Monday Kicks Off with Japanese, U.S. Science and Spacewalk Preps

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough replaces life support components inside a U.S. spacesuit.
NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough replaces life support components inside a U.S. spacesuit.

The seven-member Expedition 65 crew kicked off the workweek working on Japanese science gear, a U.S. immune system study, and spacewalk preparations.

Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Thomas Pesquet joined station Commander Akihiko Hoshide for science maintenance in the Kibo laboratory module on Monday morning. The trio teamed up and installed an experiment platform in Kibo’s airlock, where it will soon be placed outside in the harsh environment of space.

Vande Hei then moved on and serviced donor cell samples for the Celestial Immunity study taking place inside the Kibo lab’s Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG). The experiment looks at cells launched to space and compares them to cell samples harvested on Earth to document the differences in weightlessness. Results could impact the development of new vaccines and drugs to treat diseases on Earth and advance the commercialization of space.

Pesquet later took photographs of U.S. spacesuit gloves for inspection ahead of two spacewalks planned for June. During those spacewalks, new solar arrays will be installed on the station’s Port 6 truss structure to augment the station’s power system. The first two of six new solar arrays will be delivered on the next SpaceX cargo mission planned for launch on June 3 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Hoshide checked power cables on the Confocal Space Microscope that provides fluorescence imagery of biological samples. Then he took turns with NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough, participating in a computerized cognitive assessment. Next, Kimbrough worked the rest of Monday in the Tranquility module’s Water Processing Assembly to repair a possible leak.

NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur opened up BEAM, or the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, and organized cargo during the morning. She then powered down and stowed the LSG after Vande Hei concluded Monday’s immunity research.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov spent the morning organizing Russian spacewalk tools. Afterward, the duo spent the rest of the day working on communications gear and ventilation systems.

Three-Day Weekend Aboard Lab Ahead of June Cargo Mission

An aurora is pictured streaming above the Indian Ocean in between Australia and Antarctica on April 19, 2021.
An aurora is pictured streaming above the Indian Ocean in between Australia and Antarctica on April 19, 2021.

The seven orbital residents that comprise the Expedition 65 crew aboard the International Space Station took a well-deserved day off on Monday. May looks to be relaxed month, following a very busy April, with no spacecraft activities on the calendar until June.

It was a three-day weekend on the orbiting lab today as the five astronauts and two cosmonauts took Monday off. The septet cleared its schedule for personal activities such as looking at the Earth below, talking to family, watching movies and playing games.

The crewmates continued their daily workouts as each crew member exercises about two hours a day to counteract the lack of gravity on their bodies. There are U.S. and Russian treadmills, an exercise cycle and an advanced resistive exercise device that the space residents use to maintain muscle and bone health in weightlessness.

There were also urine sample collections aboard the orbital lab today which are part of a variety of ongoing studies into the effects of long-term spaceflight on humans. Those samples were stowed in a science freezer for later analysis by scientists on Earth.

The next cargo mission planned to replenish the Expedition 65 crew is targeted for launch on June 3. The SpaceX Cargo Dragon will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center and dock on June 4 to the Harmony module’s space-facing international adapter. The Cargo Dragon will deliver new solar arrays to augment the space station’s power system.

High-Powered Computing, Orbital Plumbing and Spacewalk Preps Today

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins (lower left) is pictured during a spacewalk on Feb. 28, 2021, to install solar array modification kits on the space station.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins (lower left) is pictured during a spacewalk on Feb. 28, 2021, to install solar array modification kits on the space station.

Preparations are stepping up ahead of Friday’s spacewalk at the International Space Station to continue solar array modifications. The Expedition 64 crew is also studying high-powered space computing while maintaining orbital lab systems.

Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Soichi Noguchi are getting ready to begin a spacewalk on Friday to finish installing solar array modification kits. The installation work began during a spacewalk on Feb. 28 to ready the station for new, more powerful solar arrays being delivered soon on upcoming SpaceX Dragon cargo missions.

The duo will set their spacesuits to battery power about 7 a.m. EST on Friday officially beginning the fourth spacewalk of the year. They will exit the U.S. Quest airlock and maneuver to the far-left side of the station to their worksite on the Port-6 truss structure. Rubins of NASA and Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) will spend about six-and-a-half hours wrapping up the modifications and performing get-ahead work if time permits. NASA TV begins its live spacewalk coverage at 5:30 a.m.

As the spacewalk preparations are underway, the rest of the crew is staying focused on a multitude of research work. Ensuring the stable operation of space station systems is also a daily priority.

Space technology is a big topic and scientists want to extend the power of Earth-based data processing to microgravity. Today, NASA Flight Engineer Victor Glover installed the Spaceborne Computer-2 delivered last month aboard the Cygnus space freighter. The new computing device, located in Europe’s Columbus laboratory module, seeks to demonstrate artificial intelligence and high-powered computations on the station rather than downloading scientific data for analysis on Earth.

