Astronauts Relax After Sending Off U.S. Cargo Ships

The seven-member Expedition 64 crew poses for a portrait inside the space station's Kibo laboratory module.
The seven-member Expedition 64 crew poses for a portrait inside the space station’s Kibo laboratory module.

One U.S. crew ship and three Russian spaceships remain parked at the International Space Station after the departure of two U.S. space freighters this month. Most of the Expedition 64 crew is relaxing today while a pair of cosmonauts focus on Russian maintenance and science.

Five astronauts, four from NASA and one from JAXA, are taking it easy aboard the orbiting lab today. The quintet kicked off the New Year loading a pair of U.S. cargo ships to wrap up their cargo missions less than a week apart. This followed a busy December full of space research to benefit humans living on and off the Earth.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft left the station first on Jan. 6 following its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Cygnus will orbit Earth until Jan. 26 for flight tests and remotely controlled science experiments before its fiery, but safe descent above the South Pacific.

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship undocked on Tuesday from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter, a first for a U.S. commercial cargo spacecraft. It will splashdown Wednesday night in the Gulf of Mexico carrying science experiments and station hardware for retrieval and analysis.

JAXA Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi did start Wednesday collecting his urine samples for a Russian biomedical study before taking the rest of Wednesday off. Station Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos also participated in the study that seeks to understand how the human body adapts to weightlessness.

Ryzhikov then moved on to Russian spacecraft activities packing the Progress 76 cargo craft and charging batteries inside the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship. Kud-Sverchkov worked on life support gear and deployed radiation detectors in the station’s Russian segment.

Cygnus Departs Station After 93-Day Cargo Mission

The Cygnus space freighter is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm moments before its release completing a 93-day stay at the space station. Credit: NASA TV
The Cygnus space freighter is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm moments before its release completing a 93-day stay at the space station. Credit: NASA TV

At 10:10 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.

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

Prior to departure, the crew packed Cygnus with the Saffire V investigation and the SharkSat hosted payload to be conducted during an extended mission in orbit. On Jan. 26, Northrop Grumman flight controllers in Dulles, Virginia, will initiate Cygnus’ deorbit to perform a safe re-entry, burning up in Earth’s atmosphere.

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 Departs Station Today Live on NASA TV

The Cygnus space freighter is pictured moments after being released from the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Jan. 31, 2020.
The Cygnus space freighter is pictured moments after being released from the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Jan. 31, 2020.

About three months after delivering several tons of scientific experiments and supplies to the International Space Station, Northrop Grumman’s uncrewed Cygnus cargo spacecraft is scheduled to depart the orbiting laboratory Wednesday, Jan. 6. This morning, flight controllers on the ground sent commands to use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to robotically detach Cygnus from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module and maneuver it into place.

Live coverage of the spacecraft’s release will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 9:45 a.m. EDT, with its release from the robotic arm scheduled for 10:10 a.m.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will monitor Cygnus’ systems upon its departure from the space station.

The Cygnus resupply spacecraft is named in memory of Kalpana Chawla, the first female astronaut of Indian descent. Chawla, who dedicated her life to understanding flight dynamics, died in the STS-107 space shuttle Columbia accident.

Cygnus arrived at the space station Oct. 5 with nearly 8,000 pounds of supplies, scientific investigations, commercial products, hardware, and other cargo following an Oct. 2 launch 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.

U.S. Cygnus Cargo Craft Ready for Wednesday Departure

The seven-member Expedition 64 crew gathers together for a New Year's Day portrait inside the International Space Station's "window to the world," the cupola.
The seven-member Expedition 64 crew gathers together for a New Year’s Day portrait inside the International Space Station’s “window to the world,” the cupola.

The U.S. Cygnus space freighter has been packed and is “go” for its departure from the International Space Station on Wednesday morning. The Expedition 64 crew is also wrapping up variety of science experiments and loading a second U.S. cargo craft for its return to Earth next week.

