Astronauts Relaxing Day Before Cygnus Cargo Ship Lifts Off to Station

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet is pictured inside the cupola, the space station's "window to the world," while orbiting above the Atlantic Ocean.
Astronaut Thomas Pesquet is pictured inside the cupola, the space station’s “window to the world,” while orbiting above the Atlantic Ocean.

Northrop Grumman is “go” to launch its Cygnus space freighter atop an Antares rocket on Tuesday at 5:56 p.m. EDT. It will arrive at the International Space Station on Thursday for a capture at 6:10 a.m. with NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur at the controls of the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

Cygnus will lift off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia with live NASA TV coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. NASA TV will go back on the air at 4:45 a.m. on Thursday broadcasting Cygnus’ approach and rendezvous as ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet assists McArthur during the robotics activities.

Most of the Expedition 65 crew relaxed on Monday aboard the orbiting lab with some time set aside for blood and urine collections as well as battery swaps. McArthur and Pesquet processed the biological samples spinning them in a centrifuge before stowing them in a science freezer. McArthur also charged and swapped out batteries inside the Astrobee robotic helpers ahead of upcoming research activities planned for the devices.

The two cosmonauts in the station’s Russian segment had a full schedule as they continued focusing on cargo transfers from the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module during the morning. Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov then split up in the afternoon to work on a variety of life support and power supply maintenance.

Science, Spacewalk Work During U.S. Resupply Ship Preps

(From left) Astronauts Akihiko Hoshide and Mark Vande Hei install components on a U.S. spacesuit inside the U.S. Quest airlock.
(From left) Astronauts Akihiko Hoshide and Mark Vande Hei install components on a U.S. spacesuit inside the U.S. Quest airlock.

The Expedition 65 crew was multi-tasking today working on everything from physics research to U.S. spacesuits to cargo transfers from Russia’s new science module. Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is on track to resupply the International Space Station next week.

Station Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Thomas Pesquet were back on science duty today conducting more runs for the InSpace-4 space-manufacturing study. The investigation takes place inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox researching ways to harness nanoparticles and develop advanced materials in microgravity to improve space and Earth systems.

The duo will also be watching Cygnus approach the space station a day-and-a-half after its launch from Virginia on Aug. 10 at 5:56 p.m. EDT. McArthur will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple Cygnus at 6:10 a.m. on Aug. 12. Pesquet will back her up as he monitors the U.S. cargo craft’s approach and rendezvous.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei joined Commander Akihiko Hoshide gathering spacewalking tools and checking spacesuit tethers inside the U.S. Quest airlock. The crew is ramping up for a spacewalk to prepare the orbital lab’s Port-4 truss structure ahead of the installation of the next set of roll out solar arrays.

Throughout Thursday, Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough worked on three different EXPRESS racks which are refrigerator-sized research devices supporting a wide variety of science experiments. Kimbrough first repaired components with minor damage inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module’s EXPRESS-11 rack. Afterward, the three-time station visitor removed an incubator from the Kibo laboratory module’s EXPRESS rack-8 and installed it in the Columbus laboratory module’s EXPRESS rack-3.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov continued unpacking hardware delivered inside the new “Nauka” Multipurpose Laboratory Module. Novitskiy also worked on water transfers from the ISS Progress 78 cargo craft while Dubrov photographed microbes growing for a Russian science experiment.

Station Gears up for U.S. Crew and Cargo Spaceships

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft atop the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolls out to the launch pad on Monday at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft atop the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolls out to the launch pad on Monday at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is targeted for launch on Tuesday at 1:20 p.m. EDT atop the Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Meteorologists predict a 60% chance of favorable weather at the launch pad on Florida’s Atlantic coast.

For an on-time launch, Starliner would reach the International Space Station one day later and dock to the Harmony module’s forward-port at 1:37 p.m. All events will be broadcast live on NASA TV.

All is well aboard the orbiting lab today as all seven Expedition 65 crew members focus on physics research, spacesuit maintenance and station upkeep. The orbital residents are also gearing up for the next U.S. cargo mission to resupply the station.

Flight Engineers Megan McArthur joined Thomas Pesquet for several runs of the InSpace-4 nanoparticle study throughout Monday. The duo from NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) took turns working inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for the space-manufacturing investigation. InSpace-4 seeks to develop advanced materials in microgravity to improve and strengthen spacecraft and Earthbound systems.

Both astronauts also trained on a computer for the rendezvous and capture of Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter planned for Aug. 12 at 6:10 a.m. NASA TV will cover Cygnus’ station arrival including its launch scheduled on Aug. 10 at 5:56 p.m.

Pesquet moved on and assisted Commander Akihiko Hoshide inside the Quest airlock and serviced a pair U.S. spacesuits ahead of an upcoming spacewalk for more roll-out solar array work. NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei worked on a variety of science, communications hardware and life support throughout Monday.

Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov have been unpacking and configuring new hardware delivered aboard Nauka after it docked to the Zvezda service module’s Earth-facing port last week. Novitskiy also activated a long-running Russian Earth observation experiment while Dubrov photographed the condition of Zvezda’s treadmill and downlinked the files.

Cygnus Resupply Ship Leaving Station Today 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.

About four months after delivering several tons of scientific experiments and supplies to the International Space Station, Northrop Grumman’s uncrewed Cygnus cargo spacecraft is scheduled to depart the orbiting laboratory Tuesday, June 29. This morning, flight controllers on the ground sent commands to use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to robotically detach Cygnus from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module and maneuver it into place.

Live coverage of the spacecraft’s release will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website, and the NASA app beginning at noon EDT, with its release from the robotic arm scheduled for 12:25 p.m.

NASA astronaut Megan McArthur will monitor Cygnus’ systems upon its departure from the space station.

The Cygnus resupply spacecraft is named after NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, a Black woman who broke through barriers of gender and race, calculating orbital mechanics for some of the first U.S. human spaceflights.

Cygnus arrived at the International Space Station Feb. 22 with nearly 8,000 pounds of scientific investigations and supplies following a launch two days prior on Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. It was the company’s 15th commercial resupply services mission to the space station for NASA.

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: @iss, ISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

U.S., Russian Resupply Ships Depart and Launch on Tuesday

(From left) The Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply ship and Russia's ISS Progress 78 cargo craft will depart and launch just hours apart on Tuesday.
(From left) The Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply ship and Russia’s ISS Progress 78 cargo craft will depart and launch just hours apart on Tuesday.

The Cygnus resupply ship will complete its cargo mission to the International Space Station on Tuesday. Several hours later, Russia’s ISS Progress 78 (78P) cargo craft will launch on a two-day trip to replenish the Expedition 65 crew.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide joined Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet and closed the hatch on the trash-filled Cygnus early Monday morning. Following that, NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei installed the Slingshot small satellite deployer on Cygnus’ hatch.

Cygnus will be released from the Canadarm2 robotic arm at 12:25 p.m. EDT on Tuesday. Once Cygnus reaches a safe distance from the station, the Slingshot will deploy five CubeSats for a variety of research including atmospheric physics as well as software evaluation and development.

The 78P cargo craft sits atop its rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan. It will launch Tuesday at 7:27 p.m. carrying over 3,600 pounds of food, fuel and supplies for the seven space station residents.

Roscosmos Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov spent Monday morning preparing for the arrival of the 78P scheduled on Thursday at 9:03 p.m. The duo practiced telerobotically operated maneuvers to manually dock the ISS Progress 78 to the Poisk module in the unlikely event the Russian cargo craft was unable to automatically dock on its own.

NASA TV, on the agency’s website and the NASA app, will broadcast all three mission events live. Cygnus departure coverage begins at noon. The ISS Progress 78 launch broadcast starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday with docking coverage starting Thursday at 8:15 p.m. View the NASA Television schedule here.

Despite the cargo craft preparations, there was time for science today aboard the orbiting lab. Kimbrough set up the InSpace-4 physics study that will explore advanced materials and manufacturing techniques. NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur studied ways to produce high-quality protein crystals in microgravity to benefit the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries on Earth.

Crew Looks to Friday Spacewalk, Cargo Ship Swap Next Week

Spacewalkers (from left) Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet work to complete the installation of a roll out solar array on June 20, 2021,
Spacewalkers (from left) Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet work to complete the installation of a roll out solar array on June 20, 2021,

The Expedition 65 crew continued its space research activities today while two astronauts prepared for their third spacewalk in less than two weeks. The International Space Station will also see a U.S. cargo craft depart and a Russian one launch on the same day next week.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei strapped himself to an exercise cycle and attached sensors to himself on Tuesday morning for a workout study measuring aerobic capacity in space. NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur explored how bacteria is affected by microgravity and ways to counteract harmful changes.

Eye checks were back on the schedule for four astronauts on Tuesday afternoon. Commander Akihiko Hoshide and Vande Hei took turns operating medical imaging gear and scanned the eyes of astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet. A variety of eye exams take place on the station helping researchers understand how weightlessness impacts an astronaut’s vision.

Kimbrough and Pesquet are also getting ready for more solar array installation work on the outside of the orbiting lab. The duo reviewed procedures today for installing a second roll out solar array on the station’s Port-6 truss structure. The veteran spacewalkers will set their spacesuits to battery power at 8 a.m. EDT on Friday signifying the official start of their third excursion in 9 days. Live coverage on NASA TV starts at 6:30 a.m. on the agency’s website and the NASA app.

