Crew Returns to Science After Coordinating Space Traffic

NASA astronaut Christina Koch conducts science operations
NASA astronaut Christina Koch conducts science operations inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module with a science freezer that preserves biological research samples for later analysis.

The Expedition 60 crew is back on track with ongoing space research today after coordinating a flurry of space traffic at the International Space Station. The astronauts are also continuing to clean up after last week’s spacewalk.

The SpaceX Dragon is back on Earth after splashing down Tuesday afternoon in the Pacific Ocean. The commercial space freighter delivered critical science experiments to the station last month and returned samples for scientists around the world to analyze.

Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan of NASA and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) took turns today organizing spacewalking tools in the U.S. Quest airlock. Morgan also cleaned cooling loops inside the U.S. spacesuits he and fellow astronaut Nick Hague wore last week to install the International Docking Adapter-3.

Parmitano also documented his meals today for a space nutrition study sponsored by ESA. Living in microgravity for a long time impacts the body and nutritionists are seeking the ideal diet to maintain astronaut health.

Astrobee, the free-flying robotic assistant, was testing and calibrating its mobility today inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module as NASA astronaut Christina Koch monitored. She also printed new station emergency procedures to accommodate a pair of Russian Soyuz crew ships that were required to switch docking ports.

The hatches are open on the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft after its automated docking to the Zvezda service module Monday night. Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov will be unloading space cargo from the MS-14 over the next several days before packing it with return gear. The Soyuz will parachute back to Earth in Kazakhstan with no crew onboard and carrying cargo on Sept. 6.

Dragon Splashes Down in Pacific Ocean Packed With Science and Cargo

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured above the Canadian Rocky Mountains
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured above the Canadian Rocky Mountains after it departed the International Space Station today. Credit: @Astro_Christina

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 4:21 p.m. EDT (1:21 p.m PDT), approximately 300 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, marking the end of the company’s 18th contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The spacecraft returned more than 2,700 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo.

Some of the scientific investigations Dragon will return to Earth include:

Bio-Mining in Microgravity

The Biorock investigation provides insight into the physical interactions of liquid, rocks and microorganisms in microgravity and improving the efficiency and understanding of mining materials in space. Bio-mining eventually could help explorers on the Moon or Mars get needed materials on site, lessening the need for precious resources from Earth and reducing the amount of supplies explorers must take with them.

Mechanisms of Moss in Microgravity

Space Moss compares mosses grown aboard the space station with those grown on Earth to determine how microgravity affects its growth, development, and other characteristics. Tiny plants without roots, mosses need only a small area for growth, an advantage for their potential use in space and future bases on the Moon or Mars. This investigation also could yield information that aids in engineering other plants to grow better on the Moon and Mars, as well as on Earth.

 Improving Tire Manufacturing from Orbit

The Goodyear Tire investigation uses microgravity to push the limits of silica fillers for tire applications. A better understanding of silica morphology and the relationship between silica structure and its properties could provide improvements for increased fuel efficiency, which would reduce transportation costs and help to protect Earth’s environment.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations aimed at keeping astronauts healthy during space travel and demonstrating technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, including missions to the Moon by 2024 and on to Mars. Space station research also provides opportunities for other U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments, and products that improve life on Earth.

For more than 18 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. A global endeavor, more than 230 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,500 research investigations from researchers in 106 countries.

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

SpaceX Dragon Released from Station for Earth Return

The SpaceX Dragon above the Nile River Delta
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module on Aug. 13, 2019, as the orbital complex flew 260 miles above the Nile River Delta in Egypt.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft released from the International Space Station at 10:59 a.m. EDT after flight controllers in Houston delivered remote commands to the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA monitored Dragon’s systems as it departed the microgravity laboratory.

Next up, Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the station and execute a deorbit burn around 3:22 p.m. to leave orbit. Splashdown down is targeted for 4:21 p.m. EDT (1:21 p.m. PDT).

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

Russian and U.S. Spaceship Activities Keep Crew Busy

Aug. 25, 2019: International Space Station Configuration
International Space Station Configuration: Four spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft and Russia’s Progress 73 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-12 and MS-13 crew ships.

An unpiloted Russian spacecraft is ready to make a second docking attempt tonight as a U.S. resupply ship is preparing for its departure Tuesday. This follows Sunday night’s relocation of a Soyuz crew ship at the International Space Station.

Three Expedition 60 crewmembers swapped docking ports in their Soyuz MS-13 crew ship late Sunday. Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov, with Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano seated next to him, backed the Soyuz away from the Zvezda service module at 11:35 p.m. EDT on Sunday and pulled their vehicle into the Poisk module just before midnight.

The relocation opens up Zvezda’s docking port, with its fully operable Kurs automated rendezvous system, to receive the uncrewed Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft today at 11:12 p.m. The MS-14 has been safely trailing the station by over 160 miles after its aborted docking attempt Saturday due to a faulty automated rendezvous component on Poisk.

