New science experiments delivered aboard a U.S. cargo craft are being activated aboard the International Space Station this week. The Expedition 68 crew is also preparing for upcoming spacewalks in December.
Flight Engineers Josh Cassada of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency also worked throughout Tuesday unpacking a variety of cargo from inside Dragon. The duo took turns removing frozen science samples from Dragon and transferring them into science freezers throughout the space station. The new science experiments shipped aboard Dragon will soon be offering new insights into botany, biology, and physics.
Wakata also spent some time setting up lights, batteries, and cameras on Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), or spacesuits, that Cassada and Rubio will wear during a spacewalk planned to begin at 7:25 a.m. EST on Saturday. The NASA astronauts will spend about seven hours in their EMUs installing a new roll-out solar array on the station’s starboard truss structure.
The roll-out-solar arrays, also known as International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Arrays, or iROSAs, are currently packed inside the Dragon’s unpressurized trunk. This week, mission controllers on the ground will remotely command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to extract the iROSAs from Dragon then place them on truss structure attachment points. From there, the spacewalkers will retrieve the roll-out solar arrays for the Saturday spacewalk, as well as a second spacewalk planned for December 19, and install them on the station’s starboard and port truss segments.
Commander Sergey Prokopyev from Roscosmos started his day attaching sensors to himself to measure his cardiac activity. Afterward, he replaced water in an Orlan spacesuit’s loops and checked out its water pumps. He and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin will conduct a future spacewalk to relocate a radiator from the Rassvet module to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina will operate the European robotic arm assisting the duo during their spacewalk.
NASA Flight Engineer Josh Cassada opened Dragon’s hatch and entered the spacecraft less than two hours after the private space freighter docked at 7:39 a.m. EST on Sunday. Shortly afterward, he was joined by fellow flight engineers Nicole Mann and Frank Rubio of NASA, and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The quartet then spent the rest of Sunday unloading critical science experiments and research samples for stowage aboard the orbiting lab.
Mann and Rubio partnered together on Monday setting up state-of-the-art biology hardware and transferring research samples delivered aboard Dragon into station facilities. The astronauts will soon research how microgravity affects the regeneration of skeletal stem cells potentially improving recovery from bone conditions on Earth and in space.
A pair of new roll-out solar arrays were also delivered inside Dragon’s unpressurized trunk section. Robotic controllers on the ground this week will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove the solar arrays and place them on attachments points located on the station’s truss structure. NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio are due to install the new solar arrays on a pair of spacewalks targeted to occur before the end of the year.
Roscosmos Commander Sergey Prokopyev checked out a computer-controlled 3D-printer today before working on orbital plumbing tasks. Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin worked on electronics maintenance then explored how electric and magnetic fields affect fluid physics in microgravity. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina collected air samples for analysis from the Zvezda, Zarya, Nauka, and Rassvet modules.
While the International Space Station was traveling over the Pacific Ocean, a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft autonomously docked to the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module at 7:39 a.m. EST, with NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada monitoring operations from the station.
The Dragon launched on SpaceX’s 26th contracted commercial resupply mission for NASA at 2:20 p.m. EST, Saturday, Nov. 26, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After Dragon spends about one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with cargo and research.
Among the science experiments Dragon is delivering to the space station are:
Big Hopes for Small Tomatoes
A continuous source of nutritious food is essential for long-duration exploration missions, and the typical pre-packaged astronaut diet may need to be supplemented by fresh foods produced in space. Researchers have been testing a plant growth unit on station known as Veggie and have successfully grown a variety of leafy greens. Veg-05, the next step in that work, focuses on growing dwarf tomatoes.
Picture of Health
Moon Microscope tests a kit for in-flight medical diagnosis that includes a portable hand-held microscope and a small self-contained blood sample staining device. An astronaut collects and stains a blood sample, obtains images with the microscope, and transmits images to the ground, where flight surgeons use them to diagnose illness and prescribe treatment.
The kit could provide diagnostic capabilities for crew members in space or on the surface of the Moon or Mars, as well as the ability to test water, food, and surfaces for contamination. The hardware also may enable improved medical monitoring on upcoming Artemis and Gateway missions.
