Canadian Robotic Arm Installs U.S. Cygnus Cargo Ship to Station

The International Space Station heads into an orbital sunset
The International Space Station heads into an orbital sunset as the Canadarm2 robotic arm guides the Cygnus space freighter to its installation point on the Unity module. Credit: NASA TV

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:31 a.m. EST. The spacecraft will spend about three months attached to the space station before departing in February 2019. After it leaves the station, the uncrewed spacecraft will deploy several CubeSats before its fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere as it disposes of several tons of trash.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings close to 7,400 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:

Sensory input in microgravity

Changes in sensory input in microgravity may be misinterpreted and cause a person to make errors in estimation of velocity, distance or orientation. VECTION examines this effect as well as whether people adapt to altered sensory input on long-duration missions and how that adaptation changes upon return to Earth. Using a virtual reality display, astronauts estimate the distance to an object, length of an object and orientation of their bodies in space. Tests are conducted before, during and after flight. The investigation is named for a visual illusion of self-movement, called vection, which occurs when an individual is still but sees the world moving past, according to principal investigator Laurence Harris. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) sponsors the investigation.

Solidifying cement in space

The MVP-Cell 05 investigation uses a centrifuge to provide a variable gravity environment to study the complex process of cement solidification, a step toward eventually making and using concrete on extraterrestrial bodies. These tests are a follow-on to the previous studies known as Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification (MICS), which studied cement solidification in microgravity.  Together, these tests will help engineers better understand the microstructure and material properties of cement, leading to design of safer, lightweight space habitats and improving cement processing techniques on Earth. This investigation is sponsored by NASA.

Investigations sponsored by the U.S. National Laboratory on the space station, which Congress designated in 2005 to maximize its use for improving quality of life on Earth, include:

From stardust to solar systems

Much of the universe was created when dust from star-based processes clumped into intermediate-sized particles and eventually became planets, moons and other objects. Many questions remain as to just how this worked, though. The EXCISS investigation seeks answers by simulating the high-energy, low gravity conditions that were present during formation of the early solar system. Scientists plan to zap a specially formulated dust with an electrical current, then study the shape and texture of pellets formed.

Principal investigator Tamara Koch explains that the dust is made up of particles of forsterite (Mg2SiO4), the main mineral in many meteorites and related to olivine, also known as the gemstone peridot. The particles are about the diameter of a human hair.

Growing crystals to fight Parkinson’s disease

The CASIS PCG-16 investigation grows large crystals of an important protein, Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2, or LRRK2, in microgravity for analysis back on Earth. This protein is implicated in development of Parkinson’s disease, and improving our knowledge of its structure may help scientists better understand the pathology of the disease and develop therapies to treat it. Crystals of LRRK2 grown in gravity are too small and too compact to study, making microgravity an essential part of this research.

Better gas separation membranes

Membranes represent one of the most energy-efficient and cost-effective technologies for separating and removing carbon dioxide from waste gases, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. CEMSICA tests membranes made from particles of calcium-silicate (C-S) with pores 100 nanometers or smaller. Producing these membranes in microgravity may resolve some of the challenges of their manufacture on Earth and lead to development of lower-cost, more durable membranes that use less energy. The technology ultimately may help reduce the harmful effects of CO2 emissions on the planet.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

U.S. Space Freighter Captured by NASA Astronaut

Cygnus Space Freighter
The Cygnus space freighter is pictured moments after it was captured by the Canadarm2 robotic arm operated by NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor. Credit: NASA TV

At 5:28 a.m. EST, Expedition 57 Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA used the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 to grapple the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft as Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), monitored Cygnus’ systems during its approach. Next, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install Cygnus, dubbed the SS John Young, on the bottom of the station’s Unity module.

NASA Television coverage of installation will begin at 6:45 a.m., and installation of the Cygnus spacecraft to the space station is expected to be completed later this morning.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

U.S. Spaceship Lifts Off for Station Delivery Mission

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft blasted off at 4:01 a.m. EST today
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft blasted off at 4:01 a.m. EST today loaded with about 7,400 pounds of science, supplies and goodies for the station crew. Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft lifted off at 4:01 a.m. EST and is on its way to the International Space Station.

