Dragon Attached to Station, Returns to Earth in January

Dec. 8, 2018: International Space Station Configuration
Dec. 8, 2018: International Space Station Configuration. Six spaceships are attached at the space station including the U.S. resupply ships Northrop Grumman Cygnus and the SpaceX Dragon; and Russia’s Progress 70 and 71 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-09 and MS-10 crew ships all from Roscosmos.

Three days after its launch from Florida, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 10:36 a.m. EST.

The 16th contracted commercial resupply mission from SpaceX delivers more than 5,600 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory. Among the research it will bring to station, science investigations and technology demonstrations aboard Dragon include:

The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) will provide high-quality laser ranging observations of the Earth’s forests and topography required to advance the understanding of important carbon and water cycling processes, biodiversity, and habitat. GEDI will be mounted on the Japanese Experiment Module’s Exposed Facility and provide the first high-resolution observations of forest vertical structure at a global scale. These observations will quantify the aboveground carbon stored in vegetation and changes that result from vegetation disturbance and recovery, the potential for forests to sequester carbon in the future, and habitat structure and its influence on habitat quality and biodiversity.

A small satellite deployment mechanism, called SlingShot, will be ride up in Dragon and then be installed in a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft prior to its departure from the space station. SlingShot can accommodate as many as 18 CubeSats of any format. After the Cygnus cargo ship departs from station, the spacecraft navigates to an altitude of 280 to 310 miles (an orbit higher than that of the space station) to deploy the satellites.

Robotic Refueling Mission-3 (RRM3) will demonstrate the first transfer and long-term storage of liquid methane, a cryogenic fluid, in microgravity. The ability to replenish and store cryogenic fluids, which can function as a fuel or coolant, will help enable long duration journeys to destinations, such as the Moon and Mars.

Growth of Large, Perfect Protein Crystals for Neutron Crystallography (Perfect Crystals) crystallizes an antioxidant protein found inside the human body to analyze its shape. This research may shed light on how the protein helps protect the human body from ionizing radiation and oxidants created as a byproduct of metabolism. For best results, analysis requires large crystals with minimal imperfections, which are more easily produced in the microgravity environment of the space station.

Dragon is scheduled to depart the station in January 2019 and return to Earth with more than 4,000 pounds of research, hardware and crew supplies.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Dragon in the Grips of Robotic Arm, Installation Occurs Next

SpaceX Dragon Capture
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is moments way from being captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

While the International Space Station was traveling about 250 miles over the Pacific Ocean north of Papua New Guinea, Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor, captured the Dragon spacecraft at 7:21 a.m. EST using the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm.

Ground controllers will now send commands to begin the robotic installation of the spacecraft on bottom of the station’s Harmony module. NASA Television coverage of installation is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Watch online at www.nasa.gov/live.

The Dragon lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Wednesday, Dec 5 with more than 5,600 pounds of research, equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory.

The International Space Station is an accessible space laboratory with unparalleled capability that is increasing knowledge of engineering and physical sciences, biology, the Earth, and the universe through research and technology demonstrations and providing the foundation for continuing human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit. NASA’s human research is closing the gaps in current scientific understanding of how best to predict, assess, and solve the problems that humans encounter while living and working in space, and extend that knowledge to protect the women and men who will go forward to the Moon and Mars.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Dragon and Spacewalk Preps as New Crew Adapts to Space

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured in July of 2018
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured in July of 2018 approaching the International Space Station as both spacecraft were orbiting over the Greek island of Crete.

A Dragon is chasing the International Space Station today to be gracefully captured by a robotic arm early Saturday. The expanded Expedition 57 crew prepared for Dragon’s arrival while conducting science, spacesuit checks and a variety of other station activities.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft has been orbiting Earth for one day now carrying over 5,600 pounds of science, supplies and hardware for the crew. It is due to arrive Saturday around 6 a.m. when astronauts Alexander Gerst and Serena Auñón-Chancellor will command the Canadarm2 to grapple Dragon. The duo along with new Flight Engineer Anne McClain trained today for Dragon’s approach and rendezvous.

Gerst later worked on U.S. spacesuit maintenance cleaning their cooling loops. Serena worked on a cement study inside the orbital lab that could inform the construction of future lunar or Martian habitats.

McClain is getting used to her new home in space with fellow Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques who have been onboard the station since Monday. This is Kononenko’s fourth stint at the station and he is unpacking the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft that launched him and his crew to space. McClain and Saint-Jacques are first-time space residents and they worked on a visual perception and orientation study today. The duo also packed up biology research gear that will be stowed in Dragon for return to Earth after it arrives on Saturday.

Kononenko also joined Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev to ready a pair of Russian Orlan spacesuits for a spacewalk on Dec. 11. The duo will inspect the Soyuz MS-09 crew ship that will return Prokopyev, Gerst and Serena back to Earth Dec. 19 U.S. time.

