Experienced Spacewalkers Wrap Up Station Maintenance Excursion

There have been 209 spacewalks at the International Space Station since December 1998
There have been 209 spacewalks at the International Space Station since December 1998.

Expedition 55 Flight Engineers Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold of NASA completed the fourth spacewalk this year at 3:43 p.m. EDT, lasting 6 hours, 10 minutes. The two astronauts installed wireless communications antennas on the Tranquility module, replaced a camera system on the port truss and removed suspect hoses from a cooling system.

Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 54 days and 10 hours working outside the station in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Veteran Astronauts Exit Station to Begin Spacewalk

Astronaut Ricky Arnold
Astronaut Ricky Arnold is pictured in March 2009 during a spacewalk at the space station when he was a member of the STS-119 crew aboard space shuttle Discovery.

Expedition 55 Flight Engineers Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold of NASA switched their spacesuits to battery power at 9:33 a.m. EDT, signifying the official start of today’s planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station.

Watch the spacewalk live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Feustel is wearing the suit bearing the red stripes, and Arnold’s suit has no stripes. Views from a camera on Feustel’s helmet are designated with the number 17, and Arnold’s is labeled with the number 18. Feustel is designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV1) for this spacewalk, the seventh of his career. Arnold, embarking on his third spacewalk, is extravehicular crew member 2 (EV2).

Once outside the airlock, Feustel’s first task will be to install the wireless communications antenna on the Tranquility module, while Arnold will begin the process of removing a set of hoses from the cooling system.

Once they have completed those activities, they will work together to replace a camera system on the port truss.

Watch NASA TV Now as Spacewalkers Prepare to Exit Station

Astronauts Drew Feustel and John Grunsfeld
Astronauts Drew Feustel (top) and John Grunsfeld perform maintenance on the Hubble Space Telescope from the payload bay of space shuttle Atlantis in May of 2009.

NASA Television has begun coverage of today’s spacewalk, as Expedition 55 Flight Engineers Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold of NASA prepare to work outside the International Space Station for approximately 6.5 hours. Today’s spacewalk was originally scheduled to begin at 8:10 a.m. However, suit leak checks took longer than anticipated and has put them approximately 60-90 minutes behind the original timeline.

The objective of today’s spacewalk will be to will install wireless communications antennas on the Tranquility module, replace a camera system on the port truss and remove suspect hoses from a cooling system.

The wireless communications equipment will enhance payload data processing for the ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) experiment being flown to the station on a future SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft. The experiment will measure the temperature of plants on Earth to better understand how much water they need and how they respond to stress.

Follow along on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Keep up with station and crew activities via Twitter @space_station. For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Veteran Astronauts to Conduct Spacewalk Thursday Morning

Astronaut Ricky Arnold
Astronaut Ricky Arnold is pictured during a spacewalk in March of 2009 at the International Space Station. Arnold was visiting the station as an STS-119 mission specialist aboard space shuttle Discovery.

Veteran NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold will head outside the International Space Station at approximately 8 a.m. EDT Thursday to begin a 6.5-hour spacewalk. Live coverage will be available on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 6:30 a.m.

During Thursday’s spacewalk, Feustel and Arnold will install wireless communications antennas on the Tranquility module, replace a camera system on the port truss and remove suspect hoses from a cooling system.

This will be the 209th spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance.

Follow @space_station on Twitter for updates on the station and crew activities. For more information about the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station.

Cargo Ship Departs, Emergency Reviews Day Before Spacewalk Begins

Russia's Progress 68 resupply ship
Russia’s Progress 68 resupply ship is pictured docked to the Pirs docking compartment as the International Space Station orbited over the Atlantic Ocean south of the island of Bermuda.

A Russian cargo craft departed the International Space Station this morning after completing a six-month stay at the Pirs docking compartment. Meanwhile, the Expedition 55 crew is less than a day away from beginning the fourth spacewalk this the year for orbital lab maintenance.

Russia’s Progress 68 (68P) resupply ship flawlessly undocked from Pirs this morning at 9:50 a.m. EDT. It will orbit Earth for a month where Russian ground controllers will conduct a series of engineering tests on the 68P. The cargo ship will then reenter the atmosphere April 25 loaded with trash and discarded items for a fiery but safe demise over the Pacific Ocean.

