Astronauts Prepare for Japanese Cargo Ship Departure

Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA monitors the arrival of the H-II Transfer Vehicle-7
Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA monitors the arrival of the H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7) before it was captured during Expedition 56 by Commander Drew Feustel operating the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

A pair of Expedition 57 astronauts trained for the release of a Japanese resupply ship Wednesday after a 41-day mission at the International Space Station. Japan’s seventh cargo ship, H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7), has one more mission though after it departs the orbital lab.

If all goes as planned, astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the HTV-7, also called the Kounotori, Wednesday at 11:50 a.m. EST. Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor will back up Gerst in the cupola monitoring the vehicle and its telemetry as it slowly backs away from the space station. The two astronauts reviewed departure procedures and practiced robotics controls on a computer today. NASA TV will broadcast live the space freighter’s departure beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Kounotori was captured Sept. 27 and delivered external station batteries and hardware to be configured during a pair of upcoming spacewalks. The resupply ship also replenished the station with advanced science experiments and equipment to benefit humans on Earth and in space.

However, it has one more payload to deliver for splashdown on Earth before the vehicle burns up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean. The HTV-7 will release a small reentry capsule packed with test cargo for retrieval by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The splashdown mission is a test of JAXA’s ability to return small payloads from space for quick delivery to researchers on Earth.

Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev worked on science and maintenance tasks throughout Monday in the orbital lab’s Russian segment. He started out researching how the space environment and solar radiation affects plasma-dust crystals. Prokopyev finished up his day photographing the condition of the Zvezda service module interior panels before disposing of obsolete hardware in the Progress 70 resupply ship.

Rocket Investigation Complete; Russia, Japan Announce Mission Updates

The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft launched Oct. 11, 2018
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft launched Oct. 11, 2018, with Expedition 57 crew members Nick Hague of NASA and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos. During the Soyuz spacecraft’s climb to orbit, an anomaly occurred, resulting in an abort downrange. The crew was quickly recovered in good condition.

NASA is working closely with its International Space Station partner Roscosmos to move forward on crew launch plans. Roscosmos plans to launch the Progress 71 resupply mission on Nov. 16, and is targeting the launch of the Expedition 58 crew including NASA astronaut Anne McClain for Dec. 3, pending the outcome of the flight readiness review.

Roscosmos completed an investigation into the loss of a Soyuz rocket last month that led to a suspension of Russian rocket launches to the station. One of four first stage rocket engines abnormally separated and hit the second stage rocket that led to the loss of stabilization of the Soyuz on Oct. 11. A statement from Roscosmos describes the cause…

“The reason for the abnormal separation is the non-opening of the nozzle cap of the “D” block oxidizer tank because of the deformation of the stem of the separation contact sensor (bending on 6 ˚ 45 ‘), which was admitted when assembling the “package” at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The cause of the LV accident is of operational nature and extends to the backlog of the “Soyuz” type LV “package”.”

Japan also announced today the release of its H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7) resupply ship, also called the Kounotori, from the station’s Harmony module. Commander Alexander Gerst will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Kounotori Nov. 7 at 10:50 a.m. EDT as Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor supports him.

Physics, Combustion and Biology Science Ahead of Station’s 20th Anniversary

The International Space Station
The International Space Station was pictured Oct. 4, 2018, from the departing Expedition 56 crew during a flyaround aboard the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft. Credit: Roscosmos/NASA

The three Expedition 57 crew members from the United States, Germany and Russia will soon be observing the 20th anniversary of the launch of the International Space Station’s first module. On Nov. 20, 1998, the Zarya cargo module was launched aboard a Russian rocket and placed into orbit beginning the era of station assembly.

In the meantime, the crew orbiting Earth since June worked on a variety of advanced science hardware today. The trio ensured the safe and ongoing research into combustion, physics and biology in microgravity to benefit humans on Earth and in space.

NASA Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor swapped cartridge holders inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) that explores what happens to materials exposed to extremely high temperatures. The device located in Japan’s Kibo lab module measures the thermo-physical properties of samples that are melted and solidified and difficult to observe on the ground.

Commander Alexander Gerst from ESA (European Space Agency) worked on the new Life Sciences Glovebox launched to the space station aboard a Japanese cargo ship at the end of September. He is configuring the biology research facility for service inside the Kibo lab.

Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev worked inside the U.S. Destiny lab module replacing the Combustion Integrated Rack’s (CIR) fuel bottles.  The CIR has been enabling research and observations into how fuels and flames burn in space on the orbital lab for over ten years. Results may guide the development of rocket engines and fire safety aboard spacecraft.