Spacewalk Preps and Muscle Research Keep Crew Busy

Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor
Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor researches the complex process of cement solidification in space. Results may impact possible construction processes and designs for space habitats on the surface of the Moon and Mars.

A Russian spacewalk is planned before three Expedition 57 crew members return to Earth aboard a Soyuz spacecraft just before Christmas. Meanwhile, in the middle of the spacewalk and departure preparations, the International Space Station residents today also explored how living in space impacts the human muscle system.

Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev will work outside the space station Dec. 11 to inspect the Soyuz MS-09 crew vessel. The Russian spacewalker will join veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko for a scheduled 6-hour inspection on the outside of the spaceship that will return the Expedition 57 crew home Dec. 19 U.S. time.

Prokopyev checked the Orlan spacesuits today that he and Kononenko will wear during the eighth spacewalk of the year. Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor assisted Prokopyev checking the Russian spacesuits for leaks.

Gerst and Auñón-Chancellor then moved on to a study that has been ongoing aboard the orbital lab since September of 2017 observing how muscles adapt to outer space. The duo set up the Columbus lab module for research operations and scanned their head and foot muscles with an ultrasound device. The data may help doctors improve fitness in space and develop treatments for muscle and aging problems on Earth.

Back on Earth, on opposite sides of the globe, a pair of rockets are getting ready to send a new crew and more science and supplies to the space station. Russia’s Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft will launch Kononenko and fellow crew members Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques from Kazakhstan to the station on Monday at 6:31 a.m. EST. The following day at 1:38 p.m. in Florida, the SpaceX Dragon will blast off to the station to deliver more than 5,600 pounds of cargo to resupply the station residents.

Global Cargo Missions Planned as Critical Research Proceeds

The Soyuz MS-09 crew ship and the Progress 70 resupply ship
Russia’s two docked spacecraft, the Soyuz MS-09 (left) crew ship and the Progress 70 resupply ship, are pictured as the International Space Station orbited nearly 254 miles above northern Kazakhstan.

A Russian cargo ship departed the International Space Station Wednesday night as another resupply mission from Japan is planned in September. The Expedition 56 crew members also observed protein crystals, studied an ancient navigation technique and researched time perception in space.

Two Soyuz crew ships and a Progress resupply ship remain docked at the orbital lab after the Progress 69 (69P) cargo craft undocked from the Zvezda service module Wednesday at 10:16 p.m. EDT. It will orbit Earth until Aug. 29 for engineering tests monitored by Roscosmos mission controllers before deorbiting over the Pacific Ocean.

The next resupply mission is coming from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s “Kounotori” H-II Transfer Vehicle. It is targeted for launch Sept. 10 to deliver science, supplies and batteries for installation during a pair of spacewalks next month. Russia’s next resupply mission, the Progress 71, is targeted for a two-day trip to the station at the end of October.

Commander Drew Feustel continued working on a pair of similar protein crystal experiments today. The BioServe Protein Crystalography-1 and Protein Crystal Growth-13 studies allow astronauts to observe crystal growth in space and analyze the results. This saves researchers time without having to wait for samples to be returned to Earth for analysis.

Alexander Gerst of ESA assisted Serena Auñón-Chancellor from NASA and tested using a sextant in space for celestial navigation during an emergency. The duo worked inside the Cupola today and tested stability, positioning and sighting with the device using a star map.

Gerst then switched his attention to a European Space Agency study exploring how astronauts perceive time in space. Researchers seek to quantify subjective changes in time perception to understand how astronauts navigate, move and hear in space.

Student Games, Navigation Research as Cancer Study Wraps Up

Expedition 56 Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold
Expedition 56 Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold works with a student-designed experiment using NanoRacks commercial science hardware. The study is researching the impacts of microgravity on tissue regeneration, concrete properties, antibiotics, and growth of plant, fungi, and bacteria. The research introduces students to the principles of space science.

The six-member Expedition 56 crew was busy Tuesday juggling science hardware maintenance and a variety of research work. The orbital residents are also helping students contribute to space research and testing an ancient navigation technique.

A cancer study wrapped up last week and astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor stowed the life science gear today used during operations inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox. The AngieX Cancer Therapy experiment looked at endothelial cells as a potential test model for developing safer and more effective vascular-targeted drugs. The research samples were sent back to Earth Friday inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for scientific analysis.

Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold are getting a pair of tiny satellites, known as SPHERES, ready for a student competition. Middle school students in the United States are competing to write the best algorithms that will operate the SPHERES simulating a mission on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

German astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) explored using a sextant with star maps as an emergency form of navigation in space. The study will provide insights that mission planners will use on future Orion spaceflight missions farther away from Earth.


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Cosmonauts Get Suits Ready for Next Spacewalk as Rest of Crew Relaxes

Empty Russian Orlan spacesuits
Empty Russian Orlan spacesuits are pictured in the Pirs Docking Compartment.

Two Expedition 56 cosmonauts are getting ready for a spacewalk set for next week as the rest of the International Space Station crew took the day off. A Russian cargo craft is also poised to take out the trash and depart the orbital lab at the end of the month.

Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev will put on their Orlan spacesuits and work outside the station’s Russian segment for about seven hours on Aug. 15. The duo will toss tiny satellites into Earth orbit, install antennas and cables on the Zvezda service module and retrieve experiments that analyzed external station surfaces and observed plasma waves.

They spent Monday installing batteries that will power their spacesuits next week for the duration of their spacewalk. Artemyev and Prokopyev also ensured their suits were sized properly and conducted leak checks. Finally, they reviewed the procedures they will use next week when they exit and enter the airlock inside the Pirs docking compartment.

The rest of the crew is relaxing today after an intense week of completing crucial space science and loading the time-sensitive research samples inside the Dragon cargo craft for its return to Earth. Dragon splashed down in the Pacific Ocean Friday and was quickly retrieved so scientists and engineers could begin analyzing the science and refurbishing the station hardware.

The next spacecraft due to leave the station is Russia’s Progress 69 (69P) resupply ship on Aug. 22 packed with trash and discarded gear. It launched Feb. 13 and arrived two days later loaded with over three tons of food, fuel and supplies. The 69P will deorbit on Aug. 29 after a week of engineering tests for a fiery but safe disposal over the Pacific Ocean.

Dragon Ends Stay at Station, On Its Way Home

SpaceX Dragon Released from Station
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft begins its separation from the space station after being released from the Canadarm2.

Robotic flight controllers released the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station’s robotic arm at 12:38 p.m. EDT, and Expedition 56 Serena Auñon-Chancellor of NASA is monitoring its departure.

Dragon’s thrusters will be fired to move the spacecraft a safe distance from the station before SpaceX flight controllers in Hawthorne, California, command its deorbit burn about 5:23 p.m. The capsule will splashdown about 6:17 p.m. in the Pacific Ocean, where the SpaceX recovery team will retrieve the capsule and its more than 3,800 pounds of cargo, including a variety of technological and biological studies.

NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization that manages research aboard the U.S. National Laboratory portion of the space station, will receive time-sensitive samples and begin working with researchers to process and distribute them within 48 hours of splashdown.

Dragon is the only space station resupply spacecraft currently capable of returning cargo to Earth, and this was the second trip to the orbiting laboratory for this spacecraft. SpaceX launched its 15th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station June 29 from Space Launch Complex 40 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a Falcon 9 rocket that also previously launched NASA’s TESS mission to study exoplanets.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.


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Dragon Ready for Return Ahead of Commercial Crew Announcement

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured attached to the International Space Station's Harmony module
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module framed on the left by the Canadarm2 robotic arm and a pair of the station’s main solar arrays.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is packed with science and hardware ready for return to Earth on Friday. NASA is also introducing a team of astronauts who will soon fly Boeing and SpaceX vehicles to the International Space Station.

The Expedition 56 crew has finished loading Dragon with sensitive research results and station gear for analysis and refurbishment back on Earth. Space station officials from around the world gave the “go” on Thursday for Dragon’s release from the orbital complex.

Mission controllers, with astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor monitoring, will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Dragon at 12:37 p.m. EDT Friday. Splashdown in the Pacific Ocean will occur less than six hours later under a trio of huge parachutes off the coast of Baja California.

NASA will introduce Friday at 11 a.m. on NASA TV new astronauts assigned to spaceflights launching from the United States for the first time since July 8, 2011. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is partnering with Boeing and SpaceX to launch humans on U.S.-built spaceships from Kennedy Space Center on test flights to the space station.


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Station Teams Are Go For Dragon’s Return To Earth Friday

SpaceX Dragon Resupply Ship
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship, on its 15th Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-15), is pictured the day after it was captured and installed on the Harmony module. The orbital complex was flying over northern central China near the Mongolian border at the time this photograph was taken.

The International Space Station Partners and mission managers polled “go” for tomorrow’s release of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for its deorbit and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean to wrap up the CRS-15 mission.

With favorable weather conditions forecast in the splashdown zone, Dragon’s hatch will be closed early Friday around 3 a.m. Central time. Robotic ground controllers will then use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach Dragon from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module around 5:30 a.m. Central time and will maneuver Dragon into the release position.

With Expedition 56 Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA monitoring Dragon’s systems, the ground controllers will release Dragon from Canadarm2 at 11:37 a.m. Central time. After its release, Dragon will conduct a series of “departure” burns to move to a safe distance away from the station.

Several hours later, at 4:23 p.m. Central time, SpaceX flight controllers at Hawthorne, California will command Dragon’s engine to fire for 12 minutes and 53 seconds in the deorbit burn that will enable Dragon to slip out of orbit for its descent back to Earth.

Dragon’s parachute-assisted splashdown is scheduled at 5:17 p.m. Central time, 3:17 p.m. Pacific time, about 410 miles southwest of Long Beach, California. It will take about two days for Dragon to be brought back to port for its cache of cargo and scientific experiments to be unloaded.


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