Dragon Blasts Off Carrying Science and Supplies for Station Crew

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft was successfully launched
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft was successfully launched on the Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad LC-40 at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Dragon successfully launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 5:42 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The spacecraft’s solar arrays have deployed. It will arrive at the International Space Station Monday morning carrying more than 5,900 pounds of research investigations and equipment, cargo and supplies that will support some of the hundreds of investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory.

A postlaunch press conference will take place at 8 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Participants are:

  • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program, Johnson Space Center
  • Jessica Jensen, director, Dragon Mission Management, SpaceX

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel will use the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Dragon when it arrives at the station. Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 5:30 a.m. Monday, July 2. Installation coverage is set to begin at 9 a.m.

Research materials flying inside Dragon’s pressurized cargo area include a cellular biology investigation (Micro-12) to understand how microgravity affects the growth, gene expression and ability of a model bacterium to transfer electrons through its cell membrane along the bacterial nanowires it produces. Such bacteria could be used in microbial fuel cells to make electricity from waste organic material.

An Earth science instrument called the ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) will provide a new space-based measurement of how plants respond to changes in water availability. This data can help society better manage agricultural water use.

An observational pilot study with the Crew Interactive MObile companioN (CIMON) aims to provide first insights into the effects of crew support from an artificial intelligence (AI) in terms of efficiency and acceptance during long-term missions in space.

Among the hundreds of pounds of hardware flying to the space station is a spare Canadian-built Latching End Effector (LEE). Each end of the Canadarm2 robotic arm has an identical LEE, and they are used as the “hands” that grapple payloads and visiting cargo spaceships. They also enable Canadarm2 to “walk” to different locations on the orbiting outpost.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew Sets Up Station for New Research Delivery Aboard Dragon

The Canadarm2 and the Caspian Sea
Canada’s 57.7-foot-long robotic arm, also known as the Canadarm2, with a latching end effector at its tip (used to grapple approaching spacecraft and portable data grapple fixtures) is pictured in the foreground as the International Space Station was orbiting over the Caspian Sea.

The Expedition 56 crew members are configuring the International Space Station for several new experiments being delivered on the upcoming SpaceX Dragon cargo mission. The orbital residents also explored space physics and serviced U.S. spacesuits.

NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold worked on science hardware today to support new research being delivered aboard Dragon when it arrives Monday at 7 a.m. EDT. The duo also continued studying the robotics procedures necessary to capture Dragon after its approach and rendezvous next week.

Feustel cleaned a mouse habitat for the Rodent Research-7 experiment observing microbes in the gastrointestinal system in mice. Arnold checked out the functionality of the Veggie facility that will process plants for the Veg-03 study researching how to grow food in space.

Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor looked at how cement solidifies in space exploring its microstructure and material properties. Results could impact the design of lightweight space habitats and improve cement and concrete processing on Earth.

Finally, Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency looked at spacesuit gear and set up the Quest airlock for future spacewalk operations. Gerst purged nitrogen from the suit’s oxygen lines and helped ground controllers prepare for overnight oxygen leak checks.

Crew Gets Ready for Dragon, Studies Space Impacts on Health and Physics

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm as the International Space Station was orbiting above northern Africa on May 5, 2018.

The Expedition 56 crew members are getting ready for the arrival next week of the 15th SpaceX Dragon mission to the International Space Station. The space residents also explored how microgravity impacts health and physics today while setting up a variety of cubesats for deployment.

The Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX that will launch the Dragon space freighter into Earth orbit is due to lift off Friday at 5:41 a.m. EDT and take a three-day trip to the orbital laboratory. The commercial space freighter will be loaded with almost six thousand pounds of new science experiments, crew supplies and space station hardware.

NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold will be backed up by Commander Drew Feustel in the Cupola when he commands the Canadarm2 to grapple Dragon Monday at 7 a.m. The duo is reviewing procedures and training on a computer this week for the rendezvous and capture activities. Robotics controllers on the ground will then take over after the capture and remotely install Dragon a couple of hours later to the Harmony module where it will remain for 32 days. NASA TV will broadcast live the Dragon science briefings, launch, capture and installation activities.

Feustel started the workweek collecting and stowing biological samples for the Multi-Omics study that is observing how gut microbes may affect an astronaut’s immune system. He then worked on the Atomization experiment that is researching liquid spray processes to potentially improve the design of jet and rocket engines.

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor installed a cubesat deployer on a multi-purpose experiment platform that will soon be placed outside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. It will deploy nine different cubesats to continue space research and demonstrate space applications.

Crew Researching Microbes and Plants For Space and Earth Benefits

Expedition 56 Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency
Astronaut Alexander Gerst is seated in the Columbus laboratory module participating in the Grip study. Grip is researching how the nervous system adapts to microgravity. Observations may improve the design of safer space habitats and help patients on Earth with neurological diseases.

