Station Preps for New Docking Port During Science and Soyuz Checks

The SpaceX Dragon above the Nile River Delta
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module as the orbital complex flew 260 miles above the Nile River Delta in Egypt.

Three NASA astronauts remain focused on preparations for next week’s spacewalk at the International Space Station. The rest of the Expedition 60 focused on biology research and a pair of docked spaceships.

Flight Engineer Christina Koch has been supporting spacewalkers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan, as they get ready for the fifth spacewalk of the year on Aug. 21. The pair will install the new International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3) to the Harmony module’s space-facing port during the six-and-a-half-hour job.

Koch printed out checklists the spacewalkers will wear on their spacesuit cuffs and verified the spacesuits are the correct size. She also joined Hague and Morgan reviewing next week’s spacewalk procedures. The spacewalking duo also set up the Quest airlock where they will collect their tools and suit up ahead of their excursion.

Robotics controllers will remotely command the Canadarm2 to detach the IDA-3 from the rear portion of the SpaceX Dragon on Monday. They will maneuver the new docking port to a pressurized mating adapter on top of Harmony readying it for Wednesday’s spacewalk. Hague and Morgan in their U.S. spacesuits will then route cables and configure hardware readying the IDA-3 for new SpaceX and Boeing crew ships.

Luca Parmitano, a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut on his second station mission, worked on a biology experiment today with potential benefits for the medicine industry. He tended to stem cell samples growing in a specialized incubator to help researchers understand cell behavior in space.

Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov checked out two docked Soyuz crew ships today. The duo tested and recharged communications gear in the vehicles and continued packing gear for return to Earth.

Crew Gets Ready for Next Spacewalk and New Spaceships

NASA astronaut Nick Hague
NASA astronaut Nick Hague conducts science operations for the Cell Science-02 bone healing and tissue regeneration experiment.

The International Space Station will soon see U.S., Russian and Japanese spaceships arriving and departing over the next several weeks. Meanwhile, the Expedition 60 crew is staying focused on an upcoming spacewalk while continuing ongoing microgravity research.

Next week’s spacewalkers, NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan, are reviewing their procedures and practicing their maneuvers on a computer today. The duo will exit the station Aug. 21 and install the station’s second commercial crew vehicle docking port, the International Docking Adapter-3, to the Harmony module’s space-facing port.

Morgan wrapped up his day setting up experiments designed by middle and high school students researching a variety of space phenomena. Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency continued exploring stem cell differentiation. Christina Koch of NASA serviced and replaced hardware that fuels experiments inside the Combustion Integrated Rack.

Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov worked during the morning tearing down a Russian atmosphere purification unit. The duo then moved on to cardiopulmonary research before winding down the day with exercise.

The next spacecraft to launch to the orbiting lab will be an unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 crew ship on Aug. 22. It will lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a test of its upgraded 2.1a Soyuz booster. The new Soyuz will automatically dock to the Poisk module two days later where it will stay until Sept. 6.

Russia will launch its next crewed mission Sept. 25 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka will lead the six-hour flight to the station with NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori.

SpaceX is planning to retrieve its Dragon resupply ship on Aug. 27 when it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean after its release from the Harmony module. Dragon will return to Earth with several thousand pounds of completed science experiments for analysis and station hardware for servicing.

Finally, Japan’s resupply ship, the H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8), is scheduled to blast off to the station Sept. 10 (U.S. time) from the Tanegashima Space Center. It will arrive at the station Sept. 14 for a robotic capture and installation to the same Harmony port Dragon will vacate at the end of the month. HTV-8’s scheduled liftoff date comes exactly 10 years after the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched its first HTV cargo freighter to the space station.

Human Research Revealing Space Impacts as Spacewalk Preps Gear Up

Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan of NASA
Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan works with the BioFabrication Facility that is researching whether the weightless environment of space may support the fabrication of human organs.

The Expedition 60 crew kicked off the workweek exploring stem cells and testing the printing of human tissue on the International Space Station. The astronauts are also gearing up for a spacewalk planned for next week.

Operations continue inside the orbiting lab’s new BioFabrication Facility today. Astronaut Nick Hague printed more human tissue samples Monday and stowed them in an incubator to observe and promote their cellular growth.

Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency set up the Life Science Glovebox in the Kibo laboratory module and researched the properties of stem cells. The space-based Micro-15 experiment is helping scientists understand stem cell differentiation better than ground-based studies. Results may provide therapeutic insights into ailments affecting humans on Earth and in space.

Early this morning, Parmitano joined NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan for hearing tests. Scientists are measuring how the microgravity environment and the acoustic levels of the station affect a crewmember’s hearing before, during and after a mission.

