Cygnus Open for Business; Crew Unloading New Bacteria, Plant and Tech Studies

Cygnus Grappled with Canadarm2
The Cygnus spacecraft is pictured after it had been grappled with the Canadarm2 robotic arm by astronauts Paolo Nespoli and Randy Bresnik on Nov. 14, 2017.

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.

Cygnus Installed on Station With New Science Experiments

Nov. 14, 2017: International Space Station Configuration
Nov. 14, 2017: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including the Orbital ATK Cygnus, the Progress 67 and 68 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-05 and MS-06 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 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.

Cygnus Races To Station as Crew Studies Life Science and Space Crops

Cygnus Launches Aboard Antares Rocket
The Cygnus resupply ship launches aboard the Antares rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Cygnus resupply ship from Orbital ATK is less than 24 hours away from a rendezvous and capture at the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the Expedition 53 crew members are conducting human research and exploring growing crops in space.

Cygnus is in Earth orbit today conducting a series of orbital maneuvers refining its path to the space station Tuesday morning. Astronauts Paolo Nespoli and Randy Bresnik will be in the cupola early tomorrow waiting to capture Cygnus with the Canadarm2 at 4:50 a.m. EST. NASA TV will broadcast the capture and installation of Cygnus to the Unity module beginning at 3:15 a.m.

Bresnik and fellow NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba also worked on some biomedical experiments today helping doctors understand how humans adapt to microgravity. Bresnik collected his blood and urine samples and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. Vande Hei and Acaba measured and recorded their body mass to observe bone and muscle impacts of living in space.

Acaba is also harvesting and eating cabbage, lettuce and mizuna today to learn how plants grow in space. Results may help astronauts grow their own food helping NASA plan longer missions in outer space.

 

Lift Off of the Antares Rocket with Cygnus

The Antares rocket lifts off with the Cygnus cargo craft aboard
The Antares rocket lifts off with the Cygnus cargo craft aboard. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft lifted off at 7:19 a.m. EST and is on its way to the International Space Station.

About an hour and half after launch, commands will be given to deploy the spacecraft’s solar arrays.

Launch coverage will continue on NASA TV at http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv until shortly after spacecraft separation and then resume 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 10:30 a.m.

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

Crew Studies Health Impacts of Space Radiation and Station Atmosphere

Astronaut Joe Acaba
Astronaut Joe Acaba works on U.S. spacesuit gear inside the Quest airlock.

The Expedition 53 crew explored ways to protect astronauts from space radiation as well as dust particles floating inside a spacecraft. The residents of the International Space Station also worked on cosmic ray gear, a U.S. spacesuit and audio equipment.

European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli tested a personal radiation shielding garment today. Water, used for its shielding properties, is placed in garment containers that cover organs that are especially sensitive to cosmic radiation.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei studied how gases and dust in the station’s atmosphere impact breathing aboard a spacecraft. He set up ultra-sensitive monitors that analyze exhaled air to detect crew health impacts. Results will help doctors and engineers improve conditions for future astronauts traveling longer and farther into space.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba worked on a U.S. spacesuit’s water system before changing out a hard drive and installing new software on a support laptop for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer cosmic ray detector. Commander Randy Bresnik replaced faulty electronics gear inside the Harmony module restoring power to an internal audio speaker unit.

Cygnus Cargo Mission Due for Launch on Veteran’s Day

 

Orbital ATK Cygnus
The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft is seen just before being released from the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm on February 19, 2016.

Orbital ATK’s eighth commercial cargo mission is set to launch to the International Space Station at 7:37 a.m. EST Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11. The Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo craft will blast off from Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, with over 7,000 pounds of food, supplies and research gear.

Two astronauts will be inside the cupola commanding the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Cygnus when it arrives Monday at 5:40 a.m. Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli will capture Cygnus, dubbed the “SS Gene Cernan”, assisted by Commander Randy Bresnik. Cygnus will deliver numerous advanced science experiments exploring a wide variety of subjects including communication and navigation, microbiology, animal biology and plant biology.

Meanwhile, the orbiting Expedition 53 crew members continued investigating biology and robotics in microgravity.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei collected and stowed saliva samples today that will be analyzed later for a study on the human immune system and metabolism. Bresnik took panoramic photographs inside the Kibo laboratory module to prepare for the upcoming Astrobee experiment. Astrobee consists of three free-flying, cube-shaped robots that will be tested for their ability to assist astronauts and ground controllers.

Station Crew Remains Rooted in Science as the Week Kicks Off

Veggie Harvest
Charles Spern, project manager on the Engineering Services Contract, communicates instructions for the Veggie system to astronaut Joe Acaba aboard the space station. Image Credit: NASA/Amanda Griffin

The Expedition 53 crew capped off last week’s investigations with fresh pickings of lettuce, cabbage and mizuna harvested from the Veg-03 investigation. There’s still some left, though, for the remainder of the vegetation will be allowed to grow and sprout new leaves. Since future long-duration explorers will expected to grow their own food to survive the harsh environment of space and Mars, understanding how plants respond to microgravity is an important component to a robust astronaut food system.

