Station Boosts Orbit During Research and Spacewalk Preps

Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins works inside the Quest airlock configuring tools for planned spacewalks to continue maintenance on the outside of the International Space Station.
Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins works inside the Quest airlock configuring tools for planned spacewalks to continue maintenance on the outside of the International Space Station.

DNA, time perception and combustion investigations filled the research schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 64 crew is also training for a pair of spacewalks set to start next week.

Researchers are studying how microgravity affects a human’s DNA and even time perception as astronauts spend more time living in space. Radiation and weightlessness can impact DNA while the lack of an up-down orientation and a day-night cycle may influence spatial and time perception.

Biologist and NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins, the first person to sequence DNA in space in 2016, was once again preparing DNA samples for sequencing to learn how to monitor crew health and identify organisms in space. She also replaced fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack to maintain safe fuel and flame studies aboard the orbiting lab.

Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA took turns Thursday morning helping researchers understand the subjective changes in time perception they may experience in space. The duo wore a virtual reality headset, used a trackball and performed tests to measure their timed responses.

All three astronauts then joined NASA Flight Engineer Victor Glover in the afternoon to practice robotics maneuvers they will use during a pair of spacewalks set for Jan. 27 and Feb. 1. Hopkins and Glover will be the spacewalkers for both excursions. The duo will set up European science and communications hardware on the first spacewalk and configure battery gear and high definition cameras on the second.

The orbiting lab slightly boosted its orbit this morning after the Progress 75 cargo craft fired its engines for nearly seven minutes. The new altitude readies the station to receive a new cargo craft, the Progress 77, when it docks on Feb. 17 to the Pirs docking compartment.

Spacewalk Training, Science Maintenance on Schedule for Wednesday

Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Kate Rubins is pictured with spacewalk hardware inside the Quest airlock where spacewalks in U.S. spacesuits are staged.
Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Kate Rubins is pictured with spacewalk hardware inside the Quest airlock where spacewalks in U.S. spacesuits are staged.

Spacewalk preparations and science maintenance tasks kept the seven-member Expedition 64 crew busy today aboard the International Space Station.

Two NASA astronauts are getting ready for a pair of spacewalks scheduled for Jan. 27 and Feb. 1. Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover will spend about six and a half hours during both excursions upgrading science hardware and high definition cameras. The duo trained on a computer throughout the day on a variety of spacewalking techniques and procedures.

The orbiting lab is humming everyday with numerous science experiments investigating how microgravity impacts a diverse range of phenomena including biology and physics. The facilities that host and power those space studies are constantly attended to, both remotely from ground specialists and directly from the astronauts.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins, on her second station mission, worked on life science gear today maintaining ongoing research operations. She first swapped centrifuge components inside the Human Research Facility that evaluates physiological, behavioral, and chemical changes that take place in space. Rubins then spent the afternoon servicing the BioLab automated research device that enables observations of small organisms from microbes to plants.

JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi installed new combustion hardware in the Multipurpose Small Payload Rack that will help scientists and engineers improve fire safety aboard spacecraft. Shannon Walker of NASA updated a computer that supports external payloads on the station. She then cleaned a device that monitors and measures the small forces the station experiences as it orbits Earth.

The two cosmonauts, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, started the day processing their blood samples for a Russian space immunity study. Ryzhikov then replaced smoke detectors and cleaned ventilation filters. Kud-Sverchkov expanded on the immunity research before setting up Earth observation hardware at the end of the day.

Human Research, Space Combustion on Station Science Schedule Today

Flight Engineer Shannon Walker tends to plants growing inside the Veggie plant growth facility for a space botany study.
Flight Engineer Shannon Walker tends to plants growing inside the Veggie plant growth facility for a space botany study.

Understanding how microgravity impacts perception, vision and combustion highlighted Thursday’s research aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 64 crew also explored ways to improve space exercise and space piloting techniques.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins kicked off her day inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module conducting a session for the Vection perception study. The investigation is exploring how an astronaut adapts to visually interpreting motion, orientation, and distance in weightlessness.

