The Cygnus spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station March 26, delivering almost 7,500 pounds of cargo and science investigations. Experiments delivered on Cygnus supported NASA and other research during Expeditions 47 and 48, including studies in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science — research that impacts life on Earth, and also will help us on the journey to Mars. Investigations studied realistic fire scenarios on a space vehicle, enabled the first space-based observations of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere from space, explored how regolith behaves and moves in microgravity, tested a gecko-inspired adhesive gripping device that can stick on command in the harsh environment of space, and added a new 3-D printer in microgravity.
NASA Television will provide live coverage of the departure of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station beginning at 9 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, June 14. Release from the space station’s Canadarm2 is scheduled for 9:30 a.m.
About five hours after departure, the Saffire-I experiment will take place onboard the uncrewed cargo craft. Saffire-I provides a new way to study a realistic fire on a spacecraft. This hasn’t been possible in the past because the risks for performing such studies on crewed spacecraft are too high. Instruments on the returning Cygnus will measure flame growth, oxygen use and more. Results could determine microgravity flammability limits for several spacecraft materials, help to validate NASA’s material selection criteria, and help scientists understand how microgravity and limited oxygen affect flame size. The investigation is crucial for the safety of current and future space missions.
The Cygnus resupply ship from Orbital ATK has been packed and its hatches closed before Tuesday morning’s release. Astronauts Tim Kopra and Tim Peake will be at the controls of the Canadarm2 when it releases Cygnus at 9:30 a.m. EDT. Live television coverage on NASA TV starts at 9 a.m.
A few hours after its release a spacecraft fire experiment, Saffire-1, will take place inside Cygnus to test how different materials burn in space. Finally, on June 22 Cygnus will deorbit and during its reentry another experiment, Re-entry Breakup Recorder, will record its breakup into Earth’s atmosphere.
On Saturday, another spacecraft will leave the space station and return home three Expedition 47 crew members. Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko will command the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft that will land him and NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and British astronaut Tim Peake in Kazakhstan after 186 days in space. NASA TV coverage begins Friday at 10:15 p.m. The crew will undock Saturday at 1:52 a.m. and land at 5:15 a.m.
While the two spaceships are being prepared for departure, science and maintenance inside the orbital laboratory was ongoing. The crew set up the Cell Biology Experiment Facility in Japan’s Kibo lab module and documented the living conditions on the space station. The station residents also sampled for air and surface microbes and cleaned crew quarters.
A pair of spaceships is getting ready to depart the International Space Station next week. The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft will be released from the Unity module June 14. Three Expedition 47 crew members will depart June 18 returning to Earth after 186 days in space.
Astronauts Tim Kopra and Tim Peake will be at the controls of the Canadarm2 robotic arm when it releases Cygnus at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Cygnus will orbit Earth for eight more days of scientific tests exploring how materials burn in space and the orbital dynamics of a destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Kopra and Peake will then join crewmate Yuri Malenchenko for a ride home inside the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft on June 18. The moment the trio undocks from the Rassvet module, Expedition 48 will officially begin with Williams as commander staying behind with Flight Engineers Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin.
As always, a wide variety science continues on the International Space Station to improve life on Earth and benefit crew members in space. Peake researched the cause of accelerated skin aging in space and studied plant hormones. Kopra drew a blood sample for stowage in a science freezer and later analysis.
Skripochka researched the radiation the station and its crew are exposed to internally and externally. Ovchinin explored plasma physics while Malenchenko and Skripochka partnered up for cardiovascular health studies.
BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, was successfully expanded Saturday beginning two years of tests to demonstrate the new expandable technology. BEAM was pressurized and expanded to its full volume, width and length this weekend after 25 pulses of air were introduced into the new module.
BEAM leak checks are underway and will continue before astronaut Jeff Williams gets the go to enter the module on June 6. Williams will install sensors inside BEAM to measure its environment.
Japan’s Kibo lab module is sending more CubeSats into orbit this week from a small satellite deployer. The CubeSats are supporting research such as communications and Earth observations sponsored by government, education and private organizations.