Hoshide and Vande Hei spent some time Tuesday morning loading Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter ahead of its departure scheduled for July 29 at 12:25 p.m. Russia’s ISS Progress 78 resupply ship will launch the same day at 7:27 p.m. and dock to the station two days later at 9:02 p.m.

Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy packed the ISS Progress 77 resupply ship readying the vehicle for its undocking in late July. The veteran cosmonaut also trapped clouds of particles using both neon and argon gas for a plasma crystal experiment. Russian Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov had an exercise test on a treadmill today then serviced a variety of communications and life support hardware.

Station Readies for Expanded Crew as Science Stays in Focus

A waning gibbous Moon is pictured above the Earth's horizon as the space station orbited 269 miles above the Atlantic Ocean.
A waning gibbous Moon is pictured above the Earth’s horizon as the space station orbited 269 miles above the Atlantic Ocean.

The Expedition 64 crew is getting ready to welcome three new crew members who are due to launch on Friday to the International Space Station. Meanwhile, a variety of space research activities are underway aboard the orbiting lab today.

One NASA astronaut and two Roscosmos cosmonauts are in final preparations for their liftoff on a Soyuz rocket set for Friday at 3:42 a.m. EDT. Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Pyotr Dubrov will flank Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy for the short trip to the station inside the new Soyuz MS-18 crew ship.

Docking of the new Expedition 65 trio to the Rassvet module is planned for 7:07 a.m. The crew will open the hatch after leak and pressure checks and enter the station about 9 a.m. A welcoming ceremony with the expanded 10-person crew along with participants on the ground will occur shortly afterward. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and docking activities beginning at 2:45 a.m.

NASA Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker are busy readying the station to temporarily accommodate the new crew members. The trio is setting up extra sleep stations for this month’s crew swaps when there will be as many as 11 people occupying the space station.

Biomedical studies, or human research, is always ongoing aboard the station. Saliva and blood sample collections were the first tasks of the day for Hopkins, Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and station Commander Sergey Ryzhikov. Glover scanned his own neck, leg and cardiac veins with an ultrasound device then checked his blood pressure for the Vascular Aging study.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins installed the new TangoLab-2 biology research hardware, delivered in February aboard the Cygnus space freighter, inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi readied a materials space exposure study for placement outside the Kibo laboratory module.

Crew Examines Worms, Explores Space Manufacturing During Spacewalk Preps

Three spaceships are pictured attached to the space station as the orbital complex flew 261 miles above the Bay of Bengal.
Three spaceships are pictured attached to the space station as the orbital complex flew 261 miles above the Bay of Bengal.

Two NASA astronauts are getting their tools and spacesuits ready for Sunday’s spacewalk to ready the International Space Station for new solar arrays. Meanwhile, the rest of the Expedition 64 crew focused on a variety of space research on Thursday.

NASA Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Victor Glover are finalizing their preparations for a planned six-and-a-half hour spacewalk set to begin Sunday at 6 a.m. EST. NASA TV will begin its live spacewalk beginning at 4:30 a.m.

Rubins and Glover configured spacewalk tools and checked U.S. spacesuits today before calling down to experts in Mission Control to report on their readiness. The duo today also continued reviewing the spacewalk procedures they will use to upgrade power channels that will soon support new solar arrays. Those solar arrays will be shipped on upcoming Space Dragon cargo missions for installation this year.

Science is always ongoing aboard the space station, not just with crew inputs but also remotely from scientists on the ground. Results and insights help improve industry, business and medicine on Earth and in space.

Worms are being observed on the station after their arrival on Monday inside the Cygnus resupply ship from Northrop Grumman. Astronauts Shannon Walker and Michael Hopkins examined the tiny worms with a microscope to explore how microgravity affects gene expression and muscle strength.

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi worked on advanced space science hardware to explore different space manufacturing techniques. He first installed the new Industrial Crystallization Facility that will demonstrate commercial crystal production available only in space. Next, he checked samples inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace that investigates the thermophysical properties of commercial materials exposed to extreme temperatures.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov split their day working on batteries, cameras and laptop computers.

Astronauts Get Ready for Spacewalks After U.S. Cargo Ship Arrives

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi works on U.S. spacesuit gear inside the Quest airlock.
JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi works on U.S. spacesuit gear inside the Quest airlock.

Spacewalks are the focus now aboard the International Space Station as the Expedition 64 crew begins unloading four tons of cargo delivered Monday aboard a U.S. space freighter.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover are gearing up for a spacewalk on Sunday, Feb. 28, to ready the station for upcoming solar array upgrades. They will set their U.S. spacesuits to battery power at approximately 6 a.m. EST signifying the start of their spacewalk planned to last six-and-a-half hours. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the spacewalk activities at 4:30 a.m.

