A Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) H-IIB rocket is fueled and ready for a launch of the H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) at 12:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Sept. 24 (1:05 a.m. Sept. 25 in Japan) at the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.
Live coverage is underway on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Named Kounotori, meaning white stork in Japanese, the craft is loaded with more than four tons of supplies, spare parts and experiment hardware. It will deliver six new lithium-ion batteries and corresponding adapter plates that will replace aging nickel-hydrogen batteries for two power channels on the station’s far port truss segment. The batteries will be installed through a series of robotics and spacewalks by the station’s crew members later this year.
Expedition 60 is in the midst of a busy week aboard the International Space Station, even with yesterday’s launch scrub of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) HTV-8 “Kounotori” cargo vehicle. While JAXA teams are meeting to discuss a forward plan and assess launch opportunities, mission operations and scientific investigations are moving forward in orbit.
Half the crew —NASA astronautsChristina Koch and Andrew Morgan ESA (European Space Agency) crewmateLuca Parmitano— spent part of their day reviewing spacewalk procedures and training for an upcomingseries of spacewalks to upgrade batteries during a maintenance activity for the outpost.
Morgan also assisted NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonautAlexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos with additional work in support of Fluid Shifts, again evaluating a Chibis Lower Body Negative Pressure suit as a potential countermeasure for explorers having trouble maintaining adequate blood pressure during phases of egress and landing.
Koch, meanwhile, performed necessary maintenance for the Rodent Research-17 experiment, temporarily relocating the rodent occupants to clean out the habitats and restock them with new food bars. This investigation evaluates the physiological, cellular and molecular effects of microgravity, testing the theory that the cosmic environment can accelerate aging. As researchers gain a better understanding of immune, bone and muscle disease processes, new therapies in space and on Earth can beneficially result.
Parmitano rounded out the busy day by performing a self-guided ultrasound for the ground team in support of the Vascular Echo study, which examines changes in blood vessels and the heart in astronauts. It’s been observed that Expedition crew members return to Earth with stiffer arteries than they had before going into space. This experiment will provide insight into potential countermeasures to maintain crew health and improve quality of life for everyone … including those of us on Earth.
Days after, on Saturday, Sept. 14, Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA, backed up by her NASA crewmate Andrew Morgan, will operate the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm from the station’s cupola to capture the 12-ton spacecraft as it approaches from below. Robotics flight controllers will then take over the operation of the arm to install HTV-8 to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module, where it will spend a month attached. Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will monitor HTV-8 systems during its approach to the station.
Aboard the orbiting laboratory, preparations to receive the craft continue, with Koch and Morgan completing training to grapple the vehicle. They also performed several approaches with the Canadarm2 to simulate HTV capture.
Expedition 60 crew members worked on experiments that will give researchers on the ground insight into plant germination in a microgravity environment, supporting the possibility of plant growth on the Moon or Mars for human consumption or other purposes. NASA astronaut Nick Hague took additional photo documentation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Palm Tree Growth Experiment, which observes and documents the root development of the Date Palm in space — and plant vital to the UAE ecosystem.
Hague also assisted Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos with the Fluid Shifts investigation, using a Chibis Lower Body Negative Pressure suit to evaluate its feasibility as a countermeasure for postflight orthostatic intolerance, or the inability to maintain blood pressure while in an upright position. Though fluid loading and compression garments show promise in preventing this phenomenon, neither has proven completely effective for all phases of landing and egress; thus, research continues.
Parmitano spent time recording an introduction for ISS Experience, previewing upcoming activities for the station crew. Filmed over many months, this cinematic virtual reality series will showcase living and working aboard the space station for viewers on the ground. He also worked with Rodent Research, powering down and stowing the habitat in a storage locker for later use.
The crew also ramped up extravehicular activity, or spacewalk, preparations, gathering and configuring tools for an upcoming spacewalk that will upgrade batteries on the outside of the orbiting laboratory.
Meanwhile, approximately 250 miles below, the Expedition 61 prime crew of cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka,NASA astronaut Jessica Meirand spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori flew from the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, to their launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to finalize pre-launch training for a Sept. 25 launch on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft to the space station.
NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan spent more time practicing 30-meter approach and capture runs, followed by their own evaluations, in preparation for HTV-8’s arrival days later on Saturday, Sept. 14. The vehicle will be loaded with more than four tons of supplies, spare parts and experiment hardware for the space station residents.
In the Kibo module, Morgan spoke to media out of Morgantown, West Virginia, referencing not only of NASA’s future with the Artemis program, but also the work currently underway that will benefit life on Earth and expand humanity’s reach into the solar system. Morgan referenced his early morning tasks with Fluid Shifts and his first spacewalk just weeks before, when he and NASA astronaut Nick Hagueinstalled International Docking Adapter to usher in a new era of commercial visiting vehiclesthat will launch from American soil.
Science investigations that will help develop countermeasures for humans exploring deep space, and for longer durations, rounded out the busy Monday. Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and crewmates Koch and Hague conducted eye exams aboard the orbiting laboratory. Since it is known that living and working in microgravity can induce vascular changes, as well as head and eye pressure, these measurements will help medical experts and scientists on the ground track crew health as Expedition 60 continues. Furthering research for Fluid Shifts, all other crewmates, with the exception of Koch and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, conducted venous ultrasounds in support of ongoing studies into vascular and fluid movement within space-faring human bodies.
Parmitano, meanwhile, worked to close out Space Moss, an experiment that helps decode how microgravity affects the growth, development, gene expression and photosynthetic activity of tiny, rootless moss plants growing within the Cell Biology Experiment Facility incubator on the orbiting laboratory.
Back on Earth, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori are set to depart for the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan tomorrow after spending the week prior taking part in ceremonial activities and mission briefings leading up to their mission start on Sept. 25, when they launch into space aboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft.
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 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.
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.