Astronauts Wrap Up Preps for Friday Spacewalk

Astronaut Peggy Whitson
Astronaut Peggy Whitson works on a U.S. spacesuit inside the Quest airlock.

Two Expedition 50 astronauts are in final preparations for the first of two power maintenance spacewalks that starts Friday at 7 a.m. EST. Astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson will stow and replace power gear during the first 6.5 hour spacewalk. The duo will work near the solar arrays on the starboard truss segment.

The two spacewalkers will be assisted by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet and cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy from inside the International Space Station. Pesquet will conduct the second spacewalk Jan. 13 with Kimbrough to wrap up the battery installation work. The majority of the complex power upgrade work was done by controllers on the ground remotely using the Canadarm2 robotic arm and hand.

The three cosmonauts worked on an array of station maintenance tasks and advanced space experiments. Cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov researched how blood flow and respiration is affected by living in space. Novitskiy explored the station’s magnetic field and how it affects navigation.

Astronauts Getting Ready for Friday Spacewalk

Astronaut Peggy Whitson
Astronaut Peggy Whitson is pictured during her last spacewalk which took place nine years ago in January 2008.

The crew is getting ready for a pair of spacewalks scheduled for this Friday and next Friday to upgrade the International Space Station’s power system. The two spacewalks will take place on the station’s right-side, or starboard, truss structure to replace and install new power equipment.

Commander Shane Kimbrough and NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will step outside for the first power maintenance spacewalk Friday at 7 a.m. EST. Kimbrough will be joined by European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet the following Friday for the second spacewalk. The three astronauts are reviewing spacewalk procedures, collecting tools and configuring cameras in the U.S. Quest airlock today.

Robotics controllers remotely removed nickel-hydrogen batteries and installed new lithium-ion batteries on the starboard-4 truss over the holidays and into the New Year. The robotics work sets up the power maintenance work the spacewalkers will perform including replacing adapter plates and relocating the old batteries.

The three astronauts and their fellow cosmonauts still had time for a variety of science work and standard orbital maintenance. Kimbrough and Whitson explored how microgravity affects body shape and impacts suit sizing. Pesquet joined Andrey Borisenko and set up tiny internal satellites known as SPHERES for an upcoming student competition. Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Oleg Novitskiy checked Russian life support systems.

Robotics Work Starts Station Power Upgrade Before Spacewalks

Kounotori HTV-6
Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle is seen with the Earth behind it.

In a remarkable demonstration of robotic prowess, ground controllers used the Canadian-built “Dextre” Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator over the weekend to install three new lithium-ion batteries in the International Space Station’s 3A power channel Integrated Electronics Assembly (IEA) pallet on the starboard 4 truss. Dextre also removed four old nickel-hydrogen batteries from the IEA, three of which were stowed on the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle’s external pallet to wrap up the first act of a complex procedure to upgrade the station’s power system. A fourth old battery was temporarily stowed on a platform on Dextre.

This clears the way for the first of two spacewalks Friday in which Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA will install three adapter plates in slots on the IEA to which three of the old nickel-hydrogen batteries will be mounted to remain on the ISS but will be dormant. In all, nine nickel-hydrogen batteries will be stowed on the external pallet for disposal when the HTV is deorbited to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere late this month.

Three additional new lithium-ion batteries flown to the ISS aboard the HTV will be robotically installed in the starboard truss’ 1A power channel Integrated Electronics Assembly between Friday’s spacewalk and a second spacewalk scheduled Jan. 13 for Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency. Five additional nickel-hydrogen batteries will be removed robotically from the IEA prior to the second spacewalk.

A briefing to preview the two spacewalks and to review all of the robotics work will be broadcast on NASA Television on Wednesday, Jan. 4 at 2 p.m. Eastern time.


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Crew Heads into Christmas Weekend with Spacewalk Preps

Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA
Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA sent holiday greetings and festive imagery from the Japanese Kibo laboratory module on Dec. 18.

The six-member Expedition 50 crew from France, Russia and the U.S. is heading into the holiday weekend with spacesuit checks and eye studies. The international crew will share a Christmas meal, enjoy a light-duty weekend and take Dec. 26 off.

