Spacesuits, Human Research, Robotics Training Ahead of Cargo Missions

Astronaut Jessica Meir works on the Combustion Integrated Rack
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir works to swap out a failed computer hard drive that supports experiments inside the Combustion Integrated Rack aboard the International Space Station’s U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

The six-member Expedition 61 crew juggled spacesuit maintenance and human research activities aboard the International Space Station today. The orbital residents are also getting ready to send off and receive resupply ships.

Two U.S. spacesuits are being serviced ahead of a series of spacewalks planned to repair a cosmic particle detector, also known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan are tentatively scheduled to venture outside the station in November and upgrade the AMS thermal control system.

Parmitano also tested a device that measures an astronaut’s mass using Newton’s Second Law of Motion. The device applies a known force to an attached astronaut and the resulting acceleration is used to accurately calculate an astronaut’s mass.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch shared maintenance duties on a human organ printer, the BioFabrication Facility. Scientists are testing the 3D biological printing facility for its ability to print more cohesive organ structures in microgravity than on Earth.

Koch and Meir will also be on Canadarm2 robotics duty on Friday and Monday to support a pair of cargo missions. Koch, with Meir backing her up, will command the robotic release of Japan’s HTV-8 resupply ship Friday at 1:20 p.m. EDT. The HTV-8 is wrapping up a 34-day mission attached to the Harmony module.

They will switch roles on Monday when Meir takes charge of the Canadarm2 robotic arm and captures Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft at 4:10 a.m. EST. Koch will back her up in the cupola while Morgan monitors the Cygnus’ approach and rendezvous. Cygnus will launch Saturday at 9:59 a.m. atop the Antares rocket from Virginia.

U.S. Cygnus Space Freighter Departs Station

Cygnus Departs the Station
The U.S. Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman was released from the station’s robotic arm today at 12:15 p.m. EDT.

The Cygnus spacecraft successfully departed the International Space Station three months after arriving at the space station to deliver 7,600 pounds of supplies and scientific experiments to the orbiting laboratory.

The Cygnus spacecraft will now remain in orbit until mid-December and coincide with a second Cygnus spacecraft scheduled for launch to the space station in October. This will be the first extended duration flight to demonstrate spacecraft’s capability to fly two Cygnus vehicles simultaneously and support hosted payloads for longer periods of time.

For continued coverage and more information about the mission, visit: 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.

US Cargo Ship Preps to Depart as Crew Studies Bioprinting and Time Perception

Astronauts Luca Parmitano, Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague
Expedition 60 Flight Engineers (clockwise from top) Luca Parmitano, Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague work on life support maintenance inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

A U.S. resupply ship is packed and ready to depart the International Space Station on Tuesday. The Expedition 60 crew is also testing the viability of printing organ-like tissue and exploring the impact of microgravity on time perception today.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch finished loading and closed the hatches to the Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman today. Hague will lead the robotics activities and command its release from the Canadarm2 on Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. EDT. NASA TV begins its live broadcast of Cygnus’ departure at noon after 109 days at the station.

The crew outfitted Cygnus with the SlingShot Deployer that will eject a series of nanosatellites once the spacecraft reaches a safe distance and a higher altitude from the station. Cygnus will continue orbiting Earth for a few more months of systems tests before it reenters the atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean for a fiery demise.

3-D bioprinting has proven a challenge for scientists on Earth seeking to replicate complex cellular structures. NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan is researching today whether the weightless environment of space may support the fabrication of human organs in space. He set up the station’s new BioFabrication Facility to begin test-printing tissues today. An incubator houses the tissue samples to promote cohesive cellular growth over several weeks.

Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency started Monday collecting his blood samples and stowing them in a science freezer for later analysis. Next, he wore virtual reality goggles for an experiment testing his ability to judge the duration of time. Results are collected before, during and after a spaceflight to understand how time perception is affected in space. The impacts could potentially affect space navigation and other mission-oriented tasks.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin tested Russian smoke detectors, conducted a fit check of the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship seats and worked on space biology gear. Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov checked out video gear then studied how microgravity affects pain sensation.

August Brings More Spaceship Traffic and a Spacewalk

July 31, 2019: International Space Station Configuration
July 31, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter, and Russia’s Progress 73 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-12 and MS-13 crew ships.