Rubins also configured hardware for a suite of studies known as the Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments, or ACME, that takes place in the Combustion Integrated Rack. JAXA Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi worked on installing the Solid Combustion Experiment Module in a science rack located in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Combustion studies on the station help improve fire safety and fuel efficiency on Earth and in space.

NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Shannon Walker joined each other for ultrasound eye scans at the end of the work day. The duo had worked earlier on an array of science and life support maintenance tasks throughout the orbital lab.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov joined Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov for a Russian exercise study that seeks to maintain a crewmember’s fitness during long-term space missions. Ryzhikov then explored how pilots might operate future spacecraft and robots on planetary missions.

SpaceX Cargo Dragon Splashes Down Loaded With Science Experiments

The insignia for the SpaceX CRS-21 mission that saw the upgraded Cargo Dragon resupply ship automatically dock to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter, a first for a U.S. commercial cargo spacecraft.
The insignia for the SpaceX CRS-21 mission that saw the upgraded Cargo Dragon resupply ship automatically dock to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter, a first for a U.S. commercial cargo spacecraft.

SpaceX’s upgraded Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 8:26 p.m. EST west of Tampa off the Florida coast, marking the return of the company’s 21st contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The spacecraft carried more than 4,400 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo back to Earth.

The upgraded cargo Dragon capsule used for this mission contains double the powered locker availability of previous capsules, allowing for a significant increase in the research that can be delivered back to scientists. Some scientists will get their research returned quickly, four to nine hours after splashdown.

Some of the scientific investigations Dragon returns to Earth are:

Cardinal Heart

Microgravity causes changes in the workload and shape of the human heart, and it is still unknown whether these changes could become permanent if a person lived more than a year in space. Cardinal Heart studies how changes in gravity affect cardiovascular cells at the cellular and tissue level using 3D-engineered heart tissues, a type of tissue chip. Results could provide new understanding of heart problems on Earth, help identify new treatments, and support development of screening measures to predict cardiovascular risk prior to spaceflight.

Space Organogenesis

This investigation from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) demonstrates the growth of 3D organ buds from human stem cells to analyze changes in gene expression. Cell cultures on Earth need supportive materials or forces to achieve 3D growth, but in microgravity, cell cultures can expand into three dimensions without those devices. Results from this investigation could demonstrate advantages of using microgravity for cutting-edge developments in regenerative medicine and may contribute to the establishment of technologies needed to create artificial organs.

Sextant Navigation

The sextant used in the Sextant Navigation experiment will be returning to Earth. Sextants have a small telescope-like optical sight to take precise angle measurements between pairs of stars from land or sea, enabling navigation without computer assistance. Sailors have navigated via sextants for centuries, and NASA’s Gemini missions conducted the first sextant sightings from a spacecraft. This investigation tested specific techniques for using a sextant for emergency navigation on spacecraft such as NASA’s Orion, which will carry humans on deep-space missions.

Rodent Research-23

This experiment studies the function of arteries, veins, and lymphatic structures in the eye and changes in the retina of mice before and after spaceflight. The aim is to clarify whether these changes impair visual function. At least 40 percent of astronauts experience vision impairment known as Spaceflight-Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS) on long-duration spaceflights, which could adversely affect mission success.

Thermal Amine Scrubber

This technology demonstration tested a method to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from air aboard the International Space Station, using actively heated and cooled amine beds. Controlling CO2 levels on the station reduces the likelihood of crew members experiencing symptoms of CO2 buildup, which include fatigue, headache, breathing difficulties, strained eyes, and itchy skin.

Bacterial Adhesion and Corrosion

Bacteria and other microorganisms have been shown to grow as biofilm communities in microgravity. This experiment identifies the bacterial genes used during biofilm growth, examines whether these biofilms can corrode stainless steel, and evaluates the effectiveness of a silver-based disinfectant. This investigation could provide insight into better ways to control and remove resistant biofilms, contributing to the success of future long-duration spaceflights.

Fiber Optic Production, which includes the return of experimental optical fibers created in microgravity using a blend of zirconium, barium, lanthanum, sodium, and aluminum. The return of the fibers, called ZBLAN in reference to the chemical formula, will help verify experimental studies that suggest fibers created in space should exhibit far superior qualities to those produced on Earth.

Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @iss, ISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

Astronauts Relax After Sending Off U.S. Cargo Ships

The seven-member Expedition 64 crew poses for a portrait inside the space station's Kibo laboratory module.
The seven-member Expedition 64 crew poses for a portrait inside the space station’s Kibo laboratory module.

One U.S. crew ship and three Russian spaceships remain parked at the International Space Station after the departure of two U.S. space freighters this month. Most of the Expedition 64 crew is relaxing today while a pair of cosmonauts focus on Russian maintenance and science.

Five astronauts, four from NASA and one from JAXA, are taking it easy aboard the orbiting lab today. The quintet kicked off the New Year loading a pair of U.S. cargo ships to wrap up their cargo missions less than a week apart. This followed a busy December full of space research to benefit humans living on and off the Earth.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft left the station first on Jan. 6 following its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Cygnus will orbit Earth until Jan. 26 for flight tests and remotely controlled science experiments before its fiery, but safe descent above the South Pacific.

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship undocked on Tuesday from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter, a first for a U.S. commercial cargo spacecraft. It will splashdown Wednesday night in the Gulf of Mexico carrying science experiments and station hardware for retrieval and analysis.

JAXA Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi did start Wednesday collecting his urine samples for a Russian biomedical study before taking the rest of Wednesday off. Station Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos also participated in the study that seeks to understand how the human body adapts to weightlessness.

Ryzhikov then moved on to Russian spacecraft activities packing the Progress 76 cargo craft and charging batteries inside the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship. Kud-Sverchkov worked on life support gear and deployed radiation detectors in the station’s Russian segment.

Cargo Dragon Undocks from Station and Heads for Splashdown

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle begins its separation from the station after undocking from the Harmony module's international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle begins its separation from the station after undocking from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV

With NASA astronaut Victor Glover monitoring aboard the International Space Station, an upgraded SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Docking Adapter on the station’s space-facing port of the Harmony module at 9:05 a.m. EST.

It is the first undocking of a U.S. commercial cargo craft from the complex. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft were attached and removed from the space station using the station’s robotic Canadarm2.

Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the space station during the next 36 hours. On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Dragon will conduct a deorbit burn at 7:37 p.m. to begin its re-entry sequence into Earth’s atmosphere. Dragon is expected to splash down west of Tampa off the Florida coast about 8:27 p.m. The splashdown will not be broadcast.

The upgraded cargo Dragon capsule used for this mission contains double the powered locker availability of previous capsules, allowing for a significant increase in the research that can be carried back to Earth.

Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, delivering some science back into the hands of the researchers as soon as four to nine hours after splashdown. This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft returned to the Pacific Ocean, with quick-return science cargo processed at SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas, and delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Dragon launched Dec. 6 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, arriving at the station just over 24 hours later and achieving the first autonomous docking of a U.S. commercial cargo resupply spacecraft. The spacecraft delivered more than 6,400 pounds of hardware, research investigations and crew supplies.

Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @iss, ISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

Dragon Departure Live Now on NASA TV

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module's space-facing international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV

NASA Television and the agency’s website are broadcasting live coverage for the departure of an upgraded SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft from the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Victor Glover is monitoring the activity aboard the station.

The targeted undocking time has been moved to optimize communication coverage; commands to undock will be sent at 9 a.m. EST with physical separation of the two spacecraft about 9:05 a.m.

The undocking will be the first time a U.S. commercial cargo craft autonomously departs from the station’s International Docking Adapter.

The spacecraft is filled with more than 4,400 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo to return to Earth to complete SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply services mission for NASA.

Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the station’s space-facing port of the Harmony module and exit the area of the space station to begin its return to Earth. On Wednesday, Dragon will initiate a deorbit burn to begin its re-entry sequence into Earth’s atmosphere then make a parachute-assisted splashdown around 8:27 p.m. – the first return of a cargo resupply spacecraft off the Florida coast west of Tampa. The deorbit burn and splashdown will not be broadcast.

