Cygnus Rolls Out to Pad Targeting Monday Launch

The Antares rocket from Orbital ATK
The Antares rocket from Orbital ATK makes its way to the launch pad at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Antares will launch the Cygnus spacecraft on a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft that will resupply the Expedition 55 crew on the International Space Station rolled out to its launch pad Thursday night. Cygnus is now targeted to blast off atop the Antares rocket Monday at 4:39 a.m. EDT from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. NASA TV will begin its live broadcast of the launch Monday at 4 a.m.

Orbital ATK and NASA managers moved Cygnus’ launch to no earlier than Monday to support further pre-launch inspections and more favorable weather conditions. Monday shows an 80% probability of acceptable weather for launch.

Cygnus is packed with 7,400 pounds of new science experiments, crew supplies and space station hardware. It is scheduled to arrive Thursday at the space station for its robotic capture at 5:20 a.m. NASA TV will cover the approach and rendezvous activities starting at 3:30 a.m.

Three NASA astronauts, Scott Tingle, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, have trained for weeks to get ready for Cygnus’ arrival on Thursday. Tingle will be operating the Canadarm2 from inside the Cupola and command the robotic arm to grapple Cygnus. Arnold will back him up on the robotics controls and Feustel will monitor Cygnus and it systems during its approach. Robotics engineers on the ground will then remotely install the commercial space freighter on the Earth-facing port of the Unity module later Thursday morning.

One of the new experiments being delivered aboard Cygnus to the orbital laboratory will study atoms frozen to a temperature 10 billion times colder than deep space. The Cold Atom Lab will observe the quantum phenomena possibly leading to advanced spacecraft navigation techniques and quantum sensors that can detect gravitational and magnetic fields.

Cygnus Checks and Final Preps Before Wednesday’s Spacewalk

The Rio de la Plata and the Atlantic coasts of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil
The Rio de la Plata and the Atlantic coasts of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil are pictured from the International Space Station.

Two NASA astronauts are finalizing their preparations ahead of Wednesday morning’s spacewalk to swap thermal control gear outside the International Space Station. The Expedition 55 crew also worked on biomedical operations, radiation checks and Cygnus communications gear.

Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel checked their tools and reviewed their procedures one last time today before tomorrow’s spacewalk. The pair will work for about 6.5 hours swapping a pair of thermal control devices, known as Pump Flow Control Subassemblies, which control the circulation of ammonia keeping external station systems cool.

The veteran spacewalkers will set their spacesuit batteries to internal power Wednesday at about 8:10 a.m. EDT signaling the official start of the 210th spacewalk in space station history. NASA TV will begin its live broadcast of the activities beginning at 6:30 a.m.

Science and maintenance are always ongoing aboard the orbital lab even despite the spacewalk and cargo mission readiness activities. Feustel and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai collected their biological samples this morning and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev explored cardiac bioelectric activity at rest. Commander Anton Shkaplerov collected radiation measurements from dosimeters he retrieved from the orbital lab’s U.S. segment.

Orbital ATK is getting its Cygnus space freighter ready for launch Sunday at 5:04 a.m. to deliver science, supplies and hardware to the Expedition 55 crew. Astronaut Scott Tingle checked out command and communications gear that will be used when Cygnus arrives four days later on Thursday for capture at 5:20 a.m.

Busy Astronauts Ramp Up for Spacewalk and Cygnus Cargo Mission

Four Expedition 55 Astronauts
The four astronauts who comprise the six-member Expedition 55 crew pose for a portrait inside the International Space Station. They are (clockwise from bottom right) NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold, Scott Tingle and Drew Feustel and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Norishige Kanai.

Veteran astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel will embark on the 210th spacewalk Wednesday at the International Space Station to swap out thermal control gear. The experienced spacewalkers have a combined 10 spacewalks between them with Feustel having conducted seven and Arnold with a total of three.

Flight Engineer Scott Tingle assisted the duo today getting spacewalk tools ready and recharging the U.S. spacesuits inside the U.S. Quest airlock. Tingle and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai will assist the spacewalkers in and out of the airlock Wednesday and guide the duo during their tasks.

Orbital ATK will launch their Cygnus space freighter on Sunday at 5:04 a.m. EDT to resupply the Expedition 55 crew just four days after Feustel and Arnold complete their fourth spacewalk together. After a four-day trip in space, Cygnus will deliver crew supplies, station hardware and experiments exploring a variety of subjects including life science and space physics.

