Physics, Combustion and Biology Science Ahead of Station’s 20th Anniversary

The International Space Station
The International Space Station was pictured Oct. 4, 2018, from the departing Expedition 56 crew during a flyaround aboard the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft. Credit: Roscosmos/NASA

The three Expedition 57 crew members from the United States, Germany and Russia will soon be observing the 20th anniversary of the launch of the International Space Station’s first module. On Nov. 20, 1998, the Zarya cargo module was launched aboard a Russian rocket and placed into orbit beginning the era of station assembly.

In the meantime, the crew orbiting Earth since June worked on a variety of advanced science hardware today. The trio ensured the safe and ongoing research into combustion, physics and biology in microgravity to benefit humans on Earth and in space.

NASA Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor swapped cartridge holders inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) that explores what happens to materials exposed to extremely high temperatures. The device located in Japan’s Kibo lab module measures the thermo-physical properties of samples that are melted and solidified and difficult to observe on the ground.

Commander Alexander Gerst from ESA (European Space Agency) worked on the new Life Sciences Glovebox launched to the space station aboard a Japanese cargo ship at the end of September. He is configuring the biology research facility for service inside the Kibo lab.

Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev worked inside the U.S. Destiny lab module replacing the Combustion Integrated Rack’s (CIR) fuel bottles.  The CIR has been enabling research and observations into how fuels and flames burn in space on the orbital lab for over ten years. Results may guide the development of rocket engines and fire safety aboard spacecraft.

Spacesuits and High-Temp, Fire Science Focus of Crew Today

The three-member Expedition 57 crew
Official crew portrait of Expedition 57 crew members (from left) Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos.

U.S. spacesuits and hot, fiery research kept the Expedition 57 crew busy Friday. The three-member crew from around the world also continued the ongoing upkeep of the International Space Station’s systems.

A pair of spacesuits inside the Quest airlock had their cooling loops scrubbed today by station Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency). The suit maintenance comes ahead of a pair of spacewalks being planned to connect new lithium-ion batteries on the space station’s port truss structure.

Fellow flight engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos worked on advanced science hardware. The two devices, the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) and the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR), enable the safe research of high temperatures, flames and gases.

Auñón-Chancellor cleaned up the ELF inside the Kibo lab module after removing samples exposed to extremely high temperatures. Scientists are observing how microgravity affects the thermophysical properties of a variety materials at different temperatures.

Prokopyev worked in the Destiny lab module replacing fuel bottles for experiments inside the CIR researching how fuels and flames burn in space. Results may guide the development of rocket engines and fire safety aboard spacecraft.

Plant Science and Solar Array Photos as Station Nears Milestone

The Aurora and the Starry Night
The aurora and the night sky above Earth’s atmosphere are pictured from the space station. A portion of the station’s solar arrays and a pair of nitrogen/oxygen recharge system tanks are pictured in the foreground.

Botany science and solar array photography were on the Expedition 57 crew’s schedule today including ongoing maintenance of the orbital lab. The research and photo surveys help scientists and engineers understand how life and International Space Station systems adapt to microgravity.

Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor is helping NASA and its international partners understand how plants grow in microgravity to promote humans living longer and farther in space. She set up the Veggie plant growth facility today to grow a variety of edible plants such as kale and lettuce inside Europe’s Columbus lab module. Botanists are also exploring how cultivating plants to provide a fresh food supply affects crew morale.

Commander Alexander Gerst started his day familiarizing himself with the botany experiment. The German astronaut from of ESA (European Space Agency) then worked throughout the day photo-documenting the station’s port side solar arrays. The photos will be downloaded so ground specialists can inspect the condition of the arrays for damage sites.

On the Russian side of the space lab, cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev checked on power supply systems inside the Zarya cargo module before moving on to science and life support work. Zarya was the first station module launched into space and will reach its 20th anniversary on Nov. 20.