At about 5:45 a.m., commands will be given to deploy the spacecraft’s solar arrays. Coverage will continue on NASA TV at  http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv at 5 a.m. for solar array deployment, which is expected to last about 30 minutes.

A post-launch news conference will follow and is scheduled to begin on NASA TV at approximately 6:30 a.m.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

US Cargo Mission Slips a Day; Station Tests Free-Flying AI Assistant

Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor
Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor practices on a computer the maneuvers she will use with Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the U.S. Cygnus space freighter on Monday.

The launch of the Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman has slipped another day due to inclement weather at the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Atlantic coast. Cygnus is now scheduled to launch atop the Antares rocket Saturday at 4:01 a.m. EST with a much improved weather forecast.

The U.S. resupply ship will deliver approximately 7,400 pounds of food, fuel and supplies to the station two days later. Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Cygnus Monday at 5:20 a.m. Commander Alexander Gerst will back her up and monitor telemetry from the vehicle during its approach and rendezvous.

The Progress 71 (71P) cargo craft from Russia is at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan ready to blast off Friday at 1:14 p.m. EST. Prokopyev will be monitoring the Russian resupply ship when it arrives Sunday for an automated docking to the rear port of the Zvezda service module at 2:30 p.m.

The International Space Station Program is testing the use of artificial intelligence today to contribute to mission success aboard the orbital laboratory. Meanwhile, the space residents from the U.S., Germany and Russia continued more human research and prepared for the upcoming U.S. and Russian space deliveries.

CIMON, or Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN, is a free-flying robotic assistant based on artificial intelligence currently being tested on the station. The astronaut support device from ESA (European Space Agency) was powered up and commissioned today by the station commander inside the Columbus lab module. The CIMON technology seeks to demonstrate astronaut-robot interaction by answering crew questions, assisting with science experiments and navigating autonomously in the lab.

Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev and fellow crewmates Gerst and Auñón-Chancellor started Thursday with ongoing eye checks. Gerst and Serena swapped roles as Crew Medical Officer scanning each other’s eyes including Prokopyev’s using an ultrasound device with guidance from a doctor on the ground. The data is downlinked to Earth real-time and helps scientists understand how microgravity affects astronaut vision as well as the components and shape of the eye.

Dual Cargo Missions Set for Friday Launch and Sunday Delivery

Two rockets stand at their launch pads on opposite sides of the world
Two rockets stand at their launch pads on opposite sides of the world. Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket (left) with its Cygnus cargo craft on top stands at its launch pad in Virginia. Russia’s Progress 71 rocket is pictured at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Dismal weather on Virginia’s Atlantic coast has pushed back the launch of a U.S. cargo craft to the International Space Station one day to Friday. Russia’s resupply ship is still on track for its launch to the orbital lab from Kazakhstan less than nine hours later on the same day.

Mission managers from NASA and Northrop Grumman are now targeting the Cygnus space freighter’s launch on Friday at 4:23 a.m. EST from Pad-0A at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus sits atop an Antares rocket packed with approximately 7,400 pounds of crew supplies, science experiments, spacesuit gear, station hardware and computer resources.

Cygnus will separate from the Antares rocket when it reaches orbit nine minutes after launch and begin a two-day journey to the station’s Unity module. Its cymbal-shaped UltraFlex solar arrays will then unfurl to power the vehicle during its flight. Expedition 57 astronauts Alexander Gerst and Serena Auñón-Chancellor will be in the cupola to greet Cygnus Sunday and capture the private cargo carrier with the Canadarm2 robotic arm at 4:35 a.m.

Russia rolled out its Progress 71 (71P) resupply ship today at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan where it stands at the launch pad for final processing. The 71st flight of a Progress cargo craft to the orbital laboratory is scheduled for launch Friday at 1:14 p.m. Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev will be monitoring the arrival of 71P when it automatically docks to the rear port of the Zvezda service module Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Gerst and Prokopyev started Wednesday morning training for the arrival of 71P. The pair practiced commanding and manually docking the vehicle on a computer in the unlikely event the Russian cargo craft is unable to dock on its own. Gerst then moved on to Cygnus capture training after lunchtime with Auñón-Chancellor following up before the end of the day. NASA TV will cover live the launch, capture and docking of both Cygnus and Progress on Friday and Sunday.

