Stars, the aurora and the International Space Station’s solar arrays are seen in this picture taken Jan. 18, 2017.
The Expedition 50 crew is gearing up for three different spaceships in two months to resupply the International Space Station. The crew also worked today on a variety of research hardware and practiced an emergency drill.
Two U.S. companies are getting their rockets ready to deliver food, fuel, supplies and new science gear to the crew. SpaceX is first in line with a plan to launch their Dragon spacecraft atop its Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than Feb. 18. Next, Orbital ATK is targeting March 19 to launch their Cygnus spacecraft on its seventh resupply mission to the station. Both spaceships will be captured by the Canadarm2 robotic. The Dragon will be installed to the Harmony module and the Cygnus will be attached to the Unity module.
Russia is preparing its Progress 66 (66P) cargo craft for a Feb. 22 launch from Kazakhstan. The 66P will take a two-day trip to the orbital laboratory before automatically docking to the Pirs Docking Compartment.
Onboard the station, Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet spent the day in Japan’s Kibo lab module working on science gear maintenance. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson installed a leak locator in Kibo’s airlock that will be used to locate the source of an ammonia leak outside the Japanese lab.
Commander Shane Kimbrough and his Soyuz crewmates cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov got together in the afternoon an emergency descent drill. The trio practiced the procedures necessary to evacuate the station quickly in the unlikely event of an emergency and return to Earth inside their Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft.
A new high-definition Earth observation video camera will be installed on the outside of Japan’s Kibo lab module later this week. The Expedition 50 crew is also getting the International Space Station ready for the next SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.
An HDTV camera delivered aboard Japan’s HTV-6 cargo craft in December is being readied for its deployment outside Kibo. The video camera will be staged inside the Kibo airlock today before depressurization and leak checks begin. The HDTV camera will then be robotically installed on a platform outside Kibo called the Exposed Facility where it will be used for Earth observations.
The astronauts are also getting communications gear ready to assist with the rendezvous and approach of the tenth SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply mission. Dragon is planned to launch later this month from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Japan’s HTV-6 resupply ship begins its separation after it’s release from the International Space Station.
Japan’s Kounotori, or “White Stork,” HTV-6 resupply ship completed its mission Sunday morning just over a week after its release from the International Space Station. The HTV-6 fired its engines for the last time sending it into Earth’s atmosphere for a fiery demise over the southern Pacific Ocean.
The Expedition 50 crew is now planning for the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft later in February. The astronauts, including Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet, talked to ground specialists Monday. The trio then began reviewing the mission profile, training materials and rendezvous procedures.
Kimbrough started his day working on life support systems maintenance before activating a combustion experiment laptop computer at the end of his shift. Pesquet wrapped up his day in the Japanese Kibo lab module preparing the airlock for the external installation of a high-definition video camera for Earth observations. Whitson began preparing communications and science gear ahead of the SpaceX CRS-10 resupply mission.
The Japanese HTV-6 resupply ship is pictured just before its release on astronaut Shane Kimbrough’s 100th day in space. Credit: @Astro_Kimbrough
Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA commanded the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to release a Japanese cargo vehicle at 10:46 a.m. EST. At the time of release, the station was flying 261 statute miles above the south Atlantic Ocean. Earlier, ground controllers used the robotic arm to unberth the cargo craft.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) H-II Transport Vehicle-6 (HTV-6) arrived to the space station Dec. 13, after launching from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan Dec. 9.
The cargo ship will now move to a safe distance below and in front of the station for about a week’s worth of data gathering with a JAXA experiment designed to measure electromagnetic forces using a tether in low-Earth orbit. JAXA is scheduled to deorbit the craft on Feb. 5. Loaded with trash, the vehicle will burn up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean.
Astronauts Thomas Pesquet (left) and Shane Kimbrough pose for a portrait with Japan’s HTV-6 resupply ship orbiting a short distance away from the space station’s cupola on Dec. 13, 2016.
The Expedition 50 crew is getting ready for Friday morning’s release of Japan’s sixth cargo craft to visit the International Space Station. The station residents are also continuing to explore how their eyes adapt to living in space for months at a time.
The Kounotori HTV-6 resupply ship, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is being disconnected from station systems today as it prepares for its departure Friday at 10:30 a.m. EST. Overnight, ground controllers will operate the Canadarm2 and maneuver the HTV-6 away from the Harmony module where it is attached.
European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA will then command the 57.7-foot-long robotic arm to release Kounotori back into orbit. After the HTV supports science experiments for a week, Japanese flight controllers will command the craft to deorbit on Feb. 5 for a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
More Fluid Shifts research took place today as astronauts study the possibility of using a special suit, the Lower Body Negative Pressure (LBNP) suit, to prevent the upward flow of fluids towards the head caused by microgravity. This headward flow may be causing pressure on the back of crew members’ eyes potentially causing damage and affecting vision.
During the afternoon, the crew also participated in ultrasound eye scans. Doctors on the ground assisted the crew to ensure good views of the optic nerve, cornea and back of the eye.
The six-person Expedition 50 crew poses for a group portrait inside the Columbus lab module from the European Space Agency. (Top row from left) Flight Engineers Thomas Pesquet, Peggy Whitson and Oleg Novitskiy. (Bottom row from left) Flight Engineer Andrey Borisenko, Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryzhikov.
The Japanese HTV-6 resupply ship is packed and ready for its release Friday from the International Space Station. European astronaut Thomas Pesquet will command the Canadarm2 to release the HTV-6 at 10:30 a.m. EST. Afterward, it will enter Earth’s atmosphere for a fiery disposal over the Pacific Ocean. NASA TV will broadcast the release and departure activities live beginning at 10 a.m.
