Pair of Cargo Ships Prepped for Departure

Expedition 42 Crew Members
(From left) Expedition 42 crew members Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineers Samantha Cristoforetti and Terry Virts talk to journalists from CNN Español and KUSA-TV in Denver, Colo.

There are three docked space freighters at the International Space Station and two are scheduled to depart this month. The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is being loaded with research and gear for return and analysis back on Earth. The Canadarm2 will detach Dragon from the Harmony module then release it for a splashdown Feb. 10 off the Pacific Coast of Baja California.

Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 (ATV-5) is being packed with trash and discarded gear and being readied for its departure Feb. 14. It will deorbit over the Pacific Ocean for a fiery destruction. This is Europe’s last ATV resupply mission to the space station.

A new ISS Progress 58 space freighter is scheduled for a six-hour flight to the station when it launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Feb. 17. It will occupy the same Zvezda docking port where the ATV-5 is located now.

Meanwhile, Commander Barry Wilmore and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti worked high-flying plumbing and maintenance on the International Space Station. Wilmore also prepared heater cables that will be installed on an upcoming spacewalk. Flight Engineer Terry Virts processed samples for a materials science experiment and removed hardware from the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus which is used to study cells, microbes and plants.

› Read more about the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-2)
› Read more about the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus

Pair of Space Freighters Packed for Departure

NASA and ESA Astronauts
(From left) Astronauts Barry Wilmore, Samantha Cristoforetti and Terry Virts pose for a portrait inside the Destiny laboratory.

A pair of docked space freighters is being loaded in preparation for next month’s departure activities. The ISS Progress 57 (57P) resupply ship is being packed with trash and discarded gear for a fiery disposal over the Pacific Ocean. The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is being loaded with experiment samples, spacesuit gear and other hardware to be returned to Earth when the ship splashes down off the Pacific coast of Baja California.

› Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission

The International Space Station is getting ready for another round of Cubesat deployments from outside Japan’s Kibo lab module. Meanwhile, inside the station the six-member Expedition 42 crew worked a wide array of microgravity science, spacewalk preparations and ongoing maintenance, keeping their orbital home safe and sound.

Astronauts Terry Virts and Samantha Cristoforetti worked in the Quest airlock readying tools for a trio of spacewalks set to begin in February. Those spacewalks will get the station wired and ready for two new spacecraft docking adapters to be installed later this year.

Virts and Wilmore Preparing for Trio of Spacewalks

Commander Barry Wilmore
Commander Barry Wilmore works on U.S. spacesuits inside the Quest airlock. Credit: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Terry Virts and Barry Wilmore are getting a pair of U.S. spacesuits ready for a set of spacewalks beginning in February. Throughout Tuesday in the Quest airlock, they recharged suit batteries and checked out fans and other suit components.

Virts also joined Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti transferring cargo to and from the SpaceX Dragon commercial space freighter. Dragon completed its delivery when it was captured and berthed to the Harmony module Jan. 12. It will return to Earth Feb. 10 filled with science and other gear for recovery in the Pacific Ocean.

› Read about when Dragon arrived

Another spacecraft attached to the International Space Station, Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 (ATV-5), will fire its engines Wednesday slightly lowering the station’s orbit. The lower altitude places the station at the correct altitude to receive the ISS Progress resupply craft when its launches Feb. 17. The ATV-5 will end its mission Feb. 14 when it undocks from the Zvezda service module for a fiery destruction over the Pacific.

› Read about when the ATV-5 arrived

Crew Studying Tiny Organisms to Understand Larger Organisms

Terry Virts and Alexander Samokutyaev
Astronaut Terry Virts (foreground) works inside the Destiny lab module as cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev floats past him. Credit: NASA TV

After a week of medical science activities, the space station residents began the new week focusing on worms, fruit flies and plants. The tiny organisms provide scientists a model for larger organisms and how microgravity affects such things as immunity, muscles and bones.

› Read more about the Epigenetics experiment
› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment

Botany science in space helps scientists understand how plant cells and roots develop potentially supporting future crews on long-term missions and interplanetary exploration. There are numerous plant studies taking place on the station that not only may support future space missions but possibly improve crop production techniques on Earth.

› Read more about the APEX-03 botany research

The Expedition 42 crew members also worked on cargo transfers to and from the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as well as the ISS Progress 57 space freighter. An array of routine maintenance tasks were on the schedule including high-flying plumbing, spacesuit battery recharges and science hardware set ups.

Robotic Arms Move CATS While Crew Studies Life Science

Kibo and CATS Installation
The Japanese robotic arm installs the CATS experiment on an external platform on Japan’s Kibo lab module. The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is seen at the right center of the image. Credit: NASA TV

Ground controllers overnight remotely guided the Canadarm2, with its Dextre robotic hand attached, to deftly remove the CATS experiment from the SpaceX Dragon trunk. They then handed it off to the Japanese robotic arm for installation on the Kibo laboratory’s external platform. CATS, or Cloud-Aerosol Transport System, will collect data on the pollution, dust, smoke, aerosols and other particulates in Earth’s atmosphere to understand their impacts on global climate and create a better model of the climate feedback process.

