Japanese, Russian Rockets Prepare to Launch Cargo and Crew This Week

The gantry arms close around the Soyuz MS-15 rocket
The gantry arms close around the Soyuz MS-15 rocket after it was raised into vertical position on the launch pad on Monday. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Japan is getting ready to launch its H-II Transport Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) cargo craft on Tuesday at 12:05 p.m. EDT to replenish the International Space Station crew. Russia has already rolled out its Soyuz MS-15 crew ship to its launch pad for a liftoff on Wednesday at 9:57 a.m. with three new crewmates. NASA TV will broadcast all mission activities live.

The HTV-8 space freighter from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is packed with over four tons of crew supplies, station hardware and new science experiments. The spacecraft, named Kounotori, will blast off on Tuesday from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan and arrive at the station Saturday. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan will capture Kounotori with the Canadarm2 robotic arm around 7:15 a.m. Ground controllers will then take over and remotely install the Japanese resupply ship to the Harmony module about three hours later.

Russia’s Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft rolled out early Monday from its processing facility in Kazakhstan and is now standing vertical at the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Two Expedition 61 crewmates, Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos, will lift off aboard the Soyuz with spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday. The trio will reach the orbiting lab less than six hours later and dock to the Zvezda service module at 3:45 p.m.

Meanwhile back in space, the six station residents started the workweek with ongoing microgravity research benefitting both Earth and space inhabitants. Two Expedition 60 crewmates are also preparing to depart the station next week after 203 days in space.

Koch was observing tiny free-flying satellites programmed with algorithms to maneuver in formation inside the Kibo laboratory module. Morgan was cleaning up after last week’s rodent research then joined NASA Flight Engineer Nick Hague for eye exams to understand the effects of eye pressure caused by headward fluid shifts in microgravity. Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) replaced fuel bottles in the Combustion Integrated Rack before processing samples for a study seeking insights into Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, Hague and station Commander Alexey Ovchinin are preparing to wrap up their mission that began in March. The two crewmates are packing crew provisions and checking their Sokol launch and entry suits ahead of their Oct. 3 return to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship. The duo will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan with Almansoori aboard, who will be completing his eight-day mission aboard the station.

Today’s Space Science Seeks Therapies for Aging, Muscle Conditions

The six-member Expedition 60 crew from the United States, Russia and Italy
The six-member Expedition 60 crew from the United States, Russia and Italy gathers for a portrait. In the front row from left are, NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov. In the back are, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, Roscosmos cosmonaut and station commander Alexey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Christina Koch.

Three Expedition 60 crewmembers finalized four days in a row of rodent research aboard the International Space Station this week. Meanwhile, more space science is underway as the orbiting lab residents prepare to swap crews.

Astronauts living in space have shown signs of accelerated aging and scientists are looking to understand why. The crew has spent all week observing mice aboard the station since they show similar physiological changes in microgravity. Scientists are hoping results from the rodent study may provide insights and therapies for aging conditions and muscle diseases to promote healthier humans on Earth and in space.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan conducted the rodent research this week with assistance from ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano. The trio performed the biological research using the Life Sciences Glovebox installed inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.

Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA set up fluid research hardware inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module throughout Thursday. The new science gear will support the Ring Sheared Drop experiment to understand how fluids flow in the human body and other materials. Observations may lead to a deeper understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and improved production of advanced materials.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin is still gathering items he will pack inside the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft for his return home in a couple of weeks. He and Hague will soar back to Earth inside the Soyuz crew ship and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan on Oct. 3.

Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori will hitch a ride back to Earth with Hague and Ovchinin after he launches to the station next week. He will join Expedition 61 crewmembers Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft when it launches on Wednesday at 9:57 a.m. EDT. The trio will dock to the aft end of the Zvezda service module at 3:45 p.m. the same day.

Crews Preparing to Trade Places During Biomedical Science on Station

(From left) Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori and Expedition 61 crewmembers Oleg Skripochka and Jessica Meir review their flight plan with training instructors. Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov

Two Expedition 60 crewmembers are moving ahead with departure preparations as the rest of their crewmates focused diligently on space biology research today. Back on Earth, three upcoming International Space Station residents are making final preparations before their launch next week.

Station Commander Alexey Ovchinin is collecting personal items and station cargo that he and Flight Engineer Nick Hague will take home inside their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft. The duo have been in space since March and are counting down to an Oct. 3 landing in Kazakhstan after 203 days in space. They will parachute to Earth with Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori who will arrive at the orbiting lab next week for an eight-day stay.

New Expedition 61 crewmates Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos will liftoff Sept. 25 with Almansoori aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. They will dock their Soyuz crew ship to the Zvezda service module’s rear port after a near six-hour, four-orbit ride in space.

The trio stepped outside the Cosmonaut Hotel today at Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome for traditional tree-planting ceremonies and media activities. Meir and Skripochka will stay in space until April of 2020 and return to Earth with NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan.

Vital biomedical research to support astronauts in space and improve health on Earth is keeping the crew busy all week aboard the orbiting lab. Once again, Morgan and fellow astronauts Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano are exploring how microgravity causes cellular and molecular changes in mice. Experimental results may provide doctors with therapeutic insights into aging and muscle ailments in humans.

Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos inspected the Zarya module for microbes today. The veteran cosmonaut photographed and swabbed several spots in the Russian segment today and stowed the samples for analysis.

Crews Prepare for Swap as Space Research Benefits Humans

The six-member Expedition 60 crew is gathered together for dinner
The six-member Expedition 60 crew is gathered together for dinner inside the galley of the Zvezda service module.

The six residents aboard the International Space Station continued more biomedical science and rodent research to improve human health on Earth and in space. The Expedition 60 crew is also gearing up for a crew swap beginning next week.

NASA Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Nick Hague started Tuesday drawing their blood samples and spinning them in a centrifuge. The samples were stowed in a science freezer for later analysis to help scientists understand how astronauts adapt to microgravity.

Koch then spent the rest of the day with crewmates Andrew Morgan of NASA and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) observing space-caused cellular and molecular changes in mice. The rodents’ genetic similarity to humans may provide therapeutic insights into aging and muscle ailments.

Hague is getting ready to return to Earth on Oct. 3 after 203 days in space. He and Commander Alexey Ovchinin are packing gear and familiarizing themselves with the landing procedures they will use inside the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft. The duo will return to Earth with a new crewmember, Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, who will arrive at the orbiting lab next week for an eight-day stay.

Almansoori, from the United Arab Emirates, is joining NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka for a launch to the station on Sept. 25. The trio will lift off inside the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft from Kazakhstan for a five-hour and 48-minute ride to the aft-end of the Zvezda service module where they will dock. Meir and Skripochka will stay in space until April of 2020 and return to Earth with Morgan.

Space Biology, Brad Pitt Interview as New Crew Preps for Launch

Astronaut Nick Hague and actor Brad Pitt
Actor Brad Pitt called up to to the International Space Station today and had a conversation with NASA astronaut Nick Hague. Credit: NASA TV

The six Expedition 60 crewmembers aboard the International Space Station began the workweek exploring how microgravity affects a variety of biological systems. Back on Earth, three new crewmates are in final preparations for next week’s launch to the orbiting lab from Kazakhstan.

Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan started Monday morning collecting and stowing their blood and urine samples for later analysis. Afterward, the pair joined fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch for body mass measurements using a device that applies a known force on a crewmember. The resulting acceleration is used to accurately calculate an astronaut’s mass.

Hague spoke to actor Brad Pitt today who called up to the station from NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. They talked about Pitt’s upcoming movie and discussed what it is like to live in space.

Koch also assisted ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano with a bioelectrical sensor that measures changes in body composition to determine the effectiveness of space nutrition. The duo, along with Morgan, then turned to rodent research the rest of the day for insights into aging and disease therapies.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin collaborated with fellow cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov for cardiology research during an exercise session Monday morning. The commander then inspected hardware inside the Electromagnetic Levitator that enables the safe research of materials exposed to high temperatures. Skvortsov moved onto ventilation maintenance in the Zvezda service module. The duo wrapped up the day with an Earth photography session.

The next crew to launch to the station is at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for final mission training. Expedition 61 crewmembers Jessica Meir of NASA and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos will blast off on Sept. 25 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft with Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori. The trio from the U.S., Russia and the U.A.E. will take a four-orbit, near six-hour ride in space before docking to the aft port of Zvezda.

Almansoori will return to Earth on Oct. 3 aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft with Hague and Ovchinin. Meir and Skripochka will orbit Earth until the spring of 2020.

Ground personnel are fueling the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship and integrating the spacecraft to its launch vehicle this week. The rocket with the Soyuz on top will roll out to its launch pad early in the morning on Sept. 23.

New Station Crew Continues Preparations for Launch as Expedition 60 Enjoys Off Day

In the Integration Building at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 61 crew member Jessica Meir of NASA runs through procedures Sept. 11 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft during an initial Soyuz vehicle fit check. Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov
In the Integration Building at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 61 crew member Jessica Meir of NASA runs through procedures Sept. 11 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft during an initial Soyuz vehicle fit check. Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov

The crew of Expedition 60, consisting of Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos; NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague; ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano; and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, took much-needed respite during an off-duty day aboard the International Space Station. Tomorrow, investigations furthering scientific research in support of crew health and extended travels to destinations deeper in the solar system will resume.

On Earth, the Expedition 61 prime crew of cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, along with spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, are at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, finalizing pre-launch training and preparations for their launch on Sept. 25 aboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. Yesterday, they ran through procedures and completed the necessary fit check, spacesuits donned, within the Soyuz vehicle. Today, they took part in ceremonial activities, such as raising the flags of Russia, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates, along with backup crew members Tom Marshburn of NASA, Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos and spaceflight participant Sultan Al-Neyadi of the United Arab Emirates.