U.S., Russian Rockets Preparing to Resupply Station This Weekend

Northrop Grumman's Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus resupply spacecraft
Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus resupply spacecraft is seen on Pad-0A after being raised into a vertical position, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

A U.S. rocket stands at its launch pad at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia counting down to a Thursday morning launch. On the other side of the world in Kazakhstan, a Russian rocket is being processed for its launch Friday afternoon. Both spaceships are hauling several tons of food, fuel, supplies and new science to resupply the Expedition 57 crew aboard the International Space Station.

First, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is set to blastoff atop the Antares rocket Thursday at 4:49 a.m. EST from Virginia’s Atlantic coast. Next, Russia will roll out its Progress 71 (71P) cargo craft for a launch Friday at 1:14 p.m. from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Cygnus will then lead the 71P on a dual journey to the orbital laboratory where the two spaceships will arrive on Sunday just hours apart. Cygnus will get there first when Commander Alexander Gerst assisted by Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor captures the private cargo carrier at 4:35 a.m. with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. After some rest, cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev will monitor the automated docking of the 71P to the Zvezda service module’s rear port at 2:30 p.m.

Gerst and Serena trained today for the robotic capture of Cygnus on Sunday reviewing approach and rendezvous procedures. Gerst first started his day reviewing details about a new free-flying robotic assistant that uses artificial intelligence before moving on to protein crystal research. Serena worked on the Life Sciences Glovebox then moved on to orbital plumbing tasks.

The duo also joined Prokopyev for ongoing eye checks in conjunction with doctors on the ground. Prokopyev primarily worked in the Russian segment throughout Tuesday on life support maintenance and science experiments.

U.S., Russian Spaceships Line Up for Launch After Japanese Vessel Departs

Japanese Resupply Ship Released
Japan’s HTV-7 resupply ship is pictured after it was released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Both the HTV-7 and the International Space Station were orbiting about 254 miles above the Pacific Ocean and about 311 miles west of Baja California.

The Expedition 57 crew said farewell to a Japanese resupply ship Wednesday and is getting ready to welcome U.S. and Russian space freighters in less than two weeks. The trio practiced International Space Station emergency procedures this week then went on to space research and robotics training.

The U.S. company Northrop Grumman is getting its 10th Cygnus cargo craft packed and ready for launch atop an Antares rocket Nov. 15 at 4:49 a.m. EST. Russia will launch its 71st station resupply mission aboard a Progress spaceship the next day at 1:14 p.m.

Both resupply ships are due to arrive at the station Sunday Nov. 18 just 10 hours apart. The Cygnus will get there first following its head start. Commander Alexander Gerst assisted by Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor will capture the American vessel with the Canadarm2 robotic arm at 4:35 a.m. A few hours later, cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev will monitor the approach and automated docking of the Russian Progress 71 cargo craft to the Zvezda service module at 2:30 p.m.

All three crew members called down to mission controls centers in Houston and Moscow for a coordinated emergency drill. The orbital residents practiced communication and decision-making skills while maneuvering along evacuation paths and locating safety gear.

Afterward, Gerst and Serena partnered up and reviewed next Sunday’s Cygnus approach and rendezvous procedures. Gerst will command the Canadarm2 to reach out and grapple Cygnus as Serena monitors the spaceship’s telemetry and data.

Prokopyev continued his science and maintenance duties in the orbital lab’s Russian segment. The cosmonaut explored the physics of plasma-dust crystals then conducted an eye exam in conjunction with doctors on Earth. Prokopyev also photographed the inside of the Zvezda and stowed radiation detectors.

Health, Physics Research During Preps for Spacewalk and Japan Cargo Mission

Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev
Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev (left) and Sergey Prokopyev will conduct a six-hour, 10-minute spacewalk on Aug. 15, 2018.

The Expedition 56 crew members explored how human health and physical processes are affected off the Earth today. The orbital residents are also configuring the International Space Station for a Russian spacewalk next week and a Japanese cargo craft mission in September.

