Japanese Cargo Mission Postponed

Japan's third resupply ship, the HTV-3
Japan’s third resupply ship, the HTV-3, is pictured in September of 2012 attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module.

As a result of adverse weather conditions, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has postponed the scheduled launch of a Japanese cargo spacecraft from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. The unpiloted H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7) is loaded with more than five tons of supplies, water, spare parts and experiments for the crew aboard the International Space Station.

A new launch date has not yet been determined.

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Japan Is Go for Monday Cargo Launch to Station

The Japanese HTV-6 cargo vehicle
The Japanese HTV-6 cargo vehicle is seen during final approach to the International Space Station on Dec. 13, 2016.

Japan’s seventh cargo mission (HTV-7) to the International Space Station is in the final stages of preparation for launch on Monday at 7:32 p.m. EDT. Mission controllers are monitoring the weather at the Tanegashima Space Center launch site while the Expedition 56 crew is preparing for its arrival early Friday.

JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) HTV-7 is delivering a wide variety of science gear to support new research aboard the orbital lab. The new facilities will enable astronauts to observe physical processes at high temperatures, protein crystal growth and genetic alterations as well as a variety of other important space phenomena.

HTV-7, also known as Kounotori, is also carrying six new lithium-ion batteries that robotics controllers will remove then install on the station’s port 4 truss structure. Astronauts Alexander Gerst, Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold will complete the battery maintenance work over two spacewalks set for Sept. 20 and 26.

Feustel will lead the effort to capture Kounotori when he commands the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and grapple it Friday at 7:40 a.m. He trained today with Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor, who will back him up in the Cupola, practicing capture techniques on a computer.

All six crew members got together at the end of the day for more eye checks. The sextet from the U.S., Russia and Germany used an ultrasound device, with assistance from doctors on the ground, and scanned each other’s eyes.

Astronauts Swap Roles as Scientists, Spacewalkers and Robotics Controllers

NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold
NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold works on an experiment that extracts RNA from biological samples to help researchers decipher the changes in gene expression that take place in microgravity.

September is gearing up to be a very busy month aboard the International Space Station. The six Expedition 56 crew members are headlong in the first week of the month switching roles and juggling a wide variety of critical tasks.

Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold of NASA has been swapping roles today as space scientist and spacewalker. The educator-astronaut sequenced RNA today from microbes swabbed from inside the orbital lab’s surfaces. The research is helping scientists understand how life adapts to microgravity providing insights to improve crew health.

Arnold then joined his fellow crew mates, Commander Drew Feustel of NASA and Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of ESA, at the end of the day for a review of two spacewalks scheduled for Sept. 20 and 26. The trio reviewed robotics maneuvers and other tasks required for the external battery maintenance work on the Port 4 truss structure at the end of the month.

Feustel also trained for his role as the prime robotics controller when he captures JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) HTV-7 cargo craft with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Sept. 14. JAXA’s seventh resupply ship to visit the space station is due to launch Monday at 6:32 p.m. EDT.

From inside the cupola, Feustel will command the Canadarm2 to reach out and grapple the HTV-7 as Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor backs him up next Friday at 7:40 a.m. Gerst and Auñón-Chancellor both joined Feustel for the robotics training today during their afternoon.

Get weekly video highlights at: http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/

Science Gear Work, Japan Spaceship Preps Ahead of Orbital Reboost

The Expedition 56 crew members pose for a fun portrait
The Expedition 56 crew members pose for a fun portrait in the International Space Station’s Harmony module. Clockwise from top are Expedition 56 Flight Engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Prokopyev and Ricky Arnold. In the center, from left, are ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel of NASA.

The Expedition 56 crew members conducted maintenance work on a variety of advanced science gear today to ensure ongoing space research aboard the International Space Station. The crew also continued a pair of exercise studies and trained to capture a Japanese cargo craft before tonight’s orbital reboost of the station.

Commander Drew Feustel spent Wednesday afternoon inside ESA’s (European Space Agency) Columbus laboratory module working on the Electromagnetic Levitator (EML). He installed a new storage disc and a high speed camera controller inside the EML. The space furnace enables research and observations of the properties of materials exposed to extremely high temperatures.

Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold worked in JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo laboratory module during the morning replacing valves inside the EXPRESS Rack-5. The science rack, which was delivered to the orbital lab in 2001, can host a variety of experiments operated by astronauts on the station or remotely by scientists on Earth.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA has been contributing to a pair of German exercise studies for a few weeks to help doctors maintain astronaut health. Today, he continued testing a custom-designed thermal t-shirt and researching a wearable device for real-time cardio-pulmonary diagnosis during a workout.

