Science Work, Spacewalk Preps as New Crew Readies for Launch

Typhoon Soudelor
ISS044E030713 (08/05/2015) — Typhoon Soudelor photographed from the International Space Station on Aug. 5, 2015 while the storm was traveling in the western Pacific. The Soyuz TMA-17M (left) and the Progress 60 (right) cargo craft are visible.

The Expedition 44 crew members continued a wide variety of science experiments Friday as a pair of cosmonauts prepared for a spacewalk Monday morning. On the ground, a new Soyuz crew is preparing for their mission to swap a pair of station residents in September.

One-Year crew member Scott Kelly set up free-floating microsatellites for the long-running SPHERES-Slosh experiment which observes how liquids such as rocket fuel behave in space. New station residents Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui explored vision changes in space as they scanned each other’s eyes with an ultrasound and measured their blood pressure for the Ocular Health study.

Spacewalkers Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko tested their spacesuits Friday. The cosmonauts will spend 6-1/2 hours upgrading hardware, retrieving an external experiment and photographing the exterior condition of the Russian modules.

In Russia, three new Soyuz crew members completed a series of mission simulations ahead of their departure to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan. Veteran cosmonaut Sergei Volkov will command the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft when he launches Sept. 2 with fellow crew members Andreas Mogensen and Aidyn Aimbetov. Volkov will swap places with Padalka who will return to Earth Sept. 12 with Mogensen and Aimbetov.

Biomedical Studies and Russian Spacewalk Preps for International Crew

Astronaut Kjell Lindgren
Astronaut Kjell Lindgren floats through the Destiny lab module.

The International Space Station crew worked a variety of biomedical experiments in the midst of preparations for Monday’s spacewalk. Meanwhile on the ground, a new Soyuz crew is getting ready for its launch next month to the orbital laboratory.

The orbiting crew took part in studies observing how the human body adapts to weightlessness during long duration missions in space. Scientists are looking at how astronauts interact with touch-based technologies and repair sensitive equipment for the Fine Motor Skills experiment. The crew also participated in ultrasound scans for the Sprint study to help doctors explore new experiment techniques for improving crew productivity.

A pair of cosmonauts are getting the station’s Russian segment and their tools ready for Monday’s six-hour spacewalk. They will replace external experiments and photograph the exterior condition of the Russian modules.

Back on Earth, three new Soyuz crew members are conducting mission simulations before their departure to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site on Aug. 18. Soyuz Commander Sergei Volkov and Flight Engineers Andreas Mogensen and Aidyn Aimbetov will launch aboard the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft Sept. 2.

Orbiting Trio at Work While New Crew Awaits July 22 Launch

Expedition 43 Lands in Soyuz
201506110001HQ — The Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 43. Credit: Bill Ingalls

Three Expedition 43 crew members are readapting to Earth’s gravity after returning home Thursday morning. The trio still onboard the International Space Station is working advanced microgravity science, orbital maintenance and exercise to remain fit and counter the effects of living in space.

Expedition 44 started early Thursday morning after the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft undocked from the Rassvet module. NASA astronaut Terry Virts, ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov parachuted to a landing in Kazakhstan a few hours later.

Remaining in space and waiting for a new crew are cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. Kornienko and Kelly are the One-Year crew members and Padalka is the new Expedition 44 commander.

The orbiting trio looked ways to improve performance in space with the Sprint experiment. They also explored methods to detect pressure leaks and radiation in the space station for the Bar and Matroyshka experiments.

Russian mission managers have chosen July 22 as the launch date for three new Expedition 44 crew members. Soyuz TMA-17M Commander Oleg Kononenko will be joined by astronauts Kjell Lindgren from NASA and Kimiya Yui from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency for the ride to space and return home in December.

Watch NASA TV Now for Soyuz Deorbit Burn and Landing

Expedition 43 Trio
Expedition 43 crew members (from left) Samantha Cristoforetti, Anton Shkaplerov and Terry Virts are pictured at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia in October 2014.

