Diverse Space Research and Station Robotics Fill Crew Day

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy collects trash for disposal during weekend housekeeping activities aboard the space station.
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy collects trash for disposal during weekend housekeeping activities aboard the space station.

The Expedition 63 crew trio continued ongoing space research and orbital housekeeping aboard the International Space Station today. Mission controllers are also preparing the Canadarm2 robotics arm for departure operations with Japan’s ninth resupply ship.

Commander Chris Cassidy split his Thursday shift with physics research in the morning and plumbing and electronics maintenance in the afternoon. The veteran NASA astronaut first checked samples inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace that levitates, melts and solidifies materials exposed to extreme temperatures. After lunch, he connected water recovery system cables then checked emergency communications gear.

Astrobee, a set of cube-shaped robotic free-flyers, was turned on today inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. The devices were autonomously maneuvering throughout Kibo and live-streaming video during the afternoon so engineers could monitor the operations.

Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner tackled their portion of research and maintenance today  in the Russian segment of the orbiting lab. Ivanishin once again continued his space biology and Earth studies. Vagner worked on another Earth observation experiment and also organized the Pirs docking compartment.

Attached to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module since May 25, Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) is nearing the end of its mission. Robotics controllers will maneuver the Canadarm2 in position on Friday before grappling and removing the HTV-9 from Harmony on Tuesday.

Cassidy will take over afterward and command the 57.7-foot-long robotic arm to release the HTV-9 into Earth orbit the same day. Nicknamed Kounotori, or “white stork” for its delivery mission, the Japanese resupply ship will end its mission two days later for a fiery, but safe demise over the South Pacific.

Crew Packs Japanese Ship, Studies Space Physics and Earth

Flying over southern Argentina, this photograph from the space station looks northward with the Sun's glint beaming on the Atlantic Ocean.
Flying over southern Argentina, this photograph from the space station looks northward with the Sun’s glint beaming on the Atlantic Ocean.

The Expedition 63 crew members are getting a Japanese spaceship ready for departure next week. In the meantime, the International Space Station trio was busy today with science, video communications and orbital plumbing.

Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin partnered up today loading Japan’s resupply ship with trash and old station gear. Cassidy will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Aug. 18 to release the H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) into Earth orbit for a fiery, but safe reentry into the atmosphere above the South Pacific. The HTV-9 arrived at the orbiting lab on May 25 delivering four tons of new science experiments, station hardware, crew supplies and fuel.

Cassidy started the morning setting up the Space Frontier Studio that live-streams science activities from inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module to audiences on the ground. The station commander from NASA then spent the afternoon installing new science hardware that will study gas-liquid flows in porous media in the Microgravity Science Glovebox. Results from the Packed Bed Reactor Experiment could benefit life support systems on the space station and future missions to the Moon and Mars.

Earth observations have been ongoing this week in the Russian segment of the space station. One long-running study has been monitoring natural and man-made conditions around the globe to forecast potential catastrophes. Ivanishin of Roscosmos was servicing photo equipment this morning for that experiment which measures radiation reflected from the Earth in a variety of wavelengths.

Cosmonaut Ivan Vagner worked during the morning servicing Russian plumbing hardware. The first-time space flyer then spent the rest of the day inventorying common office supplies such as printer cartridges, pens and tape.

Japanese Resupply Ship Departs Next Week

Japan's HTV-9 resupply ship is seen with the HTV-8 pallet inside containing old nickel-hydrogen batteries removed during a series of spacewalks earlier this year.
Japan’s HTV-9 resupply ship is seen with the HTV-8 pallet inside containing old nickel-hydrogen batteries removed during a series of spacewalks earlier this year.

A Japanese resupply ship will depart the International Space Station next week after nearly three months attached to the orbital lab. Meanwhile, the Expedition 63 crew continued a variety of science operations today.

JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, announced Tuesday, Aug. 18, as the release date for its H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) cargo craft. Ground controllers will remotely control the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple and remove the HTV-9 from the Harmony module. Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA will command the Canadarm2 to release the cargo craft into space completing an 85-day station mission. The HTV-9 will orbit Earth on its own for two more days and reenter the atmosphere above the South Pacific for a fiery, but safe demise.

The HTV-9 delivered four tons of gear on May 25 that included the new Space Frontier Studio for live broadcasts inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Cassidy set up the live-streaming hardware today for an event highlighting science activities inside Kibo.

Cassidy also completed fluid research work that took place inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module’s Microgravity Science Glovebox. The veteran astronaut disconnected, took apart and stowed the hardware that investigated water droplet behavior in microgravity. Results may promote water conservation and improve water pressure for Earth and space systems.

Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin continued working on a long-running Earth observation study on the Russian side the station. That experiment is helping scientists monitor and forecast natural and man-made catastrophes around the world.