NASA astronauts Shannon Walker and Michael Hopkins worked on space plumbing tasks on Wednesday. Walker readied cables that will power the station’s new water recycling device, the Brine Processor Assembly. Hopkins worked on fluid transfers and swapped pipes inside the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, the station’s bathroom in the U.S. segment.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov completed a 24-hour session that recorded his electrical heart signal with a portable electrocardiogram. Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov repressurized the station’s environment with nitrogen stored inside the docked ISS Progress 77 cargo ship.

Crew Examines Worms, Explores Space Manufacturing During Spacewalk Preps

Three spaceships are pictured attached to the space station as the orbital complex flew 261 miles above the Bay of Bengal.
Three spaceships are pictured attached to the space station as the orbital complex flew 261 miles above the Bay of Bengal.

Two NASA astronauts are getting their tools and spacesuits ready for Sunday’s spacewalk to ready the International Space Station for new solar arrays. Meanwhile, the rest of the Expedition 64 crew focused on a variety of space research on Thursday.

NASA Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Victor Glover are finalizing their preparations for a planned six-and-a-half hour spacewalk set to begin Sunday at 6 a.m. EST. NASA TV will begin its live spacewalk beginning at 4:30 a.m.

Rubins and Glover configured spacewalk tools and checked U.S. spacesuits today before calling down to experts in Mission Control to report on their readiness. The duo today also continued reviewing the spacewalk procedures they will use to upgrade power channels that will soon support new solar arrays. Those solar arrays will be shipped on upcoming Space Dragon cargo missions for installation this year.

Science is always ongoing aboard the space station, not just with crew inputs but also remotely from scientists on the ground. Results and insights help improve industry, business and medicine on Earth and in space.

Worms are being observed on the station after their arrival on Monday inside the Cygnus resupply ship from Northrop Grumman. Astronauts Shannon Walker and Michael Hopkins examined the tiny worms with a microscope to explore how microgravity affects gene expression and muscle strength.

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi worked on advanced space science hardware to explore different space manufacturing techniques. He first installed the new Industrial Crystallization Facility that will demonstrate commercial crystal production available only in space. Next, he checked samples inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace that investigates the thermophysical properties of commercial materials exposed to extreme temperatures.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov split their day working on batteries, cameras and laptop computers.

Crew Gets Ready for Cargo Missions, Opens New Airlock

Earth's atmospheric glow and the aurora blanket the horizon as the space station orbited above the North Atlantic.
Earth’s atmospheric glow and the aurora blanket the horizon as the space station orbited above the North Atlantic.

Two cargo rockets on opposite sides of the world are nearing their launch to resupply the Expedition 64 crew this month. A new science and cargo airlock installed late last year on the International Space Station is now open for business.

Russia’s Progress 76 (76P) cargo craft, packed with trash and discarded hardware, will depart the orbiting lab tonight completing a 201-day mission attached to the Pirs docking compartment. It will deorbit a few hours later for a fiery, but safe destruction over the South Pacific.

The 76P will be replaced after the Progress 77 (77P) cargo craft blasts off on Feb. 14 at 11:45 p.m. EST from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The 77P will dock to the vacant Pirs port a little more than two days later on Feb. 17 at 1:20 a.m. The launch and docking activities will be broadcast live on NASA TV.

The next cargo mission to resupply the station will be Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo ship lifting off atop an Antares rocket on Feb. 20 from Virginia. Cygnus will be delivering about 8,000 pounds of station hardware, science experiments, and crew supplies to replenish the orbiting lab on Feb. 22. It will be captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and installed to the Unity module‘s Earth-facing port.

Aboard the space station today, NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover configured and opened the NanoRacks Bishop airlock. Bishop was attached to the station’s Tranquility module on Dec. 19 two weeks after it was delivered inside the SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft. Bishop will enable more commercial research, satellite deployments, and cargo operations outside in the vacuum of space.

SpaceX Cargo Dragon Splashes Down Loaded With Science Experiments

The insignia for the SpaceX CRS-21 mission that saw the upgraded Cargo Dragon resupply ship automatically dock to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter, a first for a U.S. commercial cargo spacecraft.
The insignia for the SpaceX CRS-21 mission that saw the upgraded Cargo Dragon resupply ship automatically dock to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter, a first for a U.S. commercial cargo spacecraft.

SpaceX’s upgraded Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 8:26 p.m. EST west of Tampa off the Florida coast, marking the return of the company’s 21st contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The spacecraft carried more than 4,400 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo back to Earth.

The upgraded cargo Dragon capsule used for this mission contains double the powered locker availability of previous capsules, allowing for a significant increase in the research that can be delivered back to scientists. Some scientists will get their research returned quickly, four to nine hours after splashdown.

Some of the scientific investigations Dragon returns to Earth are:

Cardinal Heart

Microgravity causes changes in the workload and shape of the human heart, and it is still unknown whether these changes could become permanent if a person lived more than a year in space. Cardinal Heart studies how changes in gravity affect cardiovascular cells at the cellular and tissue level using 3D-engineered heart tissues, a type of tissue chip. Results could provide new understanding of heart problems on Earth, help identify new treatments, and support development of screening measures to predict cardiovascular risk prior to spaceflight.

