Station to Raise Orbit before June Expedition 43 Undocking

Astronaut Terry Virts and Scott Kelly
Astronaut Terry Virts and Scott Kelly were inside the Quest airlock Friday morning talking to reporters from The Weather Channel and Time Magazine . Credit: NASA TV

The six-member Expedition 43 crew ends its work week with a wide variety of science exploring life in space benefiting both crews in space and humans on Earth. Meanwhile, one space freighter is preparing to fire its thrusters to lift the station’s orbit as another is being packed and readied for splashdown.

One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko participated in the Fine Motor Skills experiment which monitors different phases of a crew member’s microgravity adaptation and recovery back on Earth. Commander Terry Virts took samples of air and surface microbes for the Microbial Observatory-1 study which will be analyzed by scientists on the ground.

Samantha Cristoforetti studied the physics of where fluids and gases meet in Japan’s Kibo lab module. Flight Engineer Gennady Padalka worked on video gear and tested magnetometers in the station’s Russian segment. Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov studied chemical reactions in the Earth’s atmosphere, checked Russian docking systems and photographed windows in the Pirs and Poisk modules.

The ISS Progress 58 resupply ship docked to the Zvezda service module will fire its engines Friday night. The orbital boost will place the International Space Station at the correct altitude for the undocking of Expedition 43 in early June. The SpaceX Dragon loaded with science and gear will be released from the grips of the Canadarm2 May 21 at 7:05 a.m. EDT for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later.

Visiting Vehicle Activities and Maintenance Keep Crew Busy

Astronauts Scott Kelly and Terry Virts
ISS043E181459 (05/07/2015) — NASA astronauts Scott Kelly (left) and Terry Virts (right) work on a Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly (CDRA) inside the station’s Japanese Experiment Module.

Expedition 43 is packing the SpaceX Dragon space freighter readying the vehicle for its return home and splashdown May 21. The docked ISS Progress 58 resupply ship will fire its thrusters Friday night placing the International Space Station at the correct orbit for next month’s Soyuz undocking.

The six-member crew also worked a variety of onboard maintenance ensuring crew safety and the upkeep of station hardware. One-Year crew member Scott Kelly worked on science gear in Japan’s Kibo lab module. Commander Terry Virts worked on replacing a Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly blower fan. Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti routed cables and configured valves to prepare the Permanent Multipurpose Module for its relocation later this month.

On the Russian side of the orbital lab, Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov photographed the condition of the Zvezda service module windows. Flight Engineer Gennady Padalka partnered up with One-Year crew member Mikhail Kornienko to study acoustic techniques for immediately locating micrometeoroid impacts on the station’s exterior. The trio also continued the maintenance of the Russian station systems.

The return to Earth for NASA’s Terry Virts, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov now is scheduled for early June. NASA and its international partners set the schedule after hearing the Russian Federal Space Agency’s (Roscosmos) findings on the loss of the Progress 59 cargo craft. The exact date has not yet been established and will be announced in the coming weeks.

First of Three Spacewalks Now Set for Saturday

Expedition 42 Cosmonauts
(From left) Expedition 42 cosmonauts Elena Serova, Anton Shkaplerov and Alexander Samokutyaev work inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Credit: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts are preparing to ready the International Space Station for a pair of international docking adapters (IDAs) that will allow future commercial crew vehicles to dock. The duo is almost set to start a series of three spacewalks routing cables and preparing the Canadarm2 for the installation of the IDAs to be delivered later this year.

The first spacewalk is now set to begin Saturday at 7:10 a.m. EST with NASA TV live coverage starting at 6 a.m. The second and third spacewalks are planned for Feb. 25 and March 1, both beginning at 7:10 a.m.

Amidst the spacewalk preparations, the Expedition 42 crew members continued ongoing advanced microgravity science benefiting life on Earth and current and future crew members. The crew looked at stem growth for the Aniso Tubule botany experiment, cell cultures grown on orbit and a crew member’s cardiac activity during long-duration missions.

