Station Orientation Back on Track

The International Space
S129-E-009326 (25 Nov. 2009) — The International Space Station is seen with parts of the Mediterranean Sea and Africa and Spain in the background.

Today at 10:27 a.m. Central time during the routine testing of communications systems between the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft and the International Space Station (ISS), Soyuz thrusters activated inadvertently which led to a slight change in the orientation of the ISS. Actions were immediately taken to reorient the ISS. There was no threat to the crew or the station itself, and the issue will have no impact to a nominal return to Earth of the Soyuz TMA-15M on Thursday. Roscosmos specialists are determining the cause of the incident. Once more information is known, additional information will be provided.​

Roscosmos Announces New Soyuz/Progress Launch Dates

The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft launches
201503280003hq (03/27/2015) — The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft launches to the International Space Station. Photo Credit (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Station managers from Roscosmos have announced new Soyuz and Progress spacecraft launch dates through the end of the year. Meanwhile, the six member Expedition 43 crew on orbit has a packed schedule of homecoming preparations, science and maintenance.

Three Soyuz crew missions to the International Space Station have been given new launch dates. The next Soyuz mission carrying three Expedition 44/45 crew members is scheduled sometime between July 23 and 25. A Soyuz taxi flight that will bring up Flight Engineer Sergey Volkov and return Commander Gennady Padalka is scheduled for launch Sept. 1. Volkov will be accompanied by European astronaut Andres Mogensen and a third crew member yet to be announced. The Expedition 46/47 trio will launch Dec. 15.

Three Progress cargo missions were also rescheduled. The first resupply mission is set for July 3 and the next two are planned for Sept. 21 and Nov. 21.

In space, Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti are packing their Soyuz TMA-15M and getting ready for Thursday’s undocking and landing. The homebound trio will undock at 6:20 a.m. EDT and land in Kazakhstan at 9:43 a.m.

A wide array of experiment work that observes how humans adapt to living in space took place Tuesday. One-Year crew member Scott Kelly collected his saliva and blood samples for the Twins study. Scientists are comparing his body in weightlessness with his Earth-bound identical twin brother and ex-astronaut Mark Kelly. The crew prepared for ultrasound scans so they could explore cardiovascular health before, during and after a space mission for the Cardio Ox study. The crew also studied how astronauts operate and repair interactive, touch-based and sensitive technologies in space for the Fine Motor Skills study.

Controllers Steer Station Clear of Space Debris

Brilliant City Lights
ISS043E218074 (05/18/2015) — This night view from the International Space Station on May 18, 2015 gives a view of brilliant city lights on the Earth’s surface shining beneath thousands of stars above. The thin line of Earth’s atmosphere can be seen with the green glow of aurora along the outer edge.

Playing it conservatively, International Space Station flight controllers conducted a pre-determined avoidance maneuver (PDAM) today to steer the station well clear of a fragment of a spent Minotaur rocket body launched in 2013. Having tracked the object throughout the weekend and today, U.S. and Russian flight controllers executed a 5 minute, 22 second firing of the ISS Progress 58 thrusters at 2:58 p.m. CDT to slightly raise the station’s orbit and distance it from the fragment that was projected to pass within three statute miles of the complex later in the day.

The maneuver raised the station’s altitude by just 106 feet at apogee and 7/10 of a mile at perigee, resulting in an ISS orbit of 254 x 244.8 statute miles.

The crew was never in any danger and the maneuver will have no impact on the scheduled landing later this week of Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA, Soyuz commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency, who are completing preparations for their return to Earth and a parachute-assisted landing in Kazakhstan in their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft at 9:43 a.m. EDT Thursday.

Station Controllers Eye Space Debris as Crew Trains for Departure

Nighttime Image of the Soyuz TMA-15M
ISS043E271162 (05/29/2015) — This nighttime image from the International Space Station shows the Soyuz TMA-15M which carried NASA astronaut Terry Virts, Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti to the station and will return them in early June.

A fragment from a spent Minotaur rocket body is being monitored today as flight controllers decide whether or not there will be a conjunction with the International Space Station. A docked ISS Progress 58 cargo craft would fire its engines should the space station need to get out of the way of the space debris.

A trio of Expedition 43 crew members will still come home Thursday morning should an avoidance maneuver be necessary. Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti are moving right along with their departure preparations. They trained for their descent through the Earth’s atmosphere and tested the thrusters of their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft.

