New Satellite, Space Research and Cargo Missions Fill Crew Agenda

Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor
Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor collects breath samples to analyze and measure red blood cell function for the Marrow investigation.

The International Space Station deployed a satellite this morning to demonstrate the potential of removing space junk. Back inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 56 crew explored space physics, studied human research and conducted an emergency drill.

A new satellite was deployed into space today from outside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. Officially named the NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite, it will explore using a 3D camera to map the location and speed of space debris. It will also deploy a net to capture a nanosatellite that will simulate space junk.

NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold worked inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox to troubleshoot gear today for a semiconductor crystal growth experiment. Alexander Gerst, of the European Space Agency, set up dosimeters and measured the station’s acoustic levels to understand the effects on crews.

Arnold later joined fellow Soyuz MS-08 crewmates Drew Feustel of NASA and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos for an emergency drill. The trio practiced evacuating the station in their Soyuz crew ship in the unlikely event of an emergency.

U.S. and Russian cargo ships are due to launch to the space station this summer. Another cargo craft is due to end its stay at the orbital lab next month. SpaceX is counting down to a June 29 launch of its Dragon cargo ship. Roscosmos will launch its Progress 70 cargo craft on July 9. Finally, the Cygnus space freighter attached to the Unity module is due to end its stay July 15.

Captain’s Log – The Last Week

Expedition 55 Crew Portrait
The six member Expedition 55 crew poses for a portrait in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module.

  • Crew: Captain Scott ”Maker” Tingle, USN
  • ISS Location: Low Earth Orbit
  • Earth Date: 4 March 2018
  • Earth Time (GMT): 13:30

Wow, time has gone by extremely fast. The mid-deployment phase will be short-lived for me this time, as the new crew (Drew Feustel, Ricky Arnold, and Oleg Artemyev) will arrive on March 23rd, and then we have at least one spacewalk on the 29th, followed by a planned SpaceX Dragon cargo craft arrival on the 4th of April. It’s a little strange being up here with only two other crewmates. We are still very busy, but the overall work effort is half of what it was just a week ago. My crewmate, Nemo (Norishige Kanai), and I are trying to use the time to prepare for the upcoming very busy schedule, and we have been having some great success getting a ton of details taken care of.

I can’t believe that Expedition 55 is already over. Today is Sunday, and we will depart the International Space Station (ISS) next Sunday morning. 168 days in space. There have been many challenging moments, but even more positive highlights of our time on ISS. The new crew from the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft (Oleg Artymyev, Drew Feustel, and Ricky Arnold) joined Norishige Kanai (Nemo), Anton Shkaplerov, and I last March. Since then, we have completed two spacewalks, captured and released the SpaceX Dragon-14 cargo craft, captured the Cygnus OA-9 cargo craft, and completed a myriad of maintenance and science activities. The team on the ground controlling, monitoring, supporting, and planning has been amazing. It is always great to work with them, and especially during the moments where the equipment, tools, procedures or crew need help. It is incredible to see how much a good team can accomplish when methodically placing one foot in front of the other. I have been lucky in that the first crew (Mark Vande Hei, Joe Acaba and Alexander Misurkin (Sasha)) and the second crew (Drew, Ricky and Oleg) were all amazing to work with. I do believe the planets aligned for my mission onboard ISS. Drew and Ricky have been friends forever, and listening to them nip at each other provided a ton of great humor for the ground and for us. Their one-liners to each other reminded me of several scenes from the movie Space Cowboys. This a great example that happened as I was writing this log entry:

Ricky:  Hey Maker, is this your smoothie?
Maker:  No.
Ricky:  It must Drew’s.
Drew:  Hey Ricky, don’t drink my smoothie.
Ricky:  What smoothie? This one has my name on it (as he writes his name on it).
Drew:  Okay, Grandpa Underpants, hands off my smoothie.
Ricky:  Okay, Feustelnaut – we have rules around here, so this is my smoothie now!
All:  Much laughing.

