Day Before Soyuz Relocation, Astronauts Continue Studies on Microgravity’s Influence

Two Russian spacecraft are seen docked to the International Space Station as it orbited 269 miles above southern Argentina. At left is the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship that will soon undock from the Rassvet module and relocate to the Poisk module, making room for three new crew members due to launch April 9 aboard the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship. At right is the aft end of the Progress 77 cargo craft docked to the Pirs docking compartment. Credits: NASA
Two Russian spacecraft are seen docked to the International Space Station as it orbited 269 miles above southern Argentina. At left is the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship that will soon undock from the Rassvet module and relocate to the Poisk module, making room for three new crew members due to launch April 9 aboard the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship. At right is the aft end of the Progress 77 cargo craft docked to the Pirs docking compartment. Credits: NASA

A day before Expedition 64 relocates the Soyuz MS-17 to another port on the International Space Station, the seven-person crew continued studies on the effects of microgravity on humans, plants, and materials, along with a couple outreach events.

NASA astronaut Victor Glover took part in two media events, each accompanied by a different crewmate. First up, Glover and Kate Rubins spoke with Fox 11 “Good Day L.A.” about living and working aboard the space station. About two hours later, Glover joined Shannon Walker for an outreach event with U.S. Rep. Norma Torres of California, where they answered questions submitted by students.

Glover teamed up again with Rubins for an eye ultrasound. Receiving guidance from the ground, Glover served as operator for Rubins’ examination. Spaceflight, especially for prolonged missions, can affect vision and eye health. These ongoing checks provide invaluable data for researchers and test the accuracy and functionality of the portable medical equipment station crews rely upon — tools that will prove even more critical as explorers venture farther from Earth.

Meanwhile, NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins continued closing out spacesuit tools and equipment used during the previous Saturday spacewalk he and Glover completed to service the orbiting laboratory’s cooling system and communications gear. The veteran astronaut also swapped out a crystal growth chamber in support of the Industrial Crystallization Facility (ICF). The ICF is used for growing crystals in space that are not possible on Earth — specimens large enough for commercial use. These crystals are not only interesting to look at, but integral to the research and development of new materials.

JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s) astronaut, Soichi Noguchi, was engrossed in an investigation that studies fast-growing plants, called Asian Herb in Space. Future space travel, especially to destinations like Mars, will rely on plants for sustenance, traditional medicine, and flavor. This experiment will add to the growing body of research on plant growth, plus provide new information on the formation of aroma compounds in herbs.

Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos cultured various types of cells with the Kaskad investigation, while his counterpart, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov, was focused on setup and preparation for the Soyuz relocation activity.

On Friday, March 19, viewers can watch the Soyuz MS-17 undock and take a spin in the orbital neighborhood, so to speak, and later reattach to the Poisk module, which will free up the Rassvet port for the docking of Soyuz MS-18. Live coverage of the maneuver on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website will begin at 12:15 p.m. EDT. Undocking from Rassvet is anticipated at 12:38 p.m., with redocking at Poisk targeted for 1:07 p.m.

The new vehicle, MS-18, will embark to the station after a planned April 9 launch, carrying NASA’s Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos’ Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov.

Learn more about 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.

SpaceX Dragon Targets Mid-July Launch

"Islands in the Sky"
NASA astronaut Jeff Williams took this majestic image of “Islands in the Sky” on Mar. 3, 2016 as dusk fell over the oceans.

SpaceX and NASA managers are targeting July 16 for the launch of the ninth Dragon commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. Meanwhile, U.S. and Russian spaceships are being packed for upcoming departures in June and July from the orbital lab.

The crew also began preparing the vestibule space between BEAM – the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module –  and the rest of the station for Thursday’s expansion activities, by pressurizing the area and performing leak checks.

Dragon will lift off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida carrying supplies, science gear and one of two international docking adapters. The adapters will allow future commercial crew vehicles from Boeing and SpaceX to dock. The first adapter will be attached to the station’s Harmony module in August by a pair of spacewalkers.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus private space freighter is due to be the next spaceship to leave the station when it is released June 14. Expedition 47 will end four days later when Yuri Malenchenko, Tim Kopra and Tim Peake undock and return to Earth inside the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft.

Back inside the station, a pair of crew members participated in blood pressure and vision checks for the Ocular Health study. Another astronaut conducted ultrasound scans today helping scientists explore the likelihood of clogged arteries, or atherosclerosis, occurring on long-term space missions.

Soyuz Stands Ready at Launch Pad as Cargo Missions Line Up

Soyuz TMA-20M Rocket at the Launch Pad
The Soyuz TMA-20M rocket stands ready for lifoff at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz rocket that will carry three new crew members to the International Space Station Friday evening stands ready for launch in Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, the orbiting trio awaiting reinforcements is busy with medical science and preparations for upcoming cargo missions.

