Station Preps for Crew Departure and New U.S. Cargo Ship

NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the Cold Atom Lab
NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the Cold Atom Lab that enables research into the quantum effects of gases chilled lower than the average temperature of the universe.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch and two fellow Expedition 61 crewmembers are in their final week aboard the International Space Station. The other three lab residents are gearing up for next week’s arrival of a U.S. space freighter.

Koch will wrap up a 328-day mission aboard the orbiting lab on Thursday. Koch blasted off to join the station crew on March 14 with Expedition 59-60 crewmates Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin. Hague and Ovchinin have since returned home on Oct. 3.

Koch will land in Kazakhstan Thursday at 4:12 a.m. EST (3:12 p.m. Kazakh time) aboard the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship with Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency). Skvortsov and Parmitano began their mission with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan on July 20. Morgan is due to return to Earth in April.

When Koch lands, her mission-stay will be second only to former astronaut Scott Kelly. He lived aboard the station for 340 continuous days for the single longest spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut.

She and her two homebound crewmates prepared today for the flight back to Earth. The trio familiarized themselves with the return procedures and the gravity loads they will experience upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere.

Expedition 62 officially begins when Koch and her crewmates undock Thursday at 12:50 a.m. Morgan and fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir will continue their stay in space with Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos.

Meir and Morgan are getting ready for the next Cygnus space freighter and its cargo of several tons of science experiments and crew supplies. Cygnus will launch Sunday at 5:39 p.m. and rendezvous with the station two days later for a robotic capture at 4:30 a.m.

U.S. Cygnus Space Freighter Departs Station After 88 Days

The U.S. Cygnus space freighter
The U.S. Cygnus space freighter is pictured moments after the Canadarm2 robotic arm released the 12th resupply ship from Northrop Grumman on January 31, 2020.

Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft departed the International Space Station’s at 9:36 a.m. EST after Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir of NASA commanded its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. At the time of release, the station was flying about 250 miles over the South Pacific just off the West Coast of Chile.

 

For this mission, Cygnus demonstrated a new release position for departure operations and incorporated the first ground-controlled release. The new orientation allowed for easier drift away from the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm.

 

Within 24 hours, Cygnus will begin its secondary mission deploying a series of payloads. The departing spacecraft will move a safe distance away from the space station before deploying a series of CubeSats: HuskySat-1 (University of Washington), SwampSat II (University of Florida), EdgeCube (Sonoma State University), and CIRis (Utah State University).

 

Northrop Grumman flight controllers in Dulles, Virginia, will initiate its deorbit and execute a safe, destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere at the end of February. 

 

The next Cygnus is set to launch to station on Feb. 9 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia carrying another batch of research.

 

The spacecraft arrived on station November 2 delivering cargo under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

NASA TV Broadcasts Cygnus Cargo Craft Departure

The U.S. Cygnus space freighter
The Cygnus space freighter is pictured moments before its capture on Nov. 4, 2019 with the Canadarm2 robotic arm commanded by NASA astronaut Jessica Meir.

A Northrop Grumman cargo ship, dubbed the SS Alan Bean, is set to depart the International Space Station Friday, Jan. 31. Live coverage of the spacecraft’s release will begin on NASA Television and the agency’s website at 9:15 a.m. with release scheduled for 9:35 a.m.

With Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir of NASA providing backup support, ground controllers will send commands to the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the unpiloted cargo spacecraft after ground controllers remotely unbolt the craft from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module and maneuver it into release position.

NG-12 Cygnus delivered 8,200 pounds of science and research investigations, supplies, and hardware to the International Space Station on Saturday, Nov. 2. The investigations range from research into human control of robotics in space to reprocessing fibers for 3D printing.

Learn more about space station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Cardiology, Combustion and CubeSats Before Cargo Ship Leaves

Astronauts (from left) Christina Koch, Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan
Astronauts (from left) Christina Koch, Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan pose for a portrait inside the cupola. The trio were on robotics duty monitoring the arrival and capture of the Cygnus space freighter on Nov. 4, 2019.

Cardiology, combustion and CubeSats filled Thursday’s research schedule as three Expedition 61 crewmates are one week away from returning to Earth. The Cygnus space freighter is also poised to depart the International Space Station on Friday and complete one more mission.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is nearing the end of her 328-day mission aboard the orbiting lab. She will land in Kazakhstan Feb. 6 aboard the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship with Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency). Koch blasted off to join the station crew on March 14 while Skvortsov and Parmitano began their mission on July 20.

When Koch lands, her mission-stay will be the second longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut behind former astronaut Scott Kelly. He lived aboard the station for 340 continuous days.

NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan juggled a pair of experiments this morning. He ran the Hourglass study observing how simulated planetary materials behave during different gravity conditions. Next, he cleaned a furnace that exposes materials to high temperatures and levitates them to research their thermophysical properties.

Parmitano started his day on cardiology research before switching to fire safety studies. The station commander first scanned portions of his body with an ultrasound device. The biomedical study is helping doctors understand what happens to the heart and blood vessels in space. He then moved on and burned a variety of fabric and acrylic samples. Scientists are using the data to model how flames spread in space to improve fire safety procedures and products in space and on Earth.