The Expedition 56 crew members researched microbes and plants today and conducted more eye exams to benefit future space residents as well as people on Earth. The Cygnus space freighter continues to be packed for its release in July as robotics controllers get ready to inspect the vehicle.

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor stowed genetically modified microbes in a science freezer that will be analyzed for their ability to compete with petrochemical production processes on Earth. Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold, also from NASA, thinned plants for the Plant Habitat-1 experiment that is comparing plants grown in microgravity to those grown on Earth.

Arnold and Auñón-Chancellor later joined Commander Drew Feustel for more eye checks. The trio used optical coherence tomography to capture 2D and 3D imagery of the eye to help doctors understand how living in space affects eyesight.

European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst was packing Cygnus with trash and old gear today ahead of its July 15 release.

New Satellite, Space Research and Cargo Missions Fill Crew Agenda

Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor
Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor collects breath samples to analyze and measure red blood cell function for the Marrow investigation.

The International Space Station deployed a satellite this morning to demonstrate the potential of removing space junk. Back inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 56 crew explored space physics, studied human research and conducted an emergency drill.

A new satellite was deployed into space today from outside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. Officially named the NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite, it will explore using a 3D camera to map the location and speed of space debris. It will also deploy a net to capture a nanosatellite that will simulate space junk.

NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold worked inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox to troubleshoot gear today for a semiconductor crystal growth experiment. Alexander Gerst, of the European Space Agency, set up dosimeters and measured the station’s acoustic levels to understand the effects on crews.

Arnold later joined fellow Soyuz MS-08 crewmates Drew Feustel of NASA and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos for an emergency drill. The trio practiced evacuating the station in their Soyuz crew ship in the unlikely event of an emergency.

U.S. and Russian cargo ships are due to launch to the space station this summer. Another cargo craft is due to end its stay at the orbital lab next month. SpaceX is counting down to a June 29 launch of its Dragon cargo ship. Roscosmos will launch its Progress 70 cargo craft on July 9. Finally, the Cygnus space freighter attached to the Unity module is due to end its stay July 15.

Crew Packs Up on Science and Cleans Up After Spacewalk

NASA astronaut Drew Feustel is pictured tethered to the International Space Station
NASA astronaut Drew Feustel is pictured tethered to the International Space Station just outside of the Quest airlock during a spacewalk he conducted with fellow NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold (out of frame) on June 14, 2018.

The Expedition 56 crew‘s schedule is full of space science today as cleanup continues after last week’s spacewalk. The International Space Station’s three newest crew members also brushed up on their safety skills.

Biology and physics were just part of the microgravity research taking place aboard the orbital laboratory today. NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor started her day collecting blood and urine samples for a trio of ongoing human research studies. She then joined European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst for the Myotone study observing how long-term space missions impact the biochemical properties of muscles. Gerst also researched ways to simplify and speed up procedures for astronauts for the Everywear experiment.

Auñón-Chancellor, Gerst and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev also gathered midday to review the location of safety gear throughout the space station. The trio also practiced emergency communication in the station’s Russian segment.

NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold spent the day cleaning soot created in a burner during a run of the Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiment. That study is exploring ways to improve fuel efficiency, reduce pollution and prevent fires in space. Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Prokopyev explored how living in microgravity affects their daily exercise regimen.

Commander Drew Feustel worked in the Quest airlock today continuing cleanup activities after Thursday’s six-hour, 49-minute spacewalk. Feustel scrubbed the U.S. spacesuit water loops then tested water samples for conductivity before wrapping up his day.

Crew Huddles Up Before Spacewalk as Science Continues

The newly-expanded six-member Expedition 56 crew
The newly-expanded six-member Expedition 56 crew gathers in the Zvezda service module shortly after three new crew members arrived June 8, 2018. In the front row (from left) are the newest Expedition 56 Flight Engineers Sergey Prokopyev, Alexander Gerst and Serena Auñón-Chancellor. In the back (from left) are Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev, Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold.

The Expedition 56 astronauts huddled together today finalizing preparations for Thursday’s spacewalk to ready the International Space Station for commercial crew vehicles. The crew members also managed to squeeze in some human research and physics experiments today.

Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold went over their spacewalk procedures again today with fellow crew members Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Alexander Gerst. The quartet worked throughout the day to configure the robotics workstation, ready spacesuits and set up the Quest airlock before tomorrow’s spacewalk set to begin at 8:10 a.m. EDT.

Feustel and Arnold will install new high definition cameras during tomorrow’s 6.5-hour spacewalk to support upcoming commercial crew missions from SpaceX and Boeing to the orbital laboratory. The duo will be supported in and out of their spacesuits by Gerst while Auñón-Chancellor will maneuver the Canadarm2 to support tomorrow’s activities. NASA TV begins its live broadcast of the sixth spacewalk this year at 6:30 a.m.

Gerst, who has been on the station for less than a week, worked a pair of experiments today helping scientists understand the effects of living and working in space. He laid down in a face-up position in the morning for the Grip study that is researching the nervous system. Observations may improve the design of safer space habitats and help patients on Earth with neurological diseases. Gerst later installed sample gear in the Electromagnetic Levitator, a furnace that enables observations of the properties of materials exposed to extremely high temperatures.

