Astronauts Take on Science, Plumbing and Cargo Duties Today

 

Expedition 53 Crew Portrait
The six-member Expedition 53 crew poses for a portrait inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module with the VICTORY art spacesuit that was hand-painted by cancer patients in Russia and the United States. On the right (from top to bottom) are European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli, cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA.

Expedition 53 checked out a specialized microscope and worked on the International Space Station’s toilet today. More supplies and hardware are also being offloaded from the newly-arrived Cygnus cargo craft.

Commander Randy Bresnik opened up the Fluids Integrated Rack this morning to take a look at its Light Microscopy Module (LMM), an advanced space microscope. He was troubleshooting the device and swapping out its cables. The LMM provides a facility to examine the microscopic properties of different types of fluids in microgravity.

European Space Agency Paolo Nespoli worked on space plumbing throughout the day in the station’s restroom, the Waste and Hygiene Compartment (WHC). The veteran station resident removed and replaced valves and sensors in the WHC as part regular preventative maintenance.

More crew supplies and research gear are being unloaded from Cygnus today to outfit the crew and continue ongoing space science experiments. NASA astronaut Joe Acaba was unpacking food, batteries and computer gear for stowage throughout the station. The second-time station resident was also removing Genes in Space gear and blood sample kits for upcoming science work.

Cygnus Open for Business; Crew Unloading New Bacteria, Plant and Tech Studies

Cygnus Grappled with Canadarm2
The Cygnus spacecraft is pictured after it had been grappled with the Canadarm2 robotic arm by astronauts Paolo Nespoli and Randy Bresnik on Nov. 14, 2017.

The Expedition 53 astronauts are continuing to unload several thousand pounds of space cargo from the new Cygnus resupply ship that arrived Tuesday morning. Some of the new science cargo contains a bacteria that curiously loses its harmful properties in microgravity and CubeSats that will be deployed in Earth orbit.

The Cygnus is now installed on the Unity module and open for business. The astronauts entered the cargo craft Tuesday and started replenishing the station with almost 7,400 pounds of crew supplies, science experiments, spacewalk gear, station hardware and computer parts.

Some of the new research payloads will be looking at the space impacts on microbiology and botany. The advanced space research will explore the effectiveness of antibiotics on astronauts and observe how plants absorb nutrients in microgravity. Some pathogens for the STaARS Bioscience-5 study delivered aboard Cygnus have also been safely transferred to the NEXUS facility for later observation.

A couple of the newest technology experiments will deploy CubeSats to explore laser communications and hybrid solar panels. Scientists will study the ability of small satellites to communicate with each other using lasers and also explore if a combination of antenna and solar cells can speed up communication rates.

Cygnus Installed on Station With New Science Experiments

Nov. 14, 2017: International Space Station Configuration
Nov. 14, 2017: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including the Orbital ATK Cygnus, the Progress 67 and 68 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-05 and MS-06 crew ships.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:15 a.m. EST. The spacecraft will spend about three weeks attached to the space station before departing in early December. After it leaves the station, the uncrewed spacecraft will deploy several CubeSats before its fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere as it disposes of several tons of trash.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings close to 7,400 pounds of research and supplies to support Expedition 53 and 54. Highlights include:

  • The coli AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat) mission, which will investigate the effect of microgravity on the antibiotic resistance of E. coli, a bacterial pathogen responsible for urinary tract infection in humans and animals. Antibiotic resistance could pose a danger to astronauts, especially since microgravity has been shown to weaken human immune response. The experiment will expose two strains of E. coli to three different doses of antibiotics; one of these strains is deficient in the gene responsible for the increased antibiotic resistance in microgravity. Results from this investigation could help determine appropriate antibiotic dosages to protect astronaut health during long-duration missions and help us understand how antibiotic effectiveness may be increased in microgravity, as well as on Earth.
  • The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) project, which will study high-speed optical transmission of data and small spacecraft proximity operations. It will test functionality of laser-based communications using CubeSats that provide a compact version of the technology. Results from OCSD could lead to significantly enhanced communication speeds between space and Earth and a better understanding of laser communication between small satellites in low-Earth orbit.
  • The Biological Nitrogen Fixation in Microgravity via Rhizobium-Legume Symbiosis (Biological Nitrogen Fixation) investigation, which will examine how low-gravity conditions affect the nitrogen fixation process of Microclover, a resilient and drought tolerant legume. The nitrogen fixation process, a process by which nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into a usable form for living organisms, is a crucial element of any ecosystem necessary for most types of plant growth. This investigation could provide information on the space viability of the legume’s ability to use and recycle nutrients and give researchers a better understanding of this plant’s potential uses on Earth.
  • The Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA), a hybrid solar power panel and communication solar antenna that can send and receive messages, will test the use of this technology in CubeSat-based environmental monitoring. ISARA may provide a solution for sending and receiving information to and from faraway destinations, both on Earth and in space.