NASA Television coverage is again underway for today’s homecoming of International Space Station Commander Terry Virts of NASA and Flight Engineers Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) and Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos. The crew undocked from the station at 6:20 a.m. EDT, and they are on track for landing in their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft at 9:43 a.m., southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Watch on NASA TV at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv.

At this time, no concerns or issues are being worked. The timeline through landing is:

8:51 a.m.                    Soyuz TMA-15M deorbit burn (4 minutes, 35 seconds duration)
8:55 a.m.                    Soyuz deorbit burn complete
9:18 a.m.                    Soyuz module separation (altitude 87 miles)
9:20 a.m.                    Soyuz atmospheric entry (altitude 62 miles)
9:23 a.m.                    Command to open parachute (6.5 miles)
9:43 a.m.                    Expedition 43 Soyuz TMA-14M landing southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan

Last Full Day in Space for Expedition 43 as Station Changes Command

Expedition 43 Change of Command Ceremony
Astronaut Terry Virts (left foreground) ceremoniously hands over command of the International Space Station to cosmonaut Gennady Padalka (right foreground). Credit: NASA TV

Three Expedition 43 crew members are busy preparing for their homecoming during their last full day in space. Commander Terry Virts ceremoniously handed over control of the International Space Station this morning to veteran cosmonaut Gennady Padalka.

Virts and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti will end their stay tomorrow at 6:20 a.m. EDT when they undock from the Rassvet module. The trio in their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 9:43 a.m. after 199 days in space. NASA TV will cover the undocking and landing activities live.

Science, the main purpose of the space station, is still ongoing today as One-Year crew member Scott Kelly collected his urine and saliva samples for the Twins study. Scientists are comparing his body in weightlessness with his Earth-bound identical twin brother and ex-astronaut Mark Kelly.

Thrusters on a Soyuz spacecraft inadvertently fired Tuesday morning momentarily changing the station’s orientation. Russian flight controllers quickly corrected the situation and the crew was never in any danger nor is there any impact on the Expedition 43 undocking Thursday morning.

Astronaut Scott Kelly
Astronaut and One-Year crew member Scott Kelly talks to the press Wednesday morning from the Quest joint airlock. Credit: NASA TV

Station Orientation Back on Track

The International Space
S129-E-009326 (25 Nov. 2009) — The International Space Station is seen with parts of the Mediterranean Sea and Africa and Spain in the background.

Today at 10:27 a.m. Central time during the routine testing of communications systems between the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft and the International Space Station (ISS), Soyuz thrusters activated inadvertently which led to a slight change in the orientation of the ISS. Actions were immediately taken to reorient the ISS. There was no threat to the crew or the station itself, and the issue will have no impact to a nominal return to Earth of the Soyuz TMA-15M on Thursday. Roscosmos specialists are determining the cause of the incident. Once more information is known, additional information will be provided.​

Roscosmos Announces New Soyuz/Progress Launch Dates

The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft launches
201503280003hq (03/27/2015) — The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft launches to the International Space Station. Photo Credit (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Station managers from Roscosmos have announced new Soyuz and Progress spacecraft launch dates through the end of the year. Meanwhile, the six member Expedition 43 crew on orbit has a packed schedule of homecoming preparations, science and maintenance.

Three Soyuz crew missions to the International Space Station have been given new launch dates. The next Soyuz mission carrying three Expedition 44/45 crew members is scheduled sometime between July 23 and 25. A Soyuz taxi flight that will bring up Flight Engineer Sergey Volkov and return Commander Gennady Padalka is scheduled for launch Sept. 1. Volkov will be accompanied by European astronaut Andres Mogensen and a third crew member yet to be announced. The Expedition 46/47 trio will launch Dec. 15.

Three Progress cargo missions were also rescheduled. The first resupply mission is set for July 3 and the next two are planned for Sept. 21 and Nov. 21.

In space, Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti are packing their Soyuz TMA-15M and getting ready for Thursday’s undocking and landing. The homebound trio will undock at 6:20 a.m. EDT and land in Kazakhstan at 9:43 a.m.

