Physics, Human Research on Lab as Japan Announces Launch Date

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor
NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor poses with a U.S. spacesuit inside the U.S. Quest Airlock. The spacesuit helmet’s visor is coated with a thin layer of gold that filters out the sun’s harmful rays during spacewalks.

Physics science and human research continues unabated aboard the International Space Station as NASA and its partners seek to understand the impacts of living in space. Meanwhile, Japan announced a new launch date for its HTV-7 cargo mission to resupply the Expedition 56 crew.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) has been exploring for several weeks now whether a custom designed t-shirt can provide comfort and thermal efficiency during a space workout. He has also been testing a wearable device that measures cardio-pulmonary activity during exercise.

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Serena Auñón-Chancellor worked on separate science gear today that enables research into flames, fuels and high temperatures in space. Arnold spent most of Wednesday replacing experiment hardware inside the Combustion Integrated Rack. Auñón-Chancellor removed samples from inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace to observe changes in their thermo-physical properties.

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) announced early today that it will attempt to launch its HTV-7 resupply ship, also known as the Kounotori, Friday at 2:15 p.m. EDT to the station. The Kounotori is due to arrive at the station Tuesday loaded with over five tons of cargo, including new science experiments and science hardware.

Commander Drew Feustel and will be in the cupola Tuesday, with Auñón-Chancellor as his backup, to command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the Kounotori at 8:05 a.m. The duo has been training for the Kounotori’s arrival for several weeks practicing on a computer rendezvous procedures and robotics maneuvers. NASA TV will broadcast the Kounotori launch and capture activities live.

Station Preps For Japan Resupply Ship as Next Crew Readies for Mission

Astronauts Drew Feustel and Serena Auñón-Chancellor
Astronauts Drew Feustel and Serena Auñón-Chancellor train on a computer in the U.S. Destiny laboratory practicing rendezvous procedures and robotics maneuvers ahead of the arrival of Japan’s HTV-7 resupply ship.

Japan is poised to launch its HTV-7 resupply ship, nicknamed the Kounotori, loaded with over five tons of cargo to the International Space Station on Friday, U.S. time. Back on Earth, a new crew is preparing for its launch from Kazakhstan next month to the orbital lab.

JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) H-IIB rocket is set to blast off from the Tanegashima Space Center Friday at 4:59 p.m. EDT and send the Kounotori cargo craft on a four-day ride to the station. Commander Drew Feustel and will be in the Cupola Tuesday, with Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor as his backup, to command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the Kounotori at 7:30 a.m. The duo trained Thursday morning on a computer and practiced rendezvous procedures and robotics maneuvers.

More rodent research continued today as four astronauts teamed up to study how microgravity affects the gastroinstestinal systems of mice. In particular, scientists want to know how gut microbes react to the space environment and the impact it may have on astronaut health. Results will help doctors devise plans and treatments to keep astronauts healthy on long-term missions in outer space.

Two new Expedition 57 crew members are getting ready for their mission at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Moscow. Alexey Ovchinin from Roscosmos and Nick Hague from NASA are in Russia for qualification exams ahead of their launch and six-hour ride aboard the Soyuz MS-10 crew ship to the station on Oct. 11.


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Science Gear Work, Japan Spaceship Preps Ahead of Orbital Reboost

The Expedition 56 crew members pose for a fun portrait
The Expedition 56 crew members pose for a fun portrait in the International Space Station’s Harmony module. Clockwise from top are Expedition 56 Flight Engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Prokopyev and Ricky Arnold. In the center, from left, are ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel of NASA.

The Expedition 56 crew members conducted maintenance work on a variety of advanced science gear today to ensure ongoing space research aboard the International Space Station. The crew also continued a pair of exercise studies and trained to capture a Japanese cargo craft before tonight’s orbital reboost of the station.

Commander Drew Feustel spent Wednesday afternoon inside ESA’s (European Space Agency) Columbus laboratory module working on the Electromagnetic Levitator (EML). He installed a new storage disc and a high speed camera controller inside the EML. The space furnace enables research and observations of the properties of materials exposed to extremely high temperatures.

Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold worked in JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo laboratory module during the morning replacing valves inside the EXPRESS Rack-5. The science rack, which was delivered to the orbital lab in 2001, can host a variety of experiments operated by astronauts on the station or remotely by scientists on Earth.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA has been contributing to a pair of German exercise studies for a few weeks to help doctors maintain astronaut health. Today, he continued testing a custom-designed thermal t-shirt and researching a wearable device for real-time cardio-pulmonary diagnosis during a workout.

Gerst and Feustel wrapped up the day with Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor reviewing next week’s arrival of JAXA’s HTV-7 resupply ship. The HTV-7’s launch is planned for Monday at 6:32 p.m. EDT and its capture with the Canadarm2 set for Sept. 14 at 7:40 a.m. NASA TV will cover both activities live.

Finally, the orbital lab is due to raise its orbit tonight in the second of three planned maneuvers to prepare for a crew swap in October. The Zvezda service module will fire its engines for 13 seconds slightly boosting the station’s orbit in advance of a pair of Soyuz crew ships departing and arriving next month.