While a pair of astronauts are finalizing spacewalk preparations today, the six Expedition 55 crew members spent an hour today reviewing emergency roles and responsibilities. The four astronauts and two cosmonauts practiced communication procedures with each other and mission controllers on the ground. The crew also checked the location of safety gear and followed escape routes to their Soyuz vehicles in the unlikely event a crisis would require evacuating the station.

Finally, spacewalkers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel have their tools and suits ready for Thursday’s excursion to install antennas and replace a camera assembly outside the space station. The duo wrapped up final reviews today with Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai who will assist the spacewalkers in and out of their spacesuits. The spacewalk is expected to start at 8:10 a.m. tomorrow with NASA TV beginning its live coverage at 6:30 a.m.

Expedition 55 Focuses on Spacewalk and Dragon Delivery

Spacewalker Drew Feustel
NASA astronaut Andrew Feustel is pictured during a spacewalk in May of 2011 at the International Space Station. Feustel was a mission specialist for STS-134 who last visited the station aboard space shuttle Endeavour.

The Expedition 55 crew is ramping up for Thursday’s spacewalk and training for next week’s arrival of the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.

Just four days after moving into their new home NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are getting their suits and gear ready for a spacewalk on Thursday. The duo filled spacesuit tanks and cooling garments with water and reviewed checklists and warning systems today.

They will work outside for about 6.5 hours to install communications antennas on the Tranquility module. The pair will also replace a camera assembly on the Port 1 truss structure. Arnold and Feustel are expected to set their spacesuits to battery power at 8:10 a.m. signifying the official start of Thursday’s spacewalk. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the spacewalk at 6:30 a.m. ET.

Meanwhile, Flight Engineers Norishige Kanai and Scott Tingle continue training for next week’s capture of the Dragon cargo craft with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Kanai will be at the robotics controls inside the cupola as Tingle monitors Dragon’s approach and rendezvous.

Dragon is set to launch Monday at 4:30 p.m. and arrive Wednesday just ten meters away from the station where Kanai will robotically capture it at 7 a.m. The commercial cargo craft will deliver over 5,800 pounds of crew supplies, science gear, spacewalking equipment and other station hardware. NASA TV will broadcast both events live.

The Progress 68 (68P) cargo craft will undock from the Pirs docking compartment Wednesday at 9:50 a.m. loaded with trash and old gear. It will reenter Earth’s atmosphere April 25 for a fiery demise over the Pacific Ocean. The 68P has been attached to the station since Oct. 16.

New Station Astronauts March into Spacewalk Preparations

NASA Astronaut Scott Tingle
NASA astronaut Scott Tingle is inside the International Space Station’s window to the world, the seven-windowed cupola, where astronauts operate the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture visiting vehicles such as the SpaceX Dragon, the Orbital ATK Cygnus and Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle.

Three new Expedition 55 crew members are beginning their first full workweek aboard the International Space Station. They and the rest of the crew are getting ready for a spacewalk on Thursday and next week’s arrival of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are preparing for a spacewalk just six days after arriving at their new home in space. The duo reviewed their spacewalk procedures today with fellow astronauts Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai. The veteran spacewalkers will install communications antennas and replace a camera assembly during the excursion set to begin Thursday at 8:10 a.m. EDT. NASA TV broadcast the spacewalk activities live beginning at 7 a.m.

Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov has been packing a Russian resupply ship with trash and old gear readying it for its departure on Wednesday. The Progress 68 (68P) cargo craft will undock from the Pirs docking compartment Wednesday at 9:50 a.m. It will reenter Earth’s atmosphere April 25 for a fiery demise over the Pacific Ocean. The 68P has been attached to the station since Oct. 16.

The next cargo craft due to resupply the station is the SpaceX Dragon. After its launch April 2 at 4:30 p.m. Dragon will take a two-day flight to the station. The commercial cargo craft will be robotically captured and installed next Wednesday at 6 a.m. to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module.

Kanai and Tingle will be at the robotics controls inside the cupola when they capture Dragon with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. The duo practiced the Dragon rendezvous and capture procedures today. The crew has also been configuring the orbital lab for the new science experiments Dragon is delivering next week.

Station Orbiting Higher Ahead of New Crew and Cargo Missions

The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft is rotated to a horizontal position
In the Integration Facility at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft is rotated to a horizontal position March 14 to be encapsulated in the upper stage of a Soyuz booster rocket.