NASA Flight Engineer Victor Glover closed the hatch to Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship attached to the Unity module on Tuesday afternoon. He will be on duty Wednesday morning monitoring Cygnus when mission controllers remotely command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release it into space at 10:10 a.m. EST. NASA TV begins its live coverage of Cygnus’ departure at 9:45 a.m.

Cygnus will orbit Earth on its own until Jan. 26 for a series of flight tests and automated science experiments before deorbiting above the Pacific Ocean for a fiery, but safe destruction. Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins of NASA readied one of those experiments today, the Saffire-V spacecraft fire study, just before hatch closure. That investigation will set a controlled fire inside Cygnus once it reaches a safe distance from the station to explore fire safety in confined spaces such as a spacecraft.

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon is next on the departure schedule with its undocking set for Jan. 11 at 9:25 a.m. The Cargo Dragon will parachute to splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean just a few hours after its separation from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins is winding down several studies and readying the results for return to Earth next week inside the upgraded U.S. resupply ship. Rubins worked on the Cardinal Heart investigation that observes engineered heart tissue samples to understand the aging and weakening of heart muscles that astronauts experience in space. Next, she inoculated cultures of microbes for a study exploring the microbial risk to a spacecraft’s environment.

Astronauts Shannon Walker of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA worked on cargo transfers inside the Cargo Dragon throughout Tuesday. Walker also tended to rodents that will be returned to Earth next week and analyzed to better understand space-caused bone conditions.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos participated in a space exercise study before cleaning the ventilation system in the Zarya module. His fellow cosmonaut Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov participated in the same workout investigation then moved onto Russian communication and plumbing tasks.

New Year Brings Space Biology and U.S. Cargo Ship Departures

The Cygnus space freighter and SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship are being readied for departure on Jan. 6 and 11.

The seven-member Expedition 64 crew relaxed on New Year’s Day and went into the first weekend of 2021 researching space biology. The International Space Station residents are also packing a pair of U.S. resupply ships for departure this week and next.

Three astronauts spent Saturday and Sunday studying how microgravity affects vision and bone tissue in rodents. Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover of NASA spent the weekend observing several dozen mice to help scientists prevent vision and bone conditions that astronauts experience while living in space. JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi assisted the duo during the two life science experiments.

A different pair of biology studies is exploring how weightlessness impacts potential treatments for Earth and space-caused conditions. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins spent Sunday peering through a microscope at protein crystals which are much higher quality than those produced on Earth. Results from that experiment could inform ways to commercialize the development of cancer therapies in space. She also looked at engineered heart tissues to gain insights into aging and weakening heart muscles that humans experience on and off the Earth.

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker spent the weekend readying the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter and the SpaceX Cargo Dragon for their upcoming departures. Cygnus will be completing a 93-day stay and the Cargo Dragon a 35-day stay at the orbiting lab.

Rubins will monitor Cygnus’ departure first on Jan. 6 after mission controllers on the ground command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove it from the Unity module then release it into Earth orbit. Cygnus will orbit Earth on its own until Jan. 26 for flight tests and remotely controlled science experiments.

The Cargo Dragon will be loaded with samples from this weekend’s experiments and more, including space station hardware, for return to Earth on Jan. 11. Glover will monitor the first undocking of the Cargo Dragon from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. This will also be Dragon’s first planned splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.

Crew Exploring Life Science Before Relaxing on New Year’s Day

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker sets up hardware inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for an experiment to learn more about the process of semiconductor crystal growth to benefit Earth and space industries.
NASA astronaut Shannon Walker sets up hardware inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for an experiment to learn more about the process of semiconductor crystal growth.

The seven Expedition 64 crew members aboard the International Space Station will see the New Year sixteen times today and take the day off on the first day of 2021. The orbital residents are also exploring how microgravity affects mice and protein crystals to improve human health.