Gerst and Feustel wrapped up the day with Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor reviewing next week’s arrival of JAXA’s HTV-7 resupply ship. The HTV-7’s launch is planned for Monday at 6:32 p.m. EDT and its capture with the Canadarm2 set for Sept. 14 at 7:40 a.m. NASA TV will cover both activities live.

Finally, the orbital lab is due to raise its orbit tonight in the second of three planned maneuvers to prepare for a crew swap in October. The Zvezda service module will fire its engines for 13 seconds slightly boosting the station’s orbit in advance of a pair of Soyuz crew ships departing and arriving next month.

Astronauts Get Ready for Japan’s Seventh Cargo Mission and Two U.S. Spacewalks

Japan's last cargo craft, the HTV-6, is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2
Japan’s last cargo craft, the HTV-6, is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 moments before its release ending its stay Jan. 27, 2017, at the International Space Station.

A rocket carrying Japan’s seventh H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) is poised to launch next Monday on a cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station. The Expedition 56 crew members trained for the HTV-7’s arrival, conducted eye checks and prepared for a pair of spacewalks.

On Sept. 10, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is launching a cargo craft, exactly nine years to the day JAXA launched its first HTV mission, to the space station. The HTV-7 will take a four-day trip before reaching a point just 10 meters away from the orbital lab. Commander Drew Feustel will then grapple it with the Canadarm2 robotic arm as Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor backs him up inside the cupola.

The duo practiced for next week’s approach and rendezvous of the HTV-7 then turned their attention to eye exams and ultrasound eye scans. Their cosmonaut crewmates, Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev, also participated in the eye exams using Optical Coherence Tomography for detailed views of their retinas.

After the HTV-7 arrives, robotics controllers will begin the work of removing six new lithium-ion batteries from the HTV-7’s External Pallet and storing them on the Port 4 (P4) truss structure. They will replace a dozen older nickel-hydrogen batteries on the station’s P4. Nine of the older batteries will be stowed inside the HTV-7 for disposal and the other three stored on the P4.

Three astronauts will then install and hookup the battery adapter plates over a pair of spacewalks planned for Sept. 20 and 26. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will participate in both spacewalks, with Feustel on the first and NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold on the second.

NASA TV is broadcasting live the HTV-7 launch and rendezvous activities as well as both spacewalks.

Get weekly video highlights at: http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/

International Space Station Status

Aug. 22, 2018: International Space Station Configuration
International Space Station Configuration as of Aug. 22, 2018: Three spaceships are docked at the space station including the Progress 70 resupply ship and the Soyuz MS-08 and MS-09 crew ships.

The International Space Station’s cabin pressure is holding steady after the Expedition 56 crew conducted repair work on one of two Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the complex. The repair was made to address a leak that had caused a minor reduction of station pressure.

After a morning of investigations, the crew reported that the leak was isolated to a hole about two millimeters in diameter in the orbital compartment, or upper section, of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the Rassvet module of the Russian segment of the station.

Flight controllers at their respective Mission Control centers in Houston and Moscow worked together with the crew to effect a repair option in which Soyuz commander Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos used epoxy on a gauze wipe to plug the hole identified as the leak source. As the teams were discussing options, flight controllers in Moscow performed a partial increase of the station’s atmosphere using the ISS Progress 70 cargo ship’s oxygen supply. Flight controllers in Houston are continuing to monitor station’s cabin pressure in the wake of the repair.

Meanwhile, Roscosmos has convened a commission to conduct further analysis of the possible cause of the leak.

Throughout the day, the crew was never in any danger, and was told no further action was contemplated for the remainder of the day. Flight controllers will monitor the pressure trends overnight.

All station systems are stable and the crew is planning to return to its regular schedule of work on Friday.

International Space Station Status

Expedition 56 Crew Members
International Space Station Status
6 a.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 30. 2018

About 7 p.m. EDT Wednesday, International Space Station flight controllers in Houston and Moscow began seeing signs of a minute pressure leak in the complex.

As flight controllers monitored their data, the decision was made to allow the Expedition 56 crew to sleep since they were in no danger. When the crew was awakened at its normal hour this morning, flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston and at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow began working procedures to try to determine the location of the leak.

The six crew members, station Commander Drew Feustel, Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, gathered in the Russian segment of the station and, after extensive checks, reported that the leak appears to be on the Russian side of the orbital outpost.

Program officials and flight controllers are continuing to monitor the situation as the crew works through its troubleshooting procedures.

Station Gears Up for Japan Cargo Mission and US Spacewalks

NASA astronaut Drew Feustel
NASA astronaut Drew Feustel is pictured June 14, 2018, during a spacewalk to install high-definition cameras to provide enhanced views of SpaceX and Boeing commercial crew spacecraft approaching the International Space Station.