Building Bigger Structures
On Earth, gravity deforms large objects such as the beams used in large-scale construction. Microgravity enables fabrication of longer and thinner structures without this deformation. Extrusion demonstrates a technology using liquid resin to create shapes and forms that cannot be created on Earth. Photocurable resin, which uses light to harden the material into its final form, is injected into pre-made flexible forms and a camera captures footage of the process. The capability for using these forms could enable in-space construction of structures such as space stations, solar arrays, and equipment.
The Space Exploration Initiative supports a range of microgravity and lunar research across science, engineering, art, and design. The experiment is packed inside a Nanoracks Black Box with several other experiments from the Massachussetts Institute of Technology Media Lab and is sponsored by the ISS National Lab.
Supplying adequate nutrition is a major challenge to maintaining crew health on future long-duration space missions. Many vitamins, nutrients, and pharmaceuticals have limited shelf-life, and the ability to make such compounds on-demand could help maintain crew health and well-being. BioNutrients-2 tests a system for producing key nutrients from yogurt, a fermented milk product known as kefir, and a yeast-based beverage.
The investigation kicks off phase two of the five-year BioNutrients program, headed by NASA’s Ames Research Center and managed by Game Changing Development in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. The program began with the launch of BioNutrients-1 in 2019. BioNutrients-2 employs a smaller system with a heated incubator that promotes growth of beneficial organisms.
The researchers also are working to find efficient ways to use local resources to make bulk products such as plastics, construction binders, and feedstock chemicals. Such technologies are designed to reduce launch costs and increase self-sufficiency, extending the horizons of human exploration.
Adding Solar Power
Two International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Arrays, or iROSAs, launched aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply mission for the agency and were installed in 2021. These solar panels, which roll out using stored kinetic energy, expand the energy-production capabilities of the space station. The second set launching in the Dragon’s trunk once installed, will be a part of the overall plan to provide a 20% to 30% increase in power for space station research and operations.
These arrays, the second of three packages, will complete the upgrade of half the station’s power channels. iROSA technology was first tested on the space station in 2017. Roll-out solar array technology was used on NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission and is planned for use on the Gateway lunar space station, a vital component of NASA’s Artemis program. The iROSA upgrades use the space station as a proving ground for the technology and research needed to explore farther into space.
Easing Gravity Transitions
Travelers to space all face the transition from one gravity field to another. On future exploration missions, astronauts may encounter three different gravity fields: weightlessness while traveling in space, the gravity of another planet, and Earth’s gravity when they return. These transitions can affect spatial orientation, head-eye and hand-eye coordination, balance, and locomotion, and cause some crew members to experience space motion sickness.
The Falcon Goggles hardware captures high-speed video of a subject’s eyes, providing precise data on ocular alignment and balance.
These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations currently being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars through NASA’s Artemis missions.
The SpaceX Dragon is on track to arrive at the International Space Station today, Sunday, Nov. 27, with an expected docking of the cargo spacecraft at about 7:30 a.m. EST. Live coverage is underway on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.
When it arrives at the space station, Dragon will dock autonomously to the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module.
Dragon successfully launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 2:20 p.m. EST, Saturday, Nov. 26, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying more than 7,700 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies to the International Space Station.
Four Expedition 68 astronauts will relax on Thanksgiving day as three cosmonauts continue preparing for a spacewalk on Friday. The International Space Station residents are also expecting a space delivery this weekend bringing new roll-out solar arrays and science experiments.
Three NASA astronauts and one astronaut from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) spent Wednesday performing numerous research, cargo, and maintenance tasks. The quartet will also be off-duty the next day observing the U.S. holiday before going into a busy weekend.
NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio turned on the Ultrasound 2 device on Wednesday and scanned the leg, neck, and shoulder veins of JAXA Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata to observe the effects of microgravity on humans. Earlier, Rubio had partnered with fellow NASA astronaut Josh Cassada and inspected spacewalking tethers before participating in a NanoRacks botany experiment. Wakata checked ethernet connections inside the Columbus laboratory module.
Cassada began his day filming a demonstration showing how to measure the mass of everyday objects in weightlessness. Afterward, he unpacked cargo from the Cygnus space freighter that arrived on Nov. 9. NASA Flight Engineer Nicole Mann spent most of Wednesday working on life support maintenance in the Harmony module. She wrapped up her day organizing cargo that will be packed inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for return to Earth after it arrives in a few days.