To quote my kids: “LOL!”

One the hardest things to do in space is to maintain positive control of individual items such as tools, spare parts, fasteners, etc. We try very hard not to lose things, but even with all of the attention and positive control, items can still float away and disappear. We generally hold items in a crew transfer bag (CTB).  Inside the CTB are many items for the system that it supports. When the CTB is opened, the items are free floating inside the bag and tend to escape. It is very difficult to maintain control of the items – especially if they are small, do not have Velcro, or when the daily schedule is so tight that we are rushing to stay on time.   We always try to close the CTB’s and Ziploc bags after removing or replacing each item to maintain positive control, but this takes much more time to do for individual items, and if the timeline is tight, we absorb more risk by rushing. The same applies for tools, which we usually keep in a Ziploc bag while working on individual systems and tasks. Last month, I was installing a new low temperature cooling loop pump that had failed a month or two earlier. I gathered the needed tools into my modified (with Velcro) Ziploc bag as I always do and floated over to the work area. When I got there, one of the tools that I had gathered was missing. I looked for 30 minutes, and could not find it. Lost items are very hard to find because the items that escape are usually barely moving and blend in with the environment very quickly. A lost item could be right in front of us and we would never see it. Our crew, after learning these lessons, decided that when anyone loses something, we would tell the other crew members what we had lost with a general location. This has had a huge impact on finding items. If a different crew member can help within the first minutes of losing an item, the new crew member has an excellent chance of finding the item. We have proven this technique several times during the expedition – and Nemo was the very best at quickly finding lost items.  But, in my case, we still could not find the missing tool. Our amazing ground team understood and vectored me to a replacement tool and I finished the job. I spent the next 3 weeks watching, looking, and never forgetting about the lost tool. Then, one day last week, Oleg came to the lab and handed us a tool he had found in his Soyuz spacecraft, way on the aft side of the ISS. Amazing. We finally found the tool and I was happy again. This was a lucky ending. ISS has many corners, crevices and hard-to-see areas where missing items could hide and never be found.

We captured a Cygnus cargo craft last Thursday. I was very impressed with the entire team. Our specialists and training professionals in Mission Control did a great job preparing the necessary procedures and making sure we were proficient and ready to conduct operations. The robotic arm is a wonderful system that we could not operate ISS without. Being in space, however, it has some very unique handling qualities. If you think about a spring-mass-damper system just as you did during physics or control theory class, and then remove the damper, you will see a system that is very subject to slow rate oscillations.  In test pilot terms, damping ratio is very low and the latency is well over a half of a second. Also in test pilot terms – this is a pilot-induced oscillations (PIO) generator. These characteristics require crew to “fly” the robotic arm using open-loop techniques, which requires a huge amount of patience. Test pilots are sometimes not very patient, but understanding the system and practicing with the incredible simulators that our ground team built and maintain help keep our proficiency as high as possible. The capture went flawlessly, and I was very impressed with the professionalism across the board – crew, flight controllers, and training professionals – what a great job!

Drew, Ricky and I got to play guitar a few times while on ISS. This was fun! Drew connected pickups to the acoustic guitars and then connected the pickups to our tablets for amplification. I’ve never heard an acoustic guitar sound like an electric guitar amped up for heavy metal before. We had a great jam on the song “Gloria”, and a couple others. Rock on!

Last night we had our last movie night. The entire crew gathered in Node 2 and watched Avengers Infinity Wars on the big screen. We enjoy each other’s company, as we did during Expedition 54, and this was a welcome break from the daily grind of trying to complete the required stowage, maintenance and science activities while preparing for departure.

Our last full weekend here on ISS. I gave myself a haircut. We usually clean our spaces each weekend to make sure we can maintain a decent level of organization, efficiency and morale. This weekend is no different, and it is time for me to vacuum out all of our filters and vents. You’d be amazed at what we find!