September is scheduled to be a busy month for the Expedition 56 crew aboard the International Space Station. Japan is preparing to launch its seventh resupply mission and three astronauts are gearing up for two spacewalks next month.

Today, a pair of astronauts familiarized themselves with the robotics maneuvers they will use when they capture Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) on Sept. 14. The HTV-7, also called the Kounotori, will launch Sept. 10 from the Tanegashima Space Center loaded with crew supplies, new science hardware and critical spacewalk gear.

Commander Drew Feustel will be supported by Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor inside the Cupola as he controls the Canadarm2 to reach out and grapple the HTV-7. Robotics controllers on the ground will then take over and install Kounotori on the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port. NASA TV will broadcast live all of Kounotori’s launch, rendezvous and capture activities.

A pair of spacewalks will take place soon after the Kounotori arrives when robotics controllers begin removing new batteries from the Japanese resupply ship. The six lithium-ion batteries, replacing 12 older nickel-hydrogen batteries, will be installed on the space station’s Port 4 truss structure power channels during the two spacewalks on Sept 20 and 26.

Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst will participate in both spacewalks. Commander Drew Feustel will join him on the first spacewalk. Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold will go out on the second spacewalk. Gerst and Feustel began inspecting and resizing their U.S. spacesuits this morning. Feustel then moved on checking spacesuit gloves and helmets before finally collecting spacewalk tools.

Astronauts Busy With Exercise Study, Satellite and Astronomy Work

Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel
Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel is inside the Harmony module working on the Protein Crystal Growth-13 experiment which is seeking to fine-tune the research process in space and help public and private organizations deliver results and benefits sooner..

Ongoing exercise research and gym maintenance took place aboard the International Space Station to ensure astronaut health and mission success. The Expedition 56 crew members also worked on autonomous satellite operations and botany and astronomy gear.

European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst has been participating in an exercise study all week developed by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). He has been working out in a custom t-shirt with a specialized fabric for the SpaceTex-2 experiment that may improve an astronaut’s comfort and thermal relief while working out in space.

A treadmill is getting its twice-yearly checkup today in the Tranquility module. Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA spent Friday morning checking the treadmill’s belt tension, greasing axles and replacing parts. Engineers on the ground will review its condition before the crew gets back on the treadmill for daily runs.

Commander Drew Feustel set up a pair of tiny internal satellites today, known as SPHERES, and tested the autonomous operation of the free-floating devices.  The SmoothNav experiment is researching using algorithms that spacecraft may use to operate and communicate with each other when conducting space-based tasks.

NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold worked on botany and astronomy gear inside the orbital lab. The former teacher reinstalled the Plant Habitat during the morning after some maintenance work on the Japan Kibo lab module’s EXPRESS rack.

In the afternoon, Arnold switched to the METEOR experiment installing new computer software and positioning a camera in the U.S. Destiny lab module’s Window Observational Research Facility. METEOR observes and takes spectral measurements of the chemical composition of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Global Cargo Missions Planned as Critical Research Proceeds

The Soyuz MS-09 crew ship and the Progress 70 resupply ship
Russia’s two docked spacecraft, the Soyuz MS-09 (left) crew ship and the Progress 70 resupply ship, are pictured as the International Space Station orbited nearly 254 miles above northern Kazakhstan.

A Russian cargo ship departed the International Space Station Wednesday night as another resupply mission from Japan is planned in September. The Expedition 56 crew members also observed protein crystals, studied an ancient navigation technique and researched time perception in space.

Two Soyuz crew ships and a Progress resupply ship remain docked at the orbital lab after the Progress 69 (69P) cargo craft undocked from the Zvezda service module Wednesday at 10:16 p.m. EDT. It will orbit Earth until Aug. 29 for engineering tests monitored by Roscosmos mission controllers before deorbiting over the Pacific Ocean.

The next resupply mission is coming from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s “Kounotori” H-II Transfer Vehicle. It is targeted for launch Sept. 10 to deliver science, supplies and batteries for installation during a pair of spacewalks next month. Russia’s next resupply mission, the Progress 71, is targeted for a two-day trip to the station at the end of October.

Commander Drew Feustel continued working on a pair of similar protein crystal experiments today. The BioServe Protein Crystalography-1 and Protein Crystal Growth-13 studies allow astronauts to observe crystal growth in space and analyze the results. This saves researchers time without having to wait for samples to be returned to Earth for analysis.

Alexander Gerst of ESA assisted Serena Auñón-Chancellor from NASA and tested using a sextant in space for celestial navigation during an emergency. The duo worked inside the Cupola today and tested stability, positioning and sighting with the device using a star map.

Gerst then switched his attention to a European Space Agency study exploring how astronauts perceive time in space. Researchers seek to quantify subjective changes in time perception to understand how astronauts navigate, move and hear in space.