The station orbits the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 kilometers per hour) giving the crew the opportunity to see 16 sunrises and sunsets each day. The space residents set their clocks to GMT, or Greenwich Mean Time, and will start their new year at 12:00 a.m. GMT on Jan. 1, or five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

Rodent research has been taking place all December aboard the station so scientists can understand how living in space impacts vision and bone tissue. NASA astronaut Victor Glover tended to mice today for the two studies before they will return in January aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon for analysis on Earth.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins photographed scientific samples for a study that seeks to commercialize the production of medical therapies in space. The Monoclonal Antibodies investigation is specifically exploring the creation of protein crystals that target cancer cells and could improve the crystallization process on Earth.

Rubins also joined Flight Engineers Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi as the trio packed the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter throughout Thursday. The trio packed Cygnus with trash and discarded gear for its departure scheduled on Jan. 6. After its separation, Cygnus will orbit Earth on its own until Jan. 26 for flight tests and science experiments.

Station Commander Sergey Ryzhikov serviced a variety of Russian hardware today before loading the Progress 76 cargo craft ahead of its February departure from the Pirs docking compartment. Cosmonaut Sergey Kud-Sverchkov spent Thursday on engineering and plumbing tasks in the orbiting lab’s Russian segment.

Cargo Packing and Radish Harvesting Aboard Station Today

Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Kate Rubins is pictured inside the U.S. Quest airlock carrying a pair of pistol grip tools used for maintenance work during spacewalks.
Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Kate Rubins is pictured inside the U.S. Quest airlock carrying a pair of pistol grip tools used for maintenance work during spacewalks.

The Expedition 64 crew is packing a pair of U.S. resupply ships for departure next month. The International Space Station is also humming with microgravity research to benefit humans on and off the Earth.

Space agriculture is key to the long-term success of human exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit. Astronauts and botanists are learning how to manage food production aboard the station and have been harvesting a variety of edible plants for several years.

NASA Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins spent Wednesday harvesting radish plants and readying them for consumption for the Plant Habitat-02 experiment. Their short cultivation time is ideal for research and evaluating nutrition and taste in microgravity.

Rodents are being studied to understand the impacts to vision and bone tissue while living in space. Today, JAXA Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi fed the mice and cleaned their specialized research habitats. Those mice will be returned to Earth for analysis next month aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Shannon Walker packed trash inside the Cygnus space freighter today ahead of its Jan. 6 departure. Following its separation, Cygnus will orbit Earth on its own for an extended period of flight tests and science experiments. Walker also readied research and development hardware and sample modules for return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon less than a week after Cygnus departs.

Station Commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos spent the day configuring communications gear and cleaning ventilation systems inside the orbiting lab’s Russian segment. His fellow cosmonaut Sergey Kud-Sverchkov wiped down module surfaces to rid the station of microbes and vacuumed the Zarya module.

U.S. Cargo Ships Depart In January; Crew Exploring Biology and Physics

Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins checks on young radish plants growing for the Plant Habitat-02 experiment that seeks to optimize plant growth in space.
Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins checks on young radish plants growing for the Plant Habitat-02 experiment that seeks to optimize plant growth in space.

Two U.S. resupply ships are being readied for their departure next month from the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the Expedition 64 crew continued its intense schedule of space research with cardiac studies and radish harvesting today.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is due to be the first cargo craft to leave the station in 2021 on Jan. 6. Ground controllers will remotely command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Cygnus into Earth orbit after 93 days attached to the Unity module. Cygnus will separate to a safe distance away from the station and continue orbiting Earth for an extended mission of flight tests and science experiments.

Less than a week later, the SpaceX Cargo Dragon will undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. The upgraded version of the returnable space freighter will splash down the same day in the Atlantic Ocean loaded with space station hardware and science investigations for analysis.

The station residents also focused Tuesday on a host of space studies exploring heart cells, semiconductors and botany. These studies and others being hosted on the station may benefit human health and improve products around the world and on future space missions.

