U.S. Cargo Mission Nears Launch; More Leak Checks and Research

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy is at work inside the Kibo laboratory module from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy is at work inside the Kibo laboratory module from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).

The Expedition 63 crew continues preparing for Sunday’s scheduled space delivery of nearly 8,000 pounds of supplies and gear aboard Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter. As usual, advanced space science rounded out the day’s activities inside the International Space Station. The crew also continues work to try and isolate the precise location of an air leak that was recently isolated to the Zvezda Service Module.

An Antares rocket stands at its launch pad in Virginia ready to carry the Cygnus resupply ship to space when it launches on Thursday at 9:38 p.m. EDT. About nine minutes later, Cygnus will reach Earth orbit heading towards the space station for a Sunday arrival and robotic capture at 6:10 a.m.

Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner continued practicing their robotics skills Wednesday afternoon on a computer. The duo will be on deck inside the cupola Sunday morning ready to command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and grapple Cygnus. Ground controllers will take over the Canadarm2 afterward and remotely install Cygnus to the Unity module about two hours later.

Cassidy started the day working inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module setting up experiment hardware that enables science to take place outside the orbiting lab. The veteran astronaut also spent a few moments on light plumbing duty as he serviced the urine processing assembly located in the Tranquility module.

The two Russian cosmonauts, including three-time station resident Anatoly Ivanishin, focused on their complement of space research and lab maintenance throughout the day. The duo joined each other first for a space communications study utilizing a variety of photography and audio hardware. Next, Ivanishin moved to narrow the source of an air leak utilizing an ultrasonic leak detector. Vagner checked radiation measurements then swapped camera lenses and activated hardware for a pair of Earth observation studies.

UPDATE: Roscosmos has released new information, further isolating the leak location to the transfer chamber in the Zvezda Service Module. Additional leak detection operations will continue using the ultrasonic leak detector.

In terms of design, the Zvezda Service Module consists of four sections: three pressurized (Transfer Compartment, Working Compartment and Transfer Chamber) as well as the unpressurized Assembly Compartment housing the integrated propulsion unit.

The leak, which has been investigated for several weeks, poses no immediate danger to the crew at the current leak rate and only a slight deviation to the crew’s schedule.

Weather Delays U.S. Cargo Mission; Crew Back to Work After Leak Test

The three-member Expedition 63 crew aboard the International Space Station
The Expedition 63 crew with (from left) Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

A U.S. cargo mission will wait a couple of extra days for weather to clear before launching to resupply the International Space Station this week. Meanwhile, the Expedition 63 crew has resumed standard operations following a leak test over the weekend.

Scattered thunderstorms and rain are predicted at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia where Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship was originally targeted for liftoff Tuesday night. Mission managers rescheduled Cygnus’ launch for Thursday at 9:38 p.m. EDT setting its arrival and robotic capture at the station for Sunday at 5:20 a.m.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonaut Ivan Vagner practiced their robotics skills on a computer today to get ready to capture Cygnus with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Sunday morning. Cassidy will lead the capture activities while Vagner monitors the U.S. spacecraft’s approach and rendezvous.

NASA TV will broadcast live the launch and capture activities of the Cygnus space freighter. It will arrive at the station packed with nearly 8,000 pounds supplies and gear including an advanced space toilet and brand-new science experiments.

Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin once again opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack and replaced fuel bottles to support fuel and flames studies inside the research device. He then spent the rest of the day servicing laptop computers and life support systems.

The three-member crew exited their isolation in the Russian segment on Monday morning after a weekend of leak tests and resumed normal operations. Ground teams will analyze the leak test data in their ongoing work to determine the source of the increased leak rate at the station.

Crew Readies for New Space Toilet and Continues Eye Exams

NASA astronaut and Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy poses for a portrait in front of the Microgravity Science Glovebox.
NASA astronaut and Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy poses for a portrait in front of the Microgravity Science Glovebox.

The International Space Station is gearing up for an advanced bathroom set to arrive on a U.S. resupply ship early next month. Meanwhile, the Expedition 63 crew continued this week’s eye checks and more space research and life support maintenance.

The orbital lab will get a new space toilet scheduled to be delivered inside Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft on Oct. 3. The upgraded restroom facility will be smaller, more comfortable and support a larger crew as NASA’s Commercial Crew Program sends more astronauts to the station.

Station crewmates Chris Cassidy and Ivan Vagner will be at the robotics workstation commanding the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Cygnus next Saturday. The duo began reviewing Cygnus’ mission profile today and are getting up to speed with the tasks necessary to support the upcoming space delivery.

The two crewmates then joined their colleague cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin for regularly scheduled eye checks in the afternoon. Wednesday’s tests looked at the retina using non-invasive light wave technology, or optical coherence tomography. The weeklong exams also consist of reading vision charts with one eye covered, as well as self-administered ultrasound eye scans with real-time support from ground doctors.

