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 to Orbit Higher Before Spacewalk and Crew Landing

The six-member Expedition 55 crew poses inside the Harmony module
The six-member Expedition 55 crew poses inside the Harmony module which links both the Japanese Kibo and the European Columbus laboratory modules. In the bottom row from left, are Soyuz MS-08 crew members Drew Feustel, Ricky Arnold and Oleg Artemyev. In the top row from left, are Soyuz MS-07 crew members Anton Shkaplerov, Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai.

The International Space Station will be orbiting a little higher this weekend to prepare for the departure of three Expedition 55 crew members and the arrival of a new Russian cargo craft. The docked Russian Progress 69 resupply ship will fire its engines Saturday at 6:07 p.m. EDT for two minutes and 52 seconds slightly boosting the orbital lab’s altitude.

This orbital reboost sets up the proper phasing trajectory for the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft when it undocks June 3.  The Soyuz will carry Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai back to Earth after six-and-a-half month mission in space. The reboost will also enable a two-orbit launch to docking opportunity for Russia’s next resupply ship the Progress 70 in July.

Overnight and early Friday morning robotics controllers from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency supported the deployment of small satellites from outside the Kibo laboratory module. The Japanese robotic arm attached to Kibo ejected several small satellites to support a series of technology demonstrations.

Two spacewalkers and a pair of Flight Engineers continued more computer training and procedure reviews today ahead of next week’s spacewalk. NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel will go outside in their U.S. spacesuits Wednesday for about 6.5 hours to swap out thermal control gear that cools external station systems. Tingle and Kanai will assist the duo in and out of the Quest airlock and help choreograph the spacewalk tasks.

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.

Dragon Splashes Down in Pacific With NASA Research and Cargo

Dragon Departs the Station
Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev tweeted this image of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship shortly after it was released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm today. Credit: @OlegMKS

Following release from the International Space Station by ground controllers at 9:23 a.m. EDT, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at about 3 p.m. This marks the end of the company’s 14th contracted cargo resupply mission to the space station for NASA.

A boat will take the Dragon to the port at Long Beach, where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA. Dragon will be prepared for a return journey to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing.

Dragon is returning more than 4,000 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from a variety of technological and biological studies about the space station. Some of the science returning on this flight includes samples from the Metabolic Tracking study that could lead to more effective, less expensive drugs, the APEX-06 investigation examining how to effectively grow crops in space, and the Fruit Fly Lab–03 investigation to research disease genes and immunity to help prepare for future long-duration human space exploration missions.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Dragon Heads Home After Month Long Stay at Station

SpaceX Dragon departs the station
Cameras on the Canadarm2 robotic arm monitored the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship as it departed the space station Saturday morning.

Robotic flight controllers released the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station’s robotic arm at 9:23 a.m. EDT, and Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA is monitoring its departure.

Dragon’s thrusters will be fired to move the spacecraft a safe distance from the station before SpaceX flight controllers in Hawthorne, California, command its deorbit burn about 2:06 p.m. The capsule will splashdown about 3 p.m. in the Pacific Ocean, where recovery forces will retrieve the capsule and its more than 4,000 pounds of cargo, including a variety of technological and biological studies.

The deorbit burn and splashdown will not be broadcast on NASA TV.

NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization that manages research aboard the U.S. National Laboratory portion of the space station, will receive time-sensitive samples and begin working with researchers to process and distribute them within 48 hours of splashdown.

Dragon is the only space station resupply spacecraft currently capable of returning cargo to Earth, and this was the second trip to the orbiting laboratory for this spacecraft, which completed its first mission nearly two years ago. SpaceX launched its 14th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station April 2 from Space Launch Complex 40 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a Falcon 9 rocket that also previously launched its 12th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station.

Keep up to date with the latest news from the crew living in space by following https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/, @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, and the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Station Readies Dragon for Departure Ahead of Upcoming Spacewalk

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle
NASA astronaut Scott Tingle replaces a failed light bulb in a light to be used on a new external television camera group (ETVCG) that will be installed on an upcoming spacewalk.

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship’s stay at the International Space Station has been extended until Saturday after unfavorable conditions were reported at the splashdown zone in the Pacific Ocean. In the meantime, time-sensitive payloads are still being readied for return to Earth as the crew wraps up final cargo packing.

