Well Rested Crew Moves To Human Research, Departure Preps After Spacewalk

NASA astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor (background) and Anne McClain
NASA astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor (background) and Anne McClain work inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module cleaning vents to maintain air circulation aboard the International Space Station.

The Expedition 57 crew were allowed to catch a few extra hours of sleep today after a lengthy spacewalk Tuesday by the two cosmonauts on board. They then went to work on a variety of microgravity science and lab maintenance aboard the International Space Station.

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev performed routine maintenance on their Russian Orlan spacesuits after a seven-hour, 45-minute spacewalk to inspect the Soyuz MS-09 crew ship docked to the station. The duo took detailed photos and captured video of some of the sealant on the outer hull of the Habitation Module used in the repair of a hole discovered inside the vehicle in August.

The other four orbital residents also put in a good night’s sleep after supporting the eighth spacewalk at the station this year. The quartet moved headlong into human research and departure preps after waking up a few hours later than usual today.

Alexander Gerst and Serena Auñón-Chancellor drew their own blood samples today and processed them in the Human Research Facility’s centrifuge. The samples were then coagulated and stowed in a science freezer for later analysis. The Biochemical Profile is a long-running study on astronauts and is providing insight into the human body’s adaptation to living in space.

Gerst is also packing the Soyuz spacecraft that will take him, Auñón-Chancellor and Prokopyev back to Earth Dec. 19. This is the same spaceship that was inspected Tuesday by the two Russian spacewalkers.

The station’s newest astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are still getting used to their new home in space. The pair also went about the day working on a variety of maintenance and research.  McClain strapped on an armband monitoring how her body adapts to orbiting Earth 16 times a day after setting up research hardware for two separate experiments. Saint-Jacques deployed over a dozen radiation monitors throughout the station today before some light plumbing work with Gerst in the orbital restroom.

Russian Spacewalkers Complete Crew Vehicle Inspection

Spacewalker Oleg Kononenko
Spacewalker Oleg Kononenko is on the Strela boom getting ready for inspection work on the Soyuz crew vehicle.

Expedition 57 Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos completed a spacewalk lasting 7 hours and 45 minutes.

The two cosmonauts opened the hatch to the Pirs docking compartment to begin the spacewalk at 10:59 a.m. EST. They re-entered the airlock and closed the hatch at 6:44 p.m. EST.

During the spacewalk, the two examined the external hull of the Russian Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the space station, took images, and applied a thermal blanket. They also retrieved science experiments from the Rassvet module before heading back inside.

It was the 213th spacewalk in support of International Space Station assembly, maintenance and upgrades, the fourth for Kononenko, and the second for Prokopyev.

Prokopyev, NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Alexander Gerst are scheduled to depart the station in the Soyuz MS-09 at 8:42 p.m. Dec. 19, returning home to Earth after a six-and-half-month mission.

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

Russian Spacewalkers Inspecting Crew Ship Today

Pirs Docking Compartment
A pair of empty Orlan spacesuits are seen inside the Pirs Docking Compartment airlock where cosmonauts stage Russian spacewalks.

Expedition 57 Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos began a spacewalk when they opened the hatch of the Pirs docking compartment of the International Space Station at 10:59 a.m. EST.

Kononenko, on his fourth spacewalk today, is designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV1), and is wearing a spacesuit bearing red stripes. Prokopyev, on his second spacewalk, is wearing blue stripes and is designated extravehicular crew member 2 (EV2).

Coverage of the spacewalk continues on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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

Russian Spacewalk at Station Live on NASA TV Now

Spacewalkers Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev
Spacewalkers Oleg Kononenko (left pic from February 2012) and Sergey Prokopyev (right pic from August 2018) will examine the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft that will return three Expedition 57 crew members to Earth Dec. 19.

Expedition 57 Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos are preparing to venture outside the International Space Station for a spacewalk at approximately 11 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Dec. 11. NASA Television coverage is now underway and available on the agency’s website.

Over the course of about six hours, the duo will use this spacewalk to examine a section of the external hull of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft currently docked to station, and if time permits, retrieve external experiments.

In late August, a pressure leak occurred from the space station that was traced to the Soyuz. Within hours after finding the source of the leak, crew members sealed the hole and the station has since maintained steady pressure.

The cosmonauts will take samples of any residue found on the hull and take digital images of the area before placing a new thermal blanket over it. The samples and images will provide additional information that will aid the investigation in the cause of the pressure leak.

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

Spacewalk Preps and Muscle Research Keep Crew Busy

Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor
Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor researches the complex process of cement solidification in space. Results may impact possible construction processes and designs for space habitats on the surface of the Moon and Mars.

A Russian spacewalk is planned before three Expedition 57 crew members return to Earth aboard a Soyuz spacecraft just before Christmas. Meanwhile, in the middle of the spacewalk and departure preparations, the International Space Station residents today also explored how living in space impacts the human muscle system.

Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev will work outside the space station Dec. 11 to inspect the Soyuz MS-09 crew vessel. The Russian spacewalker will join veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko for a scheduled 6-hour inspection on the outside of the spaceship that will return the Expedition 57 crew home Dec. 19 U.S. time.

Prokopyev checked the Orlan spacesuits today that he and Kononenko will wear during the eighth spacewalk of the year. Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor assisted Prokopyev checking the Russian spacesuits for leaks.

Gerst and Auñón-Chancellor then moved on to a study that has been ongoing aboard the orbital lab since September of 2017 observing how muscles adapt to outer space. The duo set up the Columbus lab module for research operations and scanned their head and foot muscles with an ultrasound device. The data may help doctors improve fitness in space and develop treatments for muscle and aging problems on Earth.

Back on Earth, on opposite sides of the globe, a pair of rockets are getting ready to send a new crew and more science and supplies to the space station. Russia’s Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft will launch Kononenko and fellow crew members Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques from Kazakhstan to the station on Monday at 6:31 a.m. EST. The following day at 1:38 p.m. in Florida, the SpaceX Dragon will blast off to the station to deliver more than 5,600 pounds of cargo to resupply the station residents.

Russian, U.S. Spaceships Get Ready for Launch Ahead of Spacewalk

In Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Expedition 58 crew members
In Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Expedition 58 crew members (from left) Anne McClain, Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques pose for pictures Nov. 27 as part of traditional pre-launch activities.

In a replay similar to the weekend before Thanksgiving, two rockets on the opposite sides of the world are poised to launch one day after another to replenish the International Space Station with a new crew and cargo.

Three new Expedition 58 crew members are preparing to blast off to the space station on a Russian Soyuz crew ship early next week. The following day, SpaceX will launch its Dragon cargo craft to the orbital lab atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

New astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques with veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko will take a six-hour ride to the station on Monday Dec. 3. The trio will lift off inside their Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft at 6:31 a.m. EST from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. About six hours later they will reach their new home in space and dock to the Poisk module beginning a six-and-a-half-month mission.

The SpaceX Dragon is targeted to begin its ascent to space from the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center on Dec. 4. Dragon will orbit Earth for two days loaded with new science before it is captured with the station’s Canadarm2 and installed to the Harmony module.

Back in space, three Expedition 57 crew members are getting ready for the arrival of both spacecraft while staying focused on microgravity science and spacewalk preparations.

Commander Alexander Gerst and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor trained for next week’s Dragon rendezvous and capture on a computer today. The duo also continued working on more life science and physics research. Gerst once again studied how protein crystals impact Parkinson’s disease to possibly improve treatments on Earth. Serena researched how cement hardens in space and continued setting up hardware for a semiconductor crystal experiment.

Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev is configuring the station’s Russian segment for a spacewalk targeted for Dec. 11. He and Kononenko will inspect the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft docked to the Rassvet module before the Expedition 57 trio returns to Earth on Dec. 20.

Dual Cargo Missions Set for Friday Launch and Sunday Delivery

Two rockets stand at their launch pads on opposite sides of the world
Two rockets stand at their launch pads on opposite sides of the world. Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket (left) with its Cygnus cargo craft on top stands at its launch pad in Virginia. Russia’s Progress 71 rocket is pictured at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Dismal weather on Virginia’s Atlantic coast has pushed back the launch of a U.S. cargo craft to the International Space Station one day to Friday. Russia’s resupply ship is still on track for its launch to the orbital lab from Kazakhstan less than nine hours later on the same day.

Mission managers from NASA and Northrop Grumman are now targeting the Cygnus space freighter’s launch on Friday at 4:23 a.m. EST from Pad-0A at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus sits atop an Antares rocket packed with approximately 7,400 pounds of crew supplies, science experiments, spacesuit gear, station hardware and computer resources.

Cygnus will separate from the Antares rocket when it reaches orbit nine minutes after launch and begin a two-day journey to the station’s Unity module. Its cymbal-shaped UltraFlex solar arrays will then unfurl to power the vehicle during its flight. Expedition 57 astronauts Alexander Gerst and Serena Auñón-Chancellor will be in the cupola to greet Cygnus Sunday and capture the private cargo carrier with the Canadarm2 robotic arm at 4:35 a.m.

Russia rolled out its Progress 71 (71P) resupply ship today at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan where it stands at the launch pad for final processing. The 71st flight of a Progress cargo craft to the orbital laboratory is scheduled for launch Friday at 1:14 p.m. Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev will be monitoring the arrival of 71P when it automatically docks to the rear port of the Zvezda service module Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Gerst and Prokopyev started Wednesday morning training for the arrival of 71P. The pair practiced commanding and manually docking the vehicle on a computer in the unlikely event the Russian cargo craft is unable to dock on its own. Gerst then moved on to Cygnus capture training after lunchtime with Auñón-Chancellor following up before the end of the day. NASA TV will cover live the launch, capture and docking of both Cygnus and Progress on Friday and Sunday.