For departure coverage and more information about the mission, visit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation. Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @issISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

SpaceX Waves off Undocking of Cargo Dragon

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module's space-facing international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV

As a result of adverse weather conditions at the targeted splashdown zone off the coast of Daytona Beach, Florida, SpaceX has waved off today’s planned departure of an upgraded SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft.

Teams are currently assessing weather conditions to determine the next opportunity for undocking.

Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, delivering some science back into the hands of the researchers as soon as four to nine hours after splashdown. This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft returned to the Pacific Ocean, with quick-return science cargo processed at SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas, and delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

For updated information about space station activities, visit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/.Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @iss, ISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

Crew Packs Cargo Dragon With Science, Begins Spacewalk Preps

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins loads engineered heart tissue samples into a science freezer for preservation and later analysis.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins loads engineered heart tissue samples into a science freezer for preservation and later analysis.

The Expedition 64 crew is going into the weekend packing the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship and readying it for a Monday morning undocking from the International Space Station. The orbital residents are also turning their attention to a pair of spacewalks taking place before the end of January.

A month after its arrival and delivery of a suite of vital space science investigations, the Dragon will return the research back to Earth for analysis on Monday. The astronauts will be loading gear and samples from those studies, as well as a variety of station hardware, into Dragon this weekend before closing its hatch a few hours before undocking.

The astronauts are transferring rodents inside specialized habitats into Dragon including an array of biological and microbial samples stowed in science freezers. Scientists on Earth will examine the mice for insights into advanced therapies to treat space-caused vision and bone conditions. Heart tissue samples and microbes will be also looked at, among other samples, to learn how to keep astronauts healthy and spacecraft clean and safe.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins will be monitoring Dragon when it undocks Monday at 9:25 a.m. EST. from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. The upgraded space freighter is planned to splash down several hours later in the Atlantic Ocean, a first for a commercial cargo spacecraft. NASA and SpaceX personnel will be on hand to retrieve the cargo craft. NASA TV will broadcast Dragon’s undocking and separation live on NASA TV beginning at 9 a.m.

Following a busy holiday season of space research, the crew now turns its attention to spacewalks planned for January 19 and 25. Veteran spacewalker Michael Hopkins will conduct both spacewalks with Flight Engineer Victor Glover. They will outfit science hardware on Europe’s Columbus laboratory module during the first spacewalk then upgrade high definition video and camera gear on the second.

The pair were joined today by Rubins and JAXA Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi for spacewalk procedure reviews and a conference with spacewalk specialists on the ground. Hopkins and Glover also began configuring and organizing their spacewalking tools. Rubins and Noguchi will assist the astronauts in and out of their spacesuits and the Quest airlock before and after both spacewalks.

Crew Relaxing Ahead of Cargo Dragon Departure and Spacewalks

The International Space Station flies into an orbital sunrise 264 miles above the North Pacific off the coast of Russia.
The space station flies into an orbital sunrise 264 miles above the North Pacific.

The Expedition 64 crew had a light duty day Thursday following a busy holiday season filled with space research and U.S. cargo ship departure preparations. Soon the astronauts will be ramping up for a set of International Space Station maintenance and upgrades spacewalks planned for January and February.

Final science experiments are wrapping up this week waiting to be packed inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft and returned to Earth no earlier than Monday for analysis. NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins stowed microbial cultures in science freezers today that will soon be loaded inside the Cargo Dragon. The samples will be analyzed by scientists on the ground to understand the microbial risk to a spacecraft’s environment.

The Dragon is due to undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter on Monday at 9:25 a.m. EST live on NASA TV. Rubins will be on duty Monday monitoring Dragon’s undocking as it departs the station carrying several tons of hardware and completed space studies. NASA and SpaceX engineers will be on hand to retrieve the Dragon after its splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

A pair of spacewalks is targeted for the end of January for upgrades on the outside of the orbiting lab. U.S. astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover will be ramping up their preparations for the two spacewalks over the next several days. The duo will be outfitting science hardware on Europe’s Columbus laboratory module during the first spacewalk and will upgrade high definition video and camera gear on the second.

Two more spacewalks are planned in February for electrical work and to set up experimental hardware for a technology demonstration.