Commander Shane Kimbrough scrubbed cooling loops and tested the water in a pair of U.S. spacesuits today. Kimbrough and Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet are getting ready for a pair of spacewalks on Jan. 6 and 13. The spacewalks, in conjunction with remote robotics work, will complete the replacement of old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries on the station’s truss structure.

Whitson, who is spending her second Christmas in space, and Pesquet drew blood, urine and saliva samples for the Fluid Shifts study. That experiment investigates the upward flow of body fluids in space potentially causing lasting vision changes in astronauts.

In the Russian segment of the International Space Station, the three cosmonauts primarily worked on maintenance tasks and science work. Oleg Novitskiy worked on communications gear and experimented with space photography techniques. Sergey Ryzhikov worked on water transfers and a cardiac study. Andrey Borisenko worked on life support equipment before studying how a crew member learns to orient themselves in microgravity.

Astronauts Study How Lack of Gravity Impacts Muscles

Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Shane Kimbrough
Expedition 50 crew members Peggy Whitson (left) and Shane Kimbrough of NASA (right) share fresh fruit that was recently delivered by the HTV-6 cargo vehicle to the International Space Station.

The crew wrapped up part of a muscle research program today while continuing other experiments to study the effects of living in space. Also, a new CubeSat deployer was installed in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.

Scientists want to understand how the lack of gravity impacts muscles that aren’t used due to working in the microgravity environment. The Sarcolab experiment is one study that measures how the calf muscle changes in space using an ultrasound and electrode stimulators. The first part of that experiment was completed today as its gear was stowed and data downlinked for analysis on Earth.

The station residents also explored how astronauts adapt to spaceflight conditions, the effects of a long-term mission on the human circulatory system and how charged particles behave in a magnetic field.

An enhanced small satellite deployer was installed in the Kibo module replacing an older model that deployed its last CubeSat on Monday. The new CubeSat deployer has twice the satellite deployment capacity than the previous version. CubeSats scheduled for release from the new deployer will study a variety of space phenomena and enable advanced satellite communications.

Muscle Research and Space Emergency Drill for Crew

Commander Shane Kimbrough
Commander Shane Kimbrough rests in between a pair of U.S. spacesuits inside the Quest airlock.

The Expedition 50 crew is exploring a wide variety of phenomena today to understand the effects of living and working in space. Results from the advanced space research aboard the International Space Station has the potential to benefit humans on Earth and astronauts on long-term missions.

Two first-time space flyers, Sergey Ryzhikov from Russia and Thomas Pesquet from France, partnered again today for the Sarcolab muscle study. The duo used an ultrasound scanner and electrodes to measure and stimulate the knee muscles for possible muscle loss due to microgravity.

Commander Shane Kimbrough and NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson continued more maintenance work on the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace, a combustion research device that enables high temperature science. Whitson then worked on the Packed Bed Reactor Experiment gear that observes the behavior of gases and liquids.

Whitson and Pesquet later joined their Soyuz crewmate Oleg Novitskiy for a medical emergency drill. The three Expedition 50-51 crew members reviewed CPR procedures, medical hardware and their roles and responsibilities.


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Human Research and Emergency Drill Week Before Christmas

Docked Soyuz and Progress Spacecraft
The docked Soyuz and Progress spacecraft are seen as the International Space Station orbited over the southern continent of Africa. Credit: Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

The six Expedition 50 crew members from France, Russia and the United States are heading into the final holidays of the year with a muscle study and Earth observations today. The astronauts also checked out fluids and combustion science gear and practiced an emergency escape drill.

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet measured his muscle and tendon response today with assistance from Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov. Pesquet used an ultrasound while wearing electrode stimulators around his right calf muscle. The Sarcolab experiment from the European Space Agency seeks to define which muscles are used and not used when living in space.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson worked on replacing gear inside an integrated rack facility that contains two racks. One rack, the Fluids Integrated Rack, studies how fluids behave in space. The other rack, Combustion Integrated Rack, enables the safe research into how flames behave and materials burn in space.

