The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is back on Earth after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean Sunday night loaded with critical space research and International Space Station hardware. Four spaceships remain parked at the orbital lab including Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship from the United States.
Today, the three-member Expedition 58 crew is exploring a wide array of microgravity science to improve life for humans on Earth and in space. The orbital residents also worked on life support systems and upgraded computer hardware.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain set up a specialized microscope in the morning for the Biophysics-5 study to research the production of protein crystals. Afterward, she deactivated Dragon communications gear then swapped out hard drives on several laptop computers.
Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack and replaced optics gear inside the flame and soot research device. He later swapped a hydrogen sensor inside the Oxygen Generation System before inspecting and cleaning some of its parts.
A pair of tiny internal satellites, better known as SPHERES, were set up by Commander Oleg Kononenko today inside the Kibo laboratory module. High school students write algorithms and submit them in a competition to control the SPHERES to demonstrate spacecraft maneuvers and formation-flying for future space missions.
To take advantage of calmer sea states in a different location in the Pacific Ocean, SpaceX and the International Space Station Program agreed to move the departure of the SpaceX-CRS-16 Dragon cargo craft from the station from early Sunday morning to late Sunday afternoon, setting up the first night splashdown and recovery of a Dragon vehicle.
Dragon’s hatch will be closed Sunday morning, and the spacecraft will be detached from the Harmony module around 3 p.m. EST Sunday.
Ground controllers will now release Dragon from the Canadarm2 robotic arm at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. NASA TV coverage of the operation without commentary will begin at 6:15 p.m. NASA Flight Engineer Anne McClain will monitor the release from the station’s cupola.
Dragon’s deorbit burn to begin its descent back to Earth is now scheduled at approximately 11:19 p.m. with splashdown scheduled at around 12:10 a.m. Monday (9:10 p.m. Pacific time) just west of Baja California.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft had its stay extended at the International Space Station a few more days. Mission managers observed inclement weather at Dragon’s splashdown site in the Pacific Ocean and decided against Dragon’s return to Earth today.
Meanwhile, Dragon’s hatch remains open and the Expedition 58 crew is tending to time-sensitive experiments targeted for return and analysis back on Earth. The Canadarm2 robotic arm has the Dragon firmly in its grips while the cargo vehicle is still attached to the Harmony module.
Robotics controllers will command the Canadarm2 to uninstall Dragon from Harmony on Saturday afternoon then slowly maneuver the U.S. space freighter to its release position. The Canadarm2 will then be commanded to release Dragon Sunday at 3:36 a.m. EST as astronaut Anne McClain monitors from the cupola. NASA TV will broadcast the departure live without commentary starting Sunday at 3:15 a.m.
Today, the three space station residents are back on science and maintenance duties with Dragon poised for a weekend departure. McClain of NASA is checking out and preserving the space research meant for return inside Dragon.
Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency assisted McClain first thing Thursday morning. He then moved on to the Vascular Echo study scanning his leg’s femoral artery with an ultrasound device to understand how living in space affects the cardiovascular system.
Back on Earth, NASA and SpaceX are continuing to work on the activities leading toward the Demo-1, uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station.NASA and SpaceX are now targeting no earlier than February for the launch of Demo-1 to complete hardware testing and joint reviews. NASA and SpaceX will confirm a new target date after coordination with the Eastern Range and the International Space Station Program.
The three Expedition 58 crew members have finished packing the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft with science experiments and hardware today. Final preparations for the vehicle’s departure are now on hold while teams wait for favorable weather in the splashdown area for Dragon’s return.
Dragon was scheduled for departure early Thursday morning from the International Space Station but mission managers made the decision to delay departure. Managers are assessing the backup release date of Sunday, Jan. 13 for Dragon’s return to Earth.
Robotics controllers maneuvered the Canadarm2 robotic arm Wednesday and grappled Dragon while it was still attached to the Harmony module. Prior to Dragon departure, they will remotely uninstall Dragon from Harmony and slowly guide it to its release position.
Astronaut Anne McClain will be in the cupola when robotics experts command the Canadarm2 to release Dragon finalizing its mission at the orbital lab. She’ll monitor its departure while her crewmates Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques work on their daily science and maintenance tasks.
Dragon, which arrived at the station Dec. 8, will orbit Earth a few more hours on its own before reentering the atmosphere. It will parachute to a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California where SpaceX personnel will retrieve the space freighter. They’ll deliver it to shore where NASA engineers will extract the precious cargo for immediate shipment to investigators around the country for analysis.
The crew will shut the hatch to Dragon Wednesday and disconnect power cables. Then robotics controllers will take over, uninstall Dragon from Harmony overnight and maneuver it into release position. McClain will be in the cupola Thursday monitoring Dragon when it is released from the Canadarm2 around 4:35 a.m. EDT.