Arnold and Tingle practiced the robotics maneuvers today on a computer they will use to capture Cygnus after its approach and rendezvous with the station on May 24 at 5:20 a.m. NASA TV will broadcast the Cygnus launch and capture activities live at the orbital laboratory.

Station Getting Ready for Spacewalks and Next Cargo Mission

The full moon was pictured April 30, 2018
The full moon was pictured April 30, 2018 as the International Space Station orbited off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

International Space Station officials will preview a pair of upcoming spacewalks live on NASA TV Tuesday. Meanwhile, Orbital ATK is getting its Cygnus resupply ship ready for launch in less than two weeks while the Expedition 55 crew focuses on biomedical studies today.

Two NASA astronauts are going out for a spacewalk May 16 to swap out thermal control gear that circulates ammonia to keep station systems cool. Station experts will be on NASA TV beginning at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday to preview next week’s spacewalk including a second spacewalk planned for June 14. Both excursions will be conducted by veteran spacewalkers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel.

Feustel and Arnold verified their spacesuits are sized correctly with assistance from astronauts Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Tingle also checked the batteries that power the U.S. spacesuits.

On May 20, just four days after the first spacewalk, Orbital ATK is planning to launch its Cygnus space freighter on a four day trip to the orbital laboratory. Cygnus will resupply the Expedition 55 crew with new science experiments, crew supplies, station hardware and gear that will be installed on the June 14 spacewalk.

Today’s science taking place onboard the station explored how microgravity affects blood pressure and blood vessels. Kanai started his day photographing his face to help scientists understand how the upward flow of fluids impacts intracranial pressure affecting a crew member’s eyes. He later attached sensors to his legs, scanned them with an ultrasound device and checked his blood pressure for the Vascular Echo study.

Astronauts Command Robotic Arm to Release Cygnus Cargo Craft

Cygnus Released
The Cygnus cargo craft is seen from an International Space Station video camera moments after it was released from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Credit: NASA TV

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.

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

Cygnus Cargo Craft Leaves Station Wednesday Morning

Cygnus Cargo Craft
The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft was pictured February 19, 2016, attached to the Canadarm2 before it was released back into Earth orbit. Read more about the Cygnus missions to the space station.

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.

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

SpaceX Launch Slips, Cygnus Leaving and BEAM Stay Extended

SpaceX Dragon capsule as it reentered Earth's atmosphere
NASA astronaut Jack Fischer photographed the SpaceX Dragon capsule as it reentered Earth’s atmosphere (bright streak at lower left) before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California in July  2017. Read more about the SpaceX missions to the space station.

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.

The Cygnus cargo craft from Orbital ATK is leaving the station tomorrow after 22 days at the orbital lab. Astronauts Randy Bresnik, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba closed its hatches today and disconnected its station power systems.

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.

Station Being Configured for Cargo and Crew Missions

Northeast Coast of the United States
This nighttime shot shows the northeast coast of the United States from New Jersey up to Maine and the well-lit urban metropolitan areas of New York City and Boston along with parts of southern Canada including Montreal.

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.

Finally, the station is set to slightly raise its orbit Wednesday enabling a crew swap set to begin Dec. 14 when Expedition 52-53 crew members Randy Bresnik, Sergey Ryazanskiy and Paolo Nespoli return to Earth. They will be replaced Dec. 19 when Expedition 54-55 crew members Anton Shkaplerov, Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai dock to the Rassvet module two days after their launch from Kazakhstan.

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.

Cygnus Departure Preps as Muscle Study and CubeSat Ops Wrap Up

New York City and New Jersey Area
New York City and part of the state of New Jersey are pictured in this photograph taken during a night pass on Nov. 23, 2017.

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.

Cygnus is now being filled with trash after delivering close to 7,400 pounds of research and supplies to the Expedition 53 crew on Nov. 14. NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba are training to release Cygnus from the Canadarm2 next week following a 20-day stay at the Unity module.

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.

Muscle Research and Science Cargo Work Ahead of Thanksgiving

Astronaut Mark Vande Hei
Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei swaps out a payload card from the TangoLab-1 facility and places it into the TangoLab-2 facility.

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.