Morgan and fellow NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague are getting the SpaceX Dragon space freighter ready for its release from the Harmony module on Tuesday morning. Ground controllers in Houston will remotely command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Dragon from its grips Tuesday at 10:42 a.m. It will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California a few hours later for retrieval by SpaceX personnel.

NASA TV is covering all of the spaceship docking and departure activities live. Soyuz MS-14 docking coverage begins tonight at 10:30 p.m. Dragon release coverage begins Tuesday at 10:15 a.m. Dragon splashdown will not be broadcast.

Life Science Today as Crew Readies for Spacecraft Arrivals and Departures

Expedition 60 crewmembers Alexey Ovchinin, Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan
Expedition 60 crewmembers (from left) Alexey Ovchinin, Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan pose for a portrait inside the vestibule between the Columbus laboratory module and the Harmony module.

The Expedition 60 crew is continuing ongoing space science today and packing a U.S. resupply ship for departure next week. Russia’s first unpiloted Soyuz spacecraft is also on its way to the International Space Station where it will dock early Saturday morning.

Four astronauts, Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) with Christina Koch, Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague, all from NASA, are readying the SpaceX Dragon for its return to Earth. They will be packing Dragon with cargo and completed space experiments all weekend and into Monday.

Ground controllers will remotely command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach Dragon from the Harmony module before releasing it into orbit on Tuesday at 10:42 a.m. EDT. SpaceX personnel will retrieve Dragon from the Pacific Ocean after its splashdown off the coast of southern California a few hours later. NASA TV begins its live broadcast of Dragon’s departure on Tuesday at 10:15 a.m.

A multitude of space experiments is continuing aboard the orbiting lab today. Hague explored how moss grows in microgravity to inform self-sustaining human missions to the Moon and Mars. Koch serviced 3D printed tissue samples for a study investigating printing human organs in space. Parmitano researched cell differentiation to help doctors design medical therapies for humans on Earth and in space. Finally, Morgan collected and spun his blood samples in a centrifuge before stowing them in a science freezer for analysis.

The two cosmonauts, Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov, will be up early Saturday several hours before the rest of their crewmates. They will be monitoring the automated arrival of the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft set to dock to the Poisk module at 1:31 a.m. EDT Saturday. It will stay there for two weeks before undocking and parachuting to a landing in Kazakhstan with no crew onboard Sept. 6.

Full Science Schedule Today After Spacewalk and Rocket Launch

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan
NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan is pictured working outside the International Space Station during a six-hour and 32-minute spacewalk to install the orbiting lab’s second commercial crew vehicle docking port, the International Docking Adapter-3

Russia’s uncrewed Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station following its launch just a few hours after Wednesday’s spacewalk. The Expedition 60 crew is back on a full science schedule today and preparing to send a U.S. cargo craft back to Earth.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan called down to Mission Control today to discuss yesterday’s spacewalk when they installed the station’s second commercial crew vehicle docking port, the International Docking Adapter-3. The duo, including NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch, talked about normal technical issues and task challenges they faced before, during and after the spacewalking job.

Koch spent most of Thursday tending to lab mice living aboard the station. Scientists seek therapeutic insights not possible on Earth by observing the rodents due to their genetic similarity to humans.

Hague spent a portion of his day contributing to experiments designed by middle and high school students researching a variety of space phenomena. Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) continued exploring ways to manufacture safer, more fuel-efficient tires before moving on to more cell differentiation research.

Morgan is preparing the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for its return to Earth next week. The crew will be packing Dragon over the weekend and into Monday with the results of numerous space experiments for analysis. Robotics controllers will command the Canadarm2 to release Dragon from its grips on Tuesday at 10:42 a.m. EDT. It will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California a few hours later for retrieval by SpaceX personnel.

The first unpiloted Soyuz spacecraft launched yesterday from Kazakhstan about nine hours after Hague and Morgan completed their spacewalk. The Soyuz MS-14 is orbiting Earth today headed toward the station following a successful 2.1a booster test during its ascent. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov will monitor its automated approach and rendezvous when it docks Saturday to the Poisk module at 1:31 a.m. EDT.

Spacewalkers Complete Installation of Second Commercial Docking Port

Spacewalkers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan
Spacewalkers Nick Hague (top) and Andrew Morgan install the International Docking Adapter (IDA-3) to the Pressurized Mating Adapter on top of the station’s Harmony module.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan concluded today’s spacewalk at 2:59 p.m. EDT. During the six-hour and 32-minute spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully installed the second of two international docking adapters (IDAs).

The IDAs will be used for the future arrivals of Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon  commercial crew spacecraft. NASA’s commercial crew partnership with Boeing and SpaceX will restore launches of American astronauts from American soil on American rockets and maximize the time U.S. crews can dedicate to scientific research and technological advances aboard the orbiting laboratory to enable the agency’s ambitious goals for the Artemis lunar exploration program and future missions to the Moon and Mars. Regular human space transportation to the space station is a critical step to opening the space station for commercial business to enable the growth of the U.S. commercial space sector and the development of a robust low-Earth orbit economy.

The spacewalkers also completed additional routing for the station’s wireless internet.

