Cygnus Departs Station Ending Cargo Mission

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter is in the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm moments before its release above the South Pacific Ocean. Credit: NASA TV
The Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter is in the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm moments before its release above the South Pacific Ocean. Credit: NASA TV

At 11:01 a.m. EST, flight controllers on the ground sent commands to release the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft from the Canadarm2 robotic arm after earlier detaching Cygnus from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module. At the time of release, the station was flying about 260 miles over the South Pacific Ocean.

The Cygnus spacecraft successfully departed the International Space Station more than three months after arriving at the space station to deliver about 8,000 pounds of  scientific investigations and supplies to the orbiting laboratory.

After departure, the Kentucky Re-Entry Probe Experiment (KREPE) stowed inside Cygnus will take measurements to demonstrate a thermal protection system for spacecraft and their contents during re-entry in Earth’s atmosphere, which can be difficult to replicate in ground simulations.

Cygnus will deorbit on Wednesday, Dec. 15, following a deorbit engine firing to set up a destructive re-entry in which the spacecraft, filled with waste the space station crew packed in the spacecraft, will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

Cygnus arrived at the space station Aug. 12, following a launch two days prior on Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. It was the company’s 16th commercial resupply services mission to the space station for NASA. Northrop Grumman named the spacecraft after NASA astronaut Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian American astronaut.

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 at: @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Get weekly video highlights at: http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/

Cygnus Ready to be Released Live Now on NASA TV

Northrop Grumman's Cygnus space freighter is pictured after it was captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Aug. 12, 2021.
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is pictured after it was captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Aug. 12, 2021.

Live coverage of the departure of Northrop Grumman’s uncrewed Cygnus cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station is underway on NASA Television and the agency’s website, and the NASA app, with its release from the robotic arm scheduled for 11 a.m.

Flight controllers on the ground sent commands earlier this morning for the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach Cygnus from the Unity module’s Earth-facing port and maneuver the arm into position in preparation for releasing the spacecraft. Astronaut Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) will monitor Cygnus’ systems upon its departure from the space station.

After departure, the Kentucky Re-Entry Probe Experiment (KREPE) stowed inside Cygnus will take measurements to demonstrate a thermal protection system for spacecraft and their contents during re-entry in Earth’s atmosphere, which can be difficult to replicate in ground simulations.

Cygnus will deorbit on Wednesday, Dec. 15, following a deorbit engine firing to set up a destructive re-entry in which the spacecraft, filled with waste the space station crew packed in the spacecraft, will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

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 at: @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Get weekly video highlights at: http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/

Crew Prioritizes Science, Training, and Exercise Before Cygnus Departure

Northrop Grumman's Cygnus space freighter pictured arriving at the International Space Station on Aug. 12, 2021. Cygnus will depart from the space station on Nov. 20, 2021.
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter pictured arriving at the International Space Station on Aug. 12, 2021. Cygnus will depart from the space station on Nov. 20, 2021.

The Expedition 66 crew focused on science, training, and exercise aboard the International Space Station on Friday and prepared for the Cygnus departure tomorrow.

NASA Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Kayla Barron continued the GRIP experiment that they began earlier this week. The experiment studies how long-duration spaceflight affects crews’ ability to regulate grip force and upper limbs trajectories when manipulating objects during different movements. The pair set up hardware and completed GRIP science tasks in the supine position while donning noise-canceling headphones. Chari performed the GRIP science tasks in the seated position as well.

Additionally, NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Barron completed a robotics research session for the Behavioral Core Measures experiment. The study aims to accurately assess the risk of adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions during extended spaceflight. Marshburn and Barron set up the appropriate robotics hardware and performed the BCM testing. Crews are expected to complete the session at least once per month, starting two weeks after they arrive aboard the space station.

For medical training, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos reviewed rescuer roles for a situation requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Emergency medical equipment was deployed during the session. The trio practiced CPR positioning to ensure they could perform the procedure in space if necessary.

Focusing on fitness, crews also squeezed in a workout today. The astronauts completed cardio exercises on a stationary bicycle and treadmill fastened to the space station and resistive exercises using equipment that enables them to lift weights in weightlessness. Crews workout on average two hours per day in space. Routine exercise helps astronauts counter the bone and muscle loss that accompanies living and working in microgravity.

Meanwhile, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer transferred data from a fiber-optic monitor called Lumina. The device tracks radiation levels aboard the space station in real-time. Maurer completed the data transfer with an iPad-based application that gathers medical data from astronauts.

Looking ahead, Barron, Chari, Marshburn, and Vande Hei made final preparations to the Cygnus cargo ship, which is slated to depart from the space station on Saturday at 11 a.m. EST. Cygnus arrived at the space station in August carrying more than  8,200 pounds of cargo. Flight controllers will remotely decouple Cygnus from the space station by forwarding commands to the Canadarm2 robotic arm from Earth. Live coverage of the spacecraft’s departure will begin at 10:45 a.m. on NASA TV.

