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.

Astronauts Get Ready for Japan’s Seventh Cargo Mission and Two U.S. Spacewalks

Japan's last cargo craft, the HTV-6, is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2
Japan’s last cargo craft, the HTV-6, is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 moments before its release ending its stay Jan. 27, 2017, at the International Space Station.

A rocket carrying Japan’s seventh H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) is poised to launch next Monday on a cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station. The Expedition 56 crew members trained for the HTV-7’s arrival, conducted eye checks and prepared for a pair of spacewalks.

On Sept. 10, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is launching a cargo craft, exactly nine years to the day JAXA launched its first HTV mission, to the space station. The HTV-7 will take a four-day trip before reaching a point just 10 meters away from the orbital lab. Commander Drew Feustel will then grapple it with the Canadarm2 robotic arm as Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor backs him up inside the cupola.

The duo practiced for next week’s approach and rendezvous of the HTV-7 then turned their attention to eye exams and ultrasound eye scans. Their cosmonaut crewmates, Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev, also participated in the eye exams using Optical Coherence Tomography for detailed views of their retinas.

After the HTV-7 arrives, robotics controllers will begin the work of removing six new lithium-ion batteries from the HTV-7’s External Pallet and storing them on the Port 4 (P4) truss structure. They will replace a dozen older nickel-hydrogen batteries on the station’s P4. Nine of the older batteries will be stowed inside the HTV-7 for disposal and the other three stored on the P4.

Three astronauts will then install and hookup the battery adapter plates over a pair of spacewalks planned for Sept. 20 and 26. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will participate in both spacewalks, with Feustel on the first and NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold on the second.

NASA TV is broadcasting live the HTV-7 launch and rendezvous activities as well as both spacewalks.

Get weekly video highlights at:

Station Gears Up for Japan Cargo Mission and US Spacewalks

NASA astronaut Drew Feustel
NASA astronaut Drew Feustel is pictured June 14, 2018, during a spacewalk to install high-definition cameras to provide enhanced views of SpaceX and Boeing commercial crew spacecraft approaching the International Space Station.

September is scheduled to be a busy month for the Expedition 56 crew aboard the International Space Station. Japan is preparing to launch its seventh resupply mission and three astronauts are gearing up for two spacewalks next month.

Today, a pair of astronauts familiarized themselves with the robotics maneuvers they will use when they capture Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) on Sept. 14. The HTV-7, also called the Kounotori, will launch Sept. 10 from the Tanegashima Space Center loaded with crew supplies, new science hardware and critical spacewalk gear.

Commander Drew Feustel will be supported by Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor inside the Cupola as he controls the Canadarm2 to reach out and grapple the HTV-7. Robotics controllers on the ground will then take over and install Kounotori on the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port. NASA TV will broadcast live all of Kounotori’s launch, rendezvous and capture activities.

A pair of spacewalks will take place soon after the Kounotori arrives when robotics controllers begin removing new batteries from the Japanese resupply ship. The six lithium-ion batteries, replacing 12 older nickel-hydrogen batteries, will be installed on the space station’s Port 4 truss structure power channels during the two spacewalks on Sept 20 and 26.

Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst will participate in both spacewalks. Commander Drew Feustel will join him on the first spacewalk. Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold will go out on the second spacewalk. Gerst and Feustel began inspecting and resizing their U.S. spacesuits this morning. Feustel then moved on checking spacesuit gloves and helmets before finally collecting spacewalk tools.

Global Science, Cargo and Spacewalk Duties Take Place on Station Today

Four Expedition 56 crew members gather inside the Cupola
Four Expedition 56 crew members gather inside the Cupola and share a fun portrait while gazing at the Earth below. From left are Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineers Sergey Prokopyev and Ricky Arnold.

A pair of German experiments took place aboard the International Space Station today including a space exercise study and the installation of an Earth spectral sensor. The Expedition 56 crew members are also looking ahead to Wednesday’s Russian cargo ship departure and a pair of U.S. spacewalks in September.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) exercised today in a t-shirt designed with a specialized fabric for the SpaceTex-2 study. The research, sponsored by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), is evaluating whether the custom t-shirt provides comfort, efficient thermal control and sweat evaporation during a workout in microgravity.

Commander Drew Feustel worked on another DLR experiment that will provide hyperspectral imagery of the Earth. Feustel is readying the German-built Earth spectrometer for its installation outside of the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. It will monitor urban and agricultural development, the health of vegetation and water areas as well as the environmental effects of natural and manmade disasters.

Russia’s Progress 69 (69P) cargo craft loaded with trash is poised for its undocking Wednesday at 10:16 p.m. EDT from the aft port of the Zvezda service module. The 69P will orbit the Earth for seven more days of engineering tests before it deorbits over the Pacific Ocean for a fiery but safe disposal.

Two U.S. spacewalks are planned for Sept. 20 and 26 to replace batteries on the space station’s Port 4 truss structure power channels. Gerst will join Feustel on the first spacewalk then go out again on the second spacewalk with NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold. The batteries are targeted for delivery on Sept. 14 aboard Japan’s “Kounotori” HTV resupply ship.

Robot Science, Spacewalk Preps Ahead of Japanese Cargo Mission

Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev
Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev lays cable for the installation of the Icarus animal-tracking experiment on the Zvezda service module during a spacewalk that lasted seven hours and 46 minutes.

The Expedition 56 crew members explored using algorithms to remotely control a robot on the ground and satellites from the International Space Station today. The orbital residents are also cleaning up after a Russian spacewalk while preparing for a pair of upcoming U.S. spacewalks and a Japanese cargo mission.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency is testing the ability to control a robot on a planetary surface from an orbiting spacecraft. The study seeks to bolster the success and safety of future space missions with astronauts and robots sharing decision-making responsibilities.

Commander Drew Feustel joined Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold in the Japanese Kibo lab module monitoring a pair of tiny internal satellites, also known as SPHERES. They are evaluating an algorithm that controls the operation of the SPHERES in formation using six degrees of freedom.

Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev are cleaning up after Wednesday’s spacewalk enabling new science outside of the space station. The two dried out their Russian Orlan spacesuits and water feed lines then began stowing spacewalk tools and gear.

At the end of the day, Gerst started charging U.S. spacesuit batteries ahead of two maintenance spacewalks planned for Sept. 20 and 26. Gerst and fellow spacewalkers Feustel and Arnold will replace batteries on the Port 4 truss structure’s power channels. The Japanese “Kounotori” HTV-7 cargo ship is targeted to deliver the new batteries ahead of the two spacewalks on Sept. 14.

Get weekly video highlights at: