After delivering almost 7,400 pounds of cargo to support dozens of science experiments from around the world, the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo spacecraft has departed the International Space Station. At 8:11 a.m., Expedition 53 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA gave the command to release Cygnus.
On Tuesday, Dec. 5, ground controllers used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach the Cygnus spacecraft from the Earth-facing side of the station’s Unity module. The spacecraft, which arrived at the station Nov. 14, then maneuvered above the Harmony module to gather data overnight that will aid in rendezvous and docking operations for future U.S. commercial crew vehicles arriving for a linkup to Harmony’s international docking adapters.
Experiments delivered on Cygnus supported NASA and other research investigations during Expedition 53, including studies in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science.
Later today, Cygnus will release 14 CubeSats from an external NanoRacks deployer. Cygnus also is packed with more than 6,200 pounds of trash and other items marked for disposal during its destructive reentry Monday, Dec. 18.
The Cygnus launched Nov. 12 on Orbital ATK’s upgraded Antares 230 rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia for the company’s eighth NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission.
The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo spacecraft is set to leave the International Space Station on Wednesday, Dec. 6. NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live coverage of Cygnus’ departure beginning at 7:45 a.m. EST. Cygnus arrived to the space station Nov. 14 with nearly 7,400 pounds of cargo to support dozens of science experiments.
At approximately 8:10 a.m., Expedition 53 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA will give the command to release Cygnus.
Earlier today, ground controllers used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach the Cygnus spacecraft from the Earth-facing side of the station’s Unity module.
This was Orbital ATK’s eighth contracted commercial resupply mission.
SpaceX has delayed the launch of its next Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station to no earlier than Dec. 12. Back on orbit, the Cygnus cargo craft is getting ready to leave the orbital lab and an experimental module has its stay in space extended for at least another three years.
NASA and our commercial cargo provider SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Dec. 12 at 11:46 a.m. EST for their 13th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. This new launch date takes into account pad readiness, requirements for science payloads, space station crew availability, and orbital mechanics. Carrying about 4,800 pounds of cargo including critical science and research, the Dragon spacecraft will spend a month attached to the space station.
Ground controllers uninstalled Cygnus from the Unity module Tuesday morning with the Canadarm2 and are conducting a series of communications tests to assist NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Next, Vande Hei and Acaba will command the Canadarm2 to release Cygnus back into Earth orbit tomorrow at 8:10 a.m. EST where it will stay until Dec. 18.
BEAM, formally known as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, is staying attached to the station for another three years with a potential to stay an extra year after that. While BEAM transitions to its new role as a cargo hold, engineers will continue studying its ability to resist radiation, space debris and microbes. Bigelow Aerospace and NASA signed the contract extension in November to continue demonstrating the reliability of expandable habitat technologies in space.
The Expedition 53 crew is configuring the orbital complex for a pair of cargo missions and a crew swap in December. Two colorful soccer ball-sized satellites were also floating around inside the International Space Station being tested today.
SpaceX has announced it is now targeting Dec. 8 for the launch of its Dragon cargo craft to the space station’s Harmony module. Among the variety of crew supplies and research gear Dragon will deliver are mice to be observed for the Rodent Research-6 muscle drug study. 20 mice will be housed in a rodent habitat that Vande Hei is configuring today in the U.S. Destiny laboratory.
Orbital ATK pushed back the release of its Cygnus resupply ship from the Unity module to Dec. 6 after the SpaceX announcement. Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei are preparing for the departure this week loading Cygnus with trash and training for its robotic release.
Acaba and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin were inside the Kibo laboratory module today testing a pair of tiny satellites better known as SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites). The SPHERES can be pre-programmed on Earth using algorithms to conduct a series of maneuvers demonstrating formation flying or rendezvous and docking techniques. Teams of high school students will be competing in January to see who can design the best maneuvering algorithms for the SPHERES on the station.
The Cygnus resupply ship is in its final week at the International Space Station and two astronauts are training for its departure on Monday. Meanwhile, a leg muscle study and CubeSat deployment operations are wrapping up today.
The duo will be inside the cupola commanding the Canadarm2 to release Cygnus back into Earth orbit on Dec. 4. Following its departure from the station, Cygnus will stay in orbit until Dec. 18 before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere for a fiery demise over the Pacific Ocean.
Commander Randy Bresnik and cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy are completing a final run of the Sarcolab-3 experiment today. That research is observing how leg muscles adapt to microgravity using magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound devices.
Finally, a satellite deployer that ejected a set of CubeSats last week, has been brought back inside the Kibo lab module. One of the CubeSats deployed, the EcAMSat that was delivered aboard Cygnus, is now orbiting Earth researching how the E. coli pathogen reacts to antibiotics in space.
The six-member Expedition 53 crew heads into Thanksgiving observing how living in space affects the human body and packing the Cygnus cargo craft. The orbital crewmates are also preparing for next month’s arrival of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.
Veteran space station residents Paolo Nespoli and Sergey Ryazanskiy were back inside the Columbus lab module today examining what microgravity is doing to their leg muscles. The duo took turns strapping themselves in a unique exercise chair and attaching electrodes to their knees. Next, the pair used magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound devices to observe the changes taking place in their legs in space.
