Station Crew Awaits Russian, U.S. Rockets Counting Down to Launch

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon Endeavour attached rolls out to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon Endeavour attached rolls out to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Two rockets on opposite sides of the Earth are at their launch pads today counting down to liftoff to the International Space Station. Back on the orbiting lab, the seven Expedition 66 residents are busy conducting space research, station maintenance, and preparing for the upcoming departure of four crewmates.

Russia’s ISS Progress 79 resupply ship is standing vertical at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It will blast off today at 8 p.m. EDT with nearly three tons of food, fuel and supplies, destined for the station crew. The ISS Progress 79 will arrive at the station on Friday for an automated docking to the aft port of the Zvezda service module at 9:34 p.m.

At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Falcon 9 rocket with the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance attached rolled out to the launch pad early Wednesday morning and now stands vertical. Endurance will launch four commercial crew astronauts toward the space station on Sunday at 2:21 a.m. SpaceX Crew-3 Commander Raja Chari will lead Pilot Thomas Marshburn and Mission Specialists Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer on a one-day ride to the Harmony module’s forward dock port.

Meanwhile, station Commander Thomas Pesquet and Flight Engineer Megan McArthur began the day collecting their blood samples. They spun the samples in a centrifuge and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. Pesquet and McArthur also partnered up inside the Cygnus space freighter for cargo work before packing up personal gear ahead of their return to Earth inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour next month.

Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide are also packing up for next month’s departure aboard Endeavour. Kimbrough still had time today for computer maintenance while Hoshide worked on U.S. spacesuit components. Kimbrough will command Endeavour leading McArthur, Pesquet and Hoshide, from undocking to a splashdown off the coast of Florida ending the SpaceX Crew-2 mission that began in April.

Staying behind on the station will be Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei, Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov. Today, Vande Hei was back setting up the Fluids Integrated Rack research facility for the new the Flow Boiling and Condensation Experiment. Dubrov continued his research into effective space exercise methods while Shkaplerov studied the behavior of plasma-dust structures in the Russian segment of the station.

Botany and Biology During Break in Spacewalk Preps

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough works on the Mochii miniature electron microscope to support spectroscopic investigations aboard the space station.
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough works on the Mochii miniature electron microscope to support spectroscopic investigations aboard the space station.

The Expedition 65 crew set up a plant habitat and demonstrated a new ultrasound device amid a variety of other space research aboard the International Space Station today. Meanwhile, the cosmonauts took a break from spacewalk preparations and focused on maintenance.

NASA and its international partners are studying how a variety of life forms from microbes, to plants, to humans and more, are impacted by living long term in microgravity. Doctors observe how weightlessness affects life suited to gravity and learn how to keep astronauts healthy in space and plan for longer missions beyond low Earth orbit.

Plants have been growing on the station for years and as the orbiting lab has expanded so have the facilities to support space botany. Today, NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur installed the Veggie vegetable production system in the Columbus laboratory module. Veggie will host the APEX-08 study, being delivered soon aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon, to explore space-caused stress and genetic changes in plants.

A new portable ultrasound device was being tested aboard the orbiting lab today in conjunction with touchscreen tablets. NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough demonstrated using the Butterfly IQ Ultrasound and scanned his veins, kidney, and bladder. Afterward, he filled out a questionnaire to determine to determine the ultrasound’s usability and capabilities without immediate ground support.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei continued unpacking cargo from Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter attached to the Unity module. Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) recorded a science video for French students then photographed plants for the Eklosion botany study.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) worked science maintenance and orbital plumbing tasks throughout Wednesday. At the end of the day, Hoshide installed an arm with a gripper on a pair of Astrobee robotic free-flyers to test mobility techniques.

After several days of spacewalk preparations to configure the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module on Sept. 3 and 9, cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov turned their attention today to a variety of electronics and life support work in the station’s Russian segment.

Crew Gets Ready for Cargo Dragon and Russian Spacewalks

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship is photographed departing the space station on July 8, 2021.
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship is photographed departing the space station on July 8, 2021.

The Expedition 65 crew is turning its attention to this weekend’s arrival of a U.S. cargo craft and a pair of Russian spacewalks starting several days later.

SpaceX is planning to launch its Cargo Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station on Saturday at 3:37 a.m. EDT. It will arrive on Sunday and dock autonomously at 11 a.m. to the Harmony module’s forward international docking adapter packed with new science experiments and crew supplies. NASA TV will broadcast both launch and docking and NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will be on duty monitoring the Cargo Dragon’s arrival.