Morgan then partnered up with astronaut Christina Koch in the afternoon to configure spacewalking tools and spacesuit components. Morgan will follow lead spacewalker Nick Hague out of the Quest airlock hatch on Aug. 21 for a six hour and 30 minute spacewalk. The duo will install the International Docking Adapter-3 designed to receive new commercial crew vehicles from Boeing and SpaceX.

Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov spent their morning learning how the gastrointestinal system adapts to long-term spaceflight. The duo performed ultrasound scans of their gut before and after eating breakfast. Ovchinin then packed gear for return on a future Soyuz landing as Skvortsov checked Russian video and photography gear.

Crew Gears Up for Spacewalk, Scans Eyes and Practices Medical Emergency

NASA astronaut Nick Hague
NASA astronaut Nick Hague, in his white U.S. spacesuit, is contrasted by the blackness of space during a six-hour, 39-minute spacewalk that took place in March 2019.

The Expedition 60 crew is gearing up for an upcoming spacewalk to prepare the International Space Station for more commercial crew missions. Biomedical science also took up a portion of the astronauts’ day as they help researchers understand what happens to the human body in microgravity.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan are reviewing their tasks planned for Aug. 21 when they conduct the fifth spacewalk of the year at the orbiting lab. The duo will take about six-and-a-half hours to install the International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3) on top of the Harmony module. The IDA-3, delivered inside the Dragon cargo craft’s trunk, will be the second port at the station designed to receive the new Boeing and SpaceX crew ships.

Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano are helping the spacewalkers get ready for the upcoming excursion. They are configuring spacesuit components today and will continue assisting the pair before, during and after the next spacewalk.

Morgan first joined Koch and Parmitano during the morning for ultrasound eye exams. Koch took charge of the eye scans in the Columbus lab module with real-time inputs from doctors on the ground. She observed her crewmates’ retina, cornea, lens and optic nerve to maintain eye health in space.

Koch and Parmitano later split up feeding the station’s mice and cleaning their habitats in the Destiny laboratory module. Observing the rodents, which are genetically similar to humans, in the weightless environment of microgravity gives scientists critical therapeutic insights that can benefit Earthlings and astronauts.

The most recent trio to arrive at the station gathered at the end of the day to train for a medical emergency. Morgan, Parmitano and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov practiced cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), checked out medical gear and reviewed emergency communications.

August Brings More Spaceship Traffic and a Spacewalk

July 31, 2019: International Space Station Configuration
July 31, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter, and Russia’s Progress 73 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-12 and MS-13 crew ships.

The International Space Station is hosting five spaceships today as August ramps up for more orbital traffic activity. Six Expedition 60 crewmembers are also unloading U.S. and Russian cargo, activating new science experiments and stocking the station’s galley.

Russia’s Progress 73 (73P) cargo craft completed a fast-track delivery mission early Wednesday docking to the Pirs Docking Compartment just three hours and nineteen minutes after launching from Kazakhstan. Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov opened the 73P hatch shortly afterward starting its four-month stay. He and station Commander Alexey Ovchinin then began unloading nearly three tons of new consumables, fuel and supplies.

Two U.S. space freighters occupy the station’s Earth-facing Harmony and Unity module ports. Harmony will open up Tuesday when Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship departs after 109 days in space. The Canadarm2 robotic arm installed the SpaceX Dragon to Unity on Saturday after its arrival and capture beginning a month of cargo operations.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague are tending to mice today shipped aboard Dragon for ongoing biological research. The reusable vehicle will return the mice back to Earth at the end of the month, including other cargo, so scientists can analyze a variety of changes that only occur in microgravity.

Dragon also delivered a new commercial crew vehicle port, the International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3), in its unpressurized trunk. Robotics controllers will soon extract the IDA-3 before two spacewalkers install it to Unity’s space-facing port a few days later.

A few days before Dragon departs, Russia will launch an unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 crew ship to the orbiting lab for a test of its upgraded 2.1a Soyuz booster. It will dock to the Poisk module for a two-week stay before parachuting back to Earth in the vast steppe of Kazakhstan.

Crew Unloads Dragon as Russian Cargo Ships Depart, Prep for Launch

Russia's Progress 73 cargo craft stands at its launch pad
Russia’s Progress 73 cargo craft stands at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan counting down to a Wednesday liftoff.

A new U.S. space freighter is open for business today after delivering its payload to the International Space Station on Saturday. Meanwhile, a Russian resupply rocket is processing for another space delivery mission on Wednesday that will take less than three and a half hours after launch.