Fellow cosmonaut and flight engineer Ivan Vagner worked during the morning testing broadband video communications gear. The first-time space flyer then spent the rest of the afternoon servicing the ventilation subsystem in the Zvezda service module.

Station Team Starts Workweek Researching Physics and Biotech

The sun's first rays burst over the Earth's horizon during an orbital sunrise as the International Space Station orbited above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia.
The sun’s first rays burst over the Earth’s horizon during an orbital sunrise as the International Space Station orbited above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia.

Advanced space physics and biotechnology research kicked off the week for the Expedition 63 trio aboard the International Space Station.

Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA started Monday operating a variety of science experiments that observe different microgravity phenomena. He continued researching water droplets in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module to promote water conservation and improve water pressure for space and Earth facilities.

The veteran astronaut, whose first mission was in 2009, also worked in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module maintaining the BioLab incubator. He opened up the space biology research device, that houses microbes, tissue cultures and small invertebrates, and checked fans, sensors and relative humidity.

Cassidy also joined his crewmates, cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, for body mass measurements aboard the orbiting lab today. The device uses a Newtonian method that applies a known force to an individual with the resulting acceleration providing a mass calculation in microgravity.

Ivanishin also spent Monday splitting his time between Earth observations and biomedical research. The three-time station visitor photographed global landmarks to observe and forecast the effects of man-made and natural catastrophes. He then moved onto to exploring the survivability of enzymes and bone marrow cells in the weightless environment.

First-time space flyer Ivan Vagner worked all day in the station’s Russian segment on biotechnology research. He collected microbe samples from the air and lab surfaces for incubation and analysis to understand and monitor conditions for safe and sterile space research gear.

Space Research, Orbital Plumbing Fill Crew’s Day

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy services microbial DNA samples for sequencing and identification aboard the space station's Harmony module.
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy services microbial DNA samples for sequencing and identification aboard the space station’s Harmony module.

The Expedition 63 crew, with one U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station, juggled an array of space research and orbital plumbing duties on Wednesday.

Commander Chris Cassidy ran several test operations today of the Water Droplet Formation experiment that may improve fluid management on spaceships and faucets and showers on Earth. The veteran astronaut also analyzed water samples for microbes and checked on biology and robotics hardware.

Cassidy then switched roles from space scientist to high-flying plumber and serviced the station’s restroom, the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, located in the Tranquility module. He also exchanged water recovery system pumps inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.

Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos spent Wednesday morning working on power and electrical systems in the orbiting lab’s Russian segment. The experienced cosmonaut then moved onto fluid transfers into the Progress 76 resupply ship then studied ways improve to interactions between mission controllers and space crews.

Cosmonaut Ivan Vagner from Roscosmos started the morning communicating with students on Earth using a ham radio. The first-time space flyer then worked the rest of the day on a variety of maintenance tasks including replacing pumps and checking smoke detectors.

Station Crew Busy With Variety of Space Research

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy installs fluid research hardware inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module's Microgravity Science Glovebox.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy installs fluid research hardware inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module’s Microgravity Science Glovebox.

Free-flying robots, planetary bodies and water droplets were just part of Tuesday’s research plan aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 63 trio also serviced a variety of communications gear and life support systems.

NASA and its international partners are planning human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond and the space station represents a big step in that effort. The orbiting lab provides a unique platform to learn about the long-term effects of microgravity on a variety of systems.

A set of cube-shaped, robot assistants are flying around on their own today inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Engineers are looking at video and imagery downlinked from the Astrobee devices to understand how the autonomous free-flyers visualize and navigate their way around the station.

Commander Chris Cassidy took a look at dynamic granular material samples this morning that simulate planetary surfaces. The experiment is taking place inside ESA’s (European Space Agency) Columbus laboratory module and could inform future planetary exploration missions.

The veteran NASA astronaut also split his time between botany and fluid physics. Cassidy worked on the Plant Habitat-02 checking growth lights and installing an acoustic shield to protect the plants from station noises. Next, he moved onto commercial research to improve water conservation and water pressure techniques on Earth.

In the Russian segment of the station, the two cosmonaut flight engineers worked on their complement of orbital science and lab maintenance. Anatoly Ivanishin serviced video equipment and an air purifier before conducting Earth observations. Ivan Vagner collected air samples for microbial analysis and explored ways to improve interactions between mission controllers, students and space crews.

Crew Dragon Returns as SpaceX, Russia Prep Future Crew Missions

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley onboard splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley onboard splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Three humans are orbiting Earth today aboard the International Space Station following the return on Sunday of NASA’s first commercial crew.

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will stay in space until October. The orbital trio are continuing critical space research benefitting humans on and off the Earth as well as maintaining the orbital lab.

Back on Earth, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are adapting to Earth’s gravity following a two-month mission on the station. Representing NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, duo is the first crew to launch to space and splashdown on Earth inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle.