The top 5 things I will miss when I am no longer in space:

  1. The incredible team that supports ISS operations from our control centers
  2. The camaraderie onboard ISS
  3. The breathtaking view of the Earth, Moon, Sun and Stars
  4. Floating/flying from location to location with very little effort
  5. Operations in the extreme environment of space

Crew Unloading Cygnus While New Trio Preps for Launch

Expedition 56 prime and backup crew members pose for pictures
The next three crew members to launch to the space station and their backups pose for a portrait at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. From left are Expedition 56-57 crew members Alexander Gerst, Sergei Prokopyev and Serena Auñón-Chancellor with back up crew members Anne McClain, Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques.

The Expedition 55 crew is unloading the Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter today ahead of next week’s crew swap at the International Space Station. On top of the cargo transfers and crew departure activities, the orbital residents are also running space experiments to benefit humans on Earth and astronauts in space.

NASA Flight Engineer Scott Tingle has been working inside Cygnus today unpacking station hardware and research gear delivered just last week. He removed science kits and spacewalking gear and stowed them throughout the orbital lab.

Tingle finally wrapped up his workday with his homebound crewmates Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineer Norishige Kanai preparing for their June 3 return to Earth. The trio packed personal items and other gear inside the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft that will parachute the crew to a landing in Kazakhstan after 168 days in space.

Back on Earth, Soyuz MS-09 Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Alexander Gerst are in final training in Kazakhstan ahead of their June 6 launch to the space station. The Expedition 56-57 trio will orbit Earth for two days before docking to the Rassvet module to begin a six-month stay in space.

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, who are staying in space until Oct. 4, familiarized themselves today with the new Cold Atom Lab’s hardware and installation procedures. The device, delivered last week on Cygnus, will research what happens to atoms exposed to temperatures less than a billionth of a degree above absolute zero.

The two later split up as Arnold set up thermal hardware that will help scientists understand the processes involved in semiconductor crystal growth. Feustel moved on and began uninstalling a plant biology facility, the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS), which has finalized its research operations. The EMCS will now be readied for return to Earth aboard the next SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.

Crew Begins Unloading Cygnus, Works Science Ahead of June Crew Swap

The Orbital ATK Space Freighter
This view taken from inside the Cupola shows the Orbital ATK space freighter moments before it was grappled with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on May 24, 2018.

The Cygnus resupply ship from Orbital ATK is now open for business and the Expedition 55 crew has begun unloading the 7,400 pounds of cargo it delivered Thursday morning. The orbital residents are also conducting space research and preparing for a crew swap in early June.

There are now four spaceships parked at the International Space Station, the newest one having arrived to resupply the crew early Thursday morning. Astronauts Drew Feustel and Norishige Kanai opened Cygnus’ hatches shortly after it was installed to the Unity module. The cargo carrier will remain attached to the station until July so the astronauts can offload new supplies and repack Cygnus with trash.

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, who caught Cygnus with the Canadarm2 robotic arm, swapped out gear inside a small life science research facility today called TangoLab-1. Tingle also joined Kanai later in the day transferring frozen biological samples from the Destiny lab module to the Kibo lab module.

The duo also joined Commander Anton Shkaplerov and continued to pack gear and check spacesuits ahead of their return to Earth on June 3 inside the Soyuz MS-07 spaceship. When the three crewmates land in Kazakhstan, about three and a half hours after undocking, the trio will have spent 168 days in space and conducted one spacewalk each.

Three new Expedition 56-57 crew members, waiting to replace the homebound station crew, are counting down to a June 6 launch to space. Astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Alexander Gerst will take a two-day ride to the space station with cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev inside the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft for a six-month mission aboard the orbital laboratory.

Robotics Controllers Install Cygnus Resupply Ship on Station

May 24, 2018: International Space Station Configuration
May 24, 2018: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are attached to the space station including the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship, the Progress 69 resupply ship and the Soyuz MS-07 and MS-08 crew ships.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 8:13 a.m. EDT. The spacecraft will spend about seven weeks attached to the space station before departing in July. 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.

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus was launched on the company’s Antares rocket Monday, May 21, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The spacecraft’s arrival brings about 7,400 pounds of research and supplies to support Expedition 55 and 56. Highlights include:

  • The Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST), an investigation to identify unknown microbial organisms on the space station and understand how humans, plants and microbes adapt to living on the station
  • The Cold Atom Laboratory, a physics research facility used by scientists to explore how atoms interact when they have almost no motion due to extreme cold temperatures
  • A unique liquid separation system from Zaiput Flow Technologies that relies on surface forces, rather than gravity, to extract one liquid from another
  • The Ice Cubes Facility, the first commercial European opportunity to conduct research in space, made possible through an agreement with ESA (European Space Agency) and Space Applications Services.
  • The Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification (MICS) experiment is to investigate and understand the complex process of cement solidification in microgravity with the intent of improving Earth-based cement and concrete processing and as the first steps toward making and using concrete on extraterrestrial bodies.
  • Three Earth science CubeSats
    • RainCube (Radar in a CubeSat) will be NASA’s first active sensing instrument on a CubeSat that could enable future rainfall profiling missions on low-cost, quick-turnaround platforms.
    • TEMPEST-D (Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems Demonstration) is mission to validate technology that could improve our understanding of cloud processes.
    • CubeRRT (CubeSat Radiometer Radio Frequency Interference Technology) will seek to demonstrate a new technology that can identify and filter radio frequency interference, which is a growing problem that negatively affects the data quality collected by radiometers, instruments used in space for critical weather data and climate studies.

For more information about newly arrived science investigations aboard the Cygnus, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/station

Astronaut Commands Robotic Arm to Capture Cygnus Cargo Craft

Cygnus Captured
The Cygnus space freighter is grappled by the Canadarm2 after a three-day trip to the space station.

At 5:26 a.m. EDT, Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA successfully captured Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft using the International Space Station’s robotic arm, backed by NASA Astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel. Robotic ground controllers will position Cygnus for installation to the orbiting laboratory’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module.

NASA TV coverage of operations to install the Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. James “J.R.” Thompson, to the space station’s Unity module will resume at 7:30 a.m.


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

Cygnus Space Freighter Approaching Station

Orbital ATK's Cygnus resupply ship
Orbital ATK’s Cygnus resupply ship slowly maneuvers its way toward the International Space Station before its robotic capture and installation during Expedition 47 in March of 2016.

The International Space Station and Cygnus flight control teams are proceeding toward capture at approximately 5:20 a.m. EDT. Orbital ATK reports all spacecraft systems are ready for the final stages of rendezvous and space station flight controllers report the orbiting outpost is ready for the commercial spacecraft’s arrival.

The spacecraft will deliver scientific investigations including those that will study microbiology, physics, materials science, plant biology, liquid separation and more.

NASA Television coverage of capture has begun. Watch live online at www.nasa.gov/live.

A timeline of remaining Cygnus and space station activities for the earliest capture attempt is below:

Time (EDT)   Event

  • 4:05 a.m.      Cygnus within 300m of Space Station
  • 4:09 a.m.      250m Hold Point Arrival
  • 4:29 a.m.      250m Hold Point Departure
  • 4:40 a.m.      Cygnus within 100m of Space Station
  • 4:52 a.m.      Earliest “Go” for Capture
  • 4:53 a.m.      30m Hold Point Arrival
  • 5:12 a.m.      Capture Point Arrival
  • 5:14 a.m.      “Go” or “No-Go” for Capture
  • 5:20 a.m.      Capture

Learn more about the Orbital ATK CRS-9 mission by going to the mission home page at: http://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @Space_Station.


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

Bone and Cardio Studies as Cygnus Nears Station

The ash plume from the Kilauea volcano
The ash plume from the Kilauea volcano on the big island of Hawaii was pictured May 12, 2018, from the International Space Station.

The Cygnus space freighter from Orbital ATK is closing in on the International Space Station ready to deliver 7,400 pounds of cargo Thursday morning. The Expedition 55 crew members are getting ready for Cygnus’ arrival while also helping researchers understand what living in space does to the human body.