A wide array of experiment work that observes how humans adapt to living in space took place Tuesday. One-Year crew member Scott Kelly collected his saliva and blood samples for the Twins study. Scientists are comparing his body in weightlessness with his Earth-bound identical twin brother and ex-astronaut Mark Kelly. The crew prepared for ultrasound scans so they could explore cardiovascular health before, during and after a space mission for the Cardio Ox study. The crew also studied how astronauts operate and repair interactive, touch-based and sensitive technologies in space for the Fine Motor Skills study.

Controllers Steer Station Clear of Space Debris

Brilliant City Lights
ISS043E218074 (05/18/2015) — This night view from the International Space Station on May 18, 2015 gives a view of brilliant city lights on the Earth’s surface shining beneath thousands of stars above. The thin line of Earth’s atmosphere can be seen with the green glow of aurora along the outer edge.

Playing it conservatively, International Space Station flight controllers conducted a pre-determined avoidance maneuver (PDAM) today to steer the station well clear of a fragment of a spent Minotaur rocket body launched in 2013. Having tracked the object throughout the weekend and today, U.S. and Russian flight controllers executed a 5 minute, 22 second firing of the ISS Progress 58 thrusters at 2:58 p.m. CDT to slightly raise the station’s orbit and distance it from the fragment that was projected to pass within three statute miles of the complex later in the day.

The maneuver raised the station’s altitude by just 106 feet at apogee and 7/10 of a mile at perigee, resulting in an ISS orbit of 254 x 244.8 statute miles.

The crew was never in any danger and the maneuver will have no impact on the scheduled landing later this week of Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA, Soyuz commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency, who are completing preparations for their return to Earth and a parachute-assisted landing in Kazakhstan in their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft at 9:43 a.m. EDT Thursday.

Station Controllers Eye Space Debris as Crew Trains for Departure

Nighttime Image of the Soyuz TMA-15M
ISS043E271162 (05/29/2015) — This nighttime image from the International Space Station shows the Soyuz TMA-15M which carried NASA astronaut Terry Virts, Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti to the station and will return them in early June.

A fragment from a spent Minotaur rocket body is being monitored today as flight controllers decide whether or not there will be a conjunction with the International Space Station. A docked ISS Progress 58 cargo craft would fire its engines should the space station need to get out of the way of the space debris.

A trio of Expedition 43 crew members will still come home Thursday morning should an avoidance maneuver be necessary. Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti are moving right along with their departure preparations. They trained for their descent through the Earth’s atmosphere and tested the thrusters of their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft.

Thursday’s undocking is planned for 6:20 a.m. EDT with a landing in Kazakhstan at 9:43 a.m. NASA Television will provide live coverage of the departure and homecoming activities.

The latest Expedition 43 trio including Flight Engineer Gennady Padalka and One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko teamed up to review their roles and responsibilities in case of an emergency.

Station Managers Choose June 11 for Expedition 43 Homecoming

Expedition 42/43 Crew Members
JSC2014E088152 (10/23/2014) — Official photogragh of the International Space Station Flight Engineers US Astronaut Terry Virt, European Space Agency Astronaut Samantha Cristofretti, and Russian Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov.

Expedition 43 crew members Terry Virts, Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti will return to Earth June 11 at 9:43 a.m. EDT. The trio from the U.S., Russia and Italy will enter the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft, undock from the Rassvet module and land in Kazakhstan after 6-1/2 months in space.

NASA Television will provide live coverage of the undocking and landing.

The homebound crew is packing gear in their Soyuz vehicle and training to use the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit which gets their bodies ready for the return Earth’s gravity. In the midst of Soyuz departure preparations, the crew is also continuing the International Space Station’s mission of advanced microgravity science to benefit life on Earth and in space.

There was more Rodent Research work on Friday as scientists study mice to understand the effects of weightlessness on muscles and bones. The crew is also participating in the Fine Motor Skills experiment which looks at how astronauts interact with touch-based technologies and spacecraft instrumentation.