Cassidy’s science work today saw him activate the Astrobee robotic helpers and check out hardware for a perception and orientation in space study. The NASA astronaut then collected samples of the station’s U.S. segment drinking water for microbial analysis.

Working from the Russian side of the station, Ivanishin spent the morning replacing smoke detectors in the Zarya module. Vagner also gathered drinking water samples for later analysis both on the orbiting lab and back on Earth.

Scans and Housekeeping Tasks Dominate with an Eye for the Future

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy servicing microbial DNA samples for sequencing and identification aboard the International Space Station. Credits: NASA
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy servicing microbial DNA samples for sequencing and identification aboard the International Space Station. Credits: NASA

The three Expedition 63 crewmates continued working on tasks aboard the International Space Station that will not only extend the outpost beyond its current 20-year tenure maximizing science in space, but also facilitate human travel deeper into the solar system.

Commander Chris Cassidy was again in the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo laboratory module to continue setup with the Confocal Space Microscopy. The apparatus provides many advantages over conventional optical microscopy, some of which include the ability to control depth of field and collect sequential optical sections from thick biological specimens. Next up, Cassidy disconnected and stowed the Biomolecule Sequencer, which he had just used the day before with the Genes in Space 6 investigation.

The station commander also served as the test subject for additional ultrasound eye scans, performed by cosmonaut Ivan Vagner, who serves as the crew medical officer approximately 240 miles above Earth. It has now long been understood that crew members’ bodies change in a variety of ways during spaceflight, and some can even experience impaired vision. Gathering data on how ocular health changes during the course of a months-long mission will help inform scientists and mission planners for future expeditions requiring greater time in space and exploration at different destinations, like the Moon and Mars.

Vagner, along with fellow cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, spent time transferring waste to the two cargo vehicles docked at station, Progress 75 and Progress 76. In addition, Ivanishin wiped down surfaces in the Russian segment and disconnected his electrocardiogram monitor after a full 24-hour test that surveyed the health of his heart.

NASA commercial provider Northrop Grumman announced that it will name the NG-14 Cygnus spacecraft, the cargo ship slated to launch Sept. 29 to replenish station with supplies and new science, after astronaut Kalpana Chawla. It is the company’s tradition to name each Cygnus after an individual who has played a pivotal role in human spaceflight, and Chawla was selected in honor of her prominent place in history as the first woman of Indian descent to go to space.

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.

Space Traffic Clear at Station Until October

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy applies a mission sticker inside the space station to signify the departure of Japan's HTV-9 resupply ship from the U.S. Harmony module.
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy applies a mission sticker inside the space station to signify the departure of Japan’s HTV-9 resupply ship from the U.S. Harmony module.

The Expedition 63 crew has turned its attention toward space science and lab maintenance after releasing a Japanese cargo craft from the International Space Station on Tuesday. More cargo and crew missions to replenish the orbiting lab are planned for October.

Commander Chris Cassidy switched off communications gear today used to send commands to Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) after its departure on Tuesday. The HTV-9 will orbit Earth until Thursday morning when it descends into the atmosphere for a fiery, but safe demise over the South Pacific.

The NASA commander spent the rest of the day working on orbital plumbing and life support gear. Cassidy removed and replaced the Waste and Hygiene Compartment’s recycle tank located in the Tranquility module. He also inspected out gear that analyzes organic compounds in the station’s air.

Veteran station cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin focused on battery work as he installed current converters throughout the lab’s Russian segment. First-time cosmonaut Ivan Vagner spent Wednesday morning working on more orbital plumbing before exploring ways to improve Earth photography techniques and determine how mission events impact the orbiting lab.

Space traffic will be clear at the space station for the rest of August and into September. The mission pace will pick back up in October with a U.S. Cygnus cargo ship from Northrop Grumman, the Expedition 64 crew and the SpaceX Crew-1 mission all to set to arrive within a period of three weeks.

Japan’s Ship Nears Departure Before October Cargo, Crew Missions

The SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Japan's HTV-9 resupply ship figure prominently in this photograph taken during the July 1 spacewalk.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Japan’s HTV-9 resupply ship figure prominently in this photograph taken during the July 1 spacewalk.

Canada’s versatile robotic arm, the 57.7-foot-long Canadarm2, is in place and ready to grapple and release Japan’s resupply ship from the International Space Station next week. The Expedition 63 crew is continuing to pack the cargo craft while training for its robotic release.

Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA will command the Canadarm2 to release the H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) on Tuesday at 1:35 p.m. EDT. Roscosmos cosmonaut and Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner will support Cassidy at the robotics workstation in the station’s “window to the world,” the cupola.

Both crewmates will be practicing the robotic maneuvers on a computer Friday and Monday to prepare for the HTV-9’s release. Cassidy finalized packing the HTV-9 with discarded gear and will close the hatch to the Japanese resupply ship on Monday. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the release activities on Tuesday at 1:15 p.m.