After its departure, Dragon will orbit Earth a few more hours before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California. SpaceX personnel will retrieve Dragon and return it to port where NASA engineers will extract the precious cargo for immediate shipment to investigators around the country.
Astronauts Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency are wrapping up final transfers of completed science experiments in Dragon today. The duo is loading science samples from several experiments for return to Earth, where they will quickly be delivered to investigators around the country for analysis.
Engineers on the ground are testing communications and control gear that will be used to monitor and command Dragon after its release from the station. Robotics controllers are also powering up the Canadarm2 robotic arm today to grapple Dragon before its removal from the Harmony module.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is in its final week attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module. Meanwhile, robotics experts on the ground and the crew aboard the lab are working a wide variety of science activities today.
The Dragon space freighter has nearly completed its cargo mission to replenish the orbital laboratory after delivering over 5,600 pounds of science and supplies Dec. 8. Dragon will return to Earth Jan. 10 for retrieval in the Pacific Ocean loaded with completed science experiments and used hardware for analysis.
Half of the Expedition 57 crew is getting ready to depart International Space Station while the other half is getting used to life on orbit. Amidst those preparations, all six space residents are researching what microgravity does to their bodies while keeping the orbital lab in tip-top shape.
Commander Alexander Gerst continues unpacking the Space Dragon cargo craft today with its near 5,700 pounds of science, supplies and hardware. The German astronaut from ESA (European Space Agency) is also packing the Soyuz MS-09 crew ship that will take him and two crewmates home next week. He’ll parachute to a landing aboard the Soyuz in Kazakhstan Dec. 20 at 12:03 a.m. EST with fellow crew members Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Sergey Prokopyev after 197 days in space.
Auñón-Chancellor spent Thursday working with a variety of research gear supporting space biology. She processed research samples today in the NanoRacks Plate Reader that enables pharmaceutical and biotechnology science in space. She also stowed biological samples in a science freezer for a cellular adaptation study.
The newest trio aboard the station that arrived last week are hard at work today on human research and getting up to speed on station systems. Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques collected blood and urine samples to be analyzed for the Biochemical Profile space adaptation study. The duo also scheduled some time today to get used to life in space. Four-time station cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko joined Prokopyev for more spacesuit maintenance after Tuesday’s spacewalk.
The 16th contracted commercial resupply mission from SpaceX delivers more than 5,600 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory. Among the research it will bring to station, science investigations and technology demonstrations aboard Dragon include:
The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) will provide high-quality laser ranging observations of the Earth’s forests and topography required to advance the understanding of important carbon and water cycling processes, biodiversity, and habitat. GEDI will be mounted on the Japanese Experiment Module’s Exposed Facility and provide the first high-resolution observations of forest vertical structure at a global scale. These observations will quantify the aboveground carbon stored in vegetation and changes that result from vegetation disturbance and recovery, the potential for forests to sequester carbon in the future, and habitat structure and its influence on habitat quality and biodiversity.
A small satellite deployment mechanism, called SlingShot, will be ride up in Dragon and then be installed in a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft prior to its departure from the space station. SlingShot can accommodate as many as 18 CubeSats of any format. After the Cygnus cargo ship departs from station, the spacecraft navigates to an altitude of 280 to 310 miles (an orbit higher than that of the space station) to deploy the satellites.
Robotic Refueling Mission-3 (RRM3) will demonstrate the first transfer and long-term storage of liquid methane, a cryogenic fluid, in microgravity. The ability to replenish and store cryogenic fluids, which can function as a fuel or coolant, will help enable long duration journeys to destinations, such as the Moon and Mars.
Growth of Large, Perfect Protein Crystals for Neutron Crystallography (Perfect Crystals) crystallizes an antioxidant protein found inside the human body to analyze its shape. This research may shed light on how the protein helps protect the human body from ionizing radiation and oxidants created as a byproduct of metabolism. For best results, analysis requires large crystals with minimal imperfections, which are more easily produced in the microgravity environment of the space station.
Dragon is scheduled to depart the station in January 2019 and return to Earth with more than 4,000 pounds of research, hardware and crew supplies.
While the International Space Station was traveling about 250 miles over the Pacific Ocean north of Papua New Guinea, Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor, captured the Dragon spacecraft at 7:21 a.m. EST using the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm.
Ground controllers will now send commands to begin the robotic installation of the spacecraft on bottom of the station’s Harmony module. NASA Television coverage of installation is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Watch online at www.nasa.gov/live.
The Dragon lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Wednesday, Dec 5 with more than 5,600 pounds of research, equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory.
The International Space Station is an accessible space laboratory with unparalleled capability that is increasing knowledge of engineering and physical sciences, biology, the Earth, and the universe through research and technology demonstrations and providing the foundation for continuing human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit. NASA’s human research is closing the gaps in current scientific understanding of how best to predict, assess, and solve the problems that humans encounter while living and working in space, and extend that knowledge to protect the women and men who will go forward to the Moon and Mars.