The Cygnus space freighter is packed, closed and ready for one more mission after its robotic release from the Canadarm2 Friday at 9:35 a.m. EST. It will deploy eight CubeSats for communications and atmospheric research several hours after departing the orbiting lab. Flight Engineer Jessica Meir installed the CubeSats, packed inside the SlingShot small satellite deployer, on Cygnus’ hatch Thursday afternoon.

Crew Works Human Research, CubeSats and Gears Up for Spaceship Departures

The Cygnus space freighter with its prominent cymbal-shaped solar arrays
The Cygnus space freighter with its prominent cymbal-shaped solar arrays is pictured attached to the Unity module. Behind Cygnus is one of the space station’s basketball court-sized solar arrays.

The Expedition 61 crew’s schedule was packed today as they researched space biology and packed a pair of spaceships for departure. Wednesday morning also saw the deployment of an experimental satellite outside the International Space Station.

Blood draws and eye checks are part of the crew’s regimen of biomedical activities to help doctors keep astronauts healthy during long-term space missions. Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) collected his blood samples this morning before spinning them in a centrifuge and stowing them in a science freezer for later analysis. NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir had her eyes scanned in the afternoon by fellow NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan using optical coherence tomography gear.

Meir and Morgan started the day finishing up packing the Cygnus space freighter with trash and discarded gear before it leaves at the end of the week. Cygnus will be detached from the Unity module with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and released into Earth orbit on Friday at 9:35 a.m. EST. NASA TV will cover the release and departure live as mission controllers on the ground remotely command all the robotics work.

Cygnus has another mission to deploy eight CubeSats for communications and atmospheric research once it reaches a safe distance away from the orbiting lab. The space station also saw the deployment early this morning of a Department of Defense CubeSat that is testing space weather and satellite sensor technology. That satellite was deployed outside of the Kibo laboratory module using the specialized Cyclops deployer.

Christina Koch of NASA is returning to Earth next week after 328 days in space on her first mission. She will land in Kazakhstan with Parmitano and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov. The trio will board the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship, undock from the Poisk module and parachute to a landing Friday, Feb. 6, at 4:13 a.m. (3:13 p.m. Kazakh time).

Koch will be second only to former astronaut Scott Kelly who lived in space 340 days for the single longest spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut.

Science Soon Resumes on Cosmic Ray Detector, Crew Packs Cargo Ship for Departure

Spacewalkers Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano
Spacewalkers Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano work on get-ahead tasks after completing thermal repairs on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

Engineers on the ground have begun powering up the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer’s (AMS) thermal system following a successful repair spacewalk over the weekend. The Expedition 61 astronauts are now preparing a U.S. cargo craft for its departure at the end of the week.

It took four spacewalks over three months to restore and upgrade thermal operations on the AMS. Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano wrapped up the complex repair job on Saturday for the 8-year-old cosmic particle detector. Soon after the spacewalk, payload controllers reported stable cooling operations on the AMS, and are continuing to monitor its thermal conditions. The AMS will soon resume its search for evidence of dark matter and antimatter once the system checkouts are complete.

The crew are now turning their attention to packing Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship with trash and discarded hardware. Robotics controllers in Mission Control will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Cygnus on Friday at 9:35 a.m. EST after 88 days attached to the Unity module. The private cargo carrier will reenter Earth’s atmosphere over the South Pacific for a fiery, but safe disposal.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch started Monday on housecleaning tasks. They were joined by Morgan and Parmitano cleaning fans and filters and disinfecting surfaces containing microbes and condensation.

Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov is getting the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship ready for its return to Earth on Feb. 6. He will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan with Koch and Parmitano just three and half hours after undocking from the Poisk module. Koch will have lived in space continuously for 328 days on her first mission, second only to former astronaut Scott Kelly who lived in space 340 days for the single longest spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut.

Crew Preps for Two Space Deliveries Racing to Station

The SpaceX Dragon space freighter and Russia's Progress 74 resupply ship blast off to resupply the space station
(At left) The Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX with the Dragon space freighter on top lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (At right) Russia’s Progress 74 resupply ship blasts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Two space deliveries are racing to the International Space Station and the Expedition 61 crew is getting ready to receive them. Several tons of science experiments, crew supplies and station hardware are in orbit right now to replenish the orbiting laboratory.

Russia’s Progress 74 (74P) resupply ship blasted off this morning from Kazakhstan and is on its way to the station’s Pirs docking compartment for a linkup on Monday morning. Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka will be on duty monitoring the 74P’s automated docking at 5:38 a.m. EST.

The SpaceX Dragon commercial space freighter will arrive first on Sunday and astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan will be waiting in the cupola to capture it. The duo will carefully guide the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and grapple Dragon at 5:30 a.m. Mission controllers will take over then remotely control the Canadarm2 and install the U.S. cargo craft to the Harmony module.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch are configuring the space station for the new research gear Dragon is delivering on Sunday. Morgan and Parmitano will also be unloading the multitude of science experiments and critical research samples.

