The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was released from the International Space Station at 12:01 p.m. EDT after flight controllers in Houston delivered remote commands to the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 59 Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency monitored Dragon’s systems as it departed the microgravity laboratory.
Next up, Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the station and execute a deorbit burn around 4:56 p.m. to leave orbit. Splashdown down is targeted for approximately 5:55 p.m. EDT (2:55 p.m. PDT).
Dragon was detached from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module at 8:30 a.m. after flight controllers at mission control in Houston delivered remote commands to the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 59 Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency will back up the operation and monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory.
After firing its thrusters to move a safe distance away from the station, Dragon will execute a deorbit burn around 4:56 p.m. to leave orbit, as it heads for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, 202 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, at approximately 5:48 p.m. (2:48 p.m. PDT). There will be no live coverage of deorbit burn or splashdown.
Dragon launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket May 4 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and arrived at the station two days later with almost 5,500 pounds of science, supplies and cargo on SpaceX’s 17th commercial resupply mission to the station for NASA.
NASA TV is broadcasting the robotic release of Dragon from the station live on NASA TV beginning Monday at 11:45 a.m. EDT. Robotics controllers will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the space freighter around 12:09 p.m. while astronaut David Saint-Jacques monitors from the cupola. Dragon will splashdown in the Pacific about 5:48 p.m. and will not be seen on NASA TV.
Several critical experiments have wrapped up aboard the orbiting lab with the completed results and hardware being packed inside the Dragon this weekend. After the space freighter splashes down Monday, it will be towed to shore where the finalized research will be distributed to labs around the world for analysis.
The pair first joined Flight Engineer Nick Hague during the morning checking out space biology hardware and transferring more frozen research samples into Dragon’s science freezers. Hague and McClain then participated in regularly scheduled eye exams in the afternoon.
The six-member Expedition 59 crew had a chance to sleep in the day after wrapping up a successful spacewalk on the Russian side of the International Space Station. The cosmonauts are cleaning up this afternoon from yesterday’s excursion while the rest of the orbiting crew focuses on exercise research and other light science duties.
Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques checked on a couple of life science experiments during their relaxed afternoon. McClain updated software for the Photobioreactor study exploring how microalgae can create a hybrid life support system for astronauts and Earthlings. Saint-Jacques turned off and stowed the Canadian Bio-Monitor device that can quickly analyze human biological samples in space.
The two cosmonauts opened the hatch to the Pirs docking compartment to begin the spacewalk at 11:42 a.m. EDT. They re-entered the airlock and closed the hatch at 5:43 p.m.
During the spacewalk, the duo completed the planned tasks, including installing a handrail on the Russian segment of the complex, retrieving science experiments from the Poisk module’s hull; removing and jettisoning the plasma wave experiment hardware; and conducting maintenance work on the orbiting laboratory, such as cleaning the window of the Poisk hatch.
The spacewalk was the 217th in support of station assembly, maintenance and upgrades and the fourth outside the station this year.
This was the fifth spacewalk in Kononenko’s career and the first for Ovchinin, who will become station commander next month. Kononenko is scheduled to return to Earth June 24, with crewmates Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, wrapping up a six-and-a-half-month mission living and working in space.
Shortly after beginning their spacewalk, Expedition 59 Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos recorded birthday greetings for the first person to spacewalk, Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov. Leonov’s 85th birthday is tomorrow, Thursday, May 30.
On 18 March, 1965, Leonov became the first person to leave a spacecraft in a spacesuit to conduct a spacewalk, exiting the capsule during the Voskhod 2 mission for a 12-minute spacewalk.
Kononenko and Ovchinin also added signs to the backs of their Orlon spacesuits to honor the first spacewalker. Kononenko’s suit with the red stripes bears a sign that says “1st spacewalker”, and the sign on Ovchinin’s suit with the blue stripes says, “Happy birthday, Alexei Arkhipovich,” Leonov’s family name.
Both spacewalkers are wearing Russian Orlan spacesuits. Kononenko is designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV1), wearing the suit with red stripes, and Ovchinin is EV2, in the suit with blue stripes.
Coverage of the spacewalk continues on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Views from a camera on Kononenko’s helmet are designated with the number 18, and Ovchinin’s is labeled with the number 11.
It is Kononenko’s fifth career spacewalk and Ovchinin’s first.
Two Expedition 59 cosmonauts are finalizing reviews before Wednesday morning’s spacewalk for maintenance outside the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the orbital residents are also readying completed experiments for return to Earth inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft next week.
Commander Oleg Kononenko is set to begin his fifth career spacewalk Wednesday at 11:44 a.m. EDT. He will lead first-time spacewalker Alexey Ovchinin during the six-hour-15-minute excursion on the Russian segment of the orbital lab. They will retrieve experiment hardware, clean lab windows and jettison old cables among other tasks.
The duo reviewed their spacewalk tasks and worksites alongside NASA astronaut Christina Koch this morning. Koch will assist the pair with their Russian Orlan spacesuits in the Pirs airlock before and after Wednesday’s spacewalk.
The SpaceX Dragon launched a multitude of life science experiments studying immunology, crystallography, microphysiology and other space phenomena to the station May 4. The completed research samples and science hardware will now return to Earth inside Dragon after it departs the station’s Harmony module June 3. NASA Flight Engineer Anne McClain is readying the commercial space freighter for departure and beginning the work to pack the finalized experiments for analysis in labs across the globe.
The Expedition 59 crew is starting the Memorial Day weekend studying biology, physics and orbital manufacturing techniques. The space residents will also be busy on the U.S. holiday conducting more research and getting ready for the year’s fourth spacewalk at the International Space Station on Wednesday.
Astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) analyzed his own blood sample today testing the new Bio-Analyzer. The biomedical device from the CSA tests a variety of biomarkers to measure molecular signs of health on the station. He also worked on another biology platform that can produce gravity levels up to 2g for research on an array of materials and small organisms.
Japan’s Kibo laboratory module enables astronauts to place and retrieve space exposure experiments outside of the orbiting lab. Flight Engineer Nick Hague swapped some of those exposed samples today from a platform inside Kibo. The long-running materials exposure studies at the station help scientists understand how microgravity and radiation affect a variety of materials.
Christina Koch of NASA continued exploring the production of superior quality optical fibers inside the U.S. Destiny lab module’s Microgravity Science Glovebox. The variety of elements used in the manufacturing process are difficult to control on Earth with gravity bearing down on them. The space-created samples will be analyzed on the ground for their potential to improve a variety of applications such as medicine, navigation, communication and atmospheric monitoring.
At the end of the day, Flight Engineer Anne McClain checked out emergency space navigation techniques using a sextant. She peered at constellations from the cupola during an orbital night period while inspecting and calibrating the hand-held device.
Meanwhile, Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin continued setting up their spacesuits and tools today. Next week they will review procedures and timelines for their approximately six-hour spacewalk for external maintenance scheduled for around 11:45 a.m. EDT Wednesday.