High winds at the Baikonur Cosmodrome delayed the raising of the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft into vertical position a few hours after its roll out Wednesday. Launch is scheduled for 5:26 p.m. EDT/9:26 p.m. UTC Friday. Expedition 47-48 crew members Jeff Williams, Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka will arrive at their new home in space less than six hours later.

The three current residents onboard the orbital laboratory, Commander Tim Kopra and Flight Engineers Tim Peake and Yuri Malenchenko, continued their medical research to help scientists understand how living off the Earth affects the human body. The crew is also getting ready for a pair of cargo deliveries due soon from Orbital ATK and SpaceX.

Kopra and Peake were back at work today on the Ocular Health study scanning their eyes with an ultrasound and checking their blood pressure. Kopra also explored how microbes affect the human immune system in space and practiced the robotic capture of the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft. Peake is helping engineers validate the technology that will control rovers on another planet from a spacecraft. Malenchenko researched how the digestive system adapts to microgravity and packed trash into the 61P resupply ship due to undock at the end of the month.

Orbital ATK will launch its Cygnus space freighter Tuesday at 11 p.m. EDT from Kennedy Space Center on a four-day trip to the space station. Cygnus will deliver almost 7,500 pounds of research gear, spacewalk hardware and crew supplies to the Expedition 47 crew.

Station Boosts Orbit before Heavy Spacecraft Traffic Period

Solar Arrays and Earth's Limb
The International Space Station’s solar arrays and the Earth’s limb were photographed during a Jan. 15, 2016, spacewalk.

The International Space Station raised its orbit again today as three crew members prepare for a March 1 landing while another trio gets ready for a March 18 launch. Meanwhile, advanced research continued inside the orbital laboratory to improve life on Earth and for future space residents.

Today’s orbital reboost places the station at the correct altitude for the March 1 undocking of Soyuz Commander Sergey Volkov and One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko. Their undocking will leave the Poisk module’s docking port vacant where a trio of Expedition 47 crew members will dock two-and-a-half weeks later inside the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft.

Today, the Expedition 46 crew participated in a variety of human research exploring how the heart adapts to life in space, the risk of atherosclerosis in astronauts and how microgravity affects an astronaut’s vision. The crew also sampled the station’s air and surfaces for microbes to learn how to prevent contamination in future spacecraft.

Another spacecraft is being prepared for departure Friday morning when it will be released from the grips of the 57.7 foot long Canadarm2 robotic arm. The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft is being loaded with trash before NASA astronauts Kelly and Tim Kopra release Cygnus using the robotics controls inside the seven-window cupola. NASA Television will cover the activities live Friday beginning at 7 a.m. EST.

Astronauts Studying Immune System to Keep Crews Healthy

The Red Sea and the Nile River
The Red Sea and the Nile River at right were photographed from the International Space Station.

The Expedition 46 crew members participated in immunology research today helping scientists learn to keep astronauts healthy on longer and farther space missions. The crew also continued more vision checks and explored heart health.

Commander Scott Kelly, British astronaut Time Peake and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko each participated in a different experiment looking at the immune system of space residents.

Kelly collected body samples looking for microbes that could potentially cause infections or allergies and stowed them in a science freezer for analysis. Peake took a saliva sample for an experiment that is researching biomarkers for immune dysfunction in space. Kornienko explored how radiation and other unique factors of living in space could affect a crew member’s immune system.

NASA astronaut Tim Kopra also joined Kelly and Kornienko for eye exams for an experiment studying vision impairment reported by some International Space Station astronauts. Kopra and Peake also partnered up for ultrasound scans of their arteries with guidance from doctors on the ground. The ongoing Cardio Ox study looks at an astronaut’s carotid and brachial arteries before, during and after a space mission.

U.S. Cargo Ship Rolls Out to Pad for Thursday Launch

Cygnus Rolls Out to Launch Pad
The Cygnus cargo craft atop the Atlas V rocket rolls out to the launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Orbital ATK rolled out its Cygnus resupply ship to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch pad in Florida today. Cygnus will launch atop an Atlas V rocket at 5:55 p.m. EST Thursday. The private U.S. space freighter will deliver new science experiments and crew supplies to the International Space Station crew early Sunday.

Amid Cygnus rendezvous and capture preparations, Commander Scott Kelly with Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui also worked on biomedical science activities today. The trio collected blood and urine samples and participated in a vision test to help doctors understand the effects of living in space on astronauts.

Cosmonauts Sergey Volkov and Mikhail Kornienko continued studying how blood circulates in space. Volkov then moved on to an experiment observing how the vacuum of space and space radiation may influence organisms off Earth. Kornienko explored new Earth photography techniques.

Lindgren and Yui are returning home Dec. 11 with Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko after 141 days in space. The three Expedition 45 home-bound crew members checked the spacesuits they will wear on the way home for leaks.

Station Ramping Up for New Crew and New Supplies

The Sun's light
The Sun’s light is reflected off a body of water as the space station orbit’s Earth.