Northrop Grumman deorbited one of its two Cygnus resupply ships in space today four months after it departed the orbiting lab.  It orbited Earth for a series of engineering tests before it was commanded to reenter the atmosphere and burn up safely over the Pacific Ocean.  The most recent Cygnus is still attached to the space station’s Unity module and targeted to leave in mid-January.

Astronauts Unload U.S. Resupply Ship to Continue Advanced Space Research

The U.S. Cygnus space freighter
The U.S. Cygnus space freighter is pictured as the Canadarm2 robotic arm reaches out to grapple the 12th resupply ship from Northrop Grumman.

A new U.S. resupply ship is open for business and the Expedition 61 crew has begun unloading over four tons of new science experiments and station hardware. Two astronauts are also studying advanced repair techniques for a cosmic particle detector attached the International Space Station.

The astronauts opened the hatches on Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship after its arrival on Monday and immediately started unpacking and activating critical science payloads. Mice delivered aboard Cygnus are now living in station habitats to help scientists understand how microgravity impacts metabolic rates. The rodent study may provide therapeutic insights into Earth-bound ailments such as diabetes and liver disease.

Cygnus science freezers containing valuable research samples for observation are now operating inside station research racks. The crew will utilize the samples to study a variety of microgravity phenomena to benefit Earthlings and astronauts. New experiments will research how microbes affect space hardware and astronauts and explore how weightlessness affects muscle gene expression.

Cygnus also delivered hardware to enable the complex repair job required to upgrade the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer’s (AMS) thermal control system. Astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan are preparing for several spacewalks to cut and reconnect fluid lines to ensure the AMS continues its search for dark matter and antimatter for years to come.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka logged their meals and medicine intake today to help researchers understand how space impacts bone tissue. The duo worked on a variety of Russian maintenance tasks then reviewed Cygnus emergency procedures with the rest of their Expedition 61 crewmates.

Cygnus Resupply Ship Attached to Unity for Cargo Operations

Nov. 4, 2019: International Space Station Configuration
Nov. 4, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are attached to the space station including the Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply ship and Russia’s Progress 73 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-13 and MS-15 crew ships.

After its capture this morning at 4:10 a.m. EST, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 6:21 a.m. At the time of installation, Cygnus was flying over the south Pacific.

This mission, designated NG CRS-12, will be in orbit at the same time as its predecessor, the NG CRS-11 Cygnus spacecraft, which launched in April on an extended duration flight. The NG CRS-12 Cygnus spacecraft will remain at the space station until January before it disposes of several thousand pounds of trash through its fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. The ability to fly two vehicles at once further demonstrates the robustness of Cygnus to support the goals of NASA’s ambitious missions.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings close to 8,200 pounds of research and supplies to space station. Here are some of the scientific investigations:

More Probing of Mysteries of the Universe

This mission carries components needed to prolong the operational life of Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-02 (AMS-02). In a series of spacewalks planned in the coming weeks, astronauts will cut and reconnect fluid lines on the instrument, a feat not done before in space, which could prove valuable for future missions at NASA’s upcoming lunar Gateway for the Artemis program or missions to Mars.

Testing Personal Protective Equipment for Astronauts

The AstroRad Vest tests a special garment designed to protect astronauts from radiation caused by unpredictable solar particle events. Astronauts will provide input on the garment as they wear it while performing daily tasks. Use of the vest could protect crew members on missions to the Moon and Mars.

Food Fresh from the Oven

The Zero-G Oven examines heat transfer properties and the process of baking food in microgravity. It uses an oven designed specifically for use aboard the space station, and may have application on future long-duration missions by offering a way to increase variety in flavor and nutrition of food for crew members.

3D Printing with Recycled Materials

The Made in Space Recycler will test systems needed to reprocess plastic into 3D printing filament that can then be transferred for use to the Made in Space Manufacturing Device, a 3D printer that has operated on the orbiting laboratory since 2016. This has implications for space conservation and deep space missions.

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.

NASA TV Broadcasts Cygnus Arrival at Station on Monday

The Cygnus space freighter
The Cygnus space freighter is maneuvered by the Canadarm2 robotic arm shortly after its arrival and capture on Nov. 19, 2018.

A Northrop Grumman cargo ship carrying about 8,200 pounds of science and research investigations, supplies, and hardware is set to arrive to the International Space Station early Monday morning.

The uncrewed Cygnus spacecraft launched at 9:59 a.m. EDT Saturday, Nov. 2 on an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

When Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. Alan Bean, arrives to the space station on Monday, Nov. 4, Expedition 61 astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Cygnus, and NASA’s Andrew Morgan will monitor telemetry. After Cygnus’ capture, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Unity module for a two-month stay.

Live coverage will begin on NASA TV at 2:45 a.m. and return to the air at 6:30 a.m. for installation coverage. Watch at www.nasa.gov/live

Learn more about space station activities by following @Space_Station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.