Nutrition Studies, Spacewalk Preps Ahead of SpaceX Crew Escape Test

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir
NASA astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Jessica Meir work on their U.S. spacesuits

The Expedition 61 crew split its time today between upcoming spacewalk preparations and continuous microgravity research. SpaceX is also preparing for a final test of its commercial crew ship before it launches humans.

The International Space Station is bustling with activity as two astronauts keep their U.S. spacesuits ready for another spacewalk set for Monday at 6:50 a.m. EST. NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch will wrap up installing new lithium-ion batteries upgrading the orbiting lab’s power systems. NASA TV will start its live coverage at 5:30 a.m.

The spacewalking duo also had time for science work in their busy schedule today. Koch provided inputs on how spaceflight is impacting her cognition and documented her meals for a nutrition study. Meir also documented her nutritional intake before researching how flames spread in space.

Andrew Morgan of NASA worked on a secondary nutrition study that may produce vitamins and dietary supplements to support future long-term missions. Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) had hearing checks today then moved on with Morgan to support Monday’s spacewalkers.

Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos spent the day researching ways to maintain sterile conditions while conducting biotechnology experiments in space. Fellow cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka serviced combustion research gear and Earth observation hardware before exploring crew behavior.

The Commercial Crew Program is set for a critical milestone as SpaceX readies its Dragon crew ship for major test. The uncrewed Crew Dragon vehicle will blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday at 8 a.m. and demonstrate its ability to safely escape in the event of a launch failure.

Spacewalk Preps Underway Amidst Space Research

The Expedition 61 crew gathered together for a New Year's Eve meal
The Expedition 61 crew gathers together for a meal. Clockwise from top left are, Christina Koch, Oleg Skripochka, Luca Parmitano, Alexander Skvortsov, Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan.

The Expedition 61 crew is gearing up for the first three spacewalks of 2020 set for this month. Meanwhile, the International Space Station is bustling with an array of microgravity research activities today.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch will conduct the first two spacewalks scheduled for Jan. 15 and Jan. 20. The duo will finish replacing older nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries on the station’s Port-6 truss structure. They spent Wednesday reviewing spacewalk procedures and inspecting spacesuit tethers.

The next spacewalk would be Jan. 25 following the successful battery replacements. NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will finish the repair work they started in November on the station’s cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

In the midst of the spacewalk preparations, the lab residents kept up the ongoing space science to improve life for humans on and off Earth.

Morgan began the day installing botany research gear inside Japan’s Cell Biology Experiment Facility before transferring resupply racks to the Cygnus space freighter. Parmitano conducted a vision test then cleaned up Rodent Research hardware that housed mice that were returned to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka split their time on Russian science and maintenance tasks. The duo partnered together for a study exploring piloting methods under a variety of gravity conditions. Skvortsov then measured the station’s radiation environment as Skripochka replaced fuel bottles for combustion research.

Dragon Splashes Down in Pacific Returning Science and Cargo

The SpaceX Dragon separates from the International Space Station
A camera on the tip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm views the SpaceX Dragon as it separates from the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft splashed down at 10:42 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean about 271 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, marking the end of the company’s 19th contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA.

A key component being returned aboard Dragon is a faulty battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU), which failed to activate following the Oct. 11 installation of new lithium-ion batteries on the space station’s truss. The BCDU was removed and replaced during a spacewalk Oct. 18 by Expedition 61 flight engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir of NASA. The unit are being returned to teams on Earth for an evaluation and repair.

Dragon launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Dec. 5 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and arrived at the station two days later with almost 3,400 pounds of science, supplies and cargo.

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.

Science-Filled Dragon Set to Leave Station Tuesday Morning

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured moments before its release
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured moments before its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm on June 3, 2019.

Filled with almost 3,600 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo, a SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft is set to leave the International Space Station Tuesday, Jan. 7. NASA Television and the agency’s website will broadcast its departure live beginning at 4:45 a.m. EST.

Dragon will be released from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module after flight controllers at mission control in Houston deliver remote commands to the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 61 Station Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will back up the ground controllers and monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory. The spacecraft is scheduled for release at approximately 5:03 a.m. EST.

After firing its thrusters to move a safe distance away from the station, Dragon will execute a deorbit burn to leave orbit, as it heads for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, 202 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, at approximately 10:41 a.m. (7:41 p.m. PST). There will be no live coverage of deorbit burn or splashdown.

