The International Space Station will soon see U.S., Russian and Japanese spaceships arriving and departing over the next several weeks. Meanwhile, the Expedition 60 crew is staying focused on an upcoming spacewalk while continuing ongoing microgravity research.
Next week’s spacewalkers, NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan, are reviewing their procedures and practicing their maneuvers on a computer today. The duo will exit the station Aug. 21 and install the station’s second commercial crew vehicle docking port, the International Docking Adapter-3, to the Harmony module’s space-facing port.
Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov worked during the morning tearing down a Russian atmosphere purification unit. The duo then moved on to cardiopulmonary research before winding down the day with exercise.
The next spacecraft to launch to the orbiting lab will be an unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 crew ship on Aug. 22. It will lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a test of its upgraded 2.1a Soyuz booster. The new Soyuz will automatically dock to the Poisk module two days later where it will stay until Sept. 6.
Russia will launch its next crewed mission Sept. 25 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka will lead the six-hour flight to the station with NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori.
SpaceX is planning to retrieve its Dragon resupply ship on Aug. 27 when it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean after its release from the Harmony module. Dragon will return to Earth with several thousand pounds of completed science experiments for analysis and station hardware for servicing.
Finally, Japan’s resupply ship, the H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8), is scheduled to blast off to the station Sept. 10 (U.S. time) from the Tanegashima Space Center. It will arrive at the station Sept. 14 for a robotic capture and installation to the same Harmony port Dragon will vacate at the end of the month. HTV-8’s scheduled liftoff date comes exactly 10 years after the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched its first HTV cargo freighter to the space station.
The Expedition 60 crew is gearing up for an upcoming spacewalk to prepare the International Space Station for more commercial crew missions. Biomedical science also took up a portion of the astronauts’ day as they help researchers understand what happens to the human body in microgravity.
NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan are reviewing their tasks planned for Aug. 21 when they conduct the fifth spacewalk of the year at the orbiting lab. The duo will take about six-and-a-half hours to install the International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3) on top of the Harmony module. The IDA-3, delivered inside the Dragon cargo craft’s trunk, will be the second port at the station designed to receive the new Boeing and SpaceX crew ships.
Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano are helping the spacewalkers get ready for the upcoming excursion. They are configuring spacesuit components today and will continue assisting the pair before, during and after the next spacewalk.
Morgan first joined Koch and Parmitano during the morning for ultrasound eye exams. Koch took charge of the eye scans in the Columbus lab module with real-time inputs from doctors on the ground. She observed her crewmates’ retina, cornea, lens and optic nerve to maintain eye health in space.
Koch and Parmitano later split up feeding the station’s mice and cleaning their habitats in the Destiny laboratory module. Observing the rodents, which are genetically similar to humans, in the weightless environment of microgravity gives scientists critical therapeutic insights that can benefit Earthlings and astronauts.
The most recent trio to arrive at the station gathered at the end of the day to train for a medical emergency. Morgan, Parmitano and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov practiced cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), checked out medical gear and reviewed emergency communications.
The International Space Station is hosting five spaceships today as August ramps up for more orbital traffic activity. Six Expedition 60 crewmembers are also unloading U.S. and Russian cargo, activating new science experiments and stocking the station’s galley.
Russia’s Progress 73 (73P) cargo craft completed a fast-track delivery mission early Wednesday docking to the Pirs Docking Compartment just three hours and nineteen minutes after launching from Kazakhstan. Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov opened the 73P hatch shortly afterward starting its four-month stay. He and station Commander Alexey Ovchinin then began unloading nearly three tons of new consumables, fuel and supplies.
Two U.S. space freighters occupy the station’s Earth-facing Harmony and Unity module ports. Harmony will open up Tuesday when Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship departs after 109 days in space. The Canadarm2 robotic arm installed the SpaceX Dragon to Unity on Saturday after its arrival and capture beginning a month of cargo operations.
NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague are tending to mice today shipped aboard Dragon for ongoing biological research. The reusable vehicle will return the mice back to Earth at the end of the month, including other cargo, so scientists can analyze a variety of changes that only occur in microgravity.
Dragon also delivered a new commercial crew vehicle port, the International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3), in its unpressurized trunk. Robotics controllers will soon extract the IDA-3 before two spacewalkers install it to Unity’s space-facing port a few days later.
A few days before Dragon departs, Russia will launch an unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 crew ship to the orbiting lab for a test of its upgraded 2.1a Soyuz booster. It will dock to the Poisk module for a two-week stay before parachuting back to Earth in the vast steppe of Kazakhstan.