NASA Flight Engineer Nick Hague opened Dragon’s hatch early Sunday beginning a month of cargo operations. His fellow crewmates Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan are unloading critical research samples and stowing them inside the station’s science freezers and incubators for analysis.

The new experiments will be exploring microgravity’s effect on a variety of biological and physical processes benefitting humans on Earth and in space. The crew will be researching 3-D bio-printing, silica manufacturing, botany and tissue regeneration and a host of other space phenomena.

Robotics controllers will remove the International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3), a new commercial crew ship docking port, from Dragon’s unpressurized trunk in mid-August. A pair of spacewalkers will install the IDA-3 on the Harmony module’s space-facing Pressurized Mating Adapter a few days later.

Russia’s Pirs Docking Compartment port opened up today at 6:44 a.m. EDT when the Progress 72 (72P) cargo craft undocked completing a four-month stay at the orbiting lab. It will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere loaded with trash and discarded gear for a fiery, but safe disposal over the Pacific Ocean.

The new Progress 73 cargo ship will replace 72P after it launches Wednesday at 8:10 a.m. from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It will dock to Pirs that same morning at 11:35 a.m. after just two Earth orbits packed with more food, fuel and supplies for the crew.

Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov are training today on the tele-robotically operated rendezvous unit (TORU) for Wednesday’s arrival of the 73P. The duo will be in the Zvezda service module at the controls of the TORU monitoring the 73P’s approach ready to take over manual docking operations in the unlikely event of an emergency.

Dragon Installed to Station’s Harmony Module for Cargo Operations

July 27, 2019: International Space Station Configuration
July 27, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter, the Progress 72 resupply ship and the Soyuz MS-12 and MS-13 crew ships.

Two 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 12:01 p.m. EDT.

The 18th contracted commercial resupply mission from SpaceX (CRS-18) delivers more than 5,000 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory.

A key item in Dragon’s unpressurized cargo section is International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3). Flight controllers at mission control in Houston will use the robotic arm to extract IDA-3 from Dragon and position it over Pressurized Mating Adapter-3, on the space-facing side of the Harmony module. NASA astronauts Nick Hague and  Andrew Morgan, who arrived at the station Saturday, July 20, will conduct a spacewalk in mid-August to install the docking port, connect power and data cables, and set up a high-definition camera on a boom arm.

Robotics flight control teams from NASA and the Canadian Space Agency will move the docking port into position remotely before the astronauts perform the final installation steps. IDA-3 and IDA-2, which was installed in the summer of 2016, provide a new standardized and automated docking system for future spacecraft, including upcoming commercial spacecraft that will transport astronauts through contracts with NASA.

Here’s some of the science arriving at station:

Effects of Microgravity on Microglia 3D Models

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) – adult cells genetically programmed to return to an embryonic stem cell-like state – have the ability to develop into any cell type in the human body, potentially providing an unlimited source of human cells for therapeutic purposes. Space Tango-Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells examines how specialized white blood cells derived from iPSCs of patients with Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis grow and move in 3D cultures, and any changes in gene expression that occur as a result of exposure to a microgravity environment. Results could lead to the development of potential therapies.

Mechanisms of Moss in Microgravity

Space Moss compares mosses grown aboard the space station with those grown on Earth to determine how microgravity affects its growth, development, and other characteristics. Tiny plants without roots, mosses need only a small area for growth, an advantage for their potential use in space and future bases on the Moon or Mars. This investigation also could yield information that aids in engineering other plants to grow better on the Moon and Mars, as well as on Earth.

After Dragon spends approximately one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with cargo and research.

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 Captured With New Science Experiments

The SpaceX Dragon is in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm
The SpaceX Dragon is in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm shortly after it was captured over southern Chile.

While the International Space Station was traveling more than 260 miles over southern Chile, astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA grappled Dragon at 9:11 a.m. EDT using the space station’s robotic arm Canadarm2.

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 11 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 Thursday, July 25 with more than 5,000 pounds of research, equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Here’s some of the research arriving at station:

Bio-Mining in Microgravity

The Biorock investigation will provide insight into the physical interactions of liquid, rocks and microorganisms under microgravity conditions and improve the efficiency and understanding of mining materials in space. Bio-mining eventually could help explorers on the Moon or Mars acquire needed materials, lessening the need to use precious resources from Earth and reducing the amount of supplies that explorers must take with them.

Printing Biological Tissues in Space

Using 3D biological printers to produce usable human organs has long been a dream of scientists and doctors around the globe. However, printing the tiny, complex structures found inside human organs, such as capillary structures, has proven difficult to accomplish in Earth’s gravity. To overcome this challenge, Techshot designed their BioFabrication Facility to print organ-like tissues in microgravity – a stepping stone in a long-term plan to manufacture whole human organs in space using refined biological 3D printing techniques.