The International Space Station is hosting five spaceships today as August ramps up for more orbital traffic activity. Six Expedition 60 crewmembers are also unloading U.S. and Russian cargo, activating new science experiments and stocking the station’s galley.

Russia’s Progress 73 (73P) cargo craft completed a fast-track delivery mission early Wednesday docking to the Pirs Docking Compartment just three hours and nineteen minutes after launching from Kazakhstan. Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov opened the 73P hatch shortly afterward starting its four-month stay. He and station Commander Alexey Ovchinin then began unloading nearly three tons of new consumables, fuel and supplies.

Two U.S. space freighters occupy the station’s Earth-facing Harmony and Unity module ports. Harmony will open up Tuesday when Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship departs after 109 days in space. The Canadarm2 robotic arm installed the SpaceX Dragon to Unity on Saturday after its arrival and capture beginning a month of cargo operations.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague are tending to mice today shipped aboard Dragon for ongoing biological research. The reusable vehicle will return the mice back to Earth at the end of the month, including other cargo, so scientists can analyze a variety of changes that only occur in microgravity.

Dragon also delivered a new commercial crew vehicle port, the International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3), in its unpressurized trunk. Robotics controllers will soon extract the IDA-3 before two spacewalkers install it to Unity’s space-facing port a few days later.

A few days before Dragon departs, Russia will launch an unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 crew ship to the orbiting lab for a test of its upgraded 2.1a Soyuz booster. It will dock to the Poisk module for a two-week stay before parachuting back to Earth in the vast steppe of Kazakhstan.

Final Week for Station Trio as Science Continues Unabated

The Expedition 59 crewmembers
The Expedition 59 crewmembers gather for a portrait inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Front row from left are David Saint-Jacques, Oleg Kononenko and Anne McClain who are returning to Earth June 24. In the back are Christina Koch, Alexey Ovchinin and Nick Hague.

Three Expedition 59 crewmembers are beginning their final week aboard the International Space Station and readying their spacesuits and Soyuz crew ship for the return to Earth. The orbital residents also continued a variety of human research activities amidst the deployment of tiny satellites today.

Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are set to return to Earth June 24 with Commander Oleg Kononenko at the helm of the Soyuz MS-11 crew craft. The homebound residents checked their Sokol launch and entry suits for leaks today. The trio also tested sensors that will monitor the crew’s blood pressure during reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

McClain also packed personal items she will take back to Earth with her. Kononenko and Saint-Jacques practiced Soyuz descent procedures the crew will use on its way to a landing in Kazakhstan. The threesome have been living aboard the space lab since Dec. 3 and will have accumulated 204 days on orbit when they complete their mission next week.

Science continues unabated aboard the orbital lab with the crew exploring a wide variety of phenomena to help NASA plan missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Payload specialists on the ground also remotely operate many of the hundreds of experiments taking place aboard the orbiting lab.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch started Monday researching how microgravity affects perception and orientation. Today’s experiment session required Koch to perform simple tasks wearing a neck brace and virtual reality goggles while free-floating inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module.

Four small satellites, or CubeSats, were ejected this morning outside of Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA monitored and photographed the CubeSats deployed for technology demonstrations. The first set of CubeSats deployed were from Nepal, Sri Lanka and Japan as part of the BIRDS-3 mission. The last CubeSat was from Singapore. All four arrived at the station April 19 aboard the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter.

Station Trio Prepping for June 24 Homecoming

The six-member Expedition 59 crew
The six-member Expedition 59 crew poses for a portrait inside Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus commercial space freighter dubbed the S.S. Roger B. Chaffee. Clockwise from bottom are cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Kononenko; NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague; Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques and NASA astronaut Anne McClain.

Three Expedition 59 crewmembers are getting ready to end their stay at the International Space Station after six and a half months in space. Meanwhile, mission scientists continue exploring how microgravity impacts the human body.

Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques will flank Commander Oleg Kononenko inside the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft when they return to Earth on June 24. McClain videotaped herself in virtual reality talking about her first space mission today using a 360-degree camera in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. The trio have been in space since Dec. 3.

Saint-Jacques and Kononenko began gathering items to take back home inside their Soyuz crew ship. The duo collected personal items such as shoes and clothes as well as tools and trash that will be soon be stowed aboard the Soyuz for the ride to Earth.