A long-running human research study is helping doctors understand the impacts of microgravity shifting fluids upward in an astronaut’s body. Two astronauts, Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of ESA, joined forces today for that study using an ultrasound device for eye scans with assistance from specialists on Earth. The experiment aims to help researchers prevent the upward fluid shifts that put pressure on an astronaut’s eyes potentially affecting vision in space and back on Earth after a mission.

The orbital complex enables research into a variety of space physics including the observation of atoms nearly frozen still when exposed to the coldest temperatures in the universe. The Cold Atom Lab (CAL), which chills atoms to about one ten billionth of a degree above absolute zero, had its fiber cables inspected by NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold today during troubleshooting operations. CAL was delivered to the station in May aboard the Cygnus space freighter then installed in the Columbus laboratory module shortly after.

A spacewalk is scheduled for Aug. 15 when cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev will work outside the station’s Russian segment for about 6 hours of science and maintenance tasks. The duo spent Wednesday afternoon checking their Orlan spacesuits in a pressurized configuration. They also installed U.S. lights and video cameras on the suits ahead of next week’s excursion.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is planning a Sept. 10 launch of its H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) for capture and installation to the space station. HTV will be carrying cargo and new lithium ion batteries for installation on the station’s Port-4 truss power system. Commander Drew Feustel partnered with Gerst and Arnold throughout the day readying JAXA’s Kibo laboratory module for the upcoming delivery mission.


Get weekly video highlights at: http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/ 

Cancer Study Prepped for Earth Return Amid Time Perception Research

The Cygnus space freighter is poised for release from the Canadarm2
The Cygnus space freighter was pictured July 15 , 2018, poised for release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm back into Earth orbit ending a 52-day cargo mission at the International Space Station.

A new cancer therapy study is wrapping up aboard the International Space Station this week as an American cargo craft is packed for return to Earth. The Expedition 56 crew also researched how astronauts perceive time and distance in space and back on Earth.

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor has been contributing to pharmaceutical research since the arrival of the AngieX Cancer Therapy experiment July 2 inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. Today, she is examining endothelial cells in space to help determine if they make a good model for targeting the vasculature of tumor cells. Results may improve the design of safer, more effective therapies targeting cancer tumors.

NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold has been loading Dragon with hardware and science samples today ahead of its return to Earth on Friday. Results from the AngieX cancer investigation will also be stowed in Dragon this week for retrieval and analysis on Earth. Robotics controllers will release Dragon from the grips of the Canadarm2 Friday at 12:37 p.m. EDT as Auñón-Chancellor monitors from the Cupola. Less than six hours later, the commercial space freighter will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.

Another U.S. cargo craft, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply ship, released from the space station on July 15 is getting ready to end its stay in space today. The Cygnus was detached from the station’s Harmony module in mid-July and has been orbiting Earth for engineering research. It is due to burn up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean at 5:07 p.m. today.

Alexander Gerst, of the European Space Agency, worked in the Columbus lab module to help doctors understand how an astronaut’s perception of time and distance is affected during and after a mission. Results will help mission planners understand how astronauts adapt to space impacting the success and safety of long-term missions.


Get weekly video highlights at: http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/ 

Astronauts Release U.S. Spacecraft Completing Cargo Mission

Cygnus Released
The Cygnus cargo craft slowly departs the space station after its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Credit: NASA TV

Expedition 56 Flight Engineers Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA commanded the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the Cygnus cargo spacecraft at 8:37 a.m. EDT. At the time of release, the station was flying 253 miles above the Southeastern border of Colombia. Earlier, ground controllers used the robotic arm to unberth Cygnus.

The departing spacecraft will move a safe distance away from the space station before deploying a series of CubeSats. Cygnus will remain in orbit for two more weeks to allow a flight control team to conduct engineering tests.

Cynus is scheduled to deorbit with thousands of pounds of trash on Monday, July 30, as it burns up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean while entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The satellite deployment and deorbit burn will not be broadcast on NASA Television.

The spacecraft arrived on station May 24 delivering cargo for Orbital ATK’s (now Northrop Grumman’s) ninth contracted mission under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.