the spacecraft’s UltraFlex solar arrays. Launch coverage will resume on NASA TV at http://www.nasa.gov/live at about 5:45 a.m. for solar array deployment, which is expected to last about 30 minutes.

A post-launch news conference will follow and is scheduled to begin on NASA TV at approximately 7:00 a.m.

Cygnus Rolls Out to Pad Targeting Monday Launch

The Antares rocket from Orbital ATK
The Antares rocket from Orbital ATK makes its way to the launch pad at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Antares will launch the Cygnus spacecraft on a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft that will resupply the Expedition 55 crew on the International Space Station rolled out to its launch pad Thursday night. Cygnus is now targeted to blast off atop the Antares rocket Monday at 4:39 a.m. EDT from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. NASA TV will begin its live broadcast of the launch Monday at 4 a.m.

Orbital ATK and NASA managers moved Cygnus’ launch to no earlier than Monday to support further pre-launch inspections and more favorable weather conditions. Monday shows an 80% probability of acceptable weather for launch.

Cygnus is packed with 7,400 pounds of new science experiments, crew supplies and space station hardware. It is scheduled to arrive Thursday at the space station for its robotic capture at 5:20 a.m. NASA TV will cover the approach and rendezvous activities starting at 3:30 a.m.

Three NASA astronauts, Scott Tingle, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, have trained for weeks to get ready for Cygnus’ arrival on Thursday. Tingle will be operating the Canadarm2 from inside the Cupola and command the robotic arm to grapple Cygnus. Arnold will back him up on the robotics controls and Feustel will monitor Cygnus and it systems during its approach. Robotics engineers on the ground will then remotely install the commercial space freighter on the Earth-facing port of the Unity module later Thursday morning.

One of the new experiments being delivered aboard Cygnus to the orbital laboratory will study atoms frozen to a temperature 10 billion times colder than deep space. The Cold Atom Lab will observe the quantum phenomena possibly leading to advanced spacecraft navigation techniques and quantum sensors that can detect gravitational and magnetic fields.

Cygnus Checks and Final Preps Before Wednesday’s Spacewalk

The Rio de la Plata and the Atlantic coasts of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil
The Rio de la Plata and the Atlantic coasts of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil are pictured from the International Space Station.

Two NASA astronauts are finalizing their preparations ahead of Wednesday morning’s spacewalk to swap thermal control gear outside the International Space Station. The Expedition 55 crew also worked on biomedical operations, radiation checks and Cygnus communications gear.

Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel checked their tools and reviewed their procedures one last time today before tomorrow’s spacewalk. The pair will work for about 6.5 hours swapping a pair of thermal control devices, known as Pump Flow Control Subassemblies, which control the circulation of ammonia keeping external station systems cool.

The veteran spacewalkers will set their spacesuit batteries to internal power Wednesday at about 8:10 a.m. EDT signaling the official start of the 210th spacewalk in space station history. NASA TV will begin its live broadcast of the activities beginning at 6:30 a.m.

Science and maintenance are always ongoing aboard the orbital lab even despite the spacewalk and cargo mission readiness activities. Feustel and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai collected their biological samples this morning and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev explored cardiac bioelectric activity at rest. Commander Anton Shkaplerov collected radiation measurements from dosimeters he retrieved from the orbital lab’s U.S. segment.

Orbital ATK is getting its Cygnus space freighter ready for launch Sunday at 5:04 a.m. to deliver science, supplies and hardware to the Expedition 55 crew. Astronaut Scott Tingle checked out command and communications gear that will be used when Cygnus arrives four days later on Thursday for capture at 5:20 a.m.

Busy Astronauts Ramp Up for Spacewalk and Cygnus Cargo Mission

Four Expedition 55 Astronauts
The four astronauts who comprise the six-member Expedition 55 crew pose for a portrait inside the International Space Station. They are (clockwise from bottom right) NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold, Scott Tingle and Drew Feustel and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Norishige Kanai.