One week from today three individuals will blast off on a two-day trip to the International Space Station. They will join the three Expedition 55 crew members already in space who continue to research the effects of living in space while maintaining the orbital laboratory.

The Soyuz spacecraft that will carry one cosmonaut and two astronauts to their new home in space was encapsulated into its rocket today ahead of its March 21 launch. Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev will fly the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft ferrying him and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel to the station’s Poisk module on March 23.

Waiting for the trio are Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai. Today, the orbiting crewmates watered plants for a space crop study and scanned their eyes with an ultrasound device for ongoing health checks. They are also getting gear ready for the next spacewalk to conduct maintenance on the orbital lab.

The space station is orbiting a little higher today after a docked Russian cargo craft fired its engines for 1 minute and 48 seconds. The burn increased the lab’s altitude enabling future spacecraft operations including the undocking of the Expedition 54-55 trio in June and the docking of a new Russian space freighter in July.

Touchdown! Three Expedition 54 Crewmates Back on Earth

Expedition 54 Soyuz MS-06 Landing
Expedition 54 crew members (from left) Joe Acaba, Alexander Misurkin and Mark Vande Hei are wrapped in blankets after exiting the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft that landed in wintry conditions in Kazakhstan. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Three members of the Expedition 54 crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS), including NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, have returned to Earth after months of performing research and spacewalks in low-Earth orbit.

Vande Hei, Acaba and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos landed at 9:31 p.m. EST (8:31 a.m. Feb. 28 in Kazakhstan) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

Their time on station marked the beginning of the first long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment, enabling NASA to double the time dedicated to research and achieve a record-setting week of research that surpassed 100 hours. Highlights from this research include investigations into the manufacturing of fiber optic filaments in microgravity, improving the accuracy of an implantable glucoses biosensor, and measuring the Sun’s energy input to Earth.

The crew also welcomed four cargo spacecraft delivering several tons of supplies and research experiments. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived at the station in November on the company’s eighth commercial resupply mission, followed in December by SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft on the company’s thirteenth resupply mission. Two Russian ISS Progress cargo craft arrived at the station in October and February.

Vande Hei logged 168 days in space on this, his first, mission. He ventured outside the space station on four spacewalks to perform work that included replacing and lubricating the Latching End Effectors on both ends of the Canadarm2. Acaba completed one spacewalk to lubricate an end effector and install new cameras on the station’s arm and truss. He now has accrued 306 days in space on three flights. Acaba and Vande Hei also participated in dozens of educational events while in space as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station.

Misurkin conducted one record-setting spacewalk with fellow cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov to replace an electronics box for a high-gain communications antenna on the Zvezda service module in February. The spacewalk timed out at 8 hours and 13 minutes, the longest in Russian space program history. Misurkin now has spent 334 days in space on two flights.

Now operating the station are Expedition 55 crew members Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel of NASA, and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos are scheduled to launch March 21 and arrive at the space station two days later, returning the crew size to six.

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

Crew Goes into Weekend Preparing to Split Up on Tuesday

Expedition 54 Crew Members
(Clockwise from bottom) Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos; NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba; Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov; Astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; NASA astronaut Scott Tingle.

Three Expedition 54 crew members are going into the weekend packing up and preparing to return to Earth on Tuesday. Commander Alexander Misurkin will lead fellow crew members Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei back to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft Tuesday for a landing in south central Kazakhstan at 9:31 p.m. EST.

NASA TV will broadcast live all of the departure activities on Monday and Tuesday. The Change of Command Ceremony begins Monday at 2:40 p.m. when Misurkin hands over station control to cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov. The new commander will stay behind with Flight Engineers Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and become Expedition 55 when their crewmates undock the next day.

The departing trio will say farewell Tuesday and close the Soyuz hatch at 2:15 p.m. They will undock from the Poisk module at 6:08 p.m. signifying the start of Expedition 55 and the end of Expedition 54. Next, the Soyuz engines will fire one last time at 8:38 p.m. sending the crew back into Earth’s atmosphere for a parachuted landing in Kazakhstan at 9:31 p.m.

The trio will have spent 168 days in space, orbiting Earth 2,688 times, conducted dozens of science experiments and seen the departure and arrival of eight different space ships. The departing crew members will also go home as experienced spacewalkers. Misurkin and Acaba each conducted one spacewalk and Vande Hei conducted four spacewalks during their five-and-half month stay in space.