Saint-Jacques also researched ways to supplement crew nutrition during future long-term space missions, such as missions to the Moon and Mars. Food stowed for long periods can lose nutritional value. The BioNutrients-1 study is exploring manufacturing nutritional compounds in space to maintain healthy crews for successful missions.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague started Monday morning by drawing blood samples and spinning them in a centrifuge before stowing them in science freezer. Doctors on the ground will analyze the samples to detect critical changes to a crewmember’s physiology while living in space. The pair also participated in visual acuity tests using an eye chart in the afternoon.

More Head and Eye Pressure Research and Dragon Robotics Training

Astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Anne McClain
Astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Anne McClain practice Canadarm2 robotics maneuvers and spacecraft capture techniques on the robotics workstation in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

The Expedition 59 crew is unloading one U.S. cargo ship today and preparing for the arrival of another after it launches from Florida next week. The orbital residents also continued exploring how microgravity impacts the human body and a variety of terrestrial materials.

Astronauts Christina Koch and David Saint-Jacques worked Wednesday afternoon to offload some of the 7,600 pounds of cargo the Cygnus space freighter delivered last week. Saint-Jacques is also training today to capture the SpaceX resupply ship with the Canadarm2 robotic arm when it arrives next Thursday. Dragon will be the sixth spaceship parked at the station and occupy the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port.

The duo also split the day working with a variety of biomedical hardware and research gear to ensure healthy astronauts and successful space research. Koch and Saint-Jacques participated in ultrasound scans for ongoing health checks. Koch then explored the feasibility of manufacturing fiber optic cables in space. Saint-Jacques set up Kubik incubator hardware inside Europe’s Columbus lab module.

NASA Flight Engineers Anne McClain and Nick Hague were back collecting more blood, urine and saliva samples today. The samples are spun in a centrifuge, stowed in a science freezer then analyzed for the long-running Fluid Shifts study. The experiment seeks to understand and prevent the upward flow of body fluids in space that cause head and eye pressure in astronauts.

McClain then studied how living aboard the International Space Station affects her perception and cognition. Hague researched and photographed a variety of coating materials for their thermal protection and optical recognition properties.

Human Research, Materials Science and Robotics on Tuesday’s Schedule

The moon is photographed in its waning gibbous phase
The moon is photographed in its waning gibbous phase just above the Earth’s limb as the International Space Station orbited 258 miles above the North Atlantic Ocean just off the Canadian-American coast.

The Expedition 59 crew spent the majority of Tuesday conducting space experiments and setting up research hardware. The International Space Station residents are also continuing to unpack a pair of recently arrived cargo ships while training for the next U.S. cargo mission.

The weightless conditions of microgravity pull fluids towards an astronaut’s head causing a common space phenomenon sometimes called “puffy-face.” Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA spent the morning collecting and stowing his blood, urine and saliva samples for the long-running Fluid Shifts study. The research observes and seeks to reverse the upward flow of fluids causing increased head and eye pressure that concerns flight surgeons.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch set up hardware in the Destiny lab module to begin researching the feasibility of manufacturing fiber optic cable in space. The Space Fibers study takes place inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox and will explore a blend of materials more transparent than silica-based glass.

A new materials exposure experiment is ready for deployment outside Japan’s Kibo lab module. NASA astronaut Anne McClain installed the MISSE-FF gear inside Kibo’s airlock before depressurizing the unit. Robotics controllers will deploy the exposed sample trays outside the airlock. The study will help scientists understand how radiation, the vacuum of space and micrometeoroids affect a variety of materials.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques is training for his role to capture the next SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. Hague joined him today for the robotics training and will back him up in the cupola. Dragon is scheduled to launch April 30 from Florida and take a two-day trip to the station where it will be grappled with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and installed to the Harmony module.

Commander Oleg Kononenko helped attach sensors to Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin as the duo researched cardiovascular activity during exercise in space. Kononenko went on to replace smoke detectors as Ovchinin worked on life support maintenance.

New Life Science Begins; Next Dragon Cargo Mission Due Next Week

Cygnus approaches its capture point
The Canadarm2 robotic arm is positioned to grapple the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft as it approaches its capture point with the International Space Station orbiting 255 miles above the Atlantic Ocean. Highlighting the foreground is the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship docked to the Rassvet module.