Veteran astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel will embark on the 210th spacewalk Wednesday at the International Space Station to swap out thermal control gear. The experienced spacewalkers have a combined 10 spacewalks between them with Feustel having conducted seven and Arnold with a total of three.

Flight Engineer Scott Tingle assisted the duo today getting spacewalk tools ready and recharging the U.S. spacesuits inside the U.S. Quest airlock. Tingle and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai will assist the spacewalkers in and out of the airlock Wednesday and guide the duo during their tasks.

Orbital ATK will launch their Cygnus space freighter on Sunday at 5:04 a.m. EDT to resupply the Expedition 55 crew just four days after Feustel and Arnold complete their fourth spacewalk together. After a four-day trip in space, Cygnus will deliver crew supplies, station hardware and experiments exploring a variety of subjects including life science and space physics.

Arnold and Tingle practiced the robotics maneuvers today on a computer they will use to capture Cygnus after its approach and rendezvous with the station on May 24 at 5:20 a.m. NASA TV will broadcast the Cygnus launch and capture activities live at the orbital laboratory.

Station Getting Ready for Spacewalks and Next Cargo Mission

The full moon was pictured April 30, 2018
The full moon was pictured April 30, 2018 as the International Space Station orbited off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

International Space Station officials will preview a pair of upcoming spacewalks live on NASA TV Tuesday. Meanwhile, Orbital ATK is getting its Cygnus resupply ship ready for launch in less than two weeks while the Expedition 55 crew focuses on biomedical studies today.

Two NASA astronauts are going out for a spacewalk May 16 to swap out thermal control gear that circulates ammonia to keep station systems cool. Station experts will be on NASA TV beginning at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday to preview next week’s spacewalk including a second spacewalk planned for June 14. Both excursions will be conducted by veteran spacewalkers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel.

Feustel and Arnold verified their spacesuits are sized correctly with assistance from astronauts Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Tingle also checked the batteries that power the U.S. spacesuits.

On May 20, just four days after the first spacewalk, Orbital ATK is planning to launch its Cygnus space freighter on a four day trip to the orbital laboratory. Cygnus will resupply the Expedition 55 crew with new science experiments, crew supplies, station hardware and gear that will be installed on the June 14 spacewalk.

Today’s science taking place onboard the station explored how microgravity affects blood pressure and blood vessels. Kanai started his day photographing his face to help scientists understand how the upward flow of fluids impacts intracranial pressure affecting a crew member’s eyes. He later attached sensors to his legs, scanned them with an ultrasound device and checked his blood pressure for the Vascular Echo study.

Astronauts Command Robotic Arm to Release Cygnus Cargo Craft

Cygnus Released
The Cygnus cargo craft is seen from an International Space Station video camera moments after it was released from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Credit: NASA TV

After delivering almost 7,400 pounds of cargo to support dozens of science experiments from around the world, the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo spacecraft has departed the International Space Station. At 8:11 a.m., Expedition 53 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA gave the command to release Cygnus.

On Tuesday, Dec. 5, ground controllers used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach the Cygnus spacecraft from the Earth-facing side of the station’s Unity module. The spacecraft, which arrived at the station Nov. 14, then maneuvered above the Harmony module to gather data overnight that will aid in rendezvous and docking operations for future U.S. commercial crew vehicles arriving for a linkup to Harmony’s international docking adapters.

Experiments delivered on Cygnus supported NASA and other research investigations during Expedition 53, including studies in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science.

Later today, Cygnus will release 14 CubeSats from an external NanoRacks deployer. Cygnus also is packed with more than 6,200 pounds of trash and other items marked for disposal during its destructive reentry Monday, Dec. 18.

The Cygnus launched Nov. 12 on Orbital ATK’s upgraded Antares 230 rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia for the company’s eighth NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Cygnus Cargo Craft Leaves Station Wednesday Morning

Cygnus Cargo Craft
The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft was pictured February 19, 2016, attached to the Canadarm2 before it was released back into Earth orbit. Read more about the Cygnus missions to the space station.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo spacecraft is set to leave the International Space Station on Wednesday, Dec. 6. NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live coverage of Cygnus’ departure beginning at 7:45 a.m. EST. Cygnus arrived to the space station Nov. 14 with nearly 7,400 pounds of cargo to support dozens of science experiments.