Crew Plans Quiet Labor Day Weekend After Repair Work

The Soyuz MS-09 crew spacecraft from Roscosmos
The Soyuz MS-09 crew spacecraft from Roscosmos is pictured docked to the Rassvet module as the International Space Station was flying into an orbital night period.

The Expedition 56 crew resumed a regular schedule of work Friday on the International Space Station after spending the day Thursday locating and repairing a leak in the upper section of one of the two Russian Soyuz vehicles attached to the complex.

With the station’s cabin pressure holding steady, most of the crew pressed ahead with a variety of scientific experiments. Station Commander Drew Feustel of NASA prepared tools to be used in a pair of spacewalks late next month to complete the change out of batteries on the port truss of the outpost. Six new lithium-ion batteries will be transported to the station in September on the Japanese HTV Transfer Vehicle, or HTV-7 cargo craft, that will replace a dozen older nickel-hydrogen batteries in a duplication of work conducted last year on the station’s starboard truss.

Flight controllers at the Mission Control Centers in Houston and Moscow, meanwhile, continued to monitor pressure levels on the station following the patching of a small hole Thursday in the orbital module, or upper portion of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft. The Soyuz is docked to the Rassvet module on the Earth-facing side of the Russian segment. The tiny hole created a slight loss in pressure late Wednesday and early Thursday before it was repaired by Soyuz commander Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos.

The crew plans a quiet weekend before embarking on a busy schedule of research and routine maintenance work next week.

International Space Station Status

Aug. 22, 2018: International Space Station Configuration
International Space Station Configuration as of Aug. 22, 2018: Three spaceships are docked at the space station including the Progress 70 resupply ship and the Soyuz MS-08 and MS-09 crew ships.

The International Space Station’s cabin pressure is holding steady after the Expedition 56 crew conducted repair work on one of two Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the complex. The repair was made to address a leak that had caused a minor reduction of station pressure.

After a morning of investigations, the crew reported that the leak was isolated to a hole about two millimeters in diameter in the orbital compartment, or upper section, of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the Rassvet module of the Russian segment of the station.

Flight controllers at their respective Mission Control centers in Houston and Moscow worked together with the crew to effect a repair option in which Soyuz commander Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos used epoxy on a gauze wipe to plug the hole identified as the leak source. As the teams were discussing options, flight controllers in Moscow performed a partial increase of the station’s atmosphere using the ISS Progress 70 cargo ship’s oxygen supply. Flight controllers in Houston are continuing to monitor station’s cabin pressure in the wake of the repair.

Meanwhile, Roscosmos has convened a commission to conduct further analysis of the possible cause of the leak.

Throughout the day, the crew was never in any danger, and was told no further action was contemplated for the remainder of the day. Flight controllers will monitor the pressure trends overnight.

All station systems are stable and the crew is planning to return to its regular schedule of work on Friday.

International Space Station Status

Expedition 56 Crew Members
International Space Station Status
11:20 a.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 30. 2018

The crew aboard the International Space Station is conducting troubleshooting and repair work today after the discovery of a tiny leak last night traced to the Russian segment of the orbital complex.

The leak, which was detected Wednesday night by flight controllers as the Expedition 56 crew slept, resulted in a small loss of cabin pressure. Flight controllers determined there was no immediate danger to the crew overnight. Upon waking at their normal hour, the crew’s first task was to work with flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston and at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow to locate the source of the leak.

The leak has been isolated to a hole about two millimeters in diameter in the orbital compartment, or upper section, of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the Rassvet module of the Russian segment. This is a section of the Soyuz that does not return to Earth.

The rate of the leak was slowed this morning through the temporary application of Kapton tape at the leak site. Flight controllers are working with the crew to develop a more comprehensive long-term repair.

Once the patching is complete, additional leak checks will be performed. All station systems are stable, and the crew is in no danger as the work to develop a long-term repair continues.

Global Cargo Missions Planned as Critical Research Proceeds

The Soyuz MS-09 crew ship and the Progress 70 resupply ship
Russia’s two docked spacecraft, the Soyuz MS-09 (left) crew ship and the Progress 70 resupply ship, are pictured as the International Space Station orbited nearly 254 miles above northern Kazakhstan.

A Russian cargo ship departed the International Space Station Wednesday night as another resupply mission from Japan is planned in September. The Expedition 56 crew members also observed protein crystals, studied an ancient navigation technique and researched time perception in space.

Two Soyuz crew ships and a Progress resupply ship remain docked at the orbital lab after the Progress 69 (69P) cargo craft undocked from the Zvezda service module Wednesday at 10:16 p.m. EDT. It will orbit Earth until Aug. 29 for engineering tests monitored by Roscosmos mission controllers before deorbiting over the Pacific Ocean.

The next resupply mission is coming from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s “Kounotori” H-II Transfer Vehicle. It is targeted for launch Sept. 10 to deliver science, supplies and batteries for installation during a pair of spacewalks next month. Russia’s next resupply mission, the Progress 71, is targeted for a two-day trip to the station at the end of October.