Commander Shane Kimbrough swapped sample cartridges inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace which enables the observation of the levitation, melting and solidification materials. At the end of the workday, he joined his Soyuz crewmates Ryzhikov and veteran cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko for an emergency Soyuz descent drill. The trio practiced the escape routes and procedures they would use in the unlikely event they would need to evacuate the station aboard the Soyuz spacecraft.

New Japanese Gear Installed, New European Experiment Started

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Shane Kimbrough
Astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Shane Kimbrough work inside the cupola module to robotically capture the Japanese HTV-6 cargo craft.

External and internal cargo is currently being unloaded from Japan’s sixth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-6) to visit the International Space Station. The Expedition 50 commander also talked to students on Earth today and helped the rest of the crew with space research and orbital lab maintenance.

Commander Shane Kimbrough continued unpacking gear and fresh food delivered in the HTV-6 day. Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson installed a new small satellite deployer delivered on the Japanese resupply ship inside the Kibo lab module. Kimbrough also spent a few minutes during his workday answering questions uplinked live from Nantucket New School students in Massachusetts this morning.

European Space Agency Thomas Pesquet astronaut looked at a new method for water recycling in space called AquaMembrane. Pesquet also joined Kimbrough and Whitson in the afternoon for eye and retina checks as part of the Ocular Health study.

Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko partnered throughout the day on Russian communication gear maintenance tasks. Veteran cosmonaut and second-time station resident Oleg Novitskiy worked on various science experiments studying how weightlessness affects respiration and the remote control of rovers on another planet from a spacecraft.

Crew Begins Unloading Japanese Cargo Ship

Japan's HTV-6 cargo craft
Japan’s HTV-6 cargo craft is pictured moments before it was grappled by Canada’s 57.7-foot-long robotic arm Tuesday morning.

Robotic officers in Mission Control, Houston maneuvered the Canadarm2 robotic arm overnight to extract a pallet from the newly-arrived Japanese HTV-6 cargo ship containing new batteries for the station’s power supply.  The batteries will replace older batteries on the starboard truss through a series of robotic operations and spacewalks planned through mid-January.

The hatch to the HTV-6 resupply vehicle was opened Tuesday just a few hours after it arrived and was installed to the International Space Station. The Expedition 50 crew began unloading supplies from the vehicle shortly afterward.

For more information on previous HTV missions from JAXA to the space station visit:

While cargo transfers were under way the six-member crew also worked on analyzing water samples, installing new science gear, continuing ongoing research and maintaining station systems. The orbital residents also reviewed procedures in the unlikely event of an emergency with the HTV-6 attached to the station.

Commander Shane Kimbrough began work to install a new Japanese experiment that measures space radiation and the exposure risk to astronauts. ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet explored new technologies to analyze water samples for microbes. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson researched how astronauts work with touch-based devices and repair sensitive equipment.

Cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy studied plasma physics then moved onto testing the remote control of rovers on another planet from a spacecraft. Flight Engineer Sergey Ryzhikov gathered radiation detectors for the Matryeshka-Bubble experiment. Veteran cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko worked throughout the station’s Russian segment on maintenance task.


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Japan’s “White Stork” Spacecraft Installed on Station

Dec. 13 Space Station Configuration
Japan’s HTV-6 cargo craft is installed to the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port. There are now four spacecraft parked at the International Space Station, including two Soyuz crew vehicles and one Progress resupply ship. Credit: NASA

Ground controllers successfully installed the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Kounotori 6 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-6) to the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Harmony module at 8:57 a.m. EST.

The spacecraft’s arrival supports the crew members’ research off the Earth to benefit the Earth. The cargo spacecraft began its trip on an H-IIB rocket at 8:26 a.m. EST (10:26 p.m. Japan time) on Friday, Dec. 9 from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.

The early Tuesday morning cargo delivery includes more than 4.5 tons of supplies, water, spare parts and experiment hardware.

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For more information on previous HTV missions from JAXA to the space station visit:


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