Cargo transfers are still ongoing inside the U.S. Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman attached to the Unity module. Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) partnered with Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) offloading some of the four tons cargo packed inside Cygnus during the afternoon.

Two spacewalks are planned to set up Russia’s newest module, the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module, for science operations on Sept. 3 and 9. Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov have been preparing their Orlan spacesuits and Russian spacewalk hardware inside the Poisk module where they will begin both spacewalks.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei joined Hoshide in the U.S. Quest airlock today stowing their U.S. spacesuits and spacewalk tools. Today’s spacewalk to prepare the International Space Station for its third Roll-Out Solar Array was postponed by station managers early Monday.

Week Kicks Off with Spacewalk Preps, Cygnus Cargo Transfers

Russia's Soyuz MS-18 crew ship (foreground) and Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module are pictured docked to the station as it orbited above Africa's Indian Ocean coast.
Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 crew ship (foreground) and Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module are pictured docked to the station as it orbited above Africa’s Indian Ocean coast.

Two astronauts and two cosmonauts are gearing up for three spacewalks set to begin next week at the International Space Station. The Expedition 65 crew is also continuing to unpack a U.S. cargo craft in the middle of ongoing science and maintenance activities.

The first spacewalk is planned to take place on Aug. 24. Commander Akihiko Hoshide and Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei will exit the Quest airlock in their U.S. spacesuits around 8 a.m. EDT and translate over to the Port-4 truss structure. Once there, the duo will prepare the worksite for the next set of Roll-Out Solar Arrays due to arrive on an upcoming SpaceX Cargo Dragon mission. The pair went over their spacewalk maneuvers on a computer Monday afternoon.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov will perform the other two spacewalks in early September to prepare cables and other external equipment for the recently arrived Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module. Today, the flight engineers from Roscosmos reviewed the steps and procedures planned for the second spacewalk.

NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough joined ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet and took turns offloading cargo packed inside the Cygnus space freighter today. Cygnus delivered over four tons of cargo including over 2,300 pounds of new science experiments last week. The resupply ship from Northrop Grumman will stay attached to the Unity module for about three months.

Science is still ongoing at the orbital lab as Vande Hei swapped fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack and set up a sample for the Ring Sheared Drop fluid physics study. Hoshide serviced samples in a microscope for a biology study observing how cells sense gravity then installed the Kaber small satellite deployer inside the Kibo laboratory module.

Crew Unpacking Cygnus and Gearing Up for U.S., Russian Spacewalks

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Megan McArthur are inside the cupola with the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter just outside behind them.
Astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Megan McArthur are inside the cupola with the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter just outside behind them.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft is open for business and the Expedition 65 crew has begun unpacking its more than four tons of cargo. Two astronauts and two cosmonauts are also gearing up for a series of spacewalks to outfit the International Space Station.

Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Thomas Pesquet started their day transferring frozen science samples from inside the Cygnus space freighter to the orbital lab for later observation. The duo was on duty early Thursday to capture Cygnus with the Canadarm2 robotic arm following its day-and-a-half trip that began with a launch from Virginia. NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough took over Friday afternoon and continued offloading Cygnus’ brand new science, supplies and hardware.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei spent the day scrubbing cooling loops inside a pair of U.S. spacesuits that he and Commander Akihiko Hoshide will be wearing soon. The two astronauts are preparing for a spacewalk later this month to ready the Port-4 truss structure for future Roll-Out Solar Array installation work.

In the Russian segment of the orbital lab, cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov spent the afternoon configuring the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module. The duo from Roscosmos is ramping up for a pair of spacewalks in September when they will go outside the station to outfit Nauka and ready the new module for science operations.

Cygnus Installed on Unity Module for Cargo Transfers

Aug. 12, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are parked at the space station including Northrop Grumman's Cygnus space freighter, the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Russia's Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 78 resupply ship.
Aug. 12, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are parked at the space station including Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter, the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 78 resupply ship.

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 9:42 a.m. EDT. Cygnus will remain at the space station for about three months until the spacecraft departs in November.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings more than 8,200 pounds of research and supplies to space station. Highlights of cargo aboard Cygnus include:

 From dust to dorm
Using resources available on the Moon and Mars to build structures and habitats could reduce how much material future explorers need to bring from Earth, significantly reducing launch mass and cost. The Redwire Regolith Print (RRP) study demonstrates 3D printing on the space station using a material simulating regolith, or loose rock and soil found on the surfaces of planetary bodies such as the Moon. Results could help determine the feasibility of using regolith as the raw material and 3D printing as a technique for on-demand construction of habitats and other structures on future space exploration missions.