NASA TV is set to begin its live coverage of Cygnus’ arrival at the orbital lab Thursday at 3:45 a.m. EDT. Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will be inside the Cupola and command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and capture Cygnus at 5:20 a.m. Robotics engineers at Mission Control will then take over and remotely install Cygnus to the Earth-facing port of the Unity module later Thursday morning.

The crew started its day collecting blood and urine samples for a pair of experiments, Biochemical Profile and Repository, looking at the physiological changes taking place in astronauts. Those samples are stowed in science freezers for return to Earth so scientists can later analyze the proteins and chemicals for indicators of crew health.

Another pair of experiments taking place today is looking at bone marrow, blood cells and the cardiovascular system. The Marrow study, which looks at white and red blood cells in bone marrow, may benefit astronaut health as well as people on Earth with reduced mobility or aging conditions. The Vascular Echo experiment is observing stiffening arteries in astronauts that resembles accelerated aging.

Cygnus In Space, Next Stop Station

Cygnus Spacecraft
The Cygnus spacecraft with its cymbal-like UltraFlex solar arrays deployed was pictured departing the space station Dec. 5, 2017 during Expedition 53.

The Cygnus spacecraft’s solar arrays have deployed.

See the launch of Cygnus on Instagram

The cargo ship will rendezvous with the International Space Station on Thursday, May 24. Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will grapple the spacecraft at approximately 5:20 a.m. EDT, backed by Ricky Arnold, and Drew Feustel will monitor Cygnus systems during its approach. They will use the space station’s robotic Canadarm2 to take hold of the Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. James “J.R.” Thompson. After Cygnus’ capture, ground controllers will command the robotic arm to rotate and install Cygnus onto the station’s Unity module. It is scheduled depart the space station in mid-July.

Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 3:45 a.m. Thursday, May 24. Installation coverage is set to begin at 7:30 a.m.

Science investigations aboard Cygnus on their way to the space station also include commercial and academic payloads in myriad disciplines, including:

  • The Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST), an investigation to identify unknown microbial organisms on the space station and understand how humans, plants and microbes adapt to living on the station
  • The Cold Atom Laboratory, a physics research facility used by scientists to explore how atoms interact when they have almost no motion due to extreme cold temperatures
  • A unique liquid separation system from Zaiput Flow Technologies that relies on surface forces, rather than gravity, to extract one liquid from another
  • The Ice Cubes Facility, the first commercial European opportunity to conduct research in space, made possible through an agreement with ESA (European Space Agency) and Space Applications Services.
  • The Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification (MICS) experiment is to investigate and understand the complex process of cement solidification in microgravity with the intent of improving Earth-based cement and concrete processing and as the first steps toward making and using concrete on extraterrestrial bodies.
  • Three Earth science CubeSats
    • RainCube (Radar in a CubeSat) will be NASA’s first active sensing instrument on a CubeSat that could enable future rainfall profiling missions on low-cost, quick-turnaround platforms.
    • TEMPEST-D (Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems Demonstration) is mission to validate technology that could improve our understanding of cloud processes.
    • CubeRRT (CubeSat Radiometer Radio Frequency Interference Technology) will seek to demonstrate a new technology that can identify and filter radio frequency interference, which is a growing problem that negatively affects the data quality collected by radiometers, instruments used in space for critical weather data and climate studies.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus Blasts off to Resupply the Station

Cygnus Blasts Off
The Cygnus spacecraft from Orbital ATK blasts off atop the Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft lifted off at 4:44 a.m. EDT and is on its way to the International Space Station. At the time of launch, the space station was traveling at an altitude of about 250 miles, over the central south Atlantic.

See the launch on Instagram

An hour and half after launch, commands will be given to deploy the spacecraft’s UltraFlex solar arrays. Launch coverage will resume on NASA TV at http://www.nasa.gov/live at about 5:45 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 7:00 a.m.