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.

Station Being Configured for Cargo and Crew Missions

Northeast Coast of the United States
This nighttime shot shows the northeast coast of the United States from New Jersey up to Maine and the well-lit urban metropolitan areas of New York City and Boston along with parts of southern Canada including Montreal.

The Expedition 53 crew is configuring the orbital complex for a pair of cargo missions and a crew swap in December. Two colorful soccer ball-sized satellites were also floating around inside the International Space Station being tested today.

SpaceX has announced it is now targeting Dec. 8 for the launch of its Dragon cargo craft to the space station’s Harmony module. Among the variety of crew supplies and research gear Dragon will deliver are mice to be observed for the Rodent Research-6 muscle drug study. 20 mice will be housed in a rodent habitat that Vande Hei is configuring today in the U.S. Destiny laboratory.

Orbital ATK pushed back the release of its Cygnus resupply ship from the Unity module to Dec. 6 after the SpaceX announcement. Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei are preparing for the departure this week loading Cygnus with trash and training for its robotic release.

Finally, the station is set to slightly raise its orbit Wednesday enabling a crew swap set to begin Dec. 14 when Expedition 52-53 crew members Randy Bresnik, Sergey Ryazanskiy and Paolo Nespoli return to Earth. They will be replaced Dec. 19 when Expedition 54-55 crew members Anton Shkaplerov, Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai dock to the Rassvet module two days after their launch from Kazakhstan.

Acaba and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin were inside the Kibo laboratory module today testing a pair of tiny satellites better known as SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites). The SPHERES can be pre-programmed on Earth using algorithms to conduct a series of maneuvers demonstrating formation flying or rendezvous and docking techniques. Teams of high school students will be competing in January to see who can design the best maneuvering algorithms for the SPHERES on the station.

Cygnus Departure Preps as Muscle Study and CubeSat Ops Wrap Up

New York City and New Jersey Area
New York City and part of the state of New Jersey are pictured in this photograph taken during a night pass on Nov. 23, 2017.

The Cygnus resupply ship is in its final week at the International Space Station and two astronauts are training for its departure on Monday. Meanwhile, a leg muscle study and CubeSat deployment operations are wrapping up today.

Cygnus is now being filled with trash after delivering close to 7,400 pounds of research and supplies to the Expedition 53 crew on Nov. 14. NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba are training to release Cygnus from the Canadarm2 next week following a 20-day stay at the Unity module.

The duo will be inside the cupola commanding the Canadarm2 to release Cygnus back into Earth orbit on Dec. 4. Following its departure from the station, Cygnus will stay in orbit until Dec. 18 before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere for a fiery demise over the Pacific Ocean.

Commander Randy Bresnik and cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy are completing a final run of the Sarcolab-3 experiment today. That research is observing how leg muscles adapt to microgravity using magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound devices.

Finally, a satellite deployer that ejected a set of CubeSats last week, has been brought back inside the Kibo lab module. One of the CubeSats deployed, the EcAMSat that was delivered aboard Cygnus, is now orbiting Earth researching how the E. coli pathogen reacts to antibiotics in space.

Muscle Research and Science Cargo Work Ahead of Thanksgiving

Astronaut Mark Vande Hei
Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei swaps out a payload card from the TangoLab-1 facility and places it into the TangoLab-2 facility.

The six-member Expedition 53 crew heads into Thanksgiving observing how living in space affects the human body and packing the Cygnus cargo craft. The orbital crewmates are also preparing for next month’s arrival of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

Veteran space station residents Paolo Nespoli and Sergey Ryazanskiy were back inside the Columbus lab module today examining what microgravity is doing to their leg muscles. The duo took turns strapping themselves in a unique exercise chair and attaching electrodes to their knees. Next, the pair used magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound devices to observe the changes taking place in their legs in space.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba transferred the TangoLab-1 multi-use science facility into the Cygnus space freighter for a demonstration today. TangoLab-1 is being tested inside Cygnus to determine the viability of using a cargo craft as a laboratory while docked at the International Space Station.