The Dragon resupply ship is attached to the top of the Falcon 9 rocket and is standing at the launch pad targeting a liftoff at 2:20 p.m. EST on Saturday from Kennedy Space Center. It will arrive on Sunday for an automated docking at 7:30 a.m. to the Harmony module’s space-facing port. Dragon will deliver a pair of new roll-out solar arrays, new space agriculture and biotechnology studies, and food, fuel, and crew supplies. NASA TV, on the agency’s app and website, begins its launch coverage at 2 p.m. on Saturday and docking coverage at 6 a.m. on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin are outfitting their Orlan spacesuits and checking them for leaks ahead of a spacewalk scheduled to begin at 6:15 a.m. on Friday. The duo will spend about seven hours on Friday relocating a radiator from the Rassvet module to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. Cosmonaut Anna Kikina readied the European robotic arm and practiced the robotics maneuvers today she will use to help the spacewalkers move the radiator at the end of the week.
The International Space Station is due to welcome a U.S. cargo craft after it launches from Florida next week. In the meantime, the Expedition 68 crew is staying focused on completing five more spacewalks for assembly and installation work before the end of the year.
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is due to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 3:54 p.m. EST on Tuesday and take a daylong trip to the orbiting lab. It will automatically dock to the space-facing, or zenith port, on the station’s Harmony module at 5:57 a.m. on Wednesday. Dragon is delivering new space agriculture and biotechnology studies, as well as the next pair of rollout solar arrays to augment the station’s power generation system. NASA TV, on the agency’s app and website, begins its launch coverage at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and docking coverage at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
After Dragon completes is delivery mission to the space station, robotics controllers on the ground will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to extract two rollout solar arrays from inside the U.S. space freighter’s trunk. The remotely controlled Canadarm2 will then stage the rollout solar arrays on truss segment attachment points to be retrieved on a pair of spacewalks planned for Nov. 29 and Dec. 3. Two yet-to-be-named Expedition 68 astronauts will remove the rollout solar arrays from their attachment points then install them at the base of the two main solar arrays on both the port and starboard truss segments.
NASA Flight Engineers Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann trained Friday on a computer for Dragon’s automated arrival on Monday. The duo studied approach and docking procedures and reviewed the upcoming cargo unpacking activities. The astronauts were joined at the end of the day by Flight Engineers Frank Rubio of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency for a conference with NASA and SpaceX mission controllers.
The duo has three more spacewalks to complete before the end of the year with the next excursion set for Friday, Nov. 25. The Roscosmos spacewalkers, with assistance from the European Robotic Arm (ERA) controlled by Flight Engineer Anna Kikina, will move the radiator from Rassvet to Nauka and make electrical and hydraulic connections. The next two Russian spacewalks, on Dec. 6 and 21, will see Rassvet’s airlock transferred and installed to Nauka using the ERA, then the deployment of the newly relocated radiator attached to Nauka.
Two Roscosmos cosmonauts are finalizing their preparations for a spacewalk on Thursday for hardware transfers and electronics connections on the International Space Station. Meanwhile, two NASA astronauts are cleaning up after a spacewalk on Tuesday readying the orbiting lab for a pair of rollout solar arrays to be installed beginning at the end of the month.
NASA Flight Engineers Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio spent seven hours and 11 minutes working outside the orbiting lab on Tuesday in their Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), or spacesuits. The duo assembled a mounting bracket on the station’s starboard truss structure where new rollout solar arrays will be installed on upcoming spacewalks before the end of the year.
Today, the duo along with fellow Expedition 68 Flight Engineers Nicole Mann of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) called down to mission controllers and discussed Tuesday’s space activities. Cassada and Mann also partnered together refilling spacesuit water tanks and powering down suit components. Mann then joined Rubio collecting spacewalk hardware and suit cameras for sharing with the cosmonauts who will conduct the next spacewalk.
Meanwhile, SpaceX is targeting the launch of its Dragon cargo craft atop the Falcon 9 rocket to the space station at 4:19 p.m. on Monday. Dragon will take a day-and-a-half-long trip to the station carrying the next pair of rollout solar arrays, new science experiments, station gear, and crew supplies. It will dock automatically to the Harmony module’s space-facing, or zenith port, Wednesday, Nov. 23, at 9:43 a.m.