Maintaining muscles
As people age and become more sedentary on Earth, they gradually lose muscle mass, a condition called sarcopenia. Identifying drugs to treat this condition is difficult because it develops over decades. Cardinal Muscle tests whether microgravity can be used as a research tool for understanding and preventing sarcopenia. The study seeks to determine whether an engineered tissue platform in microgravity forms the characteristic muscle tubes found in muscle tissue. Such a platform could provide a way to rapidly assess potential drugs prior to clinical trials.

Taking the heat out of space travel
Longer space missions will need to generate more power, producing more heat that must be dissipated. Transitioning from current single-phase heat transfer systems to two-phase thermal management systems reduces size and weight of the system and provides more efficient heat removal. Because greater heat energy is exchanged through vaporization and condensation, a two-phase system can remove more heat for the same amount of weight than current single-phase systems. The Flow Boiling and Condensation Experiment (FBCE) aims to develop a facility for collecting data about two-phase flow and heat transfer in microgravity. Comparisons of data from microgravity and Earth’s gravity are needed to validate numerical simulation tools for designing thermal management systems.

Cooler re-entries
The Kentucky Re-Entry Probe Experiment (KREPE) demonstrates an affordable thermal protection system (TPS) to protect spacecraft and their contents during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Making these systems efficient remains one of space exploration’s biggest challenges, but the unique environment of atmospheric entry makes it difficult to accurately replicate conditions in ground simulations. TPS designers rely on numerical models that often lack flight validation. This investigation serves as an inexpensive way to compare these models to actual flight data and validate possible designs. Before flying the technology on the space station, researchers conducted a high-altitude balloon test to validate performance of the electronics and communications.

Getting the CO2 out
Four Bed CO2 Scrubber demonstrates a technology to remove carbon dioxide from a spacecraft. Based on the current system and lessons learned from its nearly 20 years of operation, the Four Bed CO2 Scrubber includes mechanical upgrades and an improved, longer-lasting absorbent material that reduces erosion and dust formation. Absorption beds remove water vapor and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, returning water vapor to the cabin and venting carbon dioxide overboard or diverting it to a system that uses it to produce water. This technology could improve the reliability and performance of carbon dioxide removal systems in future spacecraft, helping to maintain the health of crews and ensure mission success. It has potential applications on Earth in closed environments that require carbon dioxide removal to protect workers and equipment.

Mold in microgravity
An ESA investigation, Blob, allows students aged 10 to 18 to study a naturally-occurring slime mold, Physarum polycephalum, that is capable of basic forms of learning and adaptation. Although it is just one cell and lacks a brain, Blob can move, feed, organize itself, and even transmit knowledge to other slime molds. Students replicate experiments conducted by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet to see how the Blob’s behavior is affected by microgravity. Using time-lapse video from space, students can compare the speed, shape, and growth of the slime molds in space and on the ground. The National Center for Space Studies (CNES) and the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France coordinate Blob.

These are just a sample of the hundreds of investigations currently being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration missions as part of NASA’s Moon and Mars exploration approach, including lunar missions through NASA’s Artemis program.

Cygnus also will deliver a new mounting bracket that astronauts will attach to the port side of the station’s backbone truss during a spacewalk planned for late August. The mounting bracket will enable the installation of one of the next pair of new solar arrays at a later date.

Learn more about space station activities by following the space station blog, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Astronaut Megan McArthur Commands Robotic Arm to Capture Cygnus

The Cygnus space freighter approaches the space station following a day-and-a-half trip that began with a launch from Virginia.
The Cygnus space freighter approaches the space station following a day-and-a-half trip that began with a launch from Virginia. Credit: NASA TV

At 6:07 a.m. EDT, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur used the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 to grapple the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet monitored Cygnus systems during its approach. The spacecraft were flying about 260 miles above the Atlantic Ocean southwest of Lisbon, Portugal, at the time of capture.

Next, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. Ellison Onizuka, on the bottom of the station’s Unity module.

NASA Television coverage of installation will begin at 8 a.m., and installation of the Cygnus spacecraft to the space station is expected to be completed later this morning. Cygnus will remain at the orbiting laboratory for a three-month stay.