Station Preps for Japan, US Ship Operations Next Month

The H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7) from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
The H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7) from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is viewed from one of seven windows inside the cupola, the International Space Station’s “window to the world.” The orbital complex was flying at an altitude of about 257 miles off the coast of Canada above the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The International Space Station is getting ready for Japanese and U.S. cargo ship operations next month. In the meantime, the three residents onboard the orbital lab today configured science hardware and checked out safety gear.

Serena Auñón-Chancellor from NASA worked in the Japanese Kibo laboratory today replacing gear inside a Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack (MSPR). The MSPR provides a workspace that supplies power and video enabling research into a variety of smaller experiments. She spent the majority of the day working on video cable connections and swapping out a computer in the MSPR.

She and Commander Commander Alexander Gerst started Tuesday practicing wearing and using breathing gear connected to an oxygen port in the event of a space emergency. Gerst then helped out with the MSPR work before the duo moved on to packing Japan’s HTV-7 resupply ship.

Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos worked out on a treadmill today to help Russian scientists understand how the human body is impacted by exercise in microgravity. He then spent the afternoon on computer and life support maintenance.

The HTV-7 is being packed before its removal from the Harmony module with the Canadarm2 and released back into Earth. However, the vehicle has one more mission before its fiery destruction over the Pacific Ocean. The HTV-7 will also release a small reentry capsule for recovery in the Pacific Ocean by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The recovery mission is a test of the Japanese space agency’s ability to retrieve experiment samples safely and quickly from the station.

An American cargo ship is due to replenish the Expedition 57 crew a few days after the HTV-7 leaves. Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter will take a three-day trip in space before it is captured with the Canadarm2 and berthed to the Unity module. Cygnus will stay attached to the station for 86 days of cargo operations.

Genetics, Vision and Earth Studies Aboard Station Today

The Northern European countries of Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Poland
The International Space Station was orbiting 257 miles above the English Channel when this photograph was taken of the Northern European countries of Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Poland. Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-7, or HTV-7 resupply ship, is pictured at right attached the Harmony module.

Three Expedition 57 crew members are orbiting Earth today researching RNA sequencing and eye health aboard the International Space Station. The trio from the U.S., Germany and Russia also replaced combustion research hardware and activated Earth observation gear.

Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor from NASA is helping scientists identify microbes and understand how their genetics change in space. She extracted and processed microbial samples today from swabbed station surfaces for later genetic sequencing using specialized hardware. Results will also help researchers observe how life adapts to the weightlessness of microgravity.

Auñón-Chancellor then observed and photographed samples for a protein crystal study to help doctors improve the development of disease-treating drugs. She then joined Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) for eye scans with an ultrasound device to learn how long-term missions affect vision.

Gerst started his day in the U.S. Destiny lab module replacing hardware inside the Combustion Integrated Rack that enables gas and flame studies. He later wrapped up the workday photographing how quartz and clay particles sediment in space.

Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos worked inside the Unity module setting up Earth photography gear for the long-running EarthKAM experiment. The study enables school students to remotely operate the station digital camera to photograph and download imagery of Earth landmarks such as coastlines and mountains.

Hague Back in Houston, Station Crew Works Science and Cargo

Celestial view of Earth's atmospheric glow and the Milky Way
The International Space Station was orbiting about 256 miles above South Australia when a camera on board the orbital complex captured this celestial view of Earth’s atmospheric glow and the Milky Way.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague is safe and sound and back in Houston after last week’s mission to the International Space Station was aborted during ascent. Meanwhile, the three orbiting Expedition 57 crew members continue ongoing research, maintenance and cargo packing.

Hague returned to Houston Saturday following his emergency landing shortly after launch in the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft in Kazakhstan on Thursday. He and fellow Soyuz crew member Alexey Ovchinin were flown back to Moscow after medical checks in Kazakhstan then returned home to their families.

Back in space, two astronauts Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Commander Alexander Gerst and worked on a variety of life support and science experiments today. The duo also partnered up for cargo operations inside JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) HTV-7 resupply ship.

Auñón-Chancellor started her day testing the performance of battery life in space for the Zero G Battery Test experiment. Gerst was activating and checking out a life support rack to ensure good carbon dioxide and water management in the device.

Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev worked throughout Monday on life support maintenance in the station’s Russian segment. The Russian flight engineer also ran on a treadmill in the Zvezda service module for an experiment observing how microgravity impacts exercise.

Station Crew Busy With Science After Aborted Launch Ascent

North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea
North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea are pictured as the International Space Station orbited 254 miles above the African continent. Japan’s Kounotori H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7) is pictured at left attached to the Harmony module.

Three Expedition 57 crew members are staying busy aboard the International Space Station after the climb to orbit of two crewmates was aborted Thursday morning. American Nick Hague and Russian Alexey Ovchinin made an emergency landing shortly after launch, but are in excellent shape and back in Russia. The trio in orbit is continuing science and maintenance aboard the orbital laboratory.

NASA astronaut Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Ovchinin are safe and returned to Moscow with mission officials after their aborted mission. The Soyuz MS-10 rocket booster experienced a failure about two minutes after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Hague will return to Houston, Texas, on Saturday and Ovchinin will stay in Moscow. Investigations into the cause of the failure are beginning, and the space station international partner agencies are evaluating what changes to the station’s operating plan will need to be adopted.

The three humans still orbiting Earth are safe with plenty of supplies and work to do on orbit. Commander Alexander Gerst and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor started their day measuring how microgravity has impacted their muscles for the Myotones study. They then moved on to researching an ancient technique that may be used for emergency navigation on future space missions.

Serena Auñón-Chancellor is scheduled to talk with two different school groups on Monday and Thursday next week. One of those conversations will involve the flight of Seaman Jr., a plush toy that is part of the National Park Service’s celebration of its the 3,700 mile Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev maintained life support systems in the Russian segment of the space station. He also updated the station’s inventory system and checked on Russian science experiments.

U.S., Russian Crew Counting Down to Thursday Morning Launch

Expedition 57 crew members Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos (left) and Nick Hague of NASA
Expedition 57 crew members Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos (left) and Nick Hague of NASA (right) pose for pictures in front of their Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft.

At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos are preparing for their launch to the International Space Station. Their journey to the station will begin with a lift off at 4:40 a.m. EDT Thursday (2:40 p.m. in Baikonur). Live launch coverage will begin at 3:30 a.m. EDT on NASA Television and the agency’s website. At the time of launch, the space station will be flying over NE Kazakhstan at 254 statute miles.

The two will join Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency, NASA Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev, who arrived at the station in June.

The crew members of Expedition 57 will continue work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the International Space Station, humanity’s only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory.

Below is the crew’s launch timeline in EDT:

EDT               L-Hr/M/Sec   Event

7:40:17pm     9:00                Crew wakeup at Cosmonaut Hotel
10:40:17pm   6:00                Crew departs Cosmonaut Hotel
10:55:17pm   5:45                Batteries installed in booster
11:25:17pm   5:15                Crew arrives at Site 254
11:40:17pm   5:00                Tanking begins
12:10:17am   4:30                Crew suit up
12:35:17am   4:05                Booster loaded with liquid Oxygen
1:10:17am    3:30                Crew meets family members on other side of the glass
1:35:17am    3:05                First and second stage oxygen fueling complete
1:40:17am    3:00                Crew walkout from 254 and boards bus for the launch pad
1:45:17am    2:55                Crew departs for launch pad (Site 1)
2:05:17am    2:35                Crew arrives at launch pad (Site 1)
2:15:17am    2:25                Crew boards Soyuz; strapped in to the Descent module
3:05:17am    1:35                Descent module hardware tested
3:20:17am    1:20                Hatch closed; leak checks begin
3:30:00am   1:10:17          NASA TV LAUNCH COVERAGE BEGINS
3:40:17am    1:00                Launch vehicle control system prep; gyro activation
3:45:00am     :55:17          NASA TV: Crew pre-launch activities B-roll played)
3:55:17am      :45:00          Pad service structure components lowered
3:56:17am      :44:00          Clamshell gantry service towers retracted
4:03:17am      :37:00          Suit leak checks begin; descent module testing complete
4:06:17am      :34:00          Emergency escape system armed
4:25:17am      :15:00          Suit leak checks complete; escape system to auto
4:30:17am       :10:00          Gyros in flight readiness and recorders activated
4:33:17am       :07:00          Pre-launch operations complete
4:34:17am       :06:00          Launch countdown operations to auto; vehicle ready
4:35:17am      :05:00          Commander’s controls activated
4:36:17am       :04:00          Combustion chamber nitrogen purge
4:36:51am      :03:26        ISS flies directly over the Baikonur Cosmodrome
4:37:17am      :03:00          Propellant drainback
4:37:32am      :02:45          Booster propellant tank pressurization
4:38:47am       :01:30          Ground propellant feed terminated
4:39:17am      :01:00          Vehicle to internal power
4:39:42am      :00:35          First umbilical tower separates
Auto sequence start
4:39:47am      :00:30          Ground umbilical to third stage disconnected
4:40:02am      :00:15          Second umbilical tower separates
4:40:05am      :00:12          Launch command issued
Engine Start Sequence Begins
4:40:07am      :00:10          Engine turbo pumps at flight speed
4:40:12am       :00:05         Engines at maximum thrust
4:40:17am      :00:00        LAUNCH OF SOYUZ MS-10 TO THE ISS