At approximately 8:10 a.m., Expedition 53 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA will give the command to release Cygnus.

Earlier today, ground controllers used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach the Cygnus spacecraft from the Earth-facing side of the station’s Unity module.

This was Orbital ATK’s eighth contracted commercial resupply mission.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

SpaceX Launch Slips, Cygnus Leaving and BEAM Stay Extended

SpaceX Dragon capsule as it reentered Earth's atmosphere
NASA astronaut Jack Fischer photographed the SpaceX Dragon capsule as it reentered Earth’s atmosphere (bright streak at lower left) before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California in July  2017. Read more about the SpaceX missions to the space station.

SpaceX has delayed the launch of its next Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station to no earlier than Dec. 12. Back on orbit, the Cygnus cargo craft is getting ready to leave the orbital lab and an experimental module has its stay in space extended for at least another three years.

NASA and our commercial cargo provider SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Dec. 12 at 11:46 a.m. EST for their 13th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. This new launch date takes into account pad readiness, requirements for science payloads, space station crew availability, and orbital mechanics. Carrying about 4,800 pounds of cargo including critical science and research, the Dragon spacecraft will spend a month attached to the space station.

The Cygnus cargo craft from Orbital ATK is leaving the station tomorrow after 22 days at the orbital lab. Astronauts Randy Bresnik, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba closed its hatches today and disconnected its station power systems.

Ground controllers uninstalled Cygnus from the Unity module Tuesday morning with the Canadarm2 and are conducting a series of communications tests to assist NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Next, Vande Hei and Acaba will command the Canadarm2 to release Cygnus back into Earth orbit tomorrow at 8:10 a.m. EST where it will stay until Dec. 18.

BEAM, formally known as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, is staying attached to the station for another three years with a potential to stay an extra year after that. While BEAM transitions to its new role as a cargo hold, engineers will continue studying its ability to resist radiation, space debris and microbes. Bigelow Aerospace and NASA signed the contract extension in November to continue demonstrating the reliability of expandable habitat technologies in space.

Next Crew in Russia as Station Preps for Cargo Missions

Expedition 54-55
Expedition 54-55 is the next crew to launch to the space station. They are (from left) Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Scott Tingle of NASA.

The next crew to launch to the International Space Station is in Russia today for traditional ceremonies before heading to the launch site in Kazakhstan. Back in space, the Expedition 53 crew is preparing for the departure and arrival of a pair of cargo ships next week.

Three new crew members from Russia, the United States and Japan are getting ready for their Dec. 14 launch aboard the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft to the space station’s Rassvet module. The Expedition 54-55 crew consists of Soyuz Commander and veteran station resident Anton Shkaplerov and first-time Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai.

The trio was in Star City today talking to journalists before heading to Moscow to tour Red Square and lay flowers at the Kremlin Wall where famed cosmonauts are interred. Next, the crew will head to the launch site Dec. 4 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan where they will stay for final launch preparations at the Cosmonaut Hotel.

Meanwhile, the orbiting Expedition 53 crew is packing the Cygnus cargo craft with trash before it ends its mission next week. First, ground controllers will remotely detach Cygnus from the Unity module with the Canadarm2 on Dec. 5. Cygnus will then be maneuvered over the Harmony module for a GPS test to assist NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Next, astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba will take over the robotics controls and release Cygnus back into space on Dec. 6. It will orbit Earth until Dec. 18 then enter the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean for a fiery, but safe demise.

SpaceX is getting ready to replenish the station with its Dragon cargo craft scheduled to deliver about 4,800 pounds of crew supplies and science gear. Dragon is targeted to launch Dec. 8 from Florida atop a Falcon 9 rocket and take a two-day trip to the station. Vande Hei and Acaba are training to capture Dragon with the Canadarm2 when it reaches a point 10 meters from the station. Ground controllers will them remotely install Dragon to the Harmony module where it will stay until Jan. 6.