Back inside the International Space Station, the six-person Expedition 47 crew was exploring human research and advanced physics in microgravity. The crew was also setting up science gear and maintenance hardware and continued packing the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft before its June 14 departure.
SpaceX and NASA managers are targeting July 16 for the launch of the ninth Dragon commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. Meanwhile, U.S. and Russian spaceships are being packed for upcoming departures in June and July from the orbital lab.
The crew also began preparing the vestibule space between BEAM – the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module – and the rest of the station for Thursday’s expansion activities, by pressurizing the area and performing leak checks.
Dragon will lift off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida carrying supplies, science gear and one of two international docking adapters. The adapters will allow future commercial crew vehicles from Boeing and SpaceX to dock. The first adapter will be attached to the station’s Harmony module in August by a pair of spacewalkers.
The Orbital ATK Cygnus private space freighter is due to be the next spaceship to leave the station when it is released June 14. Expedition 47 will end four days later when Yuri Malenchenko, Tim Kopra and Tim Peake undock and return to Earth inside the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft.
Back inside the station, a pair of crew members participated in blood pressure and vision checks for the Ocular Health study. Another astronaut conducted ultrasound scans today helping scientists explore the likelihood of clogged arteries, or atherosclerosis, occurring on long-term space missions.
The crew was back at work today with more life science studies and human research. Cygnus cargo transfer work is ongoing as robotics controllers prepare for an external video survey.
Mice continue to be observed today for the Rodent Research-3 study. The astronauts are measuring their bone density to learn how microgravity affects muscles and bones and potentially helping crews in space and citizens on Earth stay healthier.
Astronaut Jeff Williams scanned his leg with an ultrasound today for the long-running Sprint study. The research is exploring new space exercise techniques that may minimize muscle and bone loss on long duration missions. The cosmonauts were collecting blood and saliva samples for analysis as they explore how living in space affects the human body.
Cargo transfers are over half way complete as the Cygnus commercial space freighter targets a mid-June departure from the Unity module. The Canadarm2 robotic arm will link up with the DEXTRE robotic hand tonight. Robotics controllers will then conduct a video scan of the external RapidScat system that monitors weather patterns on the Earth’s oceans.
The International Space Station will get a new module Saturday when the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is removed from the SpaceX Dragon and installed on the Tranquility module. BEAM will be attached to the station for two years of tests before expandable modules become a permanent feature of future spacecraft.
NASA and its international partners are using the station as an orbital laboratory to learn how the human body adapts to living and working in space. The wide variety of human research taking place on orbit today looked at work performance, vision, heart function, bones and muscles.
British astronaut Tim Peake explored how astronauts perform detailed, interactive tasks using a touchscreen tablet for the Fine Motor Skills experiment. He also joined Commander Tim Kopra for eye checks as scientists study how the lack of gravity affects vision. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams scanned his legs with an ultrasound device for the Sprint exercise study and helped search for gravity sensors in cells to prevent muscle atrophy in space.
Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka researched heart function so doctors can understand how the cardiovascular system adapts during different phases of a spaceflight. Veteran cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko performed maintenance throughout the orbital lab’s Russian segment. He swapped out GoPro batteries and photographed the condition Zvezda service module panels.
Weather forecasters have predicted a 90% percent chance of favorable conditions for the Friday launch of the SpaceX CRS-8 mission to the International Space Station. Launch of the Dragon resupply ship atop the Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for 4:43 p.m. EDT/8:43 p.m. UTC from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA Television will cover the launch and rendezvous activities live.
British astronaut Tim Peake is training for the robotic capture of Dragon when it arrives Sunday morning carrying 6,900 pounds/3,130 kilograms of science, crew supplies and hardware. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams will back up Peake during the rendezvous and capture activities. After Dragon is captured, ground controllers will take over the Canadarm2 robotic activities and remotely install the commercial space freighter to the Harmony module.
The Expedition 47 crew is still working advanced space science setting up new experiments delivered March 26 on the Orbital ATK private cargo craft. The crew is also preparing for even more science being delivered aboard Dragon. The new experiments will explore muscles and bones, fluids at nano-scales and protein crystals. The research has the potential to help scientists design newer, more advanced drugs to improve health.