Robotics Training Before Sunday’s SpaceX CRS-7 Launch

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly
ISS043E276473 (05/31/2015) — NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is seen here inside the station’s Destiny laboratory preparing camera equipment for an upcoming documentation session.

The orbiting Expedition 44 trio is counting down to next week’s arrival of the SpaceX CRS-7 mission. The station inhabitants also participated in an emergency drill and advanced microgravity science.

One-Year crew member Scott Kelly is training for the robotic capture of the Dragon supply ship set for about 9 a.m. EDT June 30. Commander Gennady Padalka will be his backup monitoring systems during the rendezvous and approach. Dragon will launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Sunday at 10:21 a.m.

Padalka, Kelly and Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko practiced an emergency Soyuz evacuation drill on Monday. In the unlikely event the crew would need to escape from the space station during an emergency, they would use a Soyuz spacecraft as a lifeboat and return to Earth.

Science is always ongoing onboard the orbital laboratory with the crew and ground researchers exploring a variety of subjects. On the life science front, the crew members looked at how living in space affects an astronaut’s immune system for the Microbiome experiment.

First of Two Station Boosts Complete

Sparkling cities below the International Space Station
ISS043E257296 (05/26/2015) — Sparkling cities below the International Space Station are haloed by an aurora on the Earth’s horizon on May 26, 2015.

The International Space Station got an orbital boost this morning after a docked Russian resupply craft fired its engines for four minutes and eight seconds. One more reboost is scheduled for July 10 when the station will be at the proper altitude for a new Soyuz crew to dock at the end of July.

The crew onboard the orbital laboratory conducted a wide array of experiments today looking at such things as radiation, liquid crystals and life science. The trio of station residents also continued more eye checks with assistance from specialists on the ground.

One-Year crew member Mikhail Kornienko participated in the Matroyshka and RADI-N studies monitoring space radiation and exploring how it affects station crew members. Commander Gennady Padalka explored the behavior of liquid crystals in microgravity for the OASIS experiment with results potentially benefitting future space helmets with small display screens. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly worked in the Microgravity Science Glovebox cleaning up after earlier work with the Rodent Research study.

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko are the next crew preparing to launch to the space station and join Expedition 44. Their launch aboard a Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft is planned for July 22 when they will take a six-hour ride to their new home in space.

Eye Checks as Station Preps for Late July Soyuz Launch

Astronaut Scott Kelly
Astronaut Scott Kelly works inside the Kibo laboratory. Credit: NASA

The three-member Expedition 44 crew is conducting biomedical science today to study the effects of living in space on a crew member’s body. The International Space Station will raise its orbit tomorrow to allow another trio of space residents to join the orbiting residents at the end of July.

Commander Gennady Padalka and One-Year crew members Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko took part in the Ocular Health study today. They looked at the interior of each other’s eyes with a tonometer and checked their blood pressure. Scientists are exploring how microgravity affects an astronaut’s vision and the eye’s physiology.

Back on Earth, astronauts from the U.S., Russia and Japan are counting down to their July 22 lift-off on a Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft to join Expedition 44. The docked ISS Progress 58 spacecraft will fire its engines Thursday morning staging the space station for the new crew’s arrival.

Orbiting Trio at Work While New Crew Awaits July 22 Launch

Expedition 43 Lands in Soyuz
201506110001HQ — The Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 43. Credit: Bill Ingalls

Three Expedition 43 crew members are readapting to Earth’s gravity after returning home Thursday morning. The trio still onboard the International Space Station is working advanced microgravity science, orbital maintenance and exercise to remain fit and counter the effects of living in space.

Expedition 44 started early Thursday morning after the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft undocked from the Rassvet module. NASA astronaut Terry Virts, ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov parachuted to a landing in Kazakhstan a few hours later.

Remaining in space and waiting for a new crew are cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. Kornienko and Kelly are the One-Year crew members and Padalka is the new Expedition 44 commander.

The orbiting trio looked ways to improve performance in space with the Sprint experiment. They also explored methods to detect pressure leaks and radiation in the space station for the Bar and Matroyshka experiments.

Russian mission managers have chosen July 22 as the launch date for three new Expedition 44 crew members. Soyuz TMA-17M Commander Oleg Kononenko will be joined by astronauts Kjell Lindgren from NASA and Kimiya Yui from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency for the ride to space and return home in December.

Soyuz Crew Returns Home after 199 Days in Space

Soyuz Landing
The Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Terry Virts, European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov is seen just a few seconds from landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA TV

Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA, Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA and Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos landed their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft in Kazakhstan at 9:44 a.m. EDT. Russian recovery teams will help the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and adjust to gravity after their stay in space.

The trio arrived at the International Space Station on Nov. 24, 2014, and spent more than six months conducting research and technology demonstrations. Virts, Cristoforetti and Shkaplerov spent 199 days aboard the space station and clocked almost 84 million miles during their time in space.

Virts has logged 212 days in space on two flights, the first of which was on space shuttle mission STS-130 in 2010. Shkaplerov has spent 364 days in space on two flights, the first of which was on Expedition 29/30 in 2011. This was Cristoforetti’s first flight into space.

Expedition 43 crew
Expedition 43 crew members Terry Virts, Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti rest in seats surrounded by support personnel shortly after being extracted from the Soyuz spacecraft after its landing. Credit: NASA TV

The station now is occupied by Expedition 44 Commander Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Scott Kelly of NASA and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos. Kelly and Kornienko are two and half months into their year aboard the complex collecting valuable biomedical data that will inform future deep space, long-duration missions.