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.

Crew Packs Dragon With Science Before Tuesday Departure

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship approaches the International Space Station
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship approaches the International Space Station on Dec. 8, 2019, as both spacecraft were orbiting 257 miles above Egypt and about to cross over the Mediterranean Sea.

The SpaceX Dragon is due to leave the International Space Station on Tuesday and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean loaded with critical science and station hardware for analysis. The Expedition 61 crew worked over the weekend and into Monday finalizing cargo transfers.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir, Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan are carefully packing research samples including live mice inside Dragon for retrieval and analysis on Earth. Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will close the hatches and conduct leak checks before robotics controllers uninstall Dragon from the Harmony module on Monday night.

Most of the crew will be asleep as Parmitano monitors Dragon’s release from the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Tuesday at 5:03 a.m. EST. The U.S. space freighter will orbit Earth a few more hours before parachuting to a splash down in the Pacific around 10:41 a.m. NASA TV will be live broadcasting Dragon’s departure starting at 4:45 a.m. Tuesday. Splashdown will not be seen on NASA TV.

The two veteran cosmonauts stayed focused on their Russian task list of space science and systems maintenance today. Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov started the day on plumbing duty before cleaning fans and filters. Oleg Skripochka worked on heart research before inventorying station tool kits.

Life-Saving Science on Last Day of 2019; Crew Relaxes New Year’s Day

The official Expedition 61 crew portrait
The Expedition 61 crew portrait with (from left) NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, astronaut Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency), Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, and NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch.

Six humans from three countries will ring in the new year 16 times tonight from an average altitude of about 260 miles above the Earth’s surface. Before the Expedition 61 crew goes to bed tonight and relaxes on New Year’s Day, they are researching critical space science to benefit humans on and off Earth.

Fire safety is extremely important and even more so aboard a spacecraft. Flight Engineer Jessica Meir of NASA got to work using the Microgravity Science Glovebox and observed how different fabric and acrylic samples burn in microgravity. Space fires spread differently in confined spaces of different shapes and sizes. Scientists will use the data to improve products and procedures to save lives on the ground and in space.

A bone densitometer that images and measures the bone mass of mice living in space is being calibrated today. NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan checked out the sensitive device to ensure accurate measurements. Morgan then switched from biology hardware to tiny satellites and tested formation flying using algorithms programmed in to the free-flying SPHERES.

NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch is loading the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship today before it departs the International Space Station on Jan. 5. She was measuring the mass of gear returning to Earth using an acceleration device that follows Newton’s Second Law of Motion (force equals mass times acceleration).

Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) reconfigured a specialized incubator that uses a centrifuge to mimic different gravity environments for biology research. Afterward, he installed new components in a life support system that removes carbon dioxide from the station’s atmosphere.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka kicked off the last day of 2019 with housecleaning and computer checks. In the afternoon, the duo set up radiation detection gear and serviced Russian life support hardware.

Crew Packing Dragon Cargo Craft and Researching Flames in Space

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship approaches the International Space Station on Dec. 8, 2019.

A U.S. cargo craft is getting ready to depart the International Space Station early next week loaded with research results and degraded hardware for analysis on Earth. Meanwhile, the Expedition 61 crew explored a variety of space phenomena including how flames spread in weightlessness.

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is being configured for its departure on Jan. 5 after a month attached to the Harmony module. Dragon will be released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Sunday at 9:41 p.m. EST and splashdown in the Pacific off the coast California a few hours later.

NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan is leading the packing activities today with assistance from fellow NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch. The trio will be preserving and loading finalized experiment results inside Dragon. Obsolete hardware exposed to the harshness of space will also be returned to Earth for engineering inspections.

3-D surround video recordings of station science operations has been ongoing aboard the orbiting lab for months and today was no exception. Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) set up the unique video camera this morning to record him and Koch as they worked on combustion research. The duo burned acrylic and fabric samples in the Microgravity Science Glovebox to help scientists understand how flames expand in space to increase fire safety.

Parmitano and Meir also partnered together in the afternoon for life support maintenance tasks. The duo checked out hardware inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module that condenses water vapor from air.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka spent Monday dividing their time between setting up communications gear and studying Russian science. The duo activated video hardware and explored advanced imaging techniques for locating targets on Earth to photograph.

