HTV Launch Moves to Friday, Crew Looks at Life Science and Florence

Hurricane Florence
Cameras outside the International Space Station captured a view of Hurricane Florence the morning of Sept. 12 as it churned across the Atlantic in a west-northwesterly direction with winds of 130 miles an hour.

JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) launch of its HTV-7 resupply ship to the International Space Station has been rescheduled to Friday. U.S. time. Meanwhile, the Expedition 56 crew members focused on life science and sent down imagery and video of Hurricane Florence on Wednesday.

Mission controllers in Japan have rescheduled the HTV-7’s launch to Friday at 4:59 p.m. EDT (5:59 a.m. Sept. 15 Japan standard time) due to weather in the Pacific. The JAXA cargo craft is now planned to deliver over five tons of food, fuel, crew supplies and new science gear to the station Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 7:25 a.m.

In space, four Expedition 56 astronauts teamed up throughout Wednesday to study how living in space affects microbes living inside the gastrointestinal system of rodents. Results will help doctors devise plans and treatments to keep astronauts healthy on long-term missions in outer space.

In the Atlantic, Hurricane Florence is headed for the east coast of the United States and forecasted to gain strength before landfall early Friday. As the orbital lab flew 250 miles above the category four storm this morning, the crew took the opportunity to capture photo and video of Florence.

Science and Suit Work as Storms Capture Attention

Hurricane Florence
Astronaut Ricky Arnold captured this view of Hurricane Florence on Sept. 10 as it churned in the Atlantic headed for the U.S. east coast. Credit: @Astro_Ricky

The six Expedition 56 crew members started the workweek today with life science and spacesuit maintenance. Meanwhile, a typhoon and a hurricane captured the attention of mission managers and the crew alike.

Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold examined mice onboard the International Space Station and them today for the Rodent Research-7 (RR-7) experiment. The duo checked the breathing and mass of the rodents before placing them back in their habitat and restocking their food. RR-7 is observing how microgravity impacts gut microbes and how it may affect astronaut health.

German astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) wrapped up an experiment before finalizing spacesuit work in the U.S. Quest airlock. He stowed science gear in the morning that analyzed the exhaled air of astronauts to detect signs of airway inflammation. In the afternoon, Gerst completed the battery charging of the U.S. spacesuits then began regenerating metal oxide canisters in advance of a pair of spacewalks at the end of the month.

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) officials are tracking Typhoon Mangkhut in the Pacific while the station crew sent down imagery of Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic. Mangkhut was moving on a course near a tracking site in Guam which JAXA uses to follow the progress of the Japanese HTV cargo craft after its launch. That launch was postponed from today to a later date. On the other side of the world, the station flew over Hurricane Florence as it neared the U.S. east coast enabling the crew to capture imagery to share with the world.

Record-Setting NASA Astronaut, Crewmates Prepare for Return to Earth

Expedition 52 Crew Members
Expedition 52 crew members (from left) Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson prepare the Sokol launch and entry suits they will wear when they undock and land in their Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft.

Record-breaking NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and her Expedition 52 crewmates, Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA and Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, are scheduled to depart the International Space Station and return to Earth Saturday, Sept. 2. NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide complete coverage of their departure and landing.

The trio will undock their Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft from the space station at 5:58 p.m. EDT and land in Kazakhstan at 9:22 p.m. (7:22 a.m. Sept. 3, Kazakhstan time). NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik has taken over command of the station from Yurchikhin.

The complete schedule of return coverage is as follows (all times EDT):

  • 2:15 p.m. – farewell and hatch closure (hatch closure at 2:40 p.m.)
  • 5:30 p.m. – undocking (undocking at 5:58 p.m.)
  • 8 p.m. – deorbit burn and landing (deorbit burn at 8:29 p.m. and landing at 9:22 p.m.)
  • 11 p.m. – replay of hatch closure, undocking and landing activities

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As a result of the impacts of Hurricane Harvey, NASA plans a modified return to Houston of Whitson and Fischer and the science samples landing in the Soyuz spacecraft. The crew will participate in standard post-flight medical evaluations. Working with our International Space Station partners, NASA secured the services of ESA (European Space Agency) to return the crew from Karaganda, Kazakhstan, to Cologne, Germany.  NASA’s G-5 will depart Houston on Saturday to meet the crew and science samples in Cologne. They’re expected to return to Houston on Sunday night.  All necessary facilities onsite at NASA’s Johnson Space Center necessary to support crew and science objectives are being checked out, and readied for the return to Houston.

While living and working aboard the space station, the Expedition 52 crew pursued hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard humanity’s only orbiting laboratory.

Expedition 53 will begin when Whitson, Fischer and Yurchikhin depart with Randy Bresnik of NASA in command, and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency), on board. The three-person crew will operate the station until the arrival of three new crew members later this month.

NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, and Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos, are scheduled to launch Sept. 12 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

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Cygnus Training Under Way Before Launch Set

Hurricane Matthew
Hurricane Matthew (eye at top center) was pictured from the space station on the afternoon of Oct. 3, 2016. Credit: @Space_Station

The Expedition 49 crew is getting ready for the mid-October arrival of the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft. The trio is also exploring human research and setting up a student Earth observation experiment.

First-time astronauts Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi are brushing up on the robotic capture techniques necessary to grapple the Cygnus cargo craft. The Cygnus private space freighter is targeted to launch from Virginia between Oct. 9 and 13 and arrive at the International Space Station about 2-1/2 days later.

The duo will be inside the cupola at the robotics controls monitoring Cygnus’ arrival then capturing it with the 57.7 foot long Canadarm2. Ground controllers will then take over robotic operations and remotely attach Cygnus to the Unity module. Cygnus is delivering crew supplies, scientific research and hardware to the station crew members.

Before the pair began training today, Rubins sampled the station’s water for microbes and stowed the Hard to Wet Surfaces research gear. Onishi tested his fine motor skills on a mobile tablet device and logged his diet for the ENERGY experiment.

Commander Anatoly Ivanishin set up the Sally Ride EarthKAM experiment inside a Harmony module window today. The Earth imagery gear allows students to take pictures of Earth from space and share them on the internet.

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Spacewalk Preps as Station Orbits over Three Hurricanes

Hurricanes Lester, Madeline and Gaston
(From left) Hurricanes Lester, Madeline and Gaston are seen from the International Space Station on Aug. 30. Credit: NASA Johnson YouTube

Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Kate Rubins are two days away from their second spacewalk in as many weeks. The duo are reviewing the tasks they will perform outside the International Space Station for 6.5 hours of maintenance work beginning Thursday at 8 a.m. EDT. Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi will assist Williams and Rubins from inside the space station.

They will retract and cover an out-of-service thermal control radiator and install lights and a high-definition camera for better views of the station structure and the Earth below. If time allows, the spacewalkers will perform get-ahead tasks including photographing the condition of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.

In the Russian segment of the station, the three cosmonauts concentrated on a variety of human research experiments and crew departure activities. Flight Engineers Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka collected blood and saliva samples to explore how bones and the immune system are impacted by living in space. The pair also practiced an entry simulation drill today inside the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft they will return home in with Williams on Sept. 6.

The space station cameras spotted three hurricanes today, two in the Pacific Ocean and one in the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricanes Lester and Madeline were seen in the Pacific potentially threatening the big island of Hawaii. Hurricane Gaston was seen in the open Atlantic.