The SpaceX Dragon is chasing the International Space Station and the Expedition 48 crew is getting ready for its approach and capture Wednesday morning. This follows Monday evening’s rendezvous and docking of the Progress 64 resupply ship from Roscosmos.
Dragon is delivering several science experiments including a DNA sequencing study and the Heart Cells investigation. The private space freighter is also carrying one of two International Docking Adapters. The adapters will enable future crewed vehicles from Boeing and SpaceX to dock to the space station.
The research, hardware and other supplies stowed inside Dragon total nearly 5,000 pounds. Dragon will be robotically attached to the Harmony module after astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins capture it with the 57.7 foot long Canadarm2. This will be the second cargo mission to arrive at the station in less than two days.
The Progress arrival Monday night brought more than three tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 48 crew. Progress automatically docked to the Pirs docking compartment after launching Saturday evening from Kazakhstan.
Williams, Rubins and Flight Engineer Takuya Onishi prepared for the Dragon’s arrival on Tuesday and participated in a variety of research and maintenance activities. The three cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka, Alexey Ovchinin and Anatoly Ivanishin slept in Tuesday after a long day Monday preparing for the Progress delivery.
The return to Earth for NASA’s Terry Virts, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov now is scheduled for early June. NASA and its international partners set the schedule after hearing the Russian Federal Space Agency’s (Roscosmos) findings on the loss of the Progress 59 cargo craft. The exact date has not yet been established and will be announced in the coming weeks.
The six-member Expedition 43 crew worked Tuesday on a wide variety of tasks. The International Space Station residents explored life sciences, trained for a robotics experiment, conducted maintenance and prepared for next week’s departure of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.
Astronaut Scott Kelly worked on an experiment which observes how a crew member’s fine motor skills adapt over a six-month and a year-long mission in space. He then moved on to training for the Robotics Refueling Mission.
Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti worked on the Rodent Research experiment during the afternoon. Commander Terry Virts worked on cargo transfers to the Dragon space freighter which is getting ready for its May 21 departure and splashdown.
The three cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko, worked in the Russian segment. The trio cleaned dust filters, changed out a smoke detector and downloaded results from a microbial air sampling.
The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) reports the Progress 59 cargo craft reentered the Earth’s atmosphere at 10:04 p.m. EDT over the central Pacific Ocean.
The spacecraft was not carrying any supplies critical for the United States Operating Segment (USOS) of the station, and the break up and reenty of the Progress posed no threat to the ISS crew. Both the Russian and USOS segments of the station continue to operate normally and are adequately supplied well beyond the next planned resupply flight.
Attempts by Russian ground controllers to regain control of the Progress have been unsuccessful, and they have said they will not be able to regain propulsive control of it. As a result, the Progress currently is expected to reenter Earth’s atmosphere within the next two weeks. Russian ballistics specialists, working in conjunction with flight controllers in Mission Control Houston and ESA, are continuing to track the vehicle’s path and will provide updates on its anticipated reentry date. The United States Air Force Joint Functional Component Command for Space’s Joint Space Operations Center is also tracking Progress, performing conjunction analysis, and providing warning of any potential collisions in space to ensure spaceflight safety. The break up and reentry of the Progress poses no threat to the ISS crew.
Station astronauts continued preparing for the next round of robotic refueling demonstrations while conducting various biomedical experiments and checkouts.
Expedition 43 commander Terry Virts worked with ground teams to prepare the airlock in the Japanese Experiment Module and extend the slide table carrying the new Robotic Refueling Mission-2 (RRM-2) hardware. Robotics controllers on the ground then used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to install the new task boards that will be used for the experiment. The objective of RRM-2 is to develop new technologies, tools and techniques that could eventually give satellite owners resources to diagnose problems on orbit and keep certain spacecraft instruments performing longer in space.
Meanwhile, Russian ballistics specialists continue to work calculations to identify the most likely period for Progress 59’s entry back into the Earth’s atmosphere. The unmanned cargo craft experienced an unspecified problem shortly after separating from the third launch stage on April 28, resulting in the vehicle’s docking to the station being called off.
The Expedition 43 crew continued their work on Wednesday with a variety of research and technology demonstration activities.
NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Terry Virts studied the effects of microgravity on living organisms for the Rodent Research experiment. They are looking at mice and how their body systems change in space. The results may promote the development of new drugs tackling the effects of aging and disease on Earth.
The crew was also notified in the morning that the planned docking of Progress 59 has been called off. Both the Russian and USOS segments of the station continue to operate normally and are adequately supplied well beyond the next planned resupply flight.
Russian flight controllers are continuing to assess the vehicle and what the plan going forward will be. More information will be provided as available.