NASA astronaut Joe Acaba transferred the TangoLab-1 multi-use science facility into the Cygnus space freighter for a demonstration today. TangoLab-1 is being tested inside Cygnus to determine the viability of using a cargo craft as a laboratory while docked at the International Space Station.
The next cargo craft to visit the station will be the SpaceX Dragon when it launches Dec. 4 aboard the Falcon 9 rocket from Florida. Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei trained today for the rendezvous and capture of Dragon when it arrives two days after its launch. Dragon will carry new science experiments to explore the Sun’s impact on Earth and improve the accuracy of a new diabetes implant device.
An experimental module attached to the International Space Station is being prepared for upcoming cargo operations. Tiny research satellites were also ejected from the orbital lab while a pair of Expedition 53 crew members scanned their leg muscles today.
BEAM, officially called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, is being outfitted this week for future stowage operations. Excess gear, including inflation tanks and dynamic sensors, used during its initial expansion back in May of 2016 is being removed to make room for new cargo. BEAM’s old gear and trash will now be stowed in the Cygnus resupply craft for disposal early next month.
Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli and Sergey Ryazanskiy spent Monday exploring how the lack of gravity affects leg muscles. Nespoli strapped himself into a specialized exercise chair and attached electrodes to his leg with assistance from Ryazanskiy. The Sarcolab-3 experiment uses measurements from an ultrasound device and magnetic resonance imaging to observe impacts to the muscles and tendons of a crew member.
Expedition 53 checked out a specialized microscope and worked on the International Space Station’s toilet today. More supplies and hardware are also being offloaded from the newly-arrived Cygnus cargo craft.
Commander Randy Bresnik opened up the Fluids Integrated Rack this morning to take a look at its Light Microscopy Module (LMM), an advanced space microscope. He was troubleshooting the device and swapping out its cables. The LMM provides a facility to examine the microscopic properties of different types of fluids in microgravity.
European Space Agency Paolo Nespoli worked on space plumbing throughout the day in the station’s restroom, the Waste and Hygiene Compartment (WHC). The veteran station resident removed and replaced valves and sensors in the WHC as part regular preventative maintenance.
More crew supplies and research gear are being unloaded from Cygnus today to outfit the crew and continue ongoing space science experiments. NASA astronaut Joe Acaba was unpacking food, batteries and computer gear for stowage throughout the station. The second-time station resident was also removing Genes in Space gear and blood sample kits for upcoming science work.
The Expedition 53 astronauts are continuing to unload several thousand pounds of space cargo from the new Cygnus resupply ship that arrived Tuesday morning. Some of the new science cargo contains a bacteria that curiously loses its harmful properties in microgravity and CubeSats that will be deployed in Earth orbit.
The Cygnus is now installed on the Unity module and open for business. The astronauts entered the cargo craft Tuesday and started replenishing the station with almost 7,400 pounds of crew supplies, science experiments, spacewalk gear, station hardware and computer parts.
Some of the new research payloads will be looking at the space impacts on microbiology and botany. The advanced space research will explore the effectiveness of antibiotics on astronauts and observe how plants absorb nutrients in microgravity. Some pathogens for the STaARS Bioscience-5 study delivered aboard Cygnus have also been safely transferred to the NEXUS facility for later observation.
A couple of the newest technology experiments will deploy CubeSats to explore laser communications and hybrid solar panels. Scientists will study the ability of small satellites to communicate with each other using lasers and also explore if a combination of antenna and solar cells can speed up communication rates.
The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:15 a.m. EST. The spacecraft will spend about three weeks attached to the space station before departing in early December. 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 support Expedition 53 and 54. Highlights include:
The coli AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat) mission, which will investigate the effect of microgravity on the antibiotic resistance of E. coli, a bacterial pathogen responsible for urinary tract infection in humans and animals. Antibiotic resistance could pose a danger to astronauts, especially since microgravity has been shown to weaken human immune response. The experiment will expose two strains of E. coli to three different doses of antibiotics; one of these strains is deficient in the gene responsible for the increased antibiotic resistance in microgravity. Results from this investigation could help determine appropriate antibiotic dosages to protect astronaut health during long-duration missions and help us understand how antibiotic effectiveness may be increased in microgravity, as well as on Earth.
The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) project, which will study high-speed optical transmission of data and small spacecraft proximity operations. It will test functionality of laser-based communications using CubeSats that provide a compact version of the technology. Results from OCSD could lead to significantly enhanced communication speeds between space and Earth and a better understanding of laser communication between small satellites in low-Earth orbit.
The Biological Nitrogen Fixation in Microgravity via Rhizobium-Legume Symbiosis (Biological Nitrogen Fixation) investigation, which will examine how low-gravity conditions affect the nitrogen fixation process of Microclover, a resilient and drought tolerant legume. The nitrogen fixation process, a process by which nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into a usable form for living organisms, is a crucial element of any ecosystem necessary for most types of plant growth. This investigation could provide information on the space viability of the legume’s ability to use and recycle nutrients and give researchers a better understanding of this plant’s potential uses on Earth.
The Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA), a hybrid solar power panel and communication solar antenna that can send and receive messages, will test the use of this technology in CubeSat-based environmental monitoring. ISARA may provide a solution for sending and receiving information to and from faraway destinations, both on Earth and in space.
Learn more about the Orbital ATK CRS-8 mission by going to the mission home page at: http://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @Space_Station.