› Read more about CATS

Back inside the International Space Station, the Expedition 42 crew worked on an array of new and ongoing science and continued unpacking Dragon. There were eye exams as well as research into the effects of long stays in space on the human T-cells, which are a critical part of our immune system.

› Read more about the Ocular Health study
› Read more about the T-Cell Activation in Aging study

The crew also looked at how certain materials behave in space for the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-2 (CSLM-2) experiment, which offers potential benefits for consumer and industrial products. In addition, they checked on the station’s fruit flies, which are also monitored by scientists studying their immune system as a model for a crew member susceptibility to disease in space.

› Read more about CSLM-2
› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment

Crew Works Botany and Physics as Robotic Arm Preps New Experiment

Kibo Laboratory
The new CATS experiment delivered by the SpaceX commercial cargo craft will be installed on a platform outside Japan’s Kibo Laboratory module. Credit: NASA

The six-member Expedition 42 crew worked Dragon cargo transfers and science on the International Space Station Wednesday.

Commander Barry Wilmore conducted botany research and harvested plants grown for the Advanced Plant Experiments-03-1 (APEX-03-1). The thale cress plants are photographed and preserved in a science freezer for analysis on the ground.

› Read more about APEX-03-1

NASA astronaut Terry Virts processed samples for the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-2 (CSLM-2) experiment, which studies the processes that occur in materials for consumer and industrial products. He later unpacked more gear from inside Dragon.

› Read more about CSLM-2

Ground controllers are preparing the Canadarm2 and Dextre to remove the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) experiment from Dragon’s exposed trunk and install it on a platform on the outside of Japan’s Kibo laboratory. CATS will observe aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere to understand the impacts to global climate and create a better model of the climate feedback process.

› Read more about CATS

Specialists Discuss Spacesuit Work, Crew Investigates ATV Odor

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti
Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti works with the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment delivered Jan. 12, 2015 aboard the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft. Credit: NASA TV
› Read more about the experiment

Ground controllers have completed troubleshooting work after last week’s false alarm indicating an ammonia leak. Heat exchangers and thermal control systems on the U.S. side of the International Space Station have been recovered and reintegrated and are operating in excellent shape.

Commander Barry Wilmore was scrubbing cooling loops on a U.S. spacesuit when he heard an abnormally loud fan pump separator in the suit. He alerted spacesuit engineers who are currently discussing the problem on the ground.

Crew members over the weekend noticed a bad odor coming from Europe’s docked Automated Transfer Vehicle and closed its hatch. European controllers then performed waste tank leak checks and didn’t find any leak indications. Flight Engineer Alexander Samokutyaev is set to reenter the vehicle wearing a respirator mask to investigate.

Crew Back at Work Studying Immune System in Space

Astronaut Terry Virts
Astronaut Terry Virts works inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for the Micro-5 experiment. Credit: NASA TV

The International Space Station residents were back at work Thursday after an ammonia leak indication sent the crew over to the Russian segment. Flight controllers determined there was no leak and NASA managers allowed the crew to resume normal activities and open the U.S. segment back up.

This week, the orbital residents kicked off several new experiments delivered Monday morning aboard the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft. Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti worked in Japan’s Kibo lab module feeding fruit flies for an experiment that will observe how long-term microgravity affects the immune system. NASA astronaut Terry Virts set up bacteria kits inside the Destiny lab’s Microgravity Science Glovebox for an experiment that explores the risk of infectious disease in space.

› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment
› Read more about the Micro-5 experiment

Manager of NASA’s Station Program Discusses Alarm

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The six-member Expedition 42 crew is safe in the Russian segment of the International Space Station after an alarm went off in the U.S. segment of the orbital laboratory Wednesday morning.

Flight controllers are seeing no direct evidence of an ammonia leak and are exploring the likelihood a faulty sensor or computer relay set off the alarm.

NASA’s International Space Station Program Manager Mike Suffredini sat down with Public Affairs Officer Dan Huot to discuss today’s events. Suffredini described the crew’s response and how this morning’s situation unfolded. Watch the interview above.

Space Station Update

The Expedition 42 crew members are safe and in good shape inside the Russian segment of the International Space Station following an alarm in the U.S. segment at about 4 a.m. EST.

The crew received an update from spacecraft communicator James Kelly that it’s starting to look like a false indication, either a faulty sensor or computer relay. Flight controllers are continuing to analyze the situation but for now, there is still no direct evidence that ammonia was leaked into the station atmosphere.

› Listen to the update from spacecraft communicator James Kelly here