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Station Crew Awaits Russian, U.S. Rockets Counting Down to Launch

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon Endeavour attached rolls out to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon Endeavour attached rolls out to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Two rockets on opposite sides of the Earth are at their launch pads today counting down to liftoff to the International Space Station. Back on the orbiting lab, the seven Expedition 66 residents are busy conducting space research, station maintenance, and preparing for the upcoming departure of four crewmates.

Russia’s ISS Progress 79 resupply ship is standing vertical at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It will blast off today at 8 p.m. EDT with nearly three tons of food, fuel and supplies, destined for the station crew. The ISS Progress 79 will arrive at the station on Friday for an automated docking to the aft port of the Zvezda service module at 9:34 p.m.

At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Falcon 9 rocket with the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance attached rolled out to the launch pad early Wednesday morning and now stands vertical. Endurance will launch four commercial crew astronauts toward the space station on Sunday at 2:21 a.m. SpaceX Crew-3 Commander Raja Chari will lead Pilot Thomas Marshburn and Mission Specialists Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer on a one-day ride to the Harmony module’s forward docking port.

Meanwhile, station Commander Thomas Pesquet and Flight Engineer Megan McArthur began the day collecting their blood samples. They spun the samples in a centrifuge and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. Pesquet and McArthur also partnered up inside the Cygnus space freighter for cargo work before packing up personal gear ahead of their return to Earth inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour next month.

Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide are also packing up for next month’s departure aboard Endeavour. Kimbrough still had time today for computer maintenance while Hoshide worked on U.S. spacesuit components. Kimbrough will command Endeavour leading McArthur, Pesquet and Hoshide, from undocking to a splashdown off the coast of Florida ending the SpaceX Crew-2 mission that began in April.

Staying behind on the station will be Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei, Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov. Today, Vande Hei was back setting up the Fluids Integrated Rack research facility for the new the Flow Boiling and Condensation Experiment. Dubrov continued his research into effective space exercise methods while Shkaplerov studied the behavior of plasma-dust structures in the Russian segment of the station.

Botany and Biology During Break in Spacewalk Preps

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough works on the Mochii miniature electron microscope to support spectroscopic investigations aboard the space station.
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough works on the Mochii miniature electron microscope to support spectroscopic investigations aboard the space station.

The Expedition 65 crew set up a plant habitat and demonstrated a new ultrasound device amid a variety of other space research aboard the International Space Station today. Meanwhile, the cosmonauts took a break from spacewalk preparations and focused on maintenance.

NASA and its international partners are studying how a variety of life forms from microbes, to plants, to humans and more, are impacted by living long term in microgravity. Doctors observe how weightlessness affects life suited to gravity and learn how to keep astronauts healthy in space and plan for longer missions beyond low Earth orbit.

Plants have been growing on the station for years and as the orbiting lab has expanded so have the facilities to support space botany. Today, NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur installed the Veggie vegetable production system in the Columbus laboratory module. Veggie will host the APEX-08 study, being delivered soon aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon, to explore space-caused stress and genetic changes in plants.

A new portable ultrasound device was being tested aboard the orbiting lab today in conjunction with touchscreen tablets. NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough demonstrated using the Butterfly IQ Ultrasound and scanned his veins, kidney, and bladder. Afterward, he filled out a questionnaire to determine to determine the ultrasound’s usability and capabilities without immediate ground support.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei continued unpacking cargo from Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter attached to the Unity module. Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) recorded a science video for French students then photographed plants for the Eklosion botany study.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) worked science maintenance and orbital plumbing tasks throughout Wednesday. At the end of the day, Hoshide installed an arm with a gripper on a pair of Astrobee robotic free-flyers to test mobility techniques.

After several days of spacewalk preparations to configure the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module on Sept. 3 and 9, cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov turned their attention today to a variety of electronics and life support work in the station’s Russian segment.

Crew Gets Ready for Cargo Dragon and Russian Spacewalks

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship is photographed departing the space station on July 8, 2021.
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship is photographed departing the space station on July 8, 2021.

The Expedition 65 crew is turning its attention to this weekend’s arrival of a U.S. cargo craft and a pair of Russian spacewalks starting several days later.

SpaceX is planning to launch its Cargo Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station on Saturday at 3:37 a.m. EDT. It will arrive on Sunday and dock autonomously at 11 a.m. to the Harmony module’s forward international docking adapter packed with new science experiments and crew supplies. NASA TV will broadcast both launch and docking and NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will be on duty monitoring the Cargo Dragon’s arrival.