› Read more about Aniso Tubule
› Read more about the Kaskad cell culture study

Crew Reviews Spacewalk Procedures

Terry Virts and Samantha Cristoforetti
Astronauts Terry Virts and Samantha Cristoforetti share fresh fruit floating inside the International Space Station.

Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts reviewed spacewalk procedures Wednesday. They are scheduled to start the first of three spacewalks Feb. 20. The duo will set up cables and communication equipment allowing the future installation of International Docking Adapters accommodating commercial crew vehicles.

A CubeSat delivered to the International Space Station in January aboard the SpaceX Dragon supply ship will be deployed outside the Kibo lab module Thursday morning. It is testing various subsystems in space and also includes an amateur radio experiment.

› Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission

European flight controllers are investigating a signal indicative of a failure in a power chain that provides battery power to the Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 (ATV-5). Three other power chains are operating normally inside the ATV-5 and the six-member Expedition 42 crew is continuing its normal activities.

Pair of Space Freighters Packed for Departure

NASA and ESA Astronauts
(From left) Astronauts Barry Wilmore, Samantha Cristoforetti and Terry Virts pose for a portrait inside the Destiny laboratory.

A pair of docked space freighters is being loaded in preparation for next month’s departure activities. The ISS Progress 57 (57P) resupply ship is being packed with trash and discarded gear for a fiery disposal over the Pacific Ocean. The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is being loaded with experiment samples, spacesuit gear and other hardware to be returned to Earth when the ship splashes down off the Pacific coast of Baja California.

› Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission

The International Space Station is getting ready for another round of Cubesat deployments from outside Japan’s Kibo lab module. Meanwhile, inside the station the six-member Expedition 42 crew worked a wide array of microgravity science, spacewalk preparations and ongoing maintenance, keeping their orbital home safe and sound.

Astronauts Terry Virts and Samantha Cristoforetti worked in the Quest airlock readying tools for a trio of spacewalks set to begin in February. Those spacewalks will get the station wired and ready for two new spacecraft docking adapters to be installed later this year.

CATS Installed, Eye Checks and Science Maintenance for Crew

Samantha Cristoforetti and Barry Wilmore
Astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti and Barry Wilmore check science hardware inside the Kibo laboratory module. Credit: NASA TV

With CATS successfully installed to an external platform on Japan’s Kibo laboratory, the Expedition 42 crew spent Friday working life science, combustion and a variety of other experiments.

› Read more about CATS

The Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR), located inside the Destiny lab module, needs fuel so scientists can ignite materials to study the behavior of flames and smoke in space. Pieces of hardware that store and deliver fuel, including igniter tips, were replaced on the CIR Friday by Commander Barry Wilmore to keep the rack in operating condition.

Astronauts Terry Virts – with the help of Samantha Cristoforetti and doctors on the ground – participated in more eye checks, undergoing ultrasound scans and an echocardiogram to gather more information. The Ocular Health study seeks to understand how microgravity affects a crew member’s eyes and explain why some astronauts report impaired vision during their missions in space.

› Read more about the Ocular Health study

Virts also checked samples and transferred data collected for the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-2 (CSLM-2) experiment, which offers potential benefits for consumer and industrial products. Cristoforetti checked on the station’s fruit flies, and later worked maintenance on the Magvector study that observes how Earth’s magnetic field interacts with an electrical conductor.

› Read more about CSLM-2
› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment

Robotic Arms Move CATS While Crew Studies Life Science

Kibo and CATS Installation
The Japanese robotic arm installs the CATS experiment on an external platform on Japan’s Kibo lab module. The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is seen at the right center of the image. Credit: NASA TV

Ground controllers overnight remotely guided the Canadarm2, with its Dextre robotic hand attached, to deftly remove the CATS experiment from the SpaceX Dragon trunk. They then handed it off to the Japanese robotic arm for installation on the Kibo laboratory’s external platform. CATS, or Cloud-Aerosol Transport System, will collect data on the pollution, dust, smoke, aerosols and other particulates in Earth’s atmosphere to understand their impacts on global climate and create a better model of the climate feedback process.

› Read more about CATS

Back inside the International Space Station, the Expedition 42 crew worked on an array of new and ongoing science and continued unpacking Dragon. There were eye exams as well as research into the effects of long stays in space on the human T-cells, which are a critical part of our immune system.

› Read more about the Ocular Health study
› Read more about the T-Cell Activation in Aging study

The crew also looked at how certain materials behave in space for the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-2 (CSLM-2) experiment, which offers potential benefits for consumer and industrial products. In addition, they checked on the station’s fruit flies, which are also monitored by scientists studying their immune system as a model for a crew member susceptibility to disease in space.

› Read more about CSLM-2
› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment

Crew Works Botany and Physics as Robotic Arm Preps New Experiment

Kibo Laboratory
The new CATS experiment delivered by the SpaceX commercial cargo craft will be installed on a platform outside Japan’s Kibo Laboratory module. Credit: NASA

The six-member Expedition 42 crew worked Dragon cargo transfers and science on the International Space Station Wednesday.

Commander Barry Wilmore conducted botany research and harvested plants grown for the Advanced Plant Experiments-03-1 (APEX-03-1). The thale cress plants are photographed and preserved in a science freezer for analysis on the ground.

› Read more about APEX-03-1

NASA astronaut Terry Virts processed samples for the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-2 (CSLM-2) experiment, which studies the processes that occur in materials for consumer and industrial products. He later unpacked more gear from inside Dragon.

› Read more about CSLM-2

Ground controllers are preparing the Canadarm2 and Dextre to remove the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) experiment from Dragon’s exposed trunk and install it on a platform on the outside of Japan’s Kibo laboratory. CATS will observe aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere to understand the impacts to global climate and create a better model of the climate feedback process.

› Read more about CATS

Crew Back at Work Studying Immune System in Space

Astronaut Terry Virts
Astronaut Terry Virts works inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for the Micro-5 experiment. Credit: NASA TV

The International Space Station residents were back at work Thursday after an ammonia leak indication sent the crew over to the Russian segment. Flight controllers determined there was no leak and NASA managers allowed the crew to resume normal activities and open the U.S. segment back up.

This week, the orbital residents kicked off several new experiments delivered Monday morning aboard the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft. Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti worked in Japan’s Kibo lab module feeding fruit flies for an experiment that will observe how long-term microgravity affects the immune system. NASA astronaut Terry Virts set up bacteria kits inside the Destiny lab’s Microgravity Science Glovebox for an experiment that explores the risk of infectious disease in space.

› Read more about the Fruit Fly Lab-01 experiment
› Read more about the Micro-5 experiment

SpaceX Readies Rocket for Saturday Launch

Samantha Cristoforetti
Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti works with the bowling ball sized satellites, known as SPHERES, inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory. Credit: NASA TV

SpaceX engineers swapped out a suspect thrust vector control actuator in the second stage of their Falcon 9 rocket that halted Tuesday’ s launch of its Dragon commercial cargo craft. Dragon’s launch atop the Falcon 9 is now set for Saturday at 4:47 a.m. EST with live NASA Television coverage scheduled to begin at 3:30 a.m.

› Read more about Saturday’s launch and television coverage
› Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission

Thursday’s Expedition 42 science highlights included a pair of advanced remote control experiments inside the International Space Station. One experiment is studying the feasibility of controlling robots on the ground from space with a crew member using an advanced joystick that provides haptic feedback. The other uses bowling ball sized satellites, known as SPHERES, programmed by competing teams of high school students to accomplish tasks relevant to future space missions.

› Read more about the Haptics-1 experiment
› Read more about the SPHERES-Zero-Robotics competition

Another experiment is researching acoustic methods for locating punctures on the outside of the space station caused by human activity or micrometeoroid impacts. Crew members also studied the plasma environment in the station and photographed the ongoing man-made and natural changes to the Earth’s surface.