Space Organogenesis

This investigation from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) demonstrates the growth of 3D organ buds from human stem cells to analyze changes in gene expression. Cell cultures on Earth need supportive materials or forces to achieve 3D growth, but in microgravity, cell cultures can expand into three dimensions without those devices. Results from this investigation could demonstrate advantages of using microgravity for cutting-edge developments in regenerative medicine and may contribute to the establishment of technologies needed to create artificial organs.

Sextant Navigation

The sextant used in the Sextant Navigation experiment will be returning to Earth. Sextants have a small telescope-like optical sight to take precise angle measurements between pairs of stars from land or sea, enabling navigation without computer assistance. Sailors have navigated via sextants for centuries, and NASA’s Gemini missions conducted the first sextant sightings from a spacecraft. This investigation tested specific techniques for using a sextant for emergency navigation on spacecraft such as NASA’s Orion, which will carry humans on deep-space missions.

Rodent Research-23

This experiment studies the function of arteries, veins, and lymphatic structures in the eye and changes in the retina of mice before and after spaceflight. The aim is to clarify whether these changes impair visual function. At least 40 percent of astronauts experience vision impairment known as Spaceflight-Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS) on long-duration spaceflights, which could adversely affect mission success.

Thermal Amine Scrubber

This technology demonstration tested a method to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from air aboard the International Space Station, using actively heated and cooled amine beds. Controlling CO2 levels on the station reduces the likelihood of crew members experiencing symptoms of CO2 buildup, which include fatigue, headache, breathing difficulties, strained eyes, and itchy skin.

Bacterial Adhesion and Corrosion

Bacteria and other microorganisms have been shown to grow as biofilm communities in microgravity. This experiment identifies the bacterial genes used during biofilm growth, examines whether these biofilms can corrode stainless steel, and evaluates the effectiveness of a silver-based disinfectant. This investigation could provide insight into better ways to control and remove resistant biofilms, contributing to the success of future long-duration spaceflights.

Fiber Optic Production, which includes the return of experimental optical fibers created in microgravity using a blend of zirconium, barium, lanthanum, sodium, and aluminum. The return of the fibers, called ZBLAN in reference to the chemical formula, will help verify experimental studies that suggest fibers created in space should exhibit far superior qualities to those produced on Earth.

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.

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.

Cargo Dragon Undocks from Station and Heads for Splashdown

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle begins its separation from the station after undocking from the Harmony module's international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle begins its separation from the station after undocking from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV

With NASA astronaut Victor Glover monitoring aboard the International Space Station, an upgraded SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Docking Adapter on the station’s space-facing port of the Harmony module at 9:05 a.m. EST.

It is the first undocking of a U.S. commercial cargo craft from the complex. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft were attached and removed from the space station using the station’s robotic Canadarm2.

Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the space station during the next 36 hours. On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Dragon will conduct a deorbit burn at 7:37 p.m. to begin its re-entry sequence into Earth’s atmosphere. Dragon is expected to splash down west of Tampa off the Florida coast about 8:27 p.m. The splashdown will not be broadcast.

The upgraded cargo Dragon capsule used for this mission contains double the powered locker availability of previous capsules, allowing for a significant increase in the research that can be carried back to Earth.

Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, delivering some science back into the hands of the researchers as soon as four to nine hours after splashdown. This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft returned to the Pacific Ocean, with quick-return science cargo processed at SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas, and delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Dragon launched Dec. 6 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, arriving at the station just over 24 hours later and achieving the first autonomous docking of a U.S. commercial cargo resupply spacecraft. The spacecraft delivered more than 6,400 pounds of hardware, research investigations and crew supplies.

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.

Dragon Departure Live Now on NASA TV

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module's space-facing international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV

NASA Television and the agency’s website are broadcasting live coverage for the departure of an upgraded SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft from the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Victor Glover is monitoring the activity aboard the station.

The targeted undocking time has been moved to optimize communication coverage; commands to undock will be sent at 9 a.m. EST with physical separation of the two spacecraft about 9:05 a.m.

The undocking will be the first time a U.S. commercial cargo craft autonomously departs from the station’s International Docking Adapter.

The spacecraft is filled with more than 4,400 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo to return to Earth to complete SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply services mission for NASA.

Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the station’s space-facing port of the Harmony module and exit the area of the space station to begin its return to Earth. On Wednesday, Dragon will initiate a deorbit burn to begin its re-entry sequence into Earth’s atmosphere then make a parachute-assisted splashdown around 8:27 p.m. – the first return of a cargo resupply spacecraft off the Florida coast west of Tampa. The deorbit burn and splashdown will not be broadcast.

For departure coverage and more information about the mission, visit the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

SpaceX Waves off Undocking of Cargo Dragon

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module's space-facing international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV

As a result of adverse weather conditions at the targeted splashdown zone off the coast of Daytona Beach, Florida, SpaceX has waved off today’s planned departure of an upgraded SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft.

Teams are currently assessing weather conditions to determine the next opportunity for undocking.

Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, delivering some science back into the hands of the researchers as soon as four to nine hours after splashdown. This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft returned to the Pacific Ocean, with quick-return science cargo processed at SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas, and delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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.