Plants are still on the table for the crew, so to speak, as the week kicks off. Following last week’s successful assembly and installation of the Advanced Plant Plant Habitat facility into the EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) Rack 5 (ER5), today the crew moved the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS) Sensor Enclosure to ER5. The automated plant habitat facility will be used to conduct plant bioscience research aboard the International Space Station by providing a large, enclosed, environmentally controlled chamber.

The crewmates also set up the payload components for EarthKAM in Node 2 for a weeklong imaging session. Sally Ride EarthKAM allows thousands of students worldwide to photograph and examine Earth from a space crew’s perspective. Using the Internet, the students control a special digital camera mounted on the space station to photograph coastlines, mountain ranges and other geographic items of interest from the incomparable viewpoint of space. Later, the varied topographies are shared online for the public and participating classrooms to observe.

Around noon EDT, Station Commander Randy Bresnik and Flight Engineer Joe Acaba of NASA shared insights about living and working aboard the nation’s most unique U.S. National Laboratory with students from Santa Monica High School in Santa Monica, California.

Eye Checks and Cargo Ops Ahead of Thursday Spacewalk

Astronaut Joe Acaba
Astronaut Joe Acaba calculates his mass inside the Columbus laboratory module using the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD). The device generates a known force against a crew member mounted on an extension arm with the resulting acceleration used to calculate the subject’s mass.

Three Expedition 53 astronauts conducted eye exams Tuesday morning two days ahead of a spacewalk. The crew is also preparing for a pair of upcoming commercial cargo missions.

Commander Randy Bresnik, who is leading all three spacewalks this month, joined his fellow spacewalkers for a periodic eye exam. Bresnik and Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba scanned their eyes using an ultrasound device with guidance from doctors on the ground monitoring the crew’s health.

Paolo Nespoli, from the European Space Agency, did some rearranging inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module today. He is preparing Kibo for new science gear arriving on a pair of private space freighters in November. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus resupply ship is due to launch mid-November and the SpaceX Dragon is planned to launch at the end of November.


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

Station Orbiting Higher as Crew Checks Spacesuits

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Paolo Nespoli
Astronauts Mark Vande Hei (left) and Paolo Nespoli work on science gear inside the Destiny laboratory module.

The International Space Station boosted its orbit Wednesday to prepare for the arrival of a pair of Russian spaceships before the end of the year. Meanwhile, the Expedition 53 crew continued getting ready for next week’s spacewalk and explored how living in space affects their bodies.

The docked Progress 67 resupply ship fired its engines Wednesday for three minutes and 40 seconds lifting the space station to a higher orbit. The reboost is the first of three with the next two taking place in November. The reboosts will place the station at the correct altitude to receive a Progress 68 resupply ship in mid-October and the Soyuz MS-07 crew ship in mid-December.

Spacewalkers Randy Bresnik and Mark Vande Hei are getting their U.S. spacesuits ready ahead of an Oct. 5 spacewalk. They inspected their suits today, scrubbed the cooling loops and filled them with water. The duo will work outside for about 6.5 hours next Thursday and replace a latching end effector at the tip of the Canadarm2.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba attached sensors to himself and worked out on the station’s exercise bike today to help scientists understand how microgravity affects physical exertion. The VO2max study is researching how astronauts expend energy in space and how it may impact emergency situations and spacewalks.


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

Crew Looks for Neutron Radiation While Prepping for Spacewalks

Expedition 53 crew portrait
The six Expedition 53 crew members gather together in the Destiny laboratory module for a group portrait. From left are astronauts Joe Acaba, Paolo Nespoli and Mark Vande Hei, Commander Randy Bresnik and cosmonauts Sergey Ryazanskiy and Alexander Misurkin.

Sensors are being installed today in the International Space Station to detect neutron radiation. The crew is also setting up a botany study, conducting human research and getting ready for next week’s spacewalk.

Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy handed over a set of radiation sensors to NASA astronaut Joe Acaba today. Acaba then installed the sensors in the station’s U.S. segment to measure only the neutron radiation levels the orbital lab is exposed to. The data from the Radi-N2 study will help scientists understand the exposure risk to crew members and develop advanced protective measures.

Acaba also continued installing hardware for the Veggie-3 experiment to get the station ready for a new crop of lettuce and cabbage. Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei strapped himself into the station’s exercise bike for the VO2max experiment that observes physical exertion during a space mission.

A pair of spacewalkers took a look at the procedures they will use Oct. 5 to replace a latching end effector at the tip of the Canadarm2. Vande Hei will join Commander Randy Bresnik for that spacewalk and a second planned for Oct. 10. Acaba will join Bresnik for a third spacewalk set for Oct. 18.


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