Astronauts Relax After Sending Off U.S. Cargo Ships

Astronauts Relax After Sending Off U.S. Cargo Ships

The seven-member Expedition 64 crew poses for a portrait inside the space station's Kibo laboratory module.
The seven-member Expedition 64 crew poses for a portrait inside the space station’s Kibo laboratory module.

One U.S. crew ship and three Russian spaceships remain parked at the International Space Station after the departure of two U.S. space freighters this month. Most of the Expedition 64 crew is relaxing today while a pair of cosmonauts focus on Russian maintenance and science.

Five astronauts, four from NASA and one from JAXA, are taking it easy aboard the orbiting lab today. The quintet kicked off the New Year loading a pair of U.S. cargo ships to wrap up their cargo missions less than a week apart. This followed a busy December full of space research to benefit humans living on and off the Earth.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft left the station first on Jan. 6 following its release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Cygnus will orbit Earth until Jan. 26 for flight tests and remotely controlled science experiments before its fiery, but safe descent above the South Pacific.

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship undocked on Tuesday from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter, a first for a U.S. commercial cargo spacecraft. It will splashdown Wednesday night in the Gulf of Mexico carrying science experiments and station hardware for retrieval and analysis.

JAXA Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi did start Wednesday collecting his urine samples for a Russian biomedical study before taking the rest of Wednesday off. Station Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos also participated in the study that seeks to understand how the human body adapts to weightlessness.

Ryzhikov then moved on to Russian spacecraft activities packing the Progress 76 cargo craft and charging batteries inside the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship. Kud-Sverchkov worked on life support gear and deployed radiation detectors in the station’s Russian segment.

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Mark Garcia

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Cargo Dragon Undocks from Station and Heads for Splashdown

Cargo Dragon Undocks from Station and Heads for Splashdown

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle begins its separation from the station after undocking from the Harmony module's international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle begins its separation from the station after undocking from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV

With NASA astronaut Victor Glover monitoring aboard the International Space Station, an upgraded SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Docking Adapter on the station’s space-facing port of the Harmony module at 9:05 a.m. EST.

It is the first undocking of a U.S. commercial cargo craft from the complex. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft were attached and removed from the space station using the station’s robotic Canadarm2.

Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the space station during the next 36 hours. On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Dragon will conduct a deorbit burn at 7:37 p.m. to begin its re-entry sequence into Earth’s atmosphere. Dragon is expected to splash down west of Tampa off the Florida coast about 8:27 p.m. The splashdown will not be broadcast.

The upgraded cargo Dragon capsule used for this mission contains double the powered locker availability of previous capsules, allowing for a significant increase in the research that can be carried back to Earth.

Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, delivering some science back into the hands of the researchers as soon as four to nine hours after splashdown. This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft returned to the Pacific Ocean, with quick-return science cargo processed at SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas, and delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Dragon launched Dec. 6 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, arriving at the station just over 24 hours later and achieving the first autonomous docking of a U.S. commercial cargo resupply spacecraft. The spacecraft delivered more than 6,400 pounds of hardware, research investigations and crew supplies.

Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @iss, ISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

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Mark Garcia

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Dragon Departure Live Now on NASA TV

Dragon Departure Live Now on NASA TV

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module's space-facing international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV

NASA Television and the agency’s website are broadcasting live coverage for the departure of an upgraded SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft from the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Victor Glover is monitoring the activity aboard the station.

The targeted undocking time has been moved to optimize communication coverage; commands to undock will be sent at 9 a.m. EST with physical separation of the two spacecraft about 9:05 a.m.

The undocking will be the first time a U.S. commercial cargo craft autonomously departs from the station’s International Docking Adapter.

The spacecraft is filled with more than 4,400 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo to return to Earth to complete SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply services mission for NASA.

Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the station’s space-facing port of the Harmony module and exit the area of the space station to begin its return to Earth. On Wednesday, Dragon will initiate a deorbit burn to begin its re-entry sequence into Earth’s atmosphere then make a parachute-assisted splashdown around 8:27 p.m. – the first return of a cargo resupply spacecraft off the Florida coast west of Tampa. The deorbit burn and splashdown will not be broadcast.

For departure coverage and more information about the mission, visit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation. Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @issISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

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Mark Garcia

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SpaceX Waves off Undocking of Cargo Dragon

SpaceX Waves off Undocking of Cargo Dragon

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module's space-facing international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV

As a result of adverse weather conditions at the targeted splashdown zone off the coast of Daytona Beach, Florida, SpaceX has waved off today’s planned departure of an upgraded SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft.

Teams are currently assessing weather conditions to determine the next opportunity for undocking.

Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, delivering some science back into the hands of the researchers as soon as four to nine hours after splashdown. This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft returned to the Pacific Ocean, with quick-return science cargo processed at SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas, and delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

For updated information about space station activities, visit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/.Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @iss, ISS on Facebook, and on Twitter @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

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Mark Garcia

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Crew Packs Cargo Dragon With Science, Begins Spacewalk Preps

Crew Packs Cargo Dragon With Science, Begins Spacewalk Preps

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins loads engineered heart tissue samples into a science freezer for preservation and later analysis.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins loads engineered heart tissue samples into a science freezer for preservation and later analysis.

The Expedition 64 crew is going into the weekend packing the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship and readying it for a Monday morning undocking from the International Space Station. The orbital residents are also turning their attention to a pair of spacewalks taking place before the end of January.

A month after its arrival and delivery of a suite of vital space science investigations, the Dragon will return the research back to Earth for analysis on Monday. The astronauts will be loading gear and samples from those studies, as well as a variety of station hardware, into Dragon this weekend before closing its hatch a few hours before undocking.

The astronauts are transferring rodents inside specialized habitats into Dragon including an array of biological and microbial samples stowed in science freezers. Scientists on Earth will examine the mice for insights into advanced therapies to treat space-caused vision and bone conditions. Heart tissue samples and microbes will be also looked at, among other samples, to learn how to keep astronauts healthy and spacecraft clean and safe.

NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins will be monitoring Dragon when it undocks Monday at 9:25 a.m. EST. from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. The upgraded space freighter is planned to splash down several hours later in the Atlantic Ocean, a first for a commercial cargo spacecraft. NASA and SpaceX personnel will be on hand to retrieve the cargo craft. NASA TV will broadcast Dragon’s undocking and separation live on NASA TV beginning at 9 a.m.

Following a busy holiday season of space research, the crew now turns its attention to spacewalks planned for January 19 and 25. Veteran spacewalker Michael Hopkins will conduct both spacewalks with Flight Engineer Victor Glover. They will outfit science hardware on Europe’s Columbus laboratory module during the first spacewalk then upgrade high definition video and camera gear on the second.

The pair were joined today by Rubins and JAXA Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi for spacewalk procedure reviews and a conference with spacewalk specialists on the ground. Hopkins and Glover also began configuring and organizing their spacewalking tools. Rubins and Noguchi will assist the astronauts in and out of their spacesuits and the Quest airlock before and after both spacewalks.

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Mark Garcia

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