NASA managers will discuss that spacewalk, including a March 5 spacewalk with Rubins and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, on Wednesday during a live briefing on NASA TV set for 2 p.m. The second spacewalk will see Rubins and Noguchi work on upgrading coolant gear and communication systems.

The duo spent Tuesday servicing their spacesuits and practicing safety procedures inside the Quest airlock. Glover cleaned the spacesuit cooling water loops and tested the quality of the water samples collected from the loops. Rubins reviewed the spacesuit caution and warning system then checked glove heaters, helmet cameras and batteries.

In the midst of the spacewalk preparations, the orbital residents have begun unpacking the Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply ship. NASA Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Shannon Walker have been offloading the new science hardware, crew supplies and station hardware stowed inside Cygnus. Noguchi transferred Cygnus’ science freezers containing biological samples into the station and installed them into specialized science racks. Rubins and Glover also assisted with the cargo transfers.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos started the day sampling the station’s air and surfaces for microbial analysis. Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov worked on Russian life support systems and station cameras.

Cygnus Resupply Ship Bolted to Station’s Unity Module

Feb. 22, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are attached to the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft, and Russia's Progress 76 and 77 resupply ships and Soyuz MS-17 crew ship.
Feb. 22, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are attached to the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft, and Russia’s Progress 75 and 77 resupply ships and Soyuz MS-17 crew ship.

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft was berthed to the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:16 a.m. EST Monday morning and subsequently bolted into place. Cygnus will remain at the space station until May, when the spacecraft will depart the station. Following departure, the Cygnus will dispose of several tons of trash during a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

The spacecraft, which launched at 12:36 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 20, on an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, brings approximately 8,000 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies to the orbiting laboratory to support the Expedition 64 and 65 crews. The Cygnus was captured earlier Monday morning at 4:38 a.m. EST.

Highlights of science investigations aboard this Cygnus include:

A new vision

Millions of people on Earth suffer from retinal degenerative diseases. These conditions have no cure, although treatments can slow their progression. Artificial retinas or retinal implants may provide a way to restore meaningful vision for those affected. In 2018, startup LambdaVision sent their first experiment to the space station to determine whether the process used to create artificial retinal implants by forming a thin film one layer at a time may work better in microgravity.

A second experiment by LambdaVision launching on NG CRS-15, Protein-Based Artificial Retina Manufacturing, builds on the first project, evaluating a manufacturing system that uses a light-activated protein to replace the function of damaged cells in the eye. This information may help LambdaVision uncover whether microgravity optimizes production of these retinas, and could assist people back on Earth.

Bringing advanced computing aboard the space station

Due to a need to prioritize reliability over performance, computing capabilities in space are reduced compared to capabilities on the ground, creating challenges when transmitting data to and from space. Although relying on ground-based computers is possible for exploration on the Moon or in low-Earth orbit, this solution will not work for exploration farther into the solar system. Launched in 2017, the SpaceborneComputer study ran a high-performance commercial off-the-shelf computer system in space with the goal of having the system operate seamlessly for one year. It successfully performed more than 1 trillion calculations (or one teraflop) per second for 207 days without requiring reset.

Spaceborne Computer-2 builds on the successes of this first study, exploring how off-the-shelf computer systems can advance exploration by processing data significantly faster in space with edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. This experiment plans to demonstrate that Earth-based data processing of current station science data can instead be performed on station. Eliminating the need for researchers to send all raw data back to Earth for analysis could speed scientists’ time-to-insight from months to minutes.

Space worms to the rescue

Tiny worms could help us determine the cause of muscle weakening that astronauts can experience in microgravity. Astronauts work out more than two hours a day aboard the space station to prevent bone and muscle loss caused by living in a microgravity environment during long-duration missions. Thanks to a new device for measuring the muscle strength of tiny C. elegans worms, researchers with the Micro-16 study can test whether decreased expression of muscle proteins is associated with this decreased strength. The device consists of a small microscope slide filled with little rubber pillars. The strength of the worms is measured by how much force the worms apply to the pillars as they move around the slide.

Preparing for the Moon

The International Space Station serves as a testing ground for technologies we plan to use on future Artemis missions to the Moon. The NASA A-HoSS investigation puts to the test tools planned for use on the crewed Artemis II mission that will orbit the Moon. Built as the primary radiation detection system for the Orion spacecraft, the Hybrid Electronic Radiation Assessor (HERA) was modified for operation on the space station.

Verifying that HERA can operate without error for 30 days validates the system for crewed Artemis mission operations. A related investigation, ISS HERA, flew in 2019 aboard the space station. ISS HERA provided data and operational feedback in preparation for the Orion spacecraft’s uncrewed Artemis I mission that will launch in 2021.

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