Robotics controllers will operate the Canadarm2 to detach Dragon from the International Space Station’s Harmony module on Friday. It will be remotely released into Earth orbit Saturday at 9:24 a.m. EDT before finally splashing down in the Pacific Ocean around 3 p.m. Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will be in the Cupola monitoring Dragon as it slowly backs away from the space station.

NASA TV’s live coverage of Dragon’s departure begins Saturday at 9 a.m. The space freighter’s parachuted splashdown 403 miles off the coast of Long Beach, Calif. will not be televised.

Two NASA astronauts are looking ahead to their next spacewalk scheduled for May 16. Veteran spacewalkers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel took their body measurements today to ensure a proper fit inside their U.S. spacesuits. The duo will work outside the orbital lab for about 6.5 hours to swap out thermal control gear that circulates ammonia to keep station systems cool.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, who will assist the spacewalkers in two weeks, began configuring the Quest airlock where the 210th spacewalk at the station will be staged. He also trained to detect and clean ammonia from the spacesuits should they become contaminated during the maintenance spacewalk.

What Does It Take to Keep the Station Stocked With Supplies?

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship approaches the International Space Station before its capture on April 4, 2018 as both spacecraft begin an orbital pass off the southern coast of Namibia then northwest across the continent of Africa.

The crew on board the International Space Station has been busy this month unloading the bounty of supplies and equipment brought up by the SpaceX Dragon and repacking it with cargo to be returned to Earth. If you’ve ever wondered what goes into a layover at the space station, check out chapter 14 of the new NASA ebook, The International Space Station: Operating an Outpost in the New Frontier. The book, which was written by space station flight directors, is now available to download for free at https://go.usa.gov/xQbvH.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 14: Vital Visiting Vehicles – Keeping the Remote Outpost Crewed and Operating.

Purpose and Importance of Visiting Vehicles

On Earth, a person’s typical week might consist of a trip to the grocery store, several trips to the local home improvement store, taking out the trash and recyclables, and doing a few loads of laundry. If something is broken in the home, a replacement part is ordered and the homeowner must wait for a delivery. Or, he or she might need to schedule a professional to make the repair. Homeowners probably do not think about the water supply. They definitely do not worry about the supply of oxygen needed to breathe or the removal of carbon dioxide that is expelled from the human body.

The International Space Station (ISS) is a unique, world-class orbiting laboratory. It is also home to astronauts and cosmonauts. The logistics of keeping such a home running are complicated. In space, there are no grocery stores or home improvements stores. The “trash truck” only comes around every few months. Washers and dryers for clothing do not exist, and access to clean attire can take months. Much of the breathable air and drinkable water must be delivered. When supplies (e.g., bathroom tissue) are low, crew members cannot tap a few keys on the computer and wait for resupplies to arrive at the door. They call Mission Control and place their order, and then they wait.

Moving astronauts and cosmonauts, science experiments, food, water, air, spare parts, and other supplies to and from the ISS is a highly choreographed international operation that must be executed with near perfection, every time. Such an effort requires more than one spacecraft. This was never more evident than in an 8-month span between October 2014 and June 2015 when three different resupply missions were lost during or shortly after launch. Three different rockets from three different companies experienced three different failures. According to statistics, this scenario was supposed to be nearly impossible. Yet, it happened. Operations on board the ISS continued despite the lack of resupply.

So, exactly what does it take to keep the ISS resupplied? It starts with a procession of vehicles from around the world that visit the ISS.

Keep reading at https://go.usa.gov/xQbvH.

Crew Packs Dragon With Science While Continuing More Space Research

Flight Engineer Drew Feustel
Flight Engineer Drew Feustel holds a bag containing samples that had been collected, documented and inspected for the Protein Crystal Growth-9 experiment.

The Expedition 55 crew members are packing up the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft today for its return to Earth on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the six International Space Station residents continue operating a multitude of space experiments while ensuring the orbital lab remains in tip-top shape.