Thursday’s undocking is planned for 6:20 a.m. EDT with a landing in Kazakhstan at 9:43 a.m. NASA Television will provide live coverage of the departure and homecoming activities.

The latest Expedition 43 trio including Flight Engineer Gennady Padalka and One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko teamed up to review their roles and responsibilities in case of an emergency.

Station Managers Choose June 11 for Expedition 43 Homecoming

Expedition 42/43 Crew Members
JSC2014E088152 (10/23/2014) — Official photogragh of the International Space Station Flight Engineers US Astronaut Terry Virt, European Space Agency Astronaut Samantha Cristofretti, and Russian Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov.

Expedition 43 crew members Terry Virts, Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti will return to Earth June 11 at 9:43 a.m. EDT. The trio from the U.S., Russia and Italy will enter the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft, undock from the Rassvet module and land in Kazakhstan after 6-1/2 months in space.

NASA Television will provide live coverage of the undocking and landing.

The homebound crew is packing gear in their Soyuz vehicle and training to use the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit which gets their bodies ready for the return Earth’s gravity. In the midst of Soyuz departure preparations, the crew is also continuing the International Space Station’s mission of advanced microgravity science to benefit life on Earth and in space.

There was more Rodent Research work on Friday as scientists study mice to understand the effects of weightlessness on muscles and bones. The crew is also participating in the Fine Motor Skills experiment which looks at how astronauts interact with touch-based technologies and spacecraft instrumentation.

Module Relocated Prepping Station for Commercial Crew

International Space Station
The International Space Station configuration as of May 27, 2015, shows the newly relocated Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM), two Soyuz crew vehicles and a Progress resupply vehicle. Credit: NASA

The Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) was successfully relocated from the Unity module to the Tranquility module at 9:08 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

The PMM was robotically relocated from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module on the International Space Station to the forward port of the Tranquility module in the next step to reconfigure the complex for the future arrival of U.S. commercial crew vehicles. Robotic flight controllers at Mission Control, Houston, working in tandem with the Mobile Servicing System (MSS) Operations Center at the Canadian Space Agency’s headquarters in St. Hubert, Quebec, Canada, used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to maneuver the 11-ton module a short distance to its new location. Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineer Scott Kelly of NASA supervised the commanding of the bolting of the PMM to Tranquility. The PMM’s hatch will be reopened tomorrow.

The operation opened the Earth-facing port of Unity as another berthing location for U.S. commercial cargo vehicles. Future U.S. commercial crew vehicles will arrive at the space-facing and forward ports of the Harmony module, which will continue its transformation later this year when a pair of International Docking Adapters (IDAs) will be delivered on the seventh and ninth NASA-contracted SpaceX cargo resupply missions. The IDAs will be attached to Pressurized Mating Adapters 2 and 3, enabling the station to host up to two U.S. commercial cargo and two U.S. commercial crew vehicles at any given time.

 

Watch NASA TV at 8 a.m. EDT for Robotics Move

The Permanent Multipurpose Module
ISS038-E-015272 (12 Dec. 2013) — The Permanent Multipurpose Module and the Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft docked to the Rassvet Mini-Research Module 1 are featured in this image photographed during Expedition 38.

The International Space Station’s Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) was detached from a berthing mechanism on the Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 5:50 a.m. EDT by robotics flight controllers at Mission Control, Houston, working in tandem with Canadian Space Agency (CSA) engineers at the robotics support center located at CSA Headquarters in St. Hubert, Quebec, Canada. Used as a supply depot for the orbital laboratory, the 11-ton PMM is being maneuvered to an installation position at the forward port of the Tranquility module through the use of the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2. NASA Television will provide coverage of the final steps of the installation and provide a replay of pertinent video from the start of the operation beginning at 8 a.m. EDT.

Once it is in the proper position, Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineer Scott Kelly of NASA will oversee the module’s final attachment to Tranquility. Virts and Kelly will reopen the hatch to the PMM at its new location tomorrow.

This move will clear the Unity port for its use as a second berthing location for U.S. commercial cargo spacecraft; the Earth-facing port on Harmony is currently used as the home port for U.S. cargo craft. The relocation of the PMM is the next step in the reconfiguration of the station that will allow U.S. commercial crew vehicles to dock to new docking ports on the forward and space-facing side of the Harmony module. That will provide a total of four ports for U.S. vehicles arriving at the orbital outpost.