BEAM and Dragon Work, DNA Studies Before Station Lifts Orbit

Expedition 61 flight engineers practice emergency response skills
Expedition 61 Flight Engineers (clockwise from bottom) Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir of NASA and cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos brush up on their emergency response skills.

It is back to work for the six-member Expedition 61 crew from the U.S., Russia and Italy after celebrating Christmas aboard the International Space Station. The space residents checked out BEAM and a commercial resupply ship and researched a variety of space phenomena.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan opened up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) today for some housecleaning work. He and fellow NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch relocated gear stowed in front of BEAM’s hatch and sampled the module’s air and surfaces for microbes. BEAM has been attached to the station since April 2016.

Koch then moved on to loading cargo inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft due to return to Earth on January 5. Flight Engineer Jessica Meir started the packing work today as the crew readies research results for splashdown in the Pacific Ocean aboard Dragon.

Meir also explored what microgravity does to genetics sequencing DNA samples with student-designed tools. Next, she ran a combustion experiment and observed how different samples burn and how flames spread in weightlessness.

Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) is also gathering hardware for return to Earth inside Dragon. He is packing the obsolete power and electronics gear retrieved during a series of spacewalks earlier this year. Engineers on the ground will analyze how years of exposure to the harsh space environment impacted the devices that powered multiple station systems.

Russia’s docked cargo craft, the Progress 74, will fire its engines twice beginning tonight to lift the station’s orbit to support Russian spacecraft activities in 2020. Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka readied the orbital lab today and shuttered windows for the orbital reboost.

Advanced Biology Research Taking Place on Station Today

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship approaches the International Space Station as both spacecraft were orbiting 257 miles above Egypt.

Advanced space research is in full gear aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 61 crew is activating new science gear and continuing long-running experiments to benefit humans on and off the Earth.

Rodents delivered aboard the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship are now being housed inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. They are being studied for ways to prevent muscle and bone loss in microgravity. NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan have been setting up the habitats and stocking them with food and water to support the mice.

A specialized 3-D printer aboard the orbiting lab is testing printing cellular structures in space due to the detrimental effects of Earth’s gravity. NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch has been operating the Bio-Fabrication Facility this week using “bio-inks” with more success than on the ground. The device is dedicated to manufacturing human organs, producing food and personalizing pharmaceuticals.

Koch and Meir also partnered together today to set up and calibrate a new bone densitometer in Japan’s Kibo lab module. The biology research gear will measure and image bone density in the mice living aboard the station.

Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano are participating this week in a pair of motion coordination experiments sponsored by the European Space Agency. In the first study, the astronauts are exploring how weightlessness affects gripping and manipulating objects with implications for exploring planetary bodies. The second investigation explores how the brain adapts to the lack of traditional up-and-down cues in space.

Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka continues to unload the nearly three tons of cargo just delivered on the Progress 74 cargo craft. Russian Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov attached a sensor to himself to measure his cardiac activity before spending the rest of the day on lab maintenance.

Crew Unpacks New Science from U.S. and Russian Cargo Ships

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured approaching the space station (left) and after it was installed to the Harmony module (right) on Dec. 8, 2019.

Two new cargo spaceships are open for business at the International Space Station as a variety of new space research begins this week. The Expedition 61 crew has begun unpacking several tons new supplies from the U.S. and Russian space freighters.

Russia’s Progress 74 cargo craft automatically docked to the station’s Pirs docking compartment at 5:35 a.m. EST today after launching midday Friday. Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka opened the hatch shortly afterward and began retrieving critical research hardware for stowage on the orbiting lab.

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship arrived at the station on Sunday for a capture and installation with the Canadarm2 robotic arm to the U.S. Harmony module. Commander Luca Parmitano joined NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan and quickly unpacked brand new science gear and rodents for observation aboard the space station.

NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch worked throughout Monday juggling numerous science and cargo activities. She was offloading new Dragon supplies and housing lab rodents delivered aboard the U.S. cargo craft.

Meir and Morgan started Monday with ultrasound scans of their veins and eye pressure checks for the Fluid Shifts study. Meir with assistance from Koch in the afternoon installed a bone densitometer in Japan’s Kibo lab module that will measure bone loss in microgravity.