Learn more about the Orbital ATK CRS-8 mission by going to the mission home page at: http://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @Space_Station.

Cygnus Races To Station as Crew Studies Life Science and Space Crops

Cygnus Launches Aboard Antares Rocket
The Cygnus resupply ship launches aboard the Antares rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Cygnus resupply ship from Orbital ATK is less than 24 hours away from a rendezvous and capture at the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the Expedition 53 crew members are conducting human research and exploring growing crops in space.

Cygnus is in Earth orbit today conducting a series of orbital maneuvers refining its path to the space station Tuesday morning. Astronauts Paolo Nespoli and Randy Bresnik will be in the cupola early tomorrow waiting to capture Cygnus with the Canadarm2 at 4:50 a.m. EST. NASA TV will broadcast the capture and installation of Cygnus to the Unity module beginning at 3:15 a.m.

Bresnik and fellow NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba also worked on some biomedical experiments today helping doctors understand how humans adapt to microgravity. Bresnik collected his blood and urine samples and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. Vande Hei and Acaba measured and recorded their body mass to observe bone and muscle impacts of living in space.

Acaba is also harvesting and eating cabbage, lettuce and mizuna today to learn how plants grow in space. Results may help astronauts grow their own food helping NASA plan longer missions in outer space.

 

Lift Off of the Antares Rocket with Cygnus

The Antares rocket lifts off with the Cygnus cargo craft aboard
The Antares rocket lifts off with the Cygnus cargo craft aboard. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft lifted off at 7:19 a.m. EST and is on its way to the International Space Station.

About an hour and half after launch, commands will be given to deploy the spacecraft’s solar arrays.

Launch coverage will continue on NASA TV at http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv until shortly after spacecraft separation and then resume for solar array deployment, which is expected to last about 30 minutes.

A post-launch news conference will follow and is scheduled to begin on NASA TV at approximately 10:30 a.m.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Cygnus Launch Scrubbed and Rescheduled for Sunday

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is seen on launch Pad-0A, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The launch of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft has scrubbed for Saturday after an aircraft was detected in the vicinity of the launch pad. The next launch attempt is set for Sunday, Nov. 12 at 7:14 a.m. EST.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Cygnus Training, Respiratory Health and Performance Studies Today

Himalayas
This photograph taken on Nov. 5, 2017, shows a portion of the Himalayan mountain range as the International Space Station orbited about 250 miles above.

Two astronauts are training for Monday’s planned arrival of Orbital ATK’s newest Cygnus cargo craft dubbed the S.S. Eugene Cernan. The crew is also analyzing the International Space Station’s atmosphere and studying how crew performance adapts to microgravity.

Orbital ATK is counting down to a Veteran’s Day launch of its Cygnus spacecraft atop an Antares rocket from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rocket is scheduled to blast off Saturday at 7:37 a.m. EST with about 7,400 pounds of science gear and crew supplies packed inside Cygnus.

Commander Randy Bresnik and Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli are training today to capture Cygnus with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Nespoli will command the Canadarm2 to grapple Cygnus at 5:40 a.m. Monday when it reaches a point about 10 meters from the station. Bresnik will back up Nespoli and monitor the spacecraft’s approach and rendezvous.

Astronaut Mark Vande Hei has been helping doctors this week understand the risk of living inside the closed environment of a spacecraft for the Airway Monitoring study. He set up gear to analyze the air in the space station for dust and gases that could inflame an astronaut’s respiratory system. Results will help doctors improve crew health as NASA plans human missions farther and longer into space.