Cargo transfers are still ongoing inside the U.S. Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman attached to the Unity module. Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) partnered with Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) offloading some of the four tons cargo packed inside Cygnus during the afternoon.

Two spacewalks are planned to set up Russia’s newest module, the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module, for science operations on Sept. 3 and 9. Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov have been preparing their Orlan spacesuits and Russian spacewalk hardware inside the Poisk module where they will begin both spacewalks.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei joined Hoshide in the U.S. Quest airlock today stowing their U.S. spacesuits and spacewalk tools. Today’s spacewalk to prepare the International Space Station for its third Roll-Out Solar Array was postponed by station managers early Monday.

Week Kicks Off with Spacewalk Preps, Cygnus Cargo Transfers

Russia's Soyuz MS-18 crew ship (foreground) and Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module are pictured docked to the station as it orbited above Africa's Indian Ocean coast.
Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 crew ship (foreground) and Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module are pictured docked to the station as it orbited above Africa’s Indian Ocean coast.

Two astronauts and two cosmonauts are gearing up for three spacewalks set to begin next week at the International Space Station. The Expedition 65 crew is also continuing to unpack a U.S. cargo craft in the middle of ongoing science and maintenance activities.

The first spacewalk is planned to take place on Aug. 24. Commander Akihiko Hoshide and Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei will exit the Quest airlock in their U.S. spacesuits around 8 a.m. EDT and translate over to the Port-4 truss structure. Once there, the duo will prepare the worksite for the next set of Roll-Out Solar Arrays due to arrive on an upcoming SpaceX Cargo Dragon mission. The pair went over their spacewalk maneuvers on a computer Monday afternoon.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov will perform the other two spacewalks in early September to prepare cables and other external equipment for the recently arrived Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module. Today, the flight engineers from Roscosmos reviewed the steps and procedures planned for the second spacewalk.

NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough joined ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet and took turns offloading cargo packed inside the Cygnus space freighter today. Cygnus delivered over four tons of cargo including over 2,300 pounds of new science experiments last week. The resupply ship from Northrop Grumman will stay attached to the Unity module for about three months.

Science is still ongoing at the orbital lab as Vande Hei swapped fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack and set up a sample for the Ring Sheared Drop fluid physics study. Hoshide serviced samples in a microscope for a biology study observing how cells sense gravity then installed the Kaber small satellite deployer inside the Kibo laboratory module.

Crew Unpacking Cygnus and Gearing Up for U.S., Russian Spacewalks

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Megan McArthur are inside the cupola with the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter just outside behind them.
Astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Megan McArthur are inside the cupola with the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter just outside behind them.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft is open for business and the Expedition 65 crew has begun unpacking its more than four tons of cargo. Two astronauts and two cosmonauts are also gearing up for a series of spacewalks to outfit the International Space Station.

Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Thomas Pesquet started their day transferring frozen science samples from inside the Cygnus space freighter to the orbital lab for later observation. The duo was on duty early Thursday to capture Cygnus with the Canadarm2 robotic arm following its day-and-a-half trip that began with a launch from Virginia. NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough took over Friday afternoon and continued offloading Cygnus’ brand new science, supplies and hardware.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei spent the day scrubbing cooling loops inside a pair of U.S. spacesuits that he and Commander Akihiko Hoshide will be wearing soon. The two astronauts are preparing for a spacewalk later this month to ready the Port-4 truss structure for future Roll-Out Solar Array installation work.

In the Russian segment of the orbital lab, cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov spent the afternoon configuring the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module. The duo from Roscosmos is ramping up for a pair of spacewalks in September when they will go outside the station to outfit Nauka and ready the new module for science operations.

Cygnus Arrival and Hatch Open Complete

The Cygnus space freighter attached to the station robotic arm following a day-and-a-half trip after its launch from Virginia. Credit: NASA TV
The Cygnus space freighter attached to the station robotic arm following a day-and-a-half trip after its launch from Virginia. Credit: NASA TV

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft’s hatch was opened this afternoon after successful rendezvous and berthing operations. At 6:07 a.m. EDT, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur used the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 to grapple the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet monitored Cygnus systems during its approach. Cygnus was then bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 9:42 a.m. EDT. Cygnus will remain at the space station for about three months until the spacecraft departs in November.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings more than 8,200 pounds of research and supplies to space station. Highlights of cargo aboard Cygnus include research studying 3D printing using simulated lunar regolith, seeking to utilize microgravity to develop new means to treat a degenerative muscle condition on Earth, investigating new tactics to control heat during operations in space and during the intense heating of reentry, and testing a technology to remove carbon dioxide from spacecraft atmospheres with applications to future NASA exploration missions.

These are just a sample of the hundreds of investigations currently being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration missions as part of NASA’s Moon and Mars exploration approach, including lunar missions through NASA’s Artemis program.