The Expedition 59 crew has been unpacking Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft over the weekend and began science operations on the newly delivered space research. The 17th SpaceX Dragon mission is now due to launch next week to replenish the International Space Station.

Three NASA astronauts and one Canadian Space Agency astronaut split the workday measuring the mass of 40 mice shipped to the station aboard Cygnus last week. Flight Engineers Anne McClain and Christina Koch started the first half of the day with Flight Engineers Nick Hague and David Saint-Jacques wrapping up the rodent research work in the afternoon. The quartet used the mass measurement device inside the Life Sciences Glovebox beginning the study to learn how microgravity impacts the immune system.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is due to join the five other spacecraft parked at the station after it launches from Florida April 30. Dragon is scheduled to arrive May 2 and Saint-Jacques will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and capture the cargo vessel. Dragon will deliver over 5,000 pounds of new science, supplies and hardware to the orbital lab.

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin stayed focused on the Russian side of the station with their complement of orbital science and lab maintenance. Commander Kononenko updated communications gear, cleaned fans and filters and explored enzyme behaviors. Flight Engineer Ovchinin offloaded cargo from the new Progress 72 resupply ship and studied radiation exposure.

Cygnus Cargo Craft Attached to Station Until July

April 19, 2019: International Space Station Configuration
April 19, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are docked at the space station including Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter and Russia’s Progress 71 and 72 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-11 and MS-12 crew ships.

After its capture this morning at 5:28 a.m. EDT, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:31 a.m. At the time of installation, Cygnus was flying 255 miles above the Indian Ocean just south of Singapore.

Cygnus will remain at the space station until July 23, when the spacecraft will depart the station, deploy NanoRacks customer CubeSats, then have an extended mission of nine months before it will dispose of several tons of trash during a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings close to 7,600 pounds of research and supplies to space station. Highlights of NASA-sponsored research to advance exploration goals and enable future missions to the Moon and Mars include:

Models for growing increasingly complex materials

Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature-10 (ACE-T-10) will test gels in a microgravity environment. This research could aid in the development of increasingly complex materials that may serve as the building blocks for a range of applications on Earth including foods, drugs, and electronic devices. The process also may provide an efficient method to build new materials and equipment in space.

Better life science research in a few drops

Although the space station is well equipped for health and life sciences research, the equipment available for cellular and molecular biology still is limited compared to capabilities found in laboratories on Earth. To address this limitation, CSA designed Bio-Analyzer, a new tool the size of a video game console that astronauts on station easily can use to test body fluids such as blood, saliva, and urine, with just a few drops. It returns key analyses, such as blood cell counts, in just two to three hours, eliminating the need to freeze and store samples.

Analyzing aging of the arteries in astronauts

The Vascular Aging investigation uses ultrasounds, blood samples, oral glucose tolerance tests, and wearable sensors to study aging-like changes that occur in many astronauts during their stay on the space station. It’s one of three Canadian experiments exploring the effects of weightlessness on the blood vessels and heart, and the links between these effects and bone health, blood biomarkers, insulin resistance, and radiation exposure. Increased understanding of these mechanisms can be used to address vascular aging in both astronauts and the aging Earth population.

Testing immune response in space

Spaceflight is known to have a dramatic influence on an astronaut’s immune response, but there is little research on its effect following an actual challenge to the body’s immune system. The rodent immune system closely parallels that of humans, and Rodent Research-12: Tetanus Antibody Response by B cells in Space (TARBIS) will examine the effects of spaceflight on the function of antibody production and immune memory. This investigation aims to advance the development of measures to counter these effects and help maintain crew health during future long-duration space missions. On Earth, it could advance research to improve the effectiveness of vaccines and therapies for treating diseases and cancers.

Big buzz for new robot

A fleet of small robots is set to take on big jobs aboard the space station. Building on the success of SPHERES, NASA will test Astrobee, a robotic system comprised of three cube-shaped robots and a docking station for recharging; the first two are aboard Cygnus. The free-flying robots use electric fans for propulsion and cameras and sensors help them navigate their surroundings. The robots also have an arm to grasp station handrails or grab and hold items. Astrobee can operate in automated mode or under remote control from the ground as it assists with routine chores on station, and requires no supervision from the crew. This has the potential to free up astronauts to conduct more research.

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.