Nespoli started his day studying how floating in space impacts interacting with touch-based technologies and other sensitive equipment. Observations from the Fine Motor Skills study may influence the design of future spaceships and space habitats.

Crew Studies Health Impacts of Space Radiation and Station Atmosphere

Astronaut Joe Acaba
Astronaut Joe Acaba works on U.S. spacesuit gear inside the Quest airlock.

The Expedition 53 crew explored ways to protect astronauts from space radiation as well as dust particles floating inside a spacecraft. The residents of the International Space Station also worked on cosmic ray gear, a U.S. spacesuit and audio equipment.

European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli tested a personal radiation shielding garment today. Water, used for its shielding properties, is placed in garment containers that cover organs that are especially sensitive to cosmic radiation.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei studied how gases and dust in the station’s atmosphere impact breathing aboard a spacecraft. He set up ultra-sensitive monitors that analyze exhaled air to detect crew health impacts. Results will help doctors and engineers improve conditions for future astronauts traveling longer and farther into space.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba worked on a U.S. spacesuit’s water system before changing out a hard drive and installing new software on a support laptop for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer cosmic ray detector. Commander Randy Bresnik replaced faulty electronics gear inside the Harmony module restoring power to an internal audio speaker unit.

Cygnus Cargo Mission Due for Launch on Veteran’s Day

 

Orbital ATK Cygnus
The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft is seen just before being released from the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm on February 19, 2016.

Orbital ATK’s eighth commercial cargo mission is set to launch to the International Space Station at 7:37 a.m. EST Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11. The Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo craft will blast off from Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, with over 7,000 pounds of food, supplies and research gear.

Two astronauts will be inside the cupola commanding the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Cygnus when it arrives Monday at 5:40 a.m. Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli will capture Cygnus, dubbed the “SS Gene Cernan”, assisted by Commander Randy Bresnik. Cygnus will deliver numerous advanced science experiments exploring a wide variety of subjects including communication and navigation, microbiology, animal biology and plant biology.

Meanwhile, the orbiting Expedition 53 crew members continued investigating biology and robotics in microgravity.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei collected and stowed saliva samples today that will be analyzed later for a study on the human immune system and metabolism. Bresnik took panoramic photographs inside the Kibo laboratory module to prepare for the upcoming Astrobee experiment. Astrobee consists of three free-flying, cube-shaped robots that will be tested for their ability to assist astronauts and ground controllers.

On top of the world

Mark Vande Hei exercises
View of Mark Vande Hei, Expedition 53 flight engineer, exercising on the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT) T2 aboard the space station. Image Credit: NASA

When you’re on top of the world—or orbiting it—there’s no better place to be. NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) had a late night yesterday, staying up to watch a special uplink from Mission Control: Game 7 of the World Series. The winning outcome was cause for celebration, as the Astros have many fans at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, which is home base for the astronauts.

Today, the crew worked to size up the exercise equipment they rely on to sustain muscle mass and prevent bone loss while living and working in space. They set up cameras in Node 3 to capture video from multiple angles of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and Miniature Exercise Device (MED-2) hardware, applied body markers, performed exercises and transferred the video for delivery to Mission Control. Aboard ISS, the exercise equipment is large and bulky, which is OK because the orbiting laboratory is about the size of a three-bedroom house. But, for Mars or other destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, available space will be difficult to come by. MED-2 aims to demonstrate that small robotic actuators can provide the same quality motion and resistance for crew workout sessions, thus reducing the size and weight of exercise devices for space missions farther out and lengthier in duration. Evaluating MED-2’s game-changing technology is crucial to the design and development of second- and third-generation hardware that is much lighter, smaller and more reliable than what is used now.

An Expedition 53 crew member read “Notable Notebooks Scientists and Their Writings Read” on camera for Story Time from Space. These recordings are downlinked and then used in schools, combining science literacy with simple concept experiments that children can follow along with on the ground. The videos are posted in a library with accompanying educational materials, further promoting science, technology, engineering and math to budding scientists, engineers and explorers.

The station’s altitude was raised last night during a three minute, 26-second firing of the ISS Progress 67 thrusters. The reboost of the complex was the first of two such maneuvers this month to set up the correct trajectory for the landing of the Expedition 53 crew on Dec. 14 in south central Kazakhstan and the launch, three days later, of the Expedition 54-55 crew from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.