Two astronauts and two cosmonauts are gearing up for a pair of spacewalks this week at the International Space Station. Their Expedition 68 crewmates assisted the spacewalkers with preparations on Monday while also continuing science and maintenance on the orbiting lab.
NASA Flight Engineers Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio are set to exit the space station after setting their spacesuits to battery power at 8 a.m. EST on Tuesday signifying the start of their spacewalk. The duo will work on the starboard side of the station’s truss structure and spend about seven hours assembling a mounting bracket to enable the future installation of rollout solar arrays. The new rollout solar arrays will augment the space station’s power generation system.
The spacewalking pair was joined by astronauts Nicole Mann of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency reviewing Tuesday’s assembly tasks and organizing tools in the Quest airlock. Mann and Wakata will help the spacewalkers in and out of their spacesuits and monitor the duo while they work outside the station. Mann also had a few moments set aside on Monday to service NanoRacks science hardware while Wakata configured a research incubator with an artificial gravity generator.
A second spacewalk is planned for Thursday when cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin exit the space station to work on the outside the of Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. The pair from Roscosmos tried on their Orlan spacesuits, simulated spacewalk procedures, and installed suit components throughout Monday. Prokopyev and Petelin will spend about seven hours on Thursday preparing a radiator for transfer from the Rassvet module to Nauka.
Cosmonaut Anna Kikina assisted the Roscosmos spacewalkers in and out of their Orlan spacesuits on Monday. The first time space-flyer also checked radiation detectors and inspected laptop computers in the Zvezda service module.
Both spacewalks will be broadcast live on NASA TV on the agency’s app and website. Tuesday’s spacewalk coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. while Thursday’s spacewalk coverage will begin at 9 a.m.
A U.S. cargo craft has been installed on the International Space Station and the Expedition 68 crew members are beginning to unpack several tons of food, fuel, and supplies. Meanwhile, two astronauts and two cosmonauts continue preparing for upcoming spacewalks.
The Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman is open for business after its successful robotic capture and installation to the Unity module’s Earth-facing port on Wednesday morning. NASA Flight Engineers Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada were the first to open Cygnus’ hatch and enter the cargo craft several hours after leak and pressure checks with the vehicle. On Thursday, the duo retrieved science freezers containing research samples from inside Cygnus and installed them on EXPRESS racks inside the space station.
Flight Engineers Frank Rubio of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) helped offload new cargo from pallets delivered aboard Cygnus throughout the day on Thursday. Both astronauts are also unpacking research samples for stowage on the station in anticipation of new science experiments planned to take place inside the station’s Destiny, Kibo, and Columbus laboratory modules. Cygnus delivered a wide variety of science gear and research samples to explore biology, botany, and physics to improve knowledge and benefit health on and off the Earth.
Cygnus also delivered hardware soon to be installed on the outside of the space station by two spacewalkers. Cassada and Rubio will take the new gear, or power augmentation modification kits, outside in the vacuum of space on Nov. 15 and attach it to the starboard truss segment where half of the station’s main solar arrays are located. The new mod kits work will enable the installation of new rollout solar arrays during a pair of spacewalks planned for Nov. 28 and Dec. 1, augmenting the orbiting lab’s power generation system.
Two cosmonauts are also preparing for another series of spacewalks this year to assemble and install a radiator and airlock on the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. The cosmonauts from Roscosmos, Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin, checked their Orlan spacesuit life support and communication systems today ahead of the assembly spacewalks planned before the end of the year.
Roscosmos Flight Engineer Anna Kikina spent Thursday inspecting and testing laptop computers, She also downloaded research data from a micrometeoroid study to a science computer then cleaned smoke detectors inside the Poisk module.
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft installation on the International Space Station is now complete. Cygnus, carrying over 8,200 pounds of cargo and science experiments, launched atop an Antares rocket at 5:32 a.m. EST Monday, Nov. 7 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. At 5:20 a.m., NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, along with NASA astronaut Josh Cassada as backup, captured Cygnus using the Canadarm2 robotic arm.
Cygnus also is delivering a new mounting bracket that astronauts will attach to the starboard side of the station’s truss assembly during a spacewalk planned for Nov. 15. The mounting bracket will enable the installation of one of the next pair of new solar arrays.
Cygnus will remain at the space station until late January before it departs for a destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.