NASA astronauts Scott Tingle and Ricky Arnold transferred an array of biological samples from station science freezers to specialized freezers stowed inside Dragon. The research samples are for analysis by scientists and are among a variety of cargo, including station hardware for refurbishment, returning to Earth inside Dragon Wednesday.

NASA TV begins its live coverage of the Dragon departure at 10 a.m. EDT on Wednesday. Robotics controllers on the ground will command the Canadarm2 to release Dragon at 10:22 a.m. Tingle will be in the Cupola monitoring the release and departure activities. Dragon will fire its engines for the final time at 3:06 p.m. beginning its descent back into Earth’s atmosphere before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean around 4 p.m. NASA TV will not cover Dragon’s splashdown about 260 miles southwest of Long Beach, Calif.

Flight Engineer Drew Feustel tended to a variety of experiment hardware today supporting life science and biomedical research. He spent the morning working on the Multi-Use Variable-G Platform that houses tiny organisms such as fruit flies, flatworms, plants, fish and cells. Feustel then configured the Human Research Facility-2 with gear enabling ongoing observations of the physical and mental changes taking place in astronauts living in space.

Astronauts and Robotics Controllers Prepping Dragon for Departure

Houston and Galveston Bay
Houston, Texas, the home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and Galveston Bay are pictured from the space station at an altitude of about 250 miles.

Robotics controllers and Expedition 55 crew members are getting ready for the departure of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship next week. The commercial space freighter will leave the International Space Station and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday loaded with cargo for retrieval and analysis.

Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold powered up command and communications gear today that will aid the crew when Dragon departs the station on Wednesday at 10:22 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the departure activities at 10 a.m. Dragon will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean about six hours later to be recovered by SpaceX and NASA personnel. The splashdown off the southern coast of California will not be seen on NASA TV.

The Canadarm2 will be remotely maneuvered today to grapple Dragon today while it is still attached to the Harmony module. In the meantime the 57.7-foot-long robotic arm and its fine-tuned robotic hand, also known as Dextre, are completing the installation of an external materials exposure experiment outside of Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.

Astronauts Drew Feustel and Scott Tingle are still packing Dragon today with a variety of cargo including space station hardware and research samples. The STaARS-1 experiment facility has completed a year of operations at the station and is being readied for its return aboard Dragon next week. The research device supported observations of living systems exposed to simulated gravity such as Earth, the Moon and Mars. Feustel also stowed faulty life support gear in Dragon for refurbishment back on Earth.

Astronauts Explore Life Science and Prepare for Spacewalk

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle
NASA astronaut Scott Tingle prepares video equipment for a series of education videos being recorded for the STEMonstration campaign which demonstrates scientific concepts in space for students and teachers.

A wide variety of life science is being explored today aboard the International Space Station as Expedition 55 crew members prepare for a spacewalk planned for next month. The space residents also continued the upkeep of the orbital lab while robotics controllers set up an external experiment.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai split his time today between tending mice and removing sensors attached to his arm. The rodents are being observed to detect the chemical signals that lead to muscle and bone loss in space and to provide therapies to keep astronauts healthy. Kanai also removed an armband monitor and sensors he wore for 36 hours that recorded alterations in his circadian rhythm caused by living in space.

Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are getting ready for a May 16 spacewalk to swap out thermal control gear that circulates ammonia to keep station systems cool. The duo readied their spacewalk tools today then dumped water and purged gases from a pair of U.S. spacesuits.

Scott Tingle of NASA worked inside the Harmony module today to replace a deteriorating Pump Package Assembly (PPA) with a spare device. The PPA is a thermal control system that provides water cooling to station payloads and critical systems avionics.

Science is also taking place outside the space station and robotics controllers are working to transfer a tray for the materials exposure experiment (MISSE-FF) outside of the Kibo lab module through the lab’s airlock for reconfiguration tomorrow. The complex robotic maneuvers are remotely controlled from the ground and use not only the Canadarm2 robotic arm but also the fine-tuning robotic hand known as Dextre. MISSE-FF will test materials, coatings, and components in the harsh environment of space.

Also, overnight, Russian flight controllers sent commands to deorbit the unpiloted ISS Progress 68 cargo craft that had been orbiting for the past month for engineering test following its undocking from the station March 28. It burned up harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere over the southern Pacific.