Space traffic will pick up again in October with a U.S. cargo ship slated to arrive and a crew exchange planned at the orbiting lab. Northrop Grumman is targeting early October for the rendezvous and robotic capture of its Cygnus cargo craft at the station.

On Oct. 14, three Expedition 64 crew members will launch aboard the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship toward the orbital lab. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will take a six-hour ride that day and dock to the Rassvet module beginning a six-month station mission.

One week later, Cassidy will end his mission along with Expedition 63 crewmates Vagner and Russian Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin. The trio will undock from the Poisk module in the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship on Oct. 21 and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan ending a 195-day research mission aboard the station.

U.S. Cygnus Resupply Ship Departs Station

In this frame from NASA TV, the U.S. Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman is pictured moments after being released from the space station's Canadarm2 robotic arm.
In this frame from NASA TV, the U.S. Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman is pictured moments after being released from the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm.

The Cygnus spacecraft successfully departed the International Space Station three months after arriving at the space station to deliver about 7,500 of scientific experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory.

Within 24 hours of its release, Cygnus will begin its secondary mission, hosting the Spacecraft Fire Safety Experiment – IV (Saffire-IV), which provides an environment to safely study fire in microgravity. It also will deploy a series of payloads. Northrop Grumman flight controllers in Dulles, Virginia, will initiate Cygnus’ deorbit to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere Friday, May 29.

Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @iss, ISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

U.S. Cargo Craft Departing Station Live on NASA TV Now

The Cygnus cargo craft is pictured before its release during Expedition 46 on Feb. 19, 2016.
The Cygnus cargo craft is pictured before its release during the Expedition 46 mission on Feb. 19, 2016.

NASA has begun live coverage of departure of Northrop Grumman’s SS Robert H. Lawrence Cygnus spacecraft from the International Space Station.

Cygnus has been detached from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module, and flight controllers on the ground are scheduled to send commands to robotically detach Cygnus from the Canadarm2 robotic arm at 12 p.m. EDT.

Station commander Christopher Cassidy of NASA will monitor Cygnus’ systems as it moves away from the orbiting laboratory.

Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @iss, ISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

Watch Canadarm2 Release U.S. Cargo Craft on NASA TV

The Cygnus space freighter is pictured moments after its release
The Cygnus space freighter is pictured moments after its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm on January 31, 2020.

Nearly three months after delivering several tons of scientific experiments and supplies to the International Space Station, Northrop Grumman’s autonomous Cygnus cargo craft is scheduled to depart the International Space Station on Monday, May 11.

Live coverage of the spacecraft’s release will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 11:45 a.m. EDT, with release scheduled for 12:08 p.m.

Flight controllers on the ground will send commands to robotically detach Cygnus from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module, maneuver it into place, and release it from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Station commander Christopher Cassidy of NASA will monitor Cygnus’ systems as it moves away from the orbiting laboratory.

Dubbed the “SS Robert H. Lawrence,” Cygnus arrived at the station Feb. 18 for the company’s 13th cargo mission with about 7,500 pounds of supplies and science experiments ranging from research with cell cultures and bone loss to demonstration of a new miniature scanning electron microscope (SEM) with spectroscopy. Cygnus launched on Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.

For departure coverage and more information about the mission, visit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @iss, ISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

Cygnus Ready for Science After Departure, Commander Takes Break

The wispy atmospheric layer of the air glow
The wispy atmospheric layer of the air glow crowns the Earth’s horizon in this nighttime photograph from the International Space Station as it orbited over the South Atlantic Ocean.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship is packed for departure on Monday and will continue more science before its ultimate demise at the end of May. Meanwhile, two Expedition 63 Flight Engineers are maintaining International Space Station operations as the Commander takes a break today.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy is relaxing today ahead of this weekend’s activities to ready a U.S. space freighter for its robotic release on Monday at noon EDT. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the cargo ship’s release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm beginning at 11:45 a.m.

The space veteran spent the week loading up the Cygnus space freighter with trash and preparing it for more science. Shortly after its departure, a controlled fire will be lit inside Cygnus for ongoing research into space fire safety. Next, tiny space research satellites, also known as CubeSats,  will be deployed outside the vehicle to improve space communications and GPS mapping technology.

Robotics controllers also attached the popular, but now-defunct HDEV (High Definition Earth Viewing) experiment on the outside of Cygnus for disposal. HDEV reached its end-of-life last year after five years in service providing live views of Earth to over 300 million viewers. The U.S. cargo craft will reenter Earth’s atmosphere at the end of the month for a fiery, but safe disposal above the South Pacific.

Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner started Friday studying how the heart adapts to a specialized suit that reverses the pooling of blood and water in a crewmember’s head caused by microgravity. They also took turns with an ongoing study that seeks to improve the detection and location of Earth landmarks for photography.

Ivanishin, a veteran of two previous station missions, then updated station inventory with the new cargo recently delivered aboard the Progress 75 cargo ship. Vagner, a first-time space flyer, collected radiation measurements and inspected the Zvezda service module’s windows.