Crew Studies How Space Impacts Brain and Perception

The International Space Station
The International Space Station was pictured Oct. 4, 2018, from the departing Expedition 56 crew during a flyaround aboard the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft. Credit: Roscosmos/NASA

A pair of Expedition 57 astronauts spent the day exploring how humans think and work while living long-term in space. A cosmonaut also tested a pair of tiny, free-floating satellites operating inside the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor is helping doctors on the ground understand if an astronaut’s brain structure and mental abilities change in space. She took part in a behavioral assessment test today that involves the mental imaging of rotating objects, target accuracy during motion or stillness and concentrating on two tasks at the same time. The NeuroMapping experiment, which has been ongoing since 2014, is exploring an astronaut’s neuro-cognitive abilities before, during and after a spaceflight.

Scientists are also learning how an astronaut’s nervous system may be impacted by different gravitational environments such as the moon, asteroids or planets. The GRIP study from ESA (European Space Agency) is exploring how space residents interact with objects by monitoring their grip and load forces.

Commander Alexander Gerst from Germany strapped himself into a specialized seat in the Columbus lab module for the GRIP study today. He performed several motions in the seat while gripping a device collecting data measuring cognition, grip force and movement kinematics.

Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev set up the bowling ball-sized SPHERES satellites for a test run inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. The SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) are used for a variety of experiments including autonomous formation-flying, shipping liquids such as fuels and introducing students to spacecraft navigation techniques.

Spacesuits and High-Temp, Fire Science Focus of Crew Today

The three-member Expedition 57 crew
Official crew portrait of Expedition 57 crew members (from left) Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos.

U.S. spacesuits and hot, fiery research kept the Expedition 57 crew busy Friday. The three-member crew from around the world also continued the ongoing upkeep of the International Space Station’s systems.

A pair of spacesuits inside the Quest airlock had their cooling loops scrubbed today by station Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency). The suit maintenance comes ahead of a pair of spacewalks being planned to connect new lithium-ion batteries on the space station’s port truss structure.

Fellow flight engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos worked on advanced science hardware. The two devices, the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) and the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR), enable the safe research of high temperatures, flames and gases.

Auñón-Chancellor cleaned up the ELF inside the Kibo lab module after removing samples exposed to extremely high temperatures. Scientists are observing how microgravity affects the thermophysical properties of a variety materials at different temperatures.

Prokopyev worked in the Destiny lab module replacing fuel bottles for experiments inside the CIR researching how fuels and flames burn in space. Results may guide the development of rocket engines and fire safety aboard spacecraft.

Plant Science and Solar Array Photos as Station Nears Milestone

The Aurora and the Starry Night
The aurora and the night sky above Earth’s atmosphere are pictured from the space station. A portion of the station’s solar arrays and a pair of nitrogen/oxygen recharge system tanks are pictured in the foreground.

Botany science and solar array photography were on the Expedition 57 crew’s schedule today including ongoing maintenance of the orbital lab. The research and photo surveys help scientists and engineers understand how life and International Space Station systems adapt to microgravity.

Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor is helping NASA and its international partners understand how plants grow in microgravity to promote humans living longer and farther in space. She set up the Veggie plant growth facility today to grow a variety of edible plants such as kale and lettuce inside Europe’s Columbus lab module. Botanists are also exploring how cultivating plants to provide a fresh food supply affects crew morale.

Commander Alexander Gerst started his day familiarizing himself with the botany experiment. The German astronaut from of ESA (European Space Agency) then worked throughout the day photo-documenting the station’s port side solar arrays. The photos will be downloaded so ground specialists can inspect the condition of the arrays for damage sites.

On the Russian side of the space lab, cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev checked on power supply systems inside the Zarya cargo module before moving on to science and life support work. Zarya was the first station module launched into space and will reach its 20th anniversary on Nov. 20.

Station Preps for Japan, US Ship Operations Next Month

The H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7) from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
The H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7) from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is viewed from one of seven windows inside the cupola, the International Space Station’s “window to the world.” The orbital complex was flying at an altitude of about 257 miles off the coast of Canada above the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The International Space Station is getting ready for Japanese and U.S. cargo ship operations next month. In the meantime, the three residents onboard the orbital lab today configured science hardware and checked out safety gear.

Serena Auñón-Chancellor from NASA worked in the Japanese Kibo laboratory today replacing gear inside a Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack (MSPR). The MSPR provides a workspace that supplies power and video enabling research into a variety of smaller experiments. She spent the majority of the day working on video cable connections and swapping out a computer in the MSPR.

She and Commander Commander Alexander Gerst started Tuesday practicing wearing and using breathing gear connected to an oxygen port in the event of a space emergency. Gerst then helped out with the MSPR work before the duo moved on to packing Japan’s HTV-7 resupply ship.

Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos worked out on a treadmill today to help Russian scientists understand how the human body is impacted by exercise in microgravity. He then spent the afternoon on computer and life support maintenance.

The HTV-7 is being packed before its removal from the Harmony module with the Canadarm2 and released back into Earth. However, the vehicle has one more mission before its fiery destruction over the Pacific Ocean. The HTV-7 will also release a small reentry capsule for recovery in the Pacific Ocean by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The recovery mission is a test of the Japanese space agency’s ability to retrieve experiment samples safely and quickly from the station.

An American cargo ship is due to replenish the Expedition 57 crew a few days after the HTV-7 leaves. Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter will take a three-day trip in space before it is captured with the Canadarm2 and berthed to the Unity module. Cygnus will stay attached to the station for 86 days of cargo operations.

Genetics, Vision and Earth Studies Aboard Station Today

The Northern European countries of Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Poland
The International Space Station was orbiting 257 miles above the English Channel when this photograph was taken of the Northern European countries of Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Poland. Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-7, or HTV-7 resupply ship, is pictured at right attached the Harmony module.

Three Expedition 57 crew members are orbiting Earth today researching RNA sequencing and eye health aboard the International Space Station. The trio from the U.S., Germany and Russia also replaced combustion research hardware and activated Earth observation gear.

Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor from NASA is helping scientists identify microbes and understand how their genetics change in space. She extracted and processed microbial samples today from swabbed station surfaces for later genetic sequencing using specialized hardware. Results will also help researchers observe how life adapts to the weightlessness of microgravity.

Auñón-Chancellor then observed and photographed samples for a protein crystal study to help doctors improve the development of disease-treating drugs. She then joined Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) for eye scans with an ultrasound device to learn how long-term missions affect vision.

Gerst started his day in the U.S. Destiny lab module replacing hardware inside the Combustion Integrated Rack that enables gas and flame studies. He later wrapped up the workday photographing how quartz and clay particles sediment in space.

Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos worked inside the Unity module setting up Earth photography gear for the long-running EarthKAM experiment. The study enables school students to remotely operate the station digital camera to photograph and download imagery of Earth landmarks such as coastlines and mountains.

Liquid and Flame Science Work amid Japanese, Russian Maintenance

The Soyuz MS-09 crew ship (foreground) and the Progress 70 resupply ship
Two Russian spacecraft, the Soyuz MS-09 crew ship (foreground) and the Progress 70 resupply ship, are pictured docked to the International Space Station as the orbital complex orbited nearly 257 miles above Ukraine.

Two Expedition 57 astronauts are working to understand what happens to fluids being transported by spacecraft today. Another crew member also worked on combustion science gear as well as Japanese and Russian systems.

Fluid physics and combustion research on the International Space Station helps scientists understand how well-known phenomena on Earth behaves in microgravity. For instance, fluids sloshing around inside fuel tanks can impact how a spaceship steers in space. The way flames burn and create soot in space can also create safety issues for crews.

Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) explored how fluids affect spacecraft maneuvers today. The duo set up a pair of tiny mobile satellites known as SPHERES for the test inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. The SPHERES Tether Slosh experiment is observing what happens when the satellites tow a liquid-filled tank versus a solid mass body with a Kevlar tether.

Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack in the afternoon and replaced manifold bottles that contain gases for flame experiments. The flight engineer also packed items for disposal on a Japanese cargo ship and checked on Russian ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Hague Back in Houston, Station Crew Works Science and Cargo

Celestial view of Earth's atmospheric glow and the Milky Way
The International Space Station was orbiting about 256 miles above South Australia when a camera on board the orbital complex captured this celestial view of Earth’s atmospheric glow and the Milky Way.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague is safe and sound and back in Houston after last week’s mission to the International Space Station was aborted during ascent. Meanwhile, the three orbiting Expedition 57 crew members continue ongoing research, maintenance and cargo packing.

Hague returned to Houston Saturday following his emergency landing shortly after launch in the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft in Kazakhstan on Thursday. He and fellow Soyuz crew member Alexey Ovchinin were flown back to Moscow after medical checks in Kazakhstan then returned home to their families.

Back in space, two astronauts Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Commander Alexander Gerst and worked on a variety of life support and science experiments today. The duo also partnered up for cargo operations inside JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) HTV-7 resupply ship.

Auñón-Chancellor started her day testing the performance of battery life in space for the Zero G Battery Test experiment. Gerst was activating and checking out a life support rack to ensure good carbon dioxide and water management in the device.

Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev worked throughout Monday on life support maintenance in the station’s Russian segment. The Russian flight engineer also ran on a treadmill in the Zvezda service module for an experiment observing how microgravity impacts exercise.