Space Research Ongoing as New Trio Awaits Launch

Sunlight Reflecting Off Earth
Sunlight is pictured reflecting off Earth.

Three Expedition 48 crew members are orbiting Earth awaiting the addition of a new trio preparing to join them next month on the International Space Station. As the new crew gets ready to head to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad on Friday, the orbiting crew is conducting advanced science and maintaining the orbital lab systems.

An upgraded Soyuz spacecraft, the Soyuz MS-01, will launch July 6 carrying cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi to their new home in space. They will join Commander Jeff Williams and cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin completing the six-member Expedition 48 crew.

Science continues on the station, as the crew performed some robotics work, checked out a microscope and sampled water for a microbe check. The Japanese robotic arm was put to work today attaching samples outside the Kibo lab module. An advanced microscope, the Light Microscopy Module, had its diffusion plates swapped out. Also, water samples were collected to check for quality.

On the Russian side of the station, the cosmonauts explored how microgravity affects the human digestive system. They also continued more Earth photography to understand how natural and man-made changes affect the planet.

Astronaut Works Spacesuits as Cygnus Burns Up for Science

Astronaut Jeff Williams
Astronaut Jeff Williams works on a pair of U.S. spacesuits inside the Quest airlock. Credit: NASA TV

Commander Jeff Williams continued the ongoing maintenance on U.S. spacesuits throughout the workday on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Cygnus cargo craft from Orbital ATK re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere completing one final experiment.

Williams scrubbed cooling loops and collected water samples from inside U.S. spacesuits ahead of a pair of spacewalks planned for later this year. The main task planned for the first spacewalk will be installing an international docking adapter to the Harmony module. The second spacewalk will see the replacement of batteries as part of maintenance for the International Space Station’s power system.

Cygnus has been busy since its release from the station June 14 serving as a platform for science. Its first experiment saw a large fire set inside the vehicle helping scientists understand combustion in space. Earlier this week, a set of nanosatellites was released from Cygnus. Finally, as Cygnus broke apart during its re-entry recorders downlinked data providing insights into the behavior of spacecraft re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Last Day in Space for Cygnus as Crew Practices Emergency

Full Moon Above Earth
The moon is pictured above Earth from the space station.

A cargo ship that was released last week from the International Space Station will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere Wednesday. Back inside the orbital lab, the crew practiced emergency procedures after a light day of science and maintenance.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is spending its last day in space today. Cygnus has been busy conducting an array science activities including a fire experiment and deploying nanosatellites. It will complete its last experiment Wednesday monitoring its own destruction when it deorbits into Earth’s atmosphere.

Aboard the space station, the three-member Expedition 48 crew practiced an emergency drill. In the unlikely event of an emergency such as a rapid depressurization, the crew would put on gas masks, head to its Soyuz spacecraft, put on their Sokol spacesuits and prepare for an undocking and descent back to Earth.

More saliva samples were collected today for the Multi-Omics study researching how an astronaut’s immune system is affected by a long-term spaceflight. The crew also explored heart health in space and analyzed water samples for microbes.

Expedition 48 Begins and Awaits Three New Crew Members

Expedition 47 Lands in Kazakhstan
The Expedition 47 crew members rest outside shortly after landing in Kazakhstan. Seated from left to right, and in their Sokol suits, are European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and NASA astronaut Tim Kopra.

Expedition 48 officially began Saturday morning with Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineers Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin continuing their stay aboard the International Space Station. They await the addition of three new crew members who will launch July 6 for a two-day ride to their new home in space.

Expedition 47 completed 186 days in space Saturday after landing in Kazakhstan. NASA astronaut Tim Kopra returned home to Houston the following day. European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake flew to Cologne, Germany, to begin his reconditioning. Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko returned to Russia after completing his sixth mission to space.

Despite the weekend’s landing activities, science continues around the clock on the orbital laboratory. The crew is exploring how living in space affects the immune system and collected and stowed biological samples today for the Multi-Omics study. The crew is also setting up hardware for the NeuroMapping experiment. That study will research how spaceflight changes an astronaut’s brain and associated activities such as function, motor control, and multi-tasking abilities.

The next crew launch to the space station includes cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi. They will join Expedition 48 when their Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft docks to the Rassvet module July 8.

Crew Leaves Station After 186 Days in Space

After spending 186 days aboard the International Space Station, Tim Kopra, Tim Peake and Yuri Malenchenko undocked from the station at 1:52 a.m. EDT 254 miles over eastern Mongolia to begin their voyage home. Malenchenko is at the controls of the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft.

They will perform a separation burn to increase the distance from the station before executing a 4-minute, 37-second deorbit burn at 4:22 a.m. The crew is scheduled to land at 5:14 a.m. southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

The trio’s departure marks the end of Expedition 47. The Expedition 48 crew members, Commander Jeff Williams of NASA, along with his crewmates Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin, will continue research and maintenance aboard the station. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, will join them next month.

NASA Television will air live coverage of the Soyuz TMA-19M deorbit burn and landing beginning at 4 a.m.

Below is the remaining timeline for Expedition 47’s landing.

Saturday, June 18 (all times Eastern)

4 a.m.                         NASA TV: Expedition 47 Soyuz TMA-19M deorbit burn and landing coverage

4:22 a.m.                    Soyuz TMA-19m deorbit burn (4 minutes, 37 seconds duration)

4:26 a.m.                    Soyuz deorbit burn complete

4:49 a.m.                    Soyuz module separation (altitude 87 miles)

4:52 a.m.                    Soyuz atmospheric entry (altitude 62 miles)

5:00 a.m.                    Command to open parachute (6.7 miles)

5:14 a.m.                 Expedition 47 Soyuz TMA-19M landing southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan

Crew Says Farewell, Prepares Soyuz for Undocking

Expedition 47 Crew Farewell
Expedition 47 crew members (from left) Yuri Malenchenko, Tim Kopra and Tim Peake say farewell to their crewmates staying behind on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV

At 10:34 p.m. EDT, the Soyuz hatch closed between the International Space Station and the TMA-19M spacecraft. Expedition 47 crew members Tim Kopra of NASA, Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) and Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos are preparing to undock at 1:52 a.m. NASA Television will air live coverage of undocking beginning at 1:30 a.m.

The deorbit burn is targeted for 4:22 a.m. and will lead to a landing at about 5:14 a.m. southeast of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. NASA TV coverage of deorbit and landing begins at 4 a.m. Watch live at