The remainder of the Expedition 44 crew, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is scheduled to launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, in late July.

Some items returning on this Soyuz were used as part of research investigations aboard the International Space Station. Equipment that supports various studies which use dosimeters will return with the crew. Dosimeters are devices that measure radiation. Several investigations employ the dosimeters to gather information about space radiation to help manage exposure and provide protection to crew members.

Both the Area Passive Dosimeter for Life-Science Experiments in Space (Area PADLES) and the Dosimetric Mapping (DOSMAP) investigations aboard the space station help researchers collect data to design radiation monitoring equipment for astronauts. This knowledge may improve design for spacecraft structures that shield internal occupants from radiation. Scientists also may use the data to develop protection devices for people who work in medical or industrial areas with potential radiation exposure.

Samples from the ongoing Study of the Impact of Long-Term Space Travel on the Astronauts’ Microbiome investigation also will return. The Microbiome study looks at the impact of space travel on the immune system and on human microbiomes – microbes living in and on the human body at any given time. Samples from crew members’ bodies and the space station environment are taken periodically to monitor changes in the immune system and microbiomes. The results of this study may add to research on health impacts to people who live and work in extreme environments on Earth, and help with research on early disease detection, metabolic function and immune system deficiency.

Watch NASA TV Now for Soyuz Deorbit Burn and Landing

Expedition 43 Trio
Expedition 43 crew members (from left) Samantha Cristoforetti, Anton Shkaplerov and Terry Virts are pictured at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia in October 2014.

NASA Television coverage is again underway for today’s homecoming of International Space Station Commander Terry Virts of NASA and Flight Engineers Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) and Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos. The crew undocked from the station at 6:20 a.m. EDT, and they are on track for landing in their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft at 9:43 a.m., southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Watch on NASA TV at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv.

At this time, no concerns or issues are being worked. The timeline through landing is:

8:51 a.m.                    Soyuz TMA-15M deorbit burn (4 minutes, 35 seconds duration)
8:55 a.m.                    Soyuz deorbit burn complete
9:18 a.m.                    Soyuz module separation (altitude 87 miles)
9:20 a.m.                    Soyuz atmospheric entry (altitude 62 miles)
9:23 a.m.                    Command to open parachute (6.5 miles)
9:43 a.m.                    Expedition 43 Soyuz TMA-14M landing southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan

Expedition 43 Undocks and Begins Voyage Home

Expedition 43 Undocks in Soyuz
The Soyuz spacecraft carrying Expedition 43 backs away from the International Space Station after undocking on time. Credit: NASA TV

After spending 199 days aboard the International Space Station, Terry Virts, Samantha Cristoforetti and Anton Shkaplerov undocked from the station at 6:20 a.m. EDT to begin their voyage home. Shkaplerov, the Soyuz commander, is at the controls of the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft.

They will perform a separation burn to increase the distance from the station before executing a 4-minute, 35-second deorbit burn at 8:51 a.m. The crew is scheduled to land at 9:43 a.m. southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

The departure of Virts, Cristoforetti and Shkaplerov marks the end of Expedition 43. The Expedition 44 crew members, Commander Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Scott Kelly of NASA and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos will continue research and maintenance aboard the station and will be joined next month by three additional crew members, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

NASA Television will air live coverage of the Soyuz TMA-15M deorbit burn and landing beginning at 8:30 a.m. at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv.

Here is the timeline for Expedition 43’s landing.

Thursday, June 11

EST                            EVENT

8:30 a.m.                   NASA TV: Expedition 4 Soyuz TMA-15M deorbit burn and landing
8:51 a.m.                    Soyuz TMA-15M deorbit burn (4 minutes, 35 seconds duration)
9:55 a.m.                    Soyuz deorbit burn complete
9:18 a.m.                    Soyuz module separation (altitude 87 miles)
9:20 a.m.                    Soyuz atmospheric entry (altitude 62 miles)
9:23 a.m.                    Command to open parachute (6.5 miles)
9:43 a.m.                    Expedition 43 Soyuz TMA-14M landing southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan

Last Full Day in Space for Expedition 43 as Station Changes Command

Expedition 43 Change of Command Ceremony
Astronaut Terry Virts (left foreground) ceremoniously hands over command of the International Space Station to cosmonaut Gennady Padalka (right foreground). Credit: NASA TV

Three Expedition 43 crew members are busy preparing for their homecoming during their last full day in space. Commander Terry Virts ceremoniously handed over control of the International Space Station this morning to veteran cosmonaut Gennady Padalka.

Virts and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti will end their stay tomorrow at 6:20 a.m. EDT when they undock from the Rassvet module. The trio in their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft will parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 9:43 a.m. after 199 days in space. NASA TV will cover the undocking and landing activities live.

Science, the main purpose of the space station, is still ongoing today as One-Year crew member Scott Kelly collected his urine and saliva samples for the Twins study. Scientists are comparing his body in weightlessness with his Earth-bound identical twin brother and ex-astronaut Mark Kelly.

Thrusters on a Soyuz spacecraft inadvertently fired Tuesday morning momentarily changing the station’s orientation. Russian flight controllers quickly corrected the situation and the crew was never in any danger nor is there any impact on the Expedition 43 undocking Thursday morning.

Astronaut Scott Kelly
Astronaut and One-Year crew member Scott Kelly talks to the press Wednesday morning from the Quest joint airlock. Credit: NASA TV

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.