Station Preps for Module Relocation Work

The Permanent Multipurpose Module and a docked Soyuz spacecraft
ISS026-E-031068 (1 March 2011) — The Permanent Multipurpose Module and a docked Soyuz spacecraft were photographed by an Expedition 26 crew member while space shuttle Discovery (STS-133) was docked with the station.

A cargo module is getting ready to be relocated from the Unity module to the Tranquility module Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, the crew also conducted science, health checks and Japanese robotics work.

Commander Terry Virts and One-Year crew member Scott Kelly prepared the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) for its relocation. The duo closed the hatch on the large storage module and configured it for detachment tomorrow morning. Watch NASA TV Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. EDT for live coverage of the PMM relocation and installation that will prepare the International Space Station for future commercial crew vehicles. Also, you can view briefing graphics from a spacewalk to prepare for the PMM work

Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti worked in Japan’s Kibo lab module maneuvering its robotic arm’s Small Fine Arm to install experiment samples on an external platform. She also photographed her work during the robotics activities.

The three cosmonauts, including One-Year crew member Mikhail Kornienko, worked numerous science experiments and maintenance in the Russian segment. The trio observed how a crew member’s metabolism and motion adapt to microgravity, explored how sound waves could help pinpoint micrometeoroid impacts and studied the electromagnetic environment that surrounds space station.

Station to Raise Orbit before June Expedition 43 Undocking

Astronaut Terry Virts and Scott Kelly
Astronaut Terry Virts and Scott Kelly were inside the Quest airlock Friday morning talking to reporters from The Weather Channel and Time Magazine . Credit: NASA TV

The six-member Expedition 43 crew ends its work week with a wide variety of science exploring life in space benefiting both crews in space and humans on Earth. Meanwhile, one space freighter is preparing to fire its thrusters to lift the station’s orbit as another is being packed and readied for splashdown.

One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko participated in the Fine Motor Skills experiment which monitors different phases of a crew member’s microgravity adaptation and recovery back on Earth. Commander Terry Virts took samples of air and surface microbes for the Microbial Observatory-1 study which will be analyzed by scientists on the ground.

Samantha Cristoforetti studied the physics of where fluids and gases meet in Japan’s Kibo lab module. Flight Engineer Gennady Padalka worked on video gear and tested magnetometers in the station’s Russian segment. Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov studied chemical reactions in the Earth’s atmosphere, checked Russian docking systems and photographed windows in the Pirs and Poisk modules.

The ISS Progress 58 resupply ship docked to the Zvezda service module will fire its engines Friday night. The orbital boost will place the International Space Station at the correct altitude for the undocking of Expedition 43 in early June. The SpaceX Dragon loaded with science and gear will be released from the grips of the Canadarm2 May 21 at 7:05 a.m. EDT for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean a few hours later.

Visiting Vehicle Activities and Maintenance Keep Crew Busy

Astronauts Scott Kelly and Terry Virts
ISS043E181459 (05/07/2015) — NASA astronauts Scott Kelly (left) and Terry Virts (right) work on a Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly (CDRA) inside the station’s Japanese Experiment Module.

Expedition 43 is packing the SpaceX Dragon space freighter readying the vehicle for its return home and splashdown May 21. The docked ISS Progress 58 resupply ship will fire its thrusters Friday night placing the International Space Station at the correct orbit for next month’s Soyuz undocking.

The six-member crew also worked a variety of onboard maintenance ensuring crew safety and the upkeep of station hardware. One-Year crew member Scott Kelly worked on science gear in Japan’s Kibo lab module. Commander Terry Virts worked on replacing a Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly blower fan. Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti routed cables and configured valves to prepare the Permanent Multipurpose Module for its relocation later this month.

On the Russian side of the orbital lab, Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov photographed the condition of the Zvezda service module windows. Flight Engineer Gennady Padalka partnered up with One-Year crew member Mikhail Kornienko to study acoustic techniques for immediately locating micrometeoroid impacts on the station’s exterior. The trio also continued the maintenance of the Russian station systems.

The return to Earth for NASA’s Terry Virts, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov now is scheduled for early June. NASA and its international partners set the schedule after hearing the Russian Federal Space Agency’s (Roscosmos) findings on the loss of the Progress 59 cargo craft. The exact date has not yet been established and will be announced in the coming weeks.