A new U.S. space freighter is open for business today after delivering its payload to the International Space Station on Saturday. Meanwhile, a Russian resupply rocket is processing for another space delivery mission on Wednesday that will take less than three and a half hours after launch.
NASA Flight Engineer Nick Hague opened Dragon’s hatch early Sunday beginning a month of cargo operations. His fellow crewmates Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan are unloading critical research samples and stowing them inside the station’s science freezers and incubators for analysis.
Robotics controllers will remove the International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3), a new commercial crew ship docking port, from Dragon’s unpressurized trunk in mid-August. A pair of spacewalkers will install the IDA-3 on the Harmony module’s space-facing Pressurized Mating Adapter a few days later.
Russia’s Pirs Docking Compartment port opened up today at 6:44 a.m. EDT when the Progress 72 (72P) cargo craft undocked completing a four-month stay at the orbiting lab. It will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere loaded with trash and discarded gear for a fiery, but safe disposal over the Pacific Ocean.
The new Progress 73 cargo ship will replace 72P after it launches Wednesday at 8:10 a.m. from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It will dock to Pirs that same morning at 11:35 a.m. after just two Earth orbits packed with more food, fuel and supplies for the crew.
Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov are training today on the tele-robotically operated rendezvous unit (TORU) for Wednesday’s arrival of the 73P. The duo will be in the Zvezda service module at the controls of the TORU monitoring the 73P’s approach ready to take over manual docking operations in the unlikely event of an emergency.
NASA TV is broadcasting the robotic release of Dragon from the station live on NASA TV beginning Monday at 11:45 a.m. EDT. Robotics controllers will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the space freighter around 12:09 p.m. while astronaut David Saint-Jacques monitors from the cupola. Dragon will splashdown in the Pacific about 5:48 p.m. and will not be seen on NASA TV.
Several critical experiments have wrapped up aboard the orbiting lab with the completed results and hardware being packed inside the Dragon this weekend. After the space freighter splashes down Monday, it will be towed to shore where the finalized research will be distributed to labs around the world for analysis.
The pair first joined Flight Engineer Nick Hague during the morning checking out space biology hardware and transferring more frozen research samples into Dragon’s science freezers. Hague and McClain then participated in regularly scheduled eye exams in the afternoon.
The six-member Expedition 59 crew had a chance to sleep in the day after wrapping up a successful spacewalk on the Russian side of the International Space Station. The cosmonauts are cleaning up this afternoon from yesterday’s excursion while the rest of the orbiting crew focuses on exercise research and other light science duties.
Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques checked on a couple of life science experiments during their relaxed afternoon. McClain updated software for the Photobioreactor study exploring how microalgae can create a hybrid life support system for astronauts and Earthlings. Saint-Jacques turned off and stowed the Canadian Bio-Monitor device that can quickly analyze human biological samples in space.
The two cosmonauts opened the hatch to the Pirs docking compartment to begin the spacewalk at 11:42 a.m. EDT. They re-entered the airlock and closed the hatch at 5:43 p.m.
During the spacewalk, the duo completed the planned tasks, including installing a handrail on the Russian segment of the complex, retrieving science experiments from the Poisk module’s hull; removing and jettisoning the plasma wave experiment hardware; and conducting maintenance work on the orbiting laboratory, such as cleaning the window of the Poisk hatch.
The spacewalk was the 217th in support of station assembly, maintenance and upgrades and the fourth outside the station this year.
This was the fifth spacewalk in Kononenko’s career and the first for Ovchinin, who will become station commander next month. Kononenko is scheduled to return to Earth June 24, with crewmates Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, wrapping up a six-and-a-half-month mission living and working in space.
Shortly after beginning their spacewalk, Expedition 59 Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos recorded birthday greetings for the first person to spacewalk, Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov. Leonov’s 85th birthday is tomorrow, Thursday, May 30.
On 18 March, 1965, Leonov became the first person to leave a spacecraft in a spacesuit to conduct a spacewalk, exiting the capsule during the Voskhod 2 mission for a 12-minute spacewalk.
Kononenko and Ovchinin also added signs to the backs of their Orlon spacesuits to honor the first spacewalker. Kononenko’s suit with the red stripes bears a sign that says “1st spacewalker”, and the sign on Ovchinin’s suit with the blue stripes says, “Happy birthday, Alexei Arkhipovich,” Leonov’s family name.
Both spacewalkers are wearing Russian Orlan spacesuits. Kononenko is designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV1), wearing the suit with red stripes, and Ovchinin is EV2, in the suit with blue stripes.
Coverage of the spacewalk continues on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Views from a camera on Kononenko’s helmet are designated with the number 18, and Ovchinin’s is labeled with the number 11.
It is Kononenko’s fifth career spacewalk and Ovchinin’s first.