Day Before HTV-8 Launch, Crew Studies Effects of Microgravity on Space-faring Humans

At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates (left), Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos (center) and Jessica Meir of NASA (right) pose for pictures Sept. 5 as part of a pre-flight news conference. They will launch Sept. 25 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft for a mission on the International Space Station. Credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center
At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates (left), Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos (center) and Jessica Meir of NASA (right) pose for pictures Sept. 5 as part of a pre-flight news conference. They will launch Sept. 25 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft for a mission on the International Space Station. Credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center

The International Space Station is abuzz as preparations heat up for the launch of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency HTV-8 “Kounotori” cargo craft from the Tanegashima Space Center tomorrow, Sept. 10. Launch is slated for 5:33 p.m. EDT, and can be seen live on NASA Television.  

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan spent more time practicing 30-meter approach and capture runs, followed by their own evaluations, in preparation for HTV-8’s arrival days later on Saturday, Sept. 14. The vehicle will be loaded with more than four tons of supplies, spare parts and experiment hardware for the space station residents.  

In the Kibo module, Morgan spoke to media out of Morgantown, West Virginia, referencing not only of NASA’s future with the Artemis program, but also the work currently underway that will benefit life on Earth and expand humanity’s reach into the solar system. Morgan referenced his early morning tasks with Fluid Shifts and his first spacewalk just weeks before, when he and NASA astronaut Nick Hague installed International Docking Adapter to usher in a new era of commercial visiting vehicles that will launch from American soil.  

Science investigations that will help develop countermeasures for humans exploring deep space, and for longer durations, rounded out the busy Monday. Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and crewmates Koch and Hague conducted eye exams aboard the orbiting laboratory. Since it is known that living and working in microgravity can induce vascular changes, as well as head and eye pressure, these measurements will help medical experts and scientists on the ground track crew health as Expedition 60 continues. Furthering research for Fluid Shifts, all other crewmates, with the exception of Koch and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, conducted venous ultrasounds in support of ongoing studies into vascular and fluid movement within space-faring human bodies. 

Parmitano, meanwhile, worked to close out Space Moss, an experiment that helps decode how microgravity affects the growth, development, gene expression and photosynthetic activity of tiny, rootless moss plants growing within the Cell Biology Experiment Facility incubator on the orbiting laboratory.  

Back on Earth, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori are set to depart for the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan tomorrow after spending the week prior taking part in ceremonial activities and mission briefings leading up to their mission start on Sept. 25, when they launch into space aboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. 

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

Soyuz MS-14 Bearing Russian Cargo Safely Back on Earth

Soyuz MS-14 Spacecraft
The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft on it’s way back to Earth after departing from the International Space Station on Friday, September 6, 2019.

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft bearing Russian gear and supplies is safely back on Earth after parachuting to a landing in south-central Kazakhstan at 5:32 p.m. EDT (3:32am Kazakhstan time on Saturday, Sept. 7).  Landing occurred about 87 miles southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan. Roscosmos personnel are on-site and have recovered the vehicle for postflight analysis.

Earlier, at 2:14 p.m., while flying about 260 miles above the border between northeastern China and southeastern Russia, the unpiloted vehicle undocked and departed from the International Space Station’s aft-facing port of the Zvezda service module for the short voyage home.

The uncrewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Aug. 21, carrying 1,450 pounds of cargo to replenish the Expedition 60 crew residing at the orbital outpost. Part of its payload included a humanoid robot that was tested aboard the space station before being loaded back for its return trip. The MS-14’s flight also helped to validate the spacecraft’s compatibility for a revamped Soyuz booster rocket, which will be used to transport crews beginning spring 2020.

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

Uncrewed Soyuz Undocked from Space Station

Soyuz MS-14 Spacecraft
The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is pictured departing from the International Space Station on Friday, September 6, 2019.

While flying about 260 miles above the border between northeastern China and southeastern Russia, an uncrewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft undocked and departed from the International Space Station at 2:14 p.m. EDT.

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft was attached to the station’s aft-facing port of the Zvezda service module for a two-week stay as part of its test flight. The Soyuz delivered 1,450 pounds of cargo to the Expedition 60 crew currently residing on the orbital outpost. Part of the cargo was a humanoid robot that was used for tests before being loaded back inside the Soyuz for its return to Earth.

The Soyuz will land back on Earth in south-central Kazakhstan at 5:34 p.m. (3:34 a.m. Kazakhstan time on Sept. 7), where Russian personnel will be standing by to recover the spacecraft for postflight analysis. NASA TV will not provide live coverage of landing. The mission’s completion will be reported on social media and the agency’s website.

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

NASA TV to Air Undocking of Uncrewed Soyuz

The unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft
The unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for an automated docking.

Beginning at 1:45 p.m. EDT Friday, NASA Television and the agency’s website will air the undocking and departure from the International Space Station of an uncrewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The Soyuz MS-14  is scheduled to undock from the station’s aft-facing Zvezda module at 2:14 p.m.

The uncrewed Soyuz launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Aug. 21 on a test flight to validate the spacecraft’s compatibility with a Soyuz 2.1a booster rocket. The spacecraft arrived and docked to the station on Monday Aug. 26. The upgraded Soyuz spacecraft and the Soyuz booster will be used to transport crews to the International Space Station beginning in spring 2020.

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