Learn more about space station activities by following the space station blog, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Cygnus Approaching Station Now Live on NASA TV

The Cygnus space freighter is pictured moments before its capture with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Feb. 22, 2021.
The Cygnus space freighter is pictured moments before its capture with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Feb. 22, 2021.

A Northrop Grumman cargo ship carrying more than 8,200 pounds of science and research investigations, supplies, and hardware is set to arrive at the International Space Station early this morning. The uncrewed Cygnus spacecraft launched at 6:01 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 10 on an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

NASA Television coverage of capture has begun. Watch live on the NASA app or at www.nasa.gov/live 

When Cygnus arrives, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur will use the space station’s robotic Canadarm2 to capture it while ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet monitors telemetry during rendezvous, capture, and installation on the Earth-facing port of the Unity module.

Northrop Grumman named the Cygnus spacecraft for this resupply mission in honor of former NASA astronaut Ellison Onizuka, who was the first Asian American astronaut. Onizuka was hired in 1978 in the first class of diverse astronauts, and his first spaceflight was aboard space shuttle Discovery in January 1985 for STS-51-C. He lost his life aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1986.

Learn more about space station activities by following the space station blog, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Cygnus on its Way to Station as Crew Maintains Research

The Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman is pictured in the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm outside the cupola before its release on June 29, 2021.
The Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm outside the cupola before its release on June 29, 2021.

The Expedition 65 crew is getting ready for the arrival of Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft when it arrives Thursday morning. The International Space Station residents also continued microgravity research while preparing for an upcoming spacewalk today.

NASA TV will begin its broadcast of the Cygnus space freighter’s approach and rendezvous on Thursday at 4:45 a.m. EDT. NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur will be on duty in the cupola, the orbiting lab’s “window to the world,” and command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple Cygnus at about 6:10 a.m. ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough will be on hand monitoring spacecraft activities and assisting her in the cupola.

After McArthur and Pesquet complete the capture activities, robotics controllers in Mission Control will remotely guide Cygnus in the grips of the Canadarm2 and install it to the Unity module’s Earth-facing port. Additionally, cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are gathering excess Russian hardware today for disposal in Cygnus after its arrival.

McArthur and Pesquet had time for research work during the morning before spending the afternoon training for Cygnus’ arrival. McArthur injected algae into sample cassettes to nourish tardigrades, or “water bears,” being observed for their ability to survive extreme conditions. Pesquet focused on an experiment challenging European students to write computer code targeting conditions aboard spacecraft.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide and Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei continued servicing U.S. spacesuits ahead of a spacewalk to prepare the Port-4 truss structure for more roll out solar array installation work. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough cleaned and inspected vent fans in the Unity module and U.S. Quest airlock.

Crew Trains for Cygnus Arrival During Spacewalk Preps and Science

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter sits atop an Antares rocket at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach
The Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter sits atop an Antares rocket at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

The Expedition 65 crew is getting ready for a shipment of new science experiments and crew supplies due to launch toward the International Space Station today. The orbital residents are also gearing up for a spacewalk while conducting a variety of space research.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter sits atop an Antares rocket counting to down to a launch today at 5:56 p.m. EDT from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia today. Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Thomas Pesquet trained this morning for its approach and rendezvous including its capture with the Canadarm2 robotic arm planned for 6:10 a.m. on Thursday. NASA TV will broadcast both events live.

In the afternoon, the duo joined crewmates Shane Kimbrough, Mark Vande Hei and Akihiko Hoshide and reviewed cargo arriving inside Cygnus and its unpacking plans. The U.S. cargo craft is loaded with over 8,200 pounds of science investigations, station hardware and crew provisions.

Vande Hei and Hoshide spent their morning readying the U.S. Quest airlock for the next spacewalk. The pair will prepare the orbital lab’s Port-4 truss structure later this month for the future installation of new roll out solar arrays arriving on an upcoming SpaceX Cargo Dragon mission.

Research is ongoing as Kimbrough checked on Hatch chile plants growing inside the Columbus laboratory module for the Plant Habitat-4 space botany study. Vande Hei focused on servicing science gear as he swapped fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack. Station Commander Hoshide turned on the Astrobee robotic helper and rehearsed maneuvers ahead of a student competition to program and control the devices.

Cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy focused on maintenance tasks in the station’s Russian segment replacing dust filters and checking video equipment. Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov, on his first spaceflight, worked on fans and filters inside the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module then photographed microbes growing for a Russian science experiment.