Commander Drew Feustel continued working on a pair of similar protein crystal experiments today. The BioServe Protein Crystalography-1 and Protein Crystal Growth-13 studies allow astronauts to observe crystal growth in space and analyze the results. This saves researchers time without having to wait for samples to be returned to Earth for analysis.

Alexander Gerst of ESA assisted Serena Auñón-Chancellor from NASA and tested using a sextant in space for celestial navigation during an emergency. The duo worked inside the Cupola today and tested stability, positioning and sighting with the device using a star map.

Gerst then switched his attention to a European Space Agency study exploring how astronauts perceive time in space. Researchers seek to quantify subjective changes in time perception to understand how astronauts navigate, move and hear in space.

Station Boosts Orbit as Crew Studies Reproduction, Space Geology and Microbes

Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor conducts research operations for the AngieX Cancer Therapy study
Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor conducts research operations for the AngieX Cancer Therapy study inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox. The new cancer research seeks to test a safer, more effective treatment that targets tumor cells and blood vessels.

The International Space Station got an orbital boost today to position itself for a crew swap taking place later this year. Inside the lab complex, the current residents spent their time today exploring a diversity of phenomena impacted by long-term exposure to microgravity.

A docked Russian Progress 69 resupply ship fired its engines this morning slightly increasing the space station’s orbital altitude to enable the departure and arrival of a pair of Soyuz crew ships this autumn. Three Expedition 56 crew members will return to Earth Oct. 4 inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft. They will be replaced a week later by two new Expedition 57 crew members when they dock inside the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft.

NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Serena Auñón-Chancellor continued a second week of research operations to gain fundamental data about fertility in space. The duo examined biological samples in a microscope and stowed them in a science freezer for later analysis. The Micro-11 study is exploring the possibility of human reproduction in space including ways to address aging problems on Earth.

Alexander Gerst, of the European Space Agency, explored the sedimentary properties of quartz and clay particles. The German astronaut mixed quartz and clay samples suspended in a liquid for photographic and video downlink to scientists on Earth. Observations can help guide future geological studies of unexplored planets and improve petroleum exploration here on Earth.

Expedition 56 Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold of NASA split his time working on a variety of science gear that examines different microscopic properties. He set up Aerosol Samplers in the Harmony and Tranquility modules to collect airborne particles in the station’s air cabin for analysis. Arnold later stowed a Biomolecule Sequencer he used this month to sequence DNA extracted from microbes living on space station surfaces.

Cargo Ships and Cancer Research Keeps Orbital Lab Humming

The Northrop Grumman (formerly Orbital ATK) Cygnus resupply ship
The Northrop Grumman (formerly Orbital ATK) Cygnus resupply ship with its round, brass-colored UltraFlex solar arrays is guided to its port on the Unity module shortly after it was captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on May 24, 2018.

Russia’s Progress 70 (70P) cargo craft delivered nearly 5,700 pounds of crew supplies and station cargo to the International Space Station on Monday less than four hours after launch. Meanwhile, the U.S. Cygnus resupply ship from Northrop Grumman tested its ability to boost the orbital laboratory’s altitude today.

Monday’s arrival of the Russian resupply craft set a milestone for station operations by arriving with its cargo in just 3 hours and 40 minutes, or only two Earth orbits. The new Progress makes six spacecraft parked at the orbital complex including the Progress 69 resupply ship, the Soyuz MS-08 and MS-09 crew ships and the SpaceX Dragon and Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighters.

The engine on Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus cargo ship fired for 50 seconds Tuesday at 4:25 p.m. EDT to reboost the station in a test designed to verify an additional capability to adjust the station’s altitude, if required. The brief engine firing raised the station’s altitude by about 295 feet. Cygnus will depart the station on Sunday after delivering several tons of supplies and science experiments back in May for the six crewmembers on board.

Astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Alexander Gerst continued more life science work today exploring cancer research and fertility. Serena split her time today between testing ways to develop safer, more effective cancer therapies and exploring how living in space impacts fertility. Gerst set up a specialized microscope to look at proteins that could be used for cancer treatment and radiation protection.

Expedition 56 Greets Three New Crew Members

Expedition 56 Crew Greeting
The newly-expanded Expedition 56 crew gathers in the Zvezda service module for a crew greeting ceremony with family, friends and mission officials in Moscow. In the front row from left are new Flight Engineers Sergey Prokopyev, Alexander Gerst and Serena Auñón-Chancellor. In the back row are Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev, Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold. Credit: NASA TV

Three new Expedition 56 crew members were welcomed aboard the International Space Station today. Hatches between the space station and Soyuz opened at 11:17 a.m. EDT, marking the arrival of Expedition 56 Flight Engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos.

The Soyuz MS-09 carrying the trio launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:12 a.m. Wednesday, June 6. They joined Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold of NASA and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos aboard the orbiting laboratory.

The crew members are also being greeted by family and friends who watched the docking and hatch opening from the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow.

For 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.