A trio of International Space Station residents is getting ready to return to Earth while a new crew in Kazakhstan is preparing to replace them. Meanwhile, a pair of space freighters, the Orbital ATK Cygnus and Russia’s Progress 62 (62P), is being readied for liftoff as another docked cargo craft is being packed before it’s undocking.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft will launch Thursday at 5:55 p.m. EST to the station. The 61P is scheduled for a Dec. 21 liftoff. While mission managers are preparing three different spacecraft for launch this month, the Expedition 45 crew is performing research to help scientists benefit life on Earth and crews in space.

The next home-bound astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui checked their vision and blood pressure today for the Ocular Health study. The duo will return home with Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko Dec. 11 officially ending the Expedition 45 mission. Kononenko participated in a pair of blood circulation experiments, Cosmocard and Cardiovector, and prepared the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft for its departure in less than two weeks.

Commander Scott Kelly, who is staying in space until March with Flight Engineer Sergey Volkov and fellow One-Year crew member Mikhail Kornienko, sampled and tested the station’s water quality. Volkov and Kornienko explored veins in the lower body to understand blood flow during a long-term space mission.

The next crew to live on the space station, Expedition 46, is at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site counting down to its Dec. 15 liftoff inside the Soyuz TMA-19M rocket. First-time British astronaut Timothy Peake is joining veteran station crew members Timothy Kopra and Yuri Malenchenko for the six-month mission aboard the orbital laboratory.

Astronauts Prepare for Dec. 6 Commercial Cargo Shipment[/embedyt]

The next cargo mission to the International Space Station is set to launch Dec. 3 at 5:55 p.m. EST.  The Orbital ATK Cygnus commercial cargo craft will arrive Dec. 6 when it will be grappled with the Canadarm2 and berthed to the Unity module.

Commander Scott Kelly joined Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui and trained for Cygnus arrival. They used computer training software and practiced the rendezvous and grapple techniques they will use while operating the Canadarm2 from inside the cupola.

The crew was back at work Monday conducting more science to benefit life on Earth and astronauts in space. They explored a variety of subjects including human research, botany and physics.

Kelly looked at working with touch-based technologies, explored liquid crystals and tended plants. His One-Year crewmate Mikhail Kornienko downlinked earthquake data captured on the orbital lab and stowed trash inside a Russian resupply ship.

Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko researched veins in the lower extremities of crew members and performed a vision test. Flight Engineer Sergey Volkov participated in Crew Medical Officer training and photographed the condition of the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft windows.

Yui researched intracranial pressure caused by microgravity potentially affecting an astronaut’s vision. He also began a 24-hour data take while attached to an electrocardiogram. Lindgren studied new exercise techniques using gear that measures respiratory and cardiovascular functions.



Crew Explores Human Research and Cleans Orbital Lab

Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko
Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko is pictured with photography gear floating in front of him.

The Expedition 45 crew is continuing more biomedical and psychological research today. Ground controllers are also remotely operating the Canadarm2 robotic arm for a video scan of Russian solar arrays.

Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui were back at work Wednesday with more Ocular Health science conducting eye scans and cardiac exams. Lindgren also worked on gear that fuels combustion science experiments while Yui talked to his Japanese support team and cleaned inside the Kibo laboratory module.

Commander Scott Kelly collected and stowed a urine sample for the Twins study then participated in research that explores how international space crews operate under stress. Kelly also replaced Trace Contaminant Control System gear inside the Tranquility module.

Cosmonaut Sergey Volkov explored the effect of micro-vibrations in the Russian segment of the station. He also explored the relationship between a crew and Mission Control during a long term spaceflight. One-Year crew member Mikhail Kornienko studied chemical reactions in Earth’s upper atmosphere. He, Volkov and cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko also worked on Russian cleaning and maintenance tasks.

Crew Readying Spacewalk Gear and Studying Life Science

Kimiya Yui, Kjell Lindgren and Sergey Volkov
Expedition 45 crew members Kimiya Yui, Kjell Lindgren and Sergey Volkov work inside the Quest airlock to get a pair of spacesuits ready for upcoming spacewalks. Credit: NASA TV

The International Space Station crew is gearing up for a couple of spacewalks to service and upgrade the orbital laboratory. Meanwhile, the crew is also working long-term life science to improve life on Earth and in future space crews.

The U.S. Quest airlock is getting busy as NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren get their spacesuits and tools ready for a pair of spacewalks set for Oct. 28 and Nov. 26. They are checking their suit electronics and safety systems and also building custom tools.

The first spacewalk is set to last six-hours and 30-minutes after Kelly and Lindgren set their spacesuits to battery power. The duo will exit Quest to place a thermal cover over a dark matter detection experiment, lubricate the 57.7 foot Canadarm2 robotic and route power cables for a future docking port.

The entire crew still continued the work of on-orbit science, the primary purpose of the space station. Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, along with Kelly and Lindgren performed cardiac scans with an ultrasound for the Ocular Health study. Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui set up a mouse habitat inside the Cell Biology Experiment Facility.