NASA has continued to assess any integrated impacts to the space station from the inadvertent firing of thrusters on the newly arrived Russian Nauka module. Routine operations have continued uninterrupted since the event, with the space station prepared for the arrival of multiple spacecraft. Consistent with NASA policies, an investigation team is being formed to review the activity. NASA’s team will begin with identifying team members and defining the scope of the investigation. The team will focus on analyzing available data, cooperating with our Russian colleagues for any information they require for their assessment, and coordinating with the other international partners.

Cygnus Installed on Unity Module for Cargo Transfers

Aug. 12, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are parked at the space station including Northrop Grumman's Cygnus space freighter, the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Russia's Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 78 resupply ship.
Aug. 12, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are parked at the space station including Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter, the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 78 resupply ship.

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 9:42 a.m. EDT. Cygnus will remain at the space station for about three months until the spacecraft departs in November.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings more than 8,200 pounds of research and supplies to space station. Highlights of cargo aboard Cygnus include:

 From dust to dorm
Using resources available on the Moon and Mars to build structures and habitats could reduce how much material future explorers need to bring from Earth, significantly reducing launch mass and cost. The Redwire Regolith Print (RRP) study demonstrates 3D printing on the space station using a material simulating regolith, or loose rock and soil found on the surfaces of planetary bodies such as the Moon. Results could help determine the feasibility of using regolith as the raw material and 3D printing as a technique for on-demand construction of habitats and other structures on future space exploration missions.

Maintaining muscles
As people age and become more sedentary on Earth, they gradually lose muscle mass, a condition called sarcopenia. Identifying drugs to treat this condition is difficult because it develops over decades. Cardinal Muscle tests whether microgravity can be used as a research tool for understanding and preventing sarcopenia. The study seeks to determine whether an engineered tissue platform in microgravity forms the characteristic muscle tubes found in muscle tissue. Such a platform could provide a way to rapidly assess potential drugs prior to clinical trials.

Taking the heat out of space travel
Longer space missions will need to generate more power, producing more heat that must be dissipated. Transitioning from current single-phase heat transfer systems to two-phase thermal management systems reduces size and weight of the system and provides more efficient heat removal. Because greater heat energy is exchanged through vaporization and condensation, a two-phase system can remove more heat for the same amount of weight than current single-phase systems. The Flow Boiling and Condensation Experiment (FBCE) aims to develop a facility for collecting data about two-phase flow and heat transfer in microgravity. Comparisons of data from microgravity and Earth’s gravity are needed to validate numerical simulation tools for designing thermal management systems.

Cooler re-entries
The Kentucky Re-Entry Probe Experiment (KREPE) demonstrates an affordable thermal protection system (TPS) to protect spacecraft and their contents during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Making these systems efficient remains one of space exploration’s biggest challenges, but the unique environment of atmospheric entry makes it difficult to accurately replicate conditions in ground simulations. TPS designers rely on numerical models that often lack flight validation. This investigation serves as an inexpensive way to compare these models to actual flight data and validate possible designs. Before flying the technology on the space station, researchers conducted a high-altitude balloon test to validate performance of the electronics and communications.

Getting the CO2 out
Four Bed CO2 Scrubber demonstrates a technology to remove carbon dioxide from a spacecraft. Based on the current system and lessons learned from its nearly 20 years of operation, the Four Bed CO2 Scrubber includes mechanical upgrades and an improved, longer-lasting absorbent material that reduces erosion and dust formation. Absorption beds remove water vapor and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, returning water vapor to the cabin and venting carbon dioxide overboard or diverting it to a system that uses it to produce water. This technology could improve the reliability and performance of carbon dioxide removal systems in future spacecraft, helping to maintain the health of crews and ensure mission success. It has potential applications on Earth in closed environments that require carbon dioxide removal to protect workers and equipment.

Mold in microgravity
An ESA investigation, Blob, allows students aged 10 to 18 to study a naturally-occurring slime mold, Physarum polycephalum, that is capable of basic forms of learning and adaptation. Although it is just one cell and lacks a brain, Blob can move, feed, organize itself, and even transmit knowledge to other slime molds. Students replicate experiments conducted by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet to see how the Blob’s behavior is affected by microgravity. Using time-lapse video from space, students can compare the speed, shape, and growth of the slime molds in space and on the ground. The National Center for Space Studies (CNES) and the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France coordinate Blob.

These are just a sample of the hundreds of investigations currently being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration missions as part of NASA’s Moon and Mars exploration approach, including lunar missions through NASA’s Artemis program.

Cygnus also will deliver a new mounting bracket that astronauts will attach to the port side of the station’s backbone truss during a spacewalk planned for late August. The mounting bracket will enable the installation of one of the next pair of new solar arrays at a later date.

Learn more about space 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.