For launch coverage and more information about the mission, visit:

Rocket Rolls Out to Launch New Crew on Thursday

Launch pad gantry arms close around the Soyuz rocket
At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, launch pad gantry arms are seen closing around the Soyuz rocket in this long exposure photograph, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018.

The next rocket that will launch NASA’s Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexey Ovchinin to the International Space Station stands ready at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The duo will liftoff atop the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft Thursday at 4:40 a.m. EDT for a six-hour ride to their new home in space.

Hague and Ovchinin have been in final preparations at the launch site for two weeks of fit checks, Soyuz tests, procedure reviews and other traditional activities. This will be Hague’s first flight and Ovchinin’s second to the orbital lab.

Three Expedition 57 crew members aboard the space station await their new crewmates. Commander Alexander Gerst and Flight Engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Sergey Prokopyev will greet the new duo Thursday when they aim to dock at 10:44 a.m. and open the Soyuz hatch around 1:10 p.m.

In the meantime, the orbiting trio today continued juggling a variety of science to improve life on Earth and maintenance to keep the station in tip-top shape. Gerst set up a microscope to observe the structure of protein molecules. Auñón-Chancellor brought in a small satellite deployer from outside the Kibo laboratory module after it deployed three CubeSats on Monday. Prokopyev worked on computers and life support gear throughout the station’s Russian segment.

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U.S., German Astronauts Swapping Command Before Homecoming

Astronauts Drew Feustel and Alexander Gerst
Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel (left) of NASA will hand over command of the station to German astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA.

A NASA astronaut will swap command of the International Space Station with a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Wednesday at 10:10 a.m. live on NASA TV. Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel will be handing the station “keys” over to German astronaut Alexander Gerst during the traditional change of command ceremony.

Expedition 57 officially starts Thursday at 3:57 a.m. EDT when Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold undock in the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft commanded by cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev. Gerst, ESA’s second astronaut to command the station, is remaining onboard to lead Expedition 57 Flight Engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Sergey Prokopyev. The homebound trio will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 7:45 a.m. (5:45 p.m. Kazakhstan time) just two orbits after undocking and 197 days in space.

Astronaut Nick Hague from NASA’s astronaut class of 2014 and veteran station cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin will be the next crew to blast off to the space station. The duo will launch Oct. 11 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and take a six hour ride to their new home in space.

Amidst the crew departure activities today the station residents also worked space science and lab maintenance. Auñón-Chancellor worked on botany research inside the Plant Habitat located in the Columbus lab module. Gerst worked on hardware for the mobiPV study that is researching ways to increase productivity between astronauts and mission controllers. Departing astronauts Arnold and Feustel cleaned up their crew quarters.