Two NASA Astronauts Set to Go on Their Third Spacewalk This Year

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel
NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are suited up inside U.S. spacesuits for a fit check verification ahead of a spacewalk that took place May 16, 2016.

Correction, June 14, 2018:  This post has been updated to clarify the timing of the first uncrewed test missions, which are planned for later this year.

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are set to go on their third spacewalk together this year on Thursday at the International Space Station. Their new Expedition 56 crewmates Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Alexander Gerst are training today to support the two spacewalkers.

Arnold and Feustel will begin Thursday’s spacewalk at 8:10 a.m. to install new high definition cameras to support upcoming commercial crew missions from SpaceX and Boeing to the orbital laboratory. The first uncrewed test missions are planned to begin later this year. The cameras will provide improved views of the commercial crew vehicles as they approach and dock to the station. NASA TV will provide complete live coverage of the 211th space station spacewalk starting at 6:30 a.m.

Auñón-Chancellor and Gerst, who just arrived at the station on Friday, will assist the spacewalkers on Thursday. Gerst will help the spacewalkers in and out of their spacesuits. Auñón-Chancellor will operate the Canadarm2 robotic arm. The duo practiced today on a computer the robotics procedures necessary to maneuver a spacewalker to and from the worksite on the starboard side of the station’s truss structure.

Arnold and Feustel had some extra time today to work on science and maintenance activities. Arnold worked with the Microgravity Science Glovebox to troubleshoot a semiconductor crystal growth experiment. Feustel performed some plumbing work in the Tranquility module before relocating a pair of incubator units to support new experiments being delivered on the next SpaceX Dragon cargo mission. Finally, the duo readied the Quest airlock and their spacesuits for Thursday morning’s spacewalk.

Crew Launches to Space, Reaches Station on Friday

The Soyuz MS-09 rocket  heads to space
The Soyuz MS-09 rocket heads to space with three Expedition 56-57 crew members after launching on time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz MS-09 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 7:12 a.m. EDT Wednesday, June 6 (5:12 p.m. in Baikonur). At the time of launch, the station was flying about 250 miles above south central Egypt, moving from southwest to northeast. NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos are now safely in orbit.

The crew will orbit Earth 34 times before the spacecraft’s arrival and docking to the space station’s Rassvet module at 9:07 a.m. Friday, June 8, which will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website, followed at 10:30 a.m. by coverage of the opening of hatches between the spacecraft and station.

The docking timeline Friday, June 8 EDT is:

  • 8:15 a.m. – Docking coverage begins (docking scheduled for 9:07 a.m.)
  • 10:30 a.m. – Hatch opening and welcome coverage begins (hatch opening expected at 11:05 a.m.)

 The arrival of Auñón-Chancellor, Gerst and Prokopyev will restore the station to six crew members. They will join Expedition 56 commander Drew Feustel and flight engineers Ricky Arnold of NASA and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos. The crew will spend more than five months conducting about 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.

This crew continues the long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment from three to four, allowing NASA to maximize time dedicated to research on the space station. Highlights of upcoming investigations include a new facility to study ultra-cold quantum gases, the first commercial European facility to conduct microgravity research, and a system that uses surface forces to accomplish liquid-liquid separation.

 Feustel, Arnold and Artemyev are scheduled to remain aboard the station until October, while Auñón-Chancellor, Gerst and Prokopyev are slated to return to Earth in December.

 For launch coverage and more information about the mission, visit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Get breaking news, images and features from the station on Instagram at: @iss and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

Crew to Swap Command Before Return to Earth

Expedition 55 Crew Portrait
The six member Expedition 55 crew poses for a portrait in the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. Clockwise from left are Flight Engineers Norishige Kanai, Ricky Arnold, Drew Feustel, Oleg Artemyev and Scott Tingle. In the center is International Space Station Commander Anton Shkaplerov.

Three Expedition 55 crew members are returning to Earth Sunday, but first the Commander will hand over control of the International Space Station in a ceremony Friday afternoon. In the meantime, the crew managed to continue ongoing space research and station maintenance.

Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, who has been leading the station crew since February, will turn over command of the orbital laboratory to NASA astronaut Drew Feustel during the traditional Change of Command Ceremony at 2:25 p.m. EDT Friday live on NASA TV.

Next, the International Space Station Program turns its attention to the undocking Sunday at 5:16 a.m. of Shkaplerov with crewmates Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai inside the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft. The trio will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 8:40 a.m. (6:40 p.m. Kazakh time) after 168 days in space. NASA TV begins it live coverage starting at 1:30 a.m. when the crew says farewell and closes the hatches to their Soyuz vehicle.

Feustel worked throughout Thursday installing improved communications gear inside Europe’s Columbus lab module. Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold strapped himself into an exercise bike to research how exercising in microgravity affects the human body.