Samples of engineered heart tissues were serviced aboard the orbiting lab today for the Cardinal Heart study that seeks to understand space-caused cell and tissue abnormalities. Hardware is being set up this week to learn more about the process of semiconductor crystal growth to benefit Earth and space industries. Finally, radish plants are being harvested on the station this week helping botanists learn to manage food production in space and evaluate nutrition and taste in microgravity.

More Heart Research as Next Cygnus Cargo Mission Booked

Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Victor Glover reviews research procedures for an experiment that could accelerate the development of advanced therapies that target cancer cells.
Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Victor Glover reviews research procedures for an experiment that could accelerate the development of advanced therapies that target cancer cells.

The Expedition 64 crew continues exploring how microgravity affects the heart to improve health for humans on and off the Earth. Northrop Grumman has booked its next Cygnus resupply mission to the International Space Station for early next year.

NASA Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Michael Hopkins partnered up today for the Cardinal Heart study to learn how to treat aging and weakening heart cells. Hopkins peered at heart tissue samples through a microscope while Rubins serviced those samples in the Kibo laboratory module’s Life Sciences Glovebox.

Blood sample collections were on the morning schedule for Flight Engineer Victor Glover as he took glucose measurements for the Vascular Aging study. He then moved on to a space manufacturing study that seeks to vastly improve the production and quality of optic fibers.

On the maintenance front, JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi serviced U.S. spacesuits throughout Tuesday scrubbing cooling loops in the U.S. Quest airlock. NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker continued installing and outfitting the station’s new bathroom, the Universal Waste Management System, in the Tranquility module.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov worked during the morning replacing components inside the Zvezda service module’s treadmill then moved on to cargo transfers inside the Progress 76 resupply ship. Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov swapped fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack research facility before configuring life support and communications hardware

Northrop Grumman has announced Feb. 20 for the launch of its Cygnus space freighter to the space station with several tons of cargo to resupply the crew. Cygnus will take a two-day trip to the orbiting lab before it is captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and installed to the Unity module where it will stay for two months.

Cargo Operations and Space Research Keeping Crew Busy

Astronaut Kate Rubins checks out radish plants growing for the Plant Habitat-02 experiment that seeks to optimize plant growth in space.
Astronaut Kate Rubins checks out radish plants growing for the Plant Habitat-02 experiment that seeks to optimize plant growth in space.

Cargo operations are underway at the International Space Station as a U.S. resupply ship prepares for launch and another prepares for departure. Meanwhile, a host of microgravity research is keeping the Expedition 64 crew busy.

SpaceX is preparing its upgraded SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for a launch from Florida on Dec. 5 and a rendezvous with the orbiting lab about 24 hours later. This will be the first automated docking of the Cargo Dragon. Astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover will be monitoring Dragon’s arrival to the Harmony module’s space-facing port with more than 6,400 pounds of space freight, including the NanoRacks Bishop airlock.

However today, Rubins worked on science gear stowing external experiments brought in from outside the Kibo laboratory module then cleaned up the Advanced Plant Habitat after Monday’s radish harvest. Glover joined JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi for a physical fitness test on the station’s exercise bike to evaluate microgravity’s impact on their cardiopulmonary function.

The Earth-facing port of the Unity module hosts the outgoing Cygnus resupply ship from Northrop Grumman. Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins worked today packing the cargo craft with trash and old gear. Cygnus will depart the space station later this month, conduct an automated space combustion experiment then reenter the atmosphere for a fiery, but safe demise above the Pacific Ocean.

Hopkins later joined fellow NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker for health checks Wednesday morning consisting of temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory measurements. Walker then spent the afternoon reorganizing food items making space for additional cargo aboard the station.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos worked on electronics and life support maintenance tasks throughout Wednesday. Cosmonaut and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov primarily worked on life support gear before servicing the power supply system in the Zarya module.