Japanese Ship Arriving Thursday; U.S., Russian Crew Leaving Next Week

Commander Drew Feustel
Commander Drew Feustel participates in an event inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module aboard the International Space Station.

The Expedition 56 crew aboard the International Space Station awaits the arrival of new science experiments and crew supplies Thursday morning. One week later, three crew members will return to Earth after 197 days in space.

Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7), also known as the “Kounotori,” is nearing the station and headed for a Thursday morning capture at 8 a.m. EDT. The HTV-7 is loaded with over five tons of science and supplies, including the new Life Sciences Glovebox and a half dozen lithium-ion batteries to upgrade the station’s power systems. NASA TV begins its live coverage of the capture activities Thursday at 6:30 a.m.

NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Serena Auñón-Chancellor are finalizing several weeks of computer training today to capture the HTV-7. Feustel will be inside the cupola and command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the Kounotori Thursday morning. Auñón-Chancellor will back up Feustel and monitor the Kounotori’s approach and rendezvous.

Meanwhile, Feustel and two other Expedition 56 crewmates are scheduled to depart the orbital laboratory on Oct. 4 just a week after the Kounotori arrives. Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev will lead the flight home inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft flanked by Feustel and NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold.

The three departing crewmates have been packing up crew supplies, station hardware and science experiments to take back to Earth. The trio also practiced their Soyuz descent maneuvers and prepared themselves for the effects of returning to gravity. . Once the trio departs, Expedition 57 officially begins.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Soyuz Commander Alexey Ovchinin will launch and arrive one week later. During Expedition 57, the crew will conduct a set of spacewalks to install the new lithium-ion batteries delivered to the station on HTV-7.

Exercise and DNA Studies as Crew Checks Spacesuits

Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel of NASA
Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel of NASA works inside the seven-windowed Cupola as the International Space Station was about to fly over the coast of Chile in South America.

The Expedition 56 crew members started the work week exploring a variety of life science and ensuring the upkeep of advanced space research gear. U.S. spacesuits were also being looked at today ahead of a series of planned spacewalks.

All space station crew members exercise daily to maintain their health while living in space. Today, Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold strapped himself into an exercise bike and wore sensors to measure aerobic capacity, or how much physical exertion an astronaut can sustain in space. This helps doctors understand the fitness requirements necessary to successfully conduct spacewalks or respond to emergencies in the weightless environment of space.

Arnold then switched roles from subject to scientist as he extracted DNA from microbe samples swabbed from inside the International Space Station. The DNA undergoes further sample preparation and is sequenced using the Biomolecule Sequencer and Genes in Space hardware onboard the station. The research is helping scientists understand how life adapts to microgravity providing insights to improve crew health.

Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor, both from NASA, worked on a variety of science gear Monday. Auñón-Chancellor restocked the Human Research Facility-2 with medical supplies and Feustel reconfigured a rack in the Kibo laboratory module for the new Life Sciences Glovebox.

The duo then joined astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) for spacesuit checks during the afternoon. The three astronauts verified the functionality of the suit jetpacks, ensured the correct sizing of the suits and cleaned the Quest airlock where U.S. spacewalks are staged. These suits will be used on a series of future spacewalks to upgrade batteries on the space station’s truss structure.

New HTV Launch Date Adjusts Spacewalk Dates as Science Continues

NASA astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Drew Feustel
NASA astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Drew Feustel work a pair of different experiments aboard the International Space Station.

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) has rescheduled the launch of its HTV-7 resupply ship to the International Space Station to Thursday, U.S. time. As a result of the new launch and arrival dates for the HTV-7, the target dates for a pair of maintenance spacewalks have been adjusted as well.

More than five tons of food, fuel, crew supplies and new science gear is due to launch Thursday at 5:21 p.m. EDT from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. The HTV-7 with the space cargo will take a 3-1/2 day ride to the orbital laboratory where it will be captured Monday with the Canadarm2 robotic arm around 6:50 a.m. It will then be installed on the station’s Harmony module around three hours later. NASA TV will broadcast all the activities live.

The HTV-7 is also delivering six new lithium-ion batteries to the station which will be the focus of the upcoming spacewalk activity. Robotics controllers will remove the new batteries from the HTV-7 and install them on the Port 4 truss structure. Then astronauts Alexander Gerst and Drew Feustel will begin the final battery hookup work on the first of two spacewalks on Sept. 23. Gerst will go outside a second time with spacewalker Ricky Arnold on Sept. 29 to complete the battery hookups.

Gerst, Feustel and Arnold spent a couple of hours today reviewing their upcoming spacewalk procedures and discussing their concerns with specialists on the ground. Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor cleaned the trio’s spacesuits’ cooling loops and refilled the suits’ water tanks.

The entire Expedition 56 crew did manage to conduct a variety of science experiments exploring biology and physics in microgravity. The astronauts researched how mice adapt to space and swabbed their own bodies to collect microbe samples for analysis.  The crew also studied liquid atomization and the composition of meteorites entering Earth’s atmosphere.