The next cargo craft to visit the station will be the SpaceX Dragon when it launches Dec. 4 aboard the Falcon 9 rocket from Florida. Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei trained today for the rendezvous and capture of Dragon when it arrives two days after its launch. Dragon will carry new science experiments to explore the Sun’s impact on Earth and improve the accuracy of a new diabetes implant device.

BEAM Prepped for Cargo, CubeSats Deployed and Leg Muscles Scanned

CubeSat Deployed from Station
A deployer mechanism attached to the outside of the Japanese Kibo lab module ejects a CubeSat into Earth orbit.

An experimental module attached to the International Space Station is being prepared for upcoming cargo operations. Tiny research satellites were also ejected from the orbital lab while a pair of Expedition 53 crew members scanned their leg muscles today.

BEAM, officially called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, is being outfitted this week for future stowage operations. Excess gear, including inflation tanks and dynamic sensors, used during its initial expansion back in May of 2016 is being removed to make room for new cargo. BEAM’s old gear and trash will now be stowed in the Cygnus resupply craft for disposal early next month.

The Kibo lab module from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency was the site for the deployment of several CubeSats Monday morning. A mechanism attached to the outside of Kibo ejected the CubeSats that will orbit Earth and provide insights into antibiotic resistance, astrophysics and “space weather.” More CubeSats will be deployed Tuesday.

Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli and Sergey Ryazanskiy spent Monday exploring how the lack of gravity affects leg muscles. Nespoli strapped himself into a specialized exercise chair and attached electrodes to his leg with assistance from Ryazanskiy. The Sarcolab-3 experiment uses measurements from an ultrasound device and magnetic resonance imaging to observe impacts to the muscles and tendons of a crew member.

Astronauts Take on Science, Plumbing and Cargo Duties Today

 

Expedition 53 Crew Portrait
The six-member Expedition 53 crew poses for a portrait inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module with the VICTORY art spacesuit that was hand-painted by cancer patients in Russia and the United States. On the right (from top to bottom) are European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli, cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA.

Expedition 53 checked out a specialized microscope and worked on the International Space Station’s toilet today. More supplies and hardware are also being offloaded from the newly-arrived Cygnus cargo craft.

Commander Randy Bresnik opened up the Fluids Integrated Rack this morning to take a look at its Light Microscopy Module (LMM), an advanced space microscope. He was troubleshooting the device and swapping out its cables. The LMM provides a facility to examine the microscopic properties of different types of fluids in microgravity.

European Space Agency Paolo Nespoli worked on space plumbing throughout the day in the station’s restroom, the Waste and Hygiene Compartment (WHC). The veteran station resident removed and replaced valves and sensors in the WHC as part regular preventative maintenance.

More crew supplies and research gear are being unloaded from Cygnus today to outfit the crew and continue ongoing space science experiments. NASA astronaut Joe Acaba was unpacking food, batteries and computer gear for stowage throughout the station. The second-time station resident was also removing Genes in Space gear and blood sample kits for upcoming science work.

Cygnus Open for Business; Crew Unloading New Bacteria, Plant and Tech Studies

Cygnus Grappled with Canadarm2
The Cygnus spacecraft is pictured after it had been grappled with the Canadarm2 robotic arm by astronauts Paolo Nespoli and Randy Bresnik on Nov. 14, 2017.

The Expedition 53 astronauts are continuing to unload several thousand pounds of space cargo from the new Cygnus resupply ship that arrived Tuesday morning. Some of the new science cargo contains a bacteria that curiously loses its harmful properties in microgravity and CubeSats that will be deployed in Earth orbit.

The Cygnus is now installed on the Unity module and open for business. The astronauts entered the cargo craft Tuesday and started replenishing the station with almost 7,400 pounds of crew supplies, science experiments, spacewalk gear, station hardware and computer parts.

Some of the new research payloads will be looking at the space impacts on microbiology and botany. The advanced space research will explore the effectiveness of antibiotics on astronauts and observe how plants absorb nutrients in microgravity. Some pathogens for the STaARS Bioscience-5 study delivered aboard Cygnus have also been safely transferred to the NEXUS facility for later observation.

A couple of the newest technology experiments will deploy CubeSats to explore laser communications and hybrid solar panels. Scientists will study the ability of small satellites to communicate with each other using lasers and also explore if a combination of antenna and solar cells can speed up communication rates.