Space station crew members have spent a total of 56 days, 23 hours, and 26 minutes during 218 spacewalks in support of station assembly, maintenance and upgrades. It was the fifth spacewalk in 2019, and the first for Morgan. During three spacewalks, Hague has now spent a total of 19 hours and 56 minutes outside the space station.

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

NASA Spacewalkers Suited Up and Installing Docking Adapter

Astronauts pose with spacewalkers
Astronauts Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano take a portrait with spacewalkers Andrew Morgan (right) and Nick Hague (left) in their U.S. spacesuits during this morning’s spacewalk preparations.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan switched their spacesuits to battery power this morning at 8:27 a.m. EDT aboard the International Space Station to begin a spacewalk planned to last about six-and-a-half hours. The two flight engineers will install the second of two international docking adapters (IDAs) that will enable future arrivals of Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew spacecraft.

NASA Television coverage of today’s spacewalk is ongoing and available on the agency’s website.

Hague is designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), his helmet camera is #11, and he is wearing the spacesuit with a red stripe. Morgan will be extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), his helmet camera is #18, and he is wearing the suit with no stripes.

The docking adapter arrived to the space station July 27 on a SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply spacecraft. On Monday, ground controllers used the Canadarm2 robotic arm, and its attached “Dextre” Special Dexterous Manipulator, to extract the IDA from the trunk of Dragon and position it just 2 feet away from Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 (PMA) located on the space-facing side of the station’s Harmony module. Once the IDA is moved to a surface to surface contact with the PMA, Hague and Morgan will begin work to hook up tethers in advance of NASA astronaut Christina Koch sending commands to close the hooks between the two docking ports. Once the hooks are closed, Hague and Morgan will press ahead to route and connect power and data lines for future use of the IDA.

The spacewalk is the 218th in support of station assembly, maintenance and upgrades and the fifth outside the station this year. It will be the third spacewalk for Hague and the first for Morgan.

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

Watch Spacewalkers Install New Commercial Docking Port on NASA TV

NASA astronauts (from left) Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague
NASA astronauts (from left) Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague pose with the spacesuits they will wear during a six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk to install the International Docking Adapter-3.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan, assigned as flight engineers for Expedition 60 aboard the International Space Station, will begin a planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk from inside the Quest airlock about 8:20 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21. Live NASA Television coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. The duo will assist in the installation of International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3) to Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 on the space-facing side of the station’s Harmony module.

NASA experts provided an overview of the spacewalk activities in a preview briefing Friday, Aug. 16.

IDA-3 will provide a second docking port to the International Space Station to accommodate the future arrivals of Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon  commercial crew spacecraft. The docking port was launched to the station last month on a SpaceX Dragon on the company’s 18th commercial cargo resupply services mission to the station. IDA-2 was installed to the forward end of the Harmony module in the summer of 2016.

NASA’s commercial crew partnership with Boeing and SpaceX will restore launches of American astronauts from American soil on American rockets and maximize the time U.S. crews can dedicate to scientific research and technological advances aboard the orbiting laboratory to enable the agency’s ambitious goals for the Artemis lunar exploration program and future missions to the Moon and Mars. Regular human space transportation to the space station is a critical step to opening the space station for commercial business to enable the growth of the U.S. commercial space sector and the development of a robust low-Earth orbit economy.

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

Spacewalkers Installing New Commercial Docking Port Wednesday

Expedition 60 trio with Dragon approaching
NASA astronauts (from left) Christina Koch, Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan gather for a portrait inside the International Space Station’s “window to the world,” the seven-windowed cupola, as the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft approaches the orbiting lab on July 27.

A new commercial crew docking port is in position on the International Space Station ready for installation during Wednesday’s spacewalk. Russia is also counting down to the launch of an unpiloted Soyuz spacecraft to the orbiting lab just a few hours after tomorrow’s spacewalk.

The Expedition 60 crew was asleep when the Canadarm2 robotic arm grappled and removed the International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3) from the rear of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. Robotics controllers then remotely guided the IDA-3 to the Harmony module’s space-facing port and inspected it with the Canadarm2.

Spacewalkers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan will set their spacesuits to battery power Wednesday at 8:20 a.m. EDT and exit the Quest airlock to finish installing the IDA-3. The duo will spend about six and a half hours routing cables and configuring the station’s second Boeing and SpaceX crew vehicle docking port. NASA TV is broadcasting live the spacewalk starting Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. See an animation of their planned activities.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin with Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano familiarized themselves with tomorrow’s spacewalk procedures. Koch also prepared Hague and Andrew’s installation tools and set up the IDA-3 control panel.

Parmitano moved on and continued researching cell differentiation for the Micro-15 investigation. Afterward, he photographed biofilm samples in the Kubik incubator for the BioRock space mining study that explores how microbes interact with rocks.

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is standing at its launch pad in Kazakhstan preparing for a liftoff just a few hours after Hague and Morgan finish their spacewalk. The unpiloted vehicle will blast off Wednesday at 11:38 p.m. EDT and test its 2.1a booster segment during ascent. The Soyuz spacecraft will automatically dock to the station’s Poisk module on Saturday at 1:30 a.m.