Improving Tire Manufacturing from Orbit

The Goodyear Tire investigation will use microgravity to push the limits of silica fillers for tire applications. A better understanding of silica morphology and the relationship between silica structure and its properties could improve the silica design process, silica rubber formulation and tire manufacturing and performance. Such improvements could include increased fuel efficiency, which would reduce transportation costs and help to protect Earth’s environment.

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.

Station Gets Ready to Receive Dragon Cargo Craft Saturday Morning

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft moments before its release
The last SpaceX Dragon cargo craft to visit the space station is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm moments before its release on June 3, 2019.

The SpaceX Dragon space freighter is on its way to the International Space Station following a Thursday launch from Florida. The six-member Expedition 60 crew will be waiting for the commercial cargo craft’s arrival Saturday morning.

Dragon will rendezvous with the station Saturday morning reaching a point about 10 meters from the station. Flight Engineer Nick Hague will then command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple the resupply ship about 10 a.m. EDT. Fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch will back him up inside the cupola as NASA Flight Engineer Drew Morgan monitors Dragon’s approach and rendezvous. NASA TV begins its live capture and installation coverage Saturday at 8:30 a.m.

The three NASA astronauts continued robotics training today and practiced techniques to capture the commercial space freighter. The trio conducted simulation capture runs on a computer today preparing for a variety of Dragon approach and rendezvous scenarios.

Dragon is delivering over 5,000 pounds of science experiments, crew supplies and vehicle hardware. This includes the International Docking Adapter-3 for installation during an upcoming spacewalk on the Harmony module’s space-facing Pressurized Mating Adapter.

The Dragon-capturing trio later joined new crewmates Luca Parmitano and Alexander Skvortsov in the afternoon reviewing the spacecraft’s payload configuration. They will be unpacking time-critical research samples for stowage in station science freezers and incubators to analyze microgravity’s effect on biology.

Station Commander Alexey Ovchinin started Friday briefing his three newest crewmembers, who have been in space six days, on emergency hardware locations and procedures. The veteran cosmonaut then packed obsolete gear and trash inside a Russian resupply ship that is departing on Monday.

Dragon Reaches Orbit, Astronauts Prepare for Saturday Capture

NASA astronaut Christina Koch
NASA astronaut Christina Koch trains on the robotics workstation inside the cupola to capture the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.

Dragon’s solar arrays have deployed and the spacecraft is safely in orbit following a launch on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 6:01 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying more than 5,000 pounds of research, hardware and supplies to the International Space Station. Dragon is scheduled to arrive at the orbiting laboratory Saturday, July 27.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague will grapple Dragon with Christina Koch acting as a backup. NASA’s Andrew Morgan will assist the duo by monitoring telemetry during Dragon’s approach. The station crew will monitor Dragon vehicle functions during rendezvous. After Dragon capture, ground commands will be sent from mission control in Houston for the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Harmony module.

Mission Controllers watch SpaceX Dragon launch
Mission Controllers in Houston watch the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft launch atop the Falcon 9 rocket from Florida on its way to the space station

Mission coverage is as follows:

  • 8:30 a.m. – Dragon rendezvous, grapple and berthing. Capture is scheduled for approximately 10 a.m.
  • 12 p.m. – Dragon installation to the nadir port of the Harmony module of the station

This delivery, SpaceX’s 18th cargo flight to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, will support dozens of new and existing investigations. NASA’s research and development work aboard the space station contributes to the agency’s deep space exploration plans, including returning astronauts to the Moon’s surface in five years.

  • Highlights of space station research that will be facilitated by Dragon spacecraft’s arrival are:
    • The BioFabrication Facility is designed to print organ-like tissues in microgravity, acting as a stepping- stone in a long-term plan to manufacture whole human organs in space using refined biological 3D printing techniques.
    • A Goodyear Tire investigation is pushing the limits of silica fillers for tire applications. A better understanding of silica morphology and the relationship between silica structure and its properties could improve the silica design process, silica rubber formulation, and tire manufacturing and performance on the ground.
    • The Space Tango – Induced Stem Cells investigation will take cells from patients with Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis to be cultured on the space station to examine cell to cell interactions that occur in neurodegenerative disease.
    • The Cell Science-02 investigation is comparing the ability of two different bone inducing growth factors, one novel and one currently used in bone healing therapies, to stimulate growth, differentiation and related cellular functions of osteoblast in the microgravity environment.

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