SpaceX has completed its demonstration mission phase and has already booked two operational Crew Dragon missions. Crew-1 is planned for later this year and Crew-2 is targeted for Spring 2021. Both commercial crew missions will launch four astronauts each to the space station to continue microgravity science.

Russia will launch three Expedition 64 crew members to the station one week before the Expedition 63 crew returns to Earth in October. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will liftoff inside the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship to begin a six-month mission aboard the orbital lab.

Crew Dragon Go For Splashdown, Station Science Continues

NASA and SpaceX mission managers met Thursday night and are proceeding, weather permitting, with the return to Earth of two astronauts. Meanwhile, space research to improve life for humans on and off the planet kept the Expedition 63 crew busy today.

Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are packing up to end a two-month mission aboard the International Space Station. They are scheduled to board the Crew Dragon spacecraft and undock on Saturday evening from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter. The duo would splashdown on Sunday wrapping up NASA’s first crewed mission since 2011. NASA TV will provide continuous coverage of the departure and Earth return activities.

The veteran astronauts also completed their science assignments today that saw studies into unique fluids, biomedicine, autonomous robotics and more. However, Commander Chris Cassidy, who is staying in space until October, was busy all-day researching water droplets, observing extreme temperatures and sequencing microbial DNA.

Hurley serviced science freezers that preserve biological samples for later analysis. He finally powered down the Astrobee free-flying robots that will soon see students competing to create the best algorithms to control the devices. Behnken finalized his work observing microgravity’s effects on water droplets to improve conservation and pressure techniques.

The orbiting lab’s two cosmonauts from Roscosmos, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, continued their schedule of science and maintenance today. Ivanishin worked on a variety of communications gear during the morning before activating Russian radiation detectors in the afternoon. Vagner once again photographed Earth landmarks today then sampled the station’s air and surfaces to analyze and identify microbes.

Astronauts Talk to Press on Friday Before Crew Dragon Departure

NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy are the U.S. members of the Expedition 63 crew.
NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy are the U.S. members of the Expedition 63 crew.

Two Flight Engineers and the Expedition 63 Commander, all from NASA, will talk to journalists Friday morning before the SpaceX Crew Dragon completes its stay at the International Space Station.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, NASA’s first commercial crew, have been aboard the orbiting lab since May 31. They have been packing the Crew Dragon spacecraft and testing its systems to get ready for this weekend’s scheduled undocking and return to Earth. NASA TV will provide continuous live coverage of their departure and splashdown activities.

The NASA station trio, including Commander Chris Cassidy, will answer questions Friday morning from a variety of reporters calling up to space. NASA TV will broadcast the Crew News Conference live beginning at 10:45 a.m. EDT.

Orbital science is still ongoing today amidst Hurley and Behnken’s departure preparations. Cassidy was observing how microgravity shapes water droplets possibly improving water conservation and water pressure techniques on Earth. Even the homebound duo put in some research time studying light-manipulating materials and starting up an experimental radiation detector.

Earth observations are part of the critical research program taking place onboard the station. First-time cosmonaut Ivan Vagner photographed Earth landmarks today to understand and forecast the effects of natural and man-made catastrophes. Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin continued unloading the new Progress 76 cargo craft while updating the station’s inventory system.

Crew Dragon Suit Checks as Station Begins Orbital Reboosts

This long-exposure photograph from the space station reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow blanketing the Earth's horizon.
This long-exposure photograph from the space station reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow blanketing the Earth’s horizon.

The Expedition 63 crew checked out SpaceX Crew Dragon suits today and stayed busy with a full slate of space research. The International Space Station also completed the first of three orbital reboosts to get ready for the next crew mission in October.

Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken inspected the suits they will wear when they return to Earth aboard the Crew Dragon spaceship. The duo tried on their suits for a fit check and ensured the components are in good condition. They are scheduled to depart the station on Saturday and splashdown the following day. NASA TV will cover all the departure activities live.

The homebound-duo started the day replacing environmental control system (ECS) hardware aboard the orbiting lab. That work required temporarily removing a plant habitat from the Unity module to access the ECS.

Commander Chris Cassidy had his hands full as he worked on specialized hardware that enables research into disordered solids, or glass, and materials heated to extreme temperatures. He first set up a Light Microscopy Module that will look at the microscopic transition of glass-forming materials. Next, he worked on the Electromagnetic Levitator that observes the thermophysical properties of liquid metallic alloys.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner stayed busy today as they checked out Orlan spacesuits, serviced life support gear and analyzed station air samples for impurities.

The docked Progress 75 resupply ship fired its engines this morning for five-and-a-half minutes slightly lifting the station’s orbit. There will be two more station reboosts before the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship launches in October with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. They will dock to the Rassvet module a few hours after launch to begin a six-month mission as the Expedition 64 crew.