Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), with back-up support from NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, used the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to release a Japanese cargo spacecraft at 11:51 a.m. EST. At the time of release, the space station was flying 254 miles over the northern Pacific Ocean. Earlier, ground controllers used the robotic arm to unberth the cargo craft.
After release, a new, small reentry capsule will be deployed from the unpiloted H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7) of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Designed by JAXA and assembled by the station crew, the conically shaped capsule measures 2 feet in height and 2.7 feet in width. The project is a technology demonstration designed to test JAXA’s ability to return small payloads from the station for expedited delivery to researchers.
HTV-7 will be a safe distance away from the space station after the last of several deorbit maneuvers. The return capsule will be ejected from a hatchway after the deorbit burn. The experimental capsule will perform a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Japan, where a JAXA ship will be standing by for its recovery.
The HTV-7 spacecraft is scheduled to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up harmlessly over the South Pacific Ocean Nov. 10.
Japan’s seventh resupply ship to the International Space Station is packed and readied for departure Wednesday morning. However, the Japanese cargo ship, H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7), has one more delivery mission before it burns up safely over the Pacific Ocean.
Station skipper Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the HTV-7 at 11:50 a.m. EST Wednesday. It will spend about an hour maneuvering safely away from the station on a trajectory to begin its next mission. Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor will monitor the vehicle until it reaches a point about 200 meters from the space station. NASA TV begins its live coverage of the departure Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.
The HTV-7 will fire its deorbit engines Saturday for a fiery but safe ending to its mission after 41 days attached to the station’s Harmony module. Before the HTV-7 self-destructs in Earth’s atmosphere it will release a small reentry capsule loaded with test cargo for splashdown in the Pacific Ocean near the Japanese islands. The capsule will be retrieved by personnel from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to test the space partner’s ability to safely return precious space cargo for analysis on Earth.
As the two Expedition 57 astronauts packed the cargo ship, cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev continued his space physics research, photo inspections and inventory updates. The cosmonaut explored how microgravity and the Sun impact plasma-dust crystals. Prokopyev also photographed the condition of the station’s Russian segment then updated the station’s inventory system.
If all goes as planned, astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the HTV-7, also called the Kounotori, Wednesday at 11:50 a.m. EST. Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor will back up Gerst in the cupola monitoring the vehicle and its telemetry as it slowly backs away from the space station. The two astronauts reviewed departure procedures and practiced robotics controls on a computer today. NASA TV will broadcast live the space freighter’s departure beginning at 11:30 a.m.
Kounotori was captured Sept. 27 and delivered external station batteries and hardware to be configured during a pair of upcoming spacewalks. The resupply ship also replenished the station with advanced science experiments and equipment to benefit humans on Earth and in space.
However, it has one more payload to deliver for splashdown on Earth before the vehicle burns up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean. The HTV-7 will release a small reentry capsule packed with test cargo for retrieval by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The splashdown mission is a test of JAXA’s ability to return small payloads from space for quick delivery to researchers on Earth.
Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev worked on science and maintenance tasks throughout Monday in the orbital lab’s Russian segment. He started out researching how the space environment and solar radiation affects plasma-dust crystals. Prokopyev finished up his day photographing the condition of the Zvezda service module interior panels before disposing of obsolete hardware in the Progress 70 resupply ship.
NASA is working closely with its International Space Station partner Roscosmos to move forward on crew launch plans. Roscosmos plans to launch the Progress 71 resupply mission on Nov. 16, and is targeting the launch of the Expedition 58 crew including NASA astronaut Anne McClain for Dec. 3, pending the outcome of the flight readiness review.
Roscosmos completed an investigation into the loss of a Soyuz rocket last month that led to a suspension of Russian rocket launches to the station. One of four first stage rocket engines abnormally separated and hit the second stage rocket that led to the loss of stabilization of the Soyuz on Oct. 11. A statement from Roscosmos describes the cause…
“The reason for the abnormal separation is the non-opening of the nozzle cap of the “D” block oxidizer tank because of the deformation of the stem of the separation contact sensor (bending on 6 ˚ 45 ‘), which was admitted when assembling the “package” at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The cause of the LV accident is of operational nature and extends to the backlog of the “Soyuz” type LV “package”.”
The three Expedition 57 crew members from the United States, Germany and Russia will soon be observing the 20th anniversary of the launch of the International Space Station’s first module. On Nov. 20, 1998, the Zarya cargo module was launched aboard a Russian rocket and placed into orbit beginning the era of station assembly.
In the meantime, the crew orbiting Earth since June worked on a variety of advanced science hardware today. The trio ensured the safe and ongoing research into combustion, physics and biology in microgravity to benefit humans on Earth and in space.
NASA Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor swapped cartridge holders inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) that explores what happens to materials exposed to extremely high temperatures. The device located in Japan’s Kibo lab module measures the thermo-physical properties of samples that are melted and solidified and difficult to observe on the ground.
Commander Alexander Gerst from ESA (European Space Agency) worked on the new Life Sciences Glovebox launched to the space station aboard a Japanese cargo ship at the end of September. He is configuring the biology research facility for service inside the Kibo lab.
Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev worked inside the U.S. Destiny lab module replacing the Combustion Integrated Rack’s (CIR) fuel bottles. The CIR has been enabling research and observations into how fuels and flames burn in space on the orbital lab for over ten years. Results may guide the development of rocket engines and fire safety aboard spacecraft.
A pair of Expedition 57 astronauts spent the day exploring how humans think and work while living long-term in space. A cosmonaut also tested a pair of tiny, free-floating satellites operating inside the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor is helping doctors on the ground understand if an astronaut’s brain structure and mental abilities change in space. She took part in a behavioral assessment test today that involves the mental imaging of rotating objects, target accuracy during motion or stillness and concentrating on two tasks at the same time. The NeuroMapping experiment, which has been ongoing since 2014, is exploring an astronaut’s neuro-cognitive abilities before, during and after a spaceflight.
Scientists are also learning how an astronaut’s nervous system may be impacted by different gravitational environments such as the moon, asteroids or planets. The GRIP study from ESA (European Space Agency) is exploring how space residents interact with objects by monitoring their grip and load forces.
Commander Alexander Gerst from Germany strapped himself into a specialized seat in the Columbus lab module for the GRIP study today. He performed several motions in the seat while gripping a device collecting data measuring cognition, grip force and movement kinematics.
Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev set up the bowling ball-sized SPHERES satellites for a test run inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. The SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) are used for a variety of experiments including autonomous formation-flying, shipping liquids such as fuels and introducing students to spacecraft navigation techniques.
The International Space Station is getting ready for Japanese and U.S. cargo ship operations next month. In the meantime, the three residents onboard the orbital lab today configured science hardware and checked out safety gear.
Serena Auñón-Chancellor from NASA worked in the Japanese Kibo laboratory today replacing gear inside a Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack (MSPR). The MSPR provides a workspace that supplies power and video enabling research into a variety of smaller experiments. She spent the majority of the day working on video cable connections and swapping out a computer in the MSPR.
She and Commander Commander Alexander Gerst started Tuesday practicing wearing and using breathing gear connected to an oxygen port in the event of a space emergency. Gerst then helped out with the MSPR work before the duo moved on to packing Japan’s HTV-7 resupply ship.
Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos worked out on a treadmill today to help Russian scientists understand how the human body is impacted by exercise in microgravity. He then spent the afternoon on computer and life support maintenance.
The HTV-7 is being packed before its removal from the Harmony module with the Canadarm2 and released back into Earth. However, the vehicle has one more mission before its fiery destruction over the Pacific Ocean. The HTV-7 will also release a small reentry capsule for recovery in the Pacific Ocean by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The recovery mission is a test of the Japanese space agency’s ability to retrieve experiment samples safely and quickly from the station.
An American cargo ship is due to replenish the Expedition 57 crew a few days after the HTV-7 leaves. Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter will take a three-day trip in space before it is captured with the Canadarm2 and berthed to the Unity module. Cygnus will stay attached to the station for 86 days of cargo operations.
Two Expedition 57 astronauts are working to understand what happens to fluids being transported by spacecraft today. Another crew member also worked on combustion science gear as well as Japanese and Russian systems.
Fluid physics and combustion research on the International Space Station helps scientists understand how well-known phenomena on Earth behaves in microgravity. For instance, fluids sloshing around inside fuel tanks can impact how a spaceship steers in space. The way flames burn and create soot in space can also create safety issues for crews.
Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) explored how fluids affect spacecraft maneuvers today. The duo set up a pair of tiny mobile satellites known as SPHERES for the test inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. The SPHERES Tether Slosh experiment is observing what happens when the satellites tow a liquid-filled tank versus a solid mass body with a Kevlar tether.
Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack in the afternoon and replaced manifold bottles that contain gases for flame experiments. The flight engineer also packed items for disposal on a Japanese cargo ship and checked on Russian ventilation and air conditioning systems.
October will be a busy month as a pair of crews get ready to swap places on the International Space Station followed by a pair of spacewalks. Also, Japan’s HTV-7 resupply ship is open for business and the Expedition 56 crew has begun unloading its science and supplies.
Station commander Drew Feustel is preparing to return to Earth Thursday with two of his crewmates despite a busy schedule of science and maintenance aboard the orbital lab. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev is packing the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft today that he will pilot back to Earth flanked by Feustel and NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold. The trio is due to land in Kazakhstan at 7:45 a.m. after 197 days in space.
NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Soyuz Commander Alexey Ovchinin will blast off Oct. 11 at 4:40 a.m. aboard the Soyuz MS-10 crew ship and take a six hour ride to their new home in space. The duo is in Kazakhstan at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site making final preparations for their 187 day mission.
The station is being replenished today as the crew begins offloading cargo from the HTV-7 resupply ship from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). Robotics controllers will soon unload new lithion-ion batteries packed inside HTV-7 and install them on the truss structure to upgrade the station’s power systems. A pair of spacewalks are planned before the end of the month to complete the battery connections.
Ground controllers successfully installed the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Kounotori 7 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) to the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Harmony module at 10:09 a.m. EDT.
The early Thursday morning cargo delivery includes more than five tons of supplies, water, spare parts and experiments for the crew aboard the International Space Station. The spacecraft also is carrying a half dozen new lithium-ion batteries to continue upgrades to the station’s power system.