Next Crew in Russia as Station Preps for Cargo Missions

Expedition 54-55
Expedition 54-55 is the next crew to launch to the space station. They are (from left) Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Scott Tingle of NASA.

The next crew to launch to the International Space Station is in Russia today for traditional ceremonies before heading to the launch site in Kazakhstan. Back in space, the Expedition 53 crew is preparing for the departure and arrival of a pair of cargo ships next week.

Three new crew members from Russia, the United States and Japan are getting ready for their Dec. 14 launch aboard the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft to the space station’s Rassvet module. The Expedition 54-55 crew consists of Soyuz Commander and veteran station resident Anton Shkaplerov and first-time Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai.

The trio was in Star City today talking to journalists before heading to Moscow to tour Red Square and lay flowers at the Kremlin Wall where famed cosmonauts are interred. Next, the crew will head to the launch site Dec. 4 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan where they will stay for final launch preparations at the Cosmonaut Hotel.

Meanwhile, the orbiting Expedition 53 crew is packing the Cygnus cargo craft with trash before it ends its mission next week. First, ground controllers will remotely detach Cygnus from the Unity module with the Canadarm2 on Dec. 5. Cygnus will then be maneuvered over the Harmony module for a GPS test to assist NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Next, astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba will take over the robotics controls and release Cygnus back into space on Dec. 6. It will orbit Earth until Dec. 18 then enter the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean for a fiery, but safe demise.

SpaceX is getting ready to replenish the station with its Dragon cargo craft scheduled to deliver about 4,800 pounds of crew supplies and science gear. Dragon is targeted to launch Dec. 8 from Florida atop a Falcon 9 rocket and take a two-day trip to the station. Vande Hei and Acaba are training to capture Dragon with the Canadarm2 when it reaches a point 10 meters from the station. Ground controllers will them remotely install Dragon to the Harmony module where it will stay until Jan. 6.

Aging and Heart Research Lead Station Science Today

Astronaut Peggy Whitson
Astronaut Peggy Whitson floats inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.

Expedition 52 explored the aging process in space today and measured the lighting conditions on the International Space Station. The crew is also getting spacesuits ready for an upcoming Russian spacewalk.

Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson swapped out stem cell samples today inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for the Cardiac Stem Cells study. The experiment is researching spaceflight’s effect on accelerated aging and may provide a treatment for heart disease on Earth. Scientists are observing the stem cells in space to determine their role in cardiac biology and effectiveness in tissue regeneration.

Whitson also set up light meters to measure the intensity and color of new LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs installed in the station. The data is being collected for the Lighting Effects study to determine how the new lights affect crew sleep, circadian rhythms and cognitive performance.

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer checked out Russian Orlan spacesuits with Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin this morning. The spacesuit maintenance work is doing being done ahead of a Russian spacewalk planned for later this year.


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White Stork Burns over Pacific and Crew Preps for Dragon

Japan's HTV-6 Resupply Ship
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.


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Crew Checks Eyes after Japanese Cargo Ship Packed

The Expedition 50 Crew
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.


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Japanese Cargo Ship Set to Leave Friday

Japan's HTV-6 Resupply Ship
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.

Commander Shane Kimbrough is getting the Combustion Integrated Rack ready for the Cool Flames Investigation (CFI). That study will observe how fuels burn at lower temperatures with no visible flames. CFI may engineers develop advanced engines and fuels and improve crew safety.


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New Japanese Gear Installed, New European Experiment Started

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Shane Kimbrough
Astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Shane Kimbrough work inside the cupola module to robotically capture the Japanese HTV-6 cargo craft.

External and internal cargo is currently being unloaded from Japan’s sixth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-6) to visit the International Space Station. The Expedition 50 commander also talked to students on Earth today and helped the rest of the crew with space research and orbital lab maintenance.

Commander Shane Kimbrough continued unpacking gear and fresh food delivered in the HTV-6 day. Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson installed a new small satellite deployer delivered on the Japanese resupply ship inside the Kibo lab module. Kimbrough also spent a few minutes during his workday answering questions uplinked live from Nantucket New School students in Massachusetts this morning.

European Space Agency Thomas Pesquet astronaut looked at a new method for water recycling in space called AquaMembrane. Pesquet also joined Kimbrough and Whitson in the afternoon for eye and retina checks as part of the Ocular Health study.

Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko partnered throughout the day on Russian communication gear maintenance tasks. Veteran cosmonaut and second-time station resident Oleg Novitskiy worked on various science experiments studying how weightlessness affects respiration and the remote control of rovers on another planet from a spacecraft.

Crew Begins Unloading Japanese Cargo Ship

Japan's HTV-6 cargo craft
Japan’s HTV-6 cargo craft is pictured moments before it was grappled by Canada’s 57.7-foot-long robotic arm Tuesday morning.

Robotic officers in Mission Control, Houston maneuvered the Canadarm2 robotic arm overnight to extract a pallet from the newly-arrived Japanese HTV-6 cargo ship containing new batteries for the station’s power supply.  The batteries will replace older batteries on the starboard truss through a series of robotic operations and spacewalks planned through mid-January.

The hatch to the HTV-6 resupply vehicle was opened Tuesday just a few hours after it arrived and was installed to the International Space Station. The Expedition 50 crew began unloading supplies from the vehicle shortly afterward.

For more information on previous HTV missions from JAXA to the space station visit:

While cargo transfers were under way the six-member crew also worked on analyzing water samples, installing new science gear, continuing ongoing research and maintaining station systems. The orbital residents also reviewed procedures in the unlikely event of an emergency with the HTV-6 attached to the station.

Commander Shane Kimbrough began work to install a new Japanese experiment that measures space radiation and the exposure risk to astronauts. ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet explored new technologies to analyze water samples for microbes. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson researched how astronauts work with touch-based devices and repair sensitive equipment.

Cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy studied plasma physics then moved onto testing the remote control of rovers on another planet from a spacecraft. Flight Engineer Sergey Ryzhikov gathered radiation detectors for the Matryeshka-Bubble experiment. Veteran cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko worked throughout the station’s Russian segment on maintenance task.


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Japanese Cargo Craft Flying to Station, Arrives Tuesday

Japan's H-IIB rocket launches on time
Japan’s H-IIB rocket launches on time from the Tanegashima Space Center. Credit: NASA TV

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s H-IIB rocket launched at 8:26 a.m. EST (10:26 p.m. Japan time) on Friday, Dec. 9 from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. At the time of launch, the space station was flying about 250 miles over the Philippine Sea south of Japan.

A little more than 15 minutes after launch, the HTV-6 cargo spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket and began its four-day rendezvous with the International Space Station.

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the HTV-6 will approach the station from below, and slowly inch its way toward the complex. Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) will operate the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm from the station’s cupola to reach out and grapple the 12-ton spacecraft. Robotic ground controllers will then install it on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module, where it will spend more than five weeks. Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA will monitor HTV-6 systems during the rendezvous and grapple.

NASA TV coverage of the Dec. 13 rendezvous and grapple will begin at 4:30 a.m. Capture of the spacecraft is scheduled around 6 a.m. Coverage of the final installation to Harmony will resume at 9:15 a.m.

For more information on previous HTV missions from JAXA to the space station visit:


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Japanese Rocket Fueled and Ready for Launch

Japan's Kounotori HTV-2 resupply ship
Japan’s Kounotori HTV-2 resupply ship is seen March 2011 in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

A Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) H-IIB rocket at the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan is fueled and ready for a launch of the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-6) at 8:26 a.m. EST. NASA Television is providing live coverage of the launch, which can be seen at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv.

Loaded with more than 4.5 tons of supplies, water, spare parts and experiment hardware for the six-person station crew, the unpiloted cargo spacecraft, named “Kounotori” – the Japanese word for white stork – will set sail on a four-day flight to the station. Also aboard the resupply vehicle are six new lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates that will replace the nickel-hydrogen batteries currently used on the station to store electrical energy generated by the station’s solar arrays. These will be installed during a series of robotic operations and spacewalks between late December and mid-January.

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For more information on previous HTV missions from JAXA to the space station visit:


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NASA TV to Broadcast Live Launch of Japanese Rocket to Station

HTV-6 at Launch Pad
The HTV-6 cargo craft sits atop Japan’s H-IIB rocket at its launch pad at the Tanegashima Space Center. Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is scheduled to launch its H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)-6 at 8:26 a.m. EST (10:26 p.m. Japan time) Friday, Dec. 9, from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. The launch vehicle will send the Kounotori HTV-6 into orbit on a four-day rendezvous for an arrival at the International Space Station.

Live coverage of the launch will begin at 8 a.m. on NASA Television and https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv.

For more information on previous HTV missions from JAXA to the space station visit:


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