More eye exams were on the Expedition 50 crew’s timeline today to ensure the astronauts maintain good vision and help researchers understand the effects of microgravity on eyesight. The space residents used typical optometry instruments to look at the retina and the interior back of the eye.
The crew also worked on maintenance tasks throughout the orbital laboratory. Gear used to analyze particles in the space station’s atmosphere was replaced after a failure was detected in a spectrometer device. Water samples were also collected from the station’s life support systems for quality checks and analysis on the ground. The next SpaceX Dragon mission is due to return these samples and other cargo back to Earth after a launch date is announced.
Japan’s HTV-6 resupply ship is pictured attached to the Harmony module during robotics operations.
Mission controllers are preparing to release Japan’s Kounotori cargo ship from the International Space Station at the end of the week. Meanwhile, the Expedition 50 crew is getting ready for a new protein crystal experiment and reconfiguring combustion science gear.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is getting ready to complete its sixth cargo mission to the station. Overnight, robotics controllers maneuvered Canada’s 57.7-foot-long robotic arm holding an external pallet with discarded nickel-hydrogen batteries and installed them inside the Japanese cargo ship for disposal.
Next, the Canadarm2 will release Japan’s HTV-6 resupply ship from the Harmony module Friday for a fiery re-entry back in Earth’s atmosphere. The HTV-6 arrived Dec. 13 four days after its launch from the Tanegashima Space Center carrying crew supplies, new science experiments and lithium-ion batteries to upgrade the station’s power supply.
The California-based space company SpaceX is planning its tenth station cargo mission. The Dragon cargo craft will deliver a new experiment to study protein crystals to help scientists design better drugs to fight diseases. In advance of the Dragon delivery, Astronaut Peggy Whitson set up the Light Microscopy Module with new lenses today to get ready for the new experiment installation.
European astronaut Thomas Pesquet inserts a locker into a science freezer. The locker holds scientific samples for stowage and later analysis.
Following a successful pair of spacewalks, the Expedition 50 crew has switched gears and is moving full-speed ahead with advanced space research. The orbital residents checked out science gear and studied the impacts of living in space.
European astronaut Thomas Pesquet repressed the Japanese Kibo lab module airlock after a small satellite deployer shot a set of tiny satellites, or CubeSats, into Earth orbit on Monday. The variety of CubeSats will test new spacecraft deorbiting and propulsion technologies and be used for communication purposes.
Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson joined veteran cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Oleg Novitskiy for the ongoing Fluid Shifts study and collected blood, urine and saliva samples. The human research experiment seeks to investigate vision and eye damage some astronauts have reported after their space missions.
Commander Shane Kimbrough worked on combustion science gear troubleshooting a pair of devices that explore flames and high temperatures in space. Flight Engineer Sergey Ryzhikov worked inside a docked Soyuz spacecraft recharging computer batteries.
Astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency is suited up for a dry run of this Friday’s upcoming spacewalk.
The six-member Expedition 50 crew has the day off today after a pair of NASA astronauts completed the first spacewalk of 2017 on Friday of last week. That spacewalk is the first of two planned in January to upgrade the International Space Station’s power systems. Both spacewalks have been backed-up with external robotics work that installed the new lithium-ion batteries and removed the old nickel-hydrogen batteries.
The next spacewalk will take place this Friday to complete the upgrades which include connecting new batteries, installing adapter plates and stowing older batteries. Commander Shane Kimbrough will suit up for the second time in a week joining first-time spacewalker astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency.
Expedition 50 crew members Peggy Whitson from NASA and Oleg Novitskiy from Roscosmos will assist the spacewalkers. They will help them in and out of their U.S. spacesuits and guide them in and out of the crew airlock.
It will be a busy few weeks after the conclusion of Friday’s upcoming spacewalk. Japan’s “Kounotori” HTV-6 resupply ship will depart at the end of January completing its cargo delivery mission that included the new batteries the spacewalkers have been hooking up. A Russian Progress 64 (64P) cargo craft will undock shortly after the HTV-6 leaves.
Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle is seen with the Earth behind it.
In a remarkable demonstration of robotic prowess, ground controllers used the Canadian-built “Dextre” Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator over the weekend to install three new lithium-ion batteries in the International Space Station’s 3A power channel Integrated Electronics Assembly (IEA) pallet on the starboard 4 truss. Dextre also removed four old nickel-hydrogen batteries from the IEA, three of which were stowed on the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle’s external pallet to wrap up the first act of a complex procedure to upgrade the station’s power system. A fourth old battery was temporarily stowed on a platform on Dextre.
This clears the way for the first of two spacewalks Friday in which Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA will install three adapter plates in slots on the IEA to which three of the old nickel-hydrogen batteries will be mounted to remain on the ISS but will be dormant. In all, nine nickel-hydrogen batteries will be stowed on the external pallet for disposal when the HTV is deorbited to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere late this month.
Three additional new lithium-ion batteries flown to the ISS aboard the HTV will be robotically installed in the starboard truss’ 1A power channel Integrated Electronics Assembly between Friday’s spacewalk and a second spacewalk scheduled Jan. 13 for Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency. Five additional nickel-hydrogen batteries will be removed robotically from the IEA prior to the second spacewalk.
A briefing to preview the two spacewalks and to review all of the robotics work will be broadcast on NASA Television on Wednesday, Jan. 4 at 2 p.m. Eastern time.