Resupply Rocket Rolls Out to Pad, Crew Keeps up Space Studies
The next rocket to launch a resupply ship to the International Space Station rolled out to its launch pad on the other side of the world this morning. Back on the orbiting lab, the seven-member Expedition 64 crew kept up its space studies while servicing U.S. spacesuits.
Russia’s ISS Progress 77 cargo craft is standing atop its rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan. It is counting down to liftoff on Sunday at 11:45 p.m. EST to deliver just over one ton of nitrogen, water and propellant to the station. It will dock Tuesday at 1:20 a.m. EDT to the Pirs docking compartment.
The Progress 77 will later detach Pirs from the station readying the Zvezda service module’s port for a new module. Pirs will then be replaced with the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module to be delivered on a Proton rocket. The Pirs undocking occurs a few days after Nauka’s launch to enable Russian flight controllers to confirm a good vehicle in orbit heading to the station.
In the meantime, science is the main mission aboard the station. Microgravity research has the potential to reveal new insights and potential therapies that otherwise wouldn’t be possible on Earth due to gravity’s interference.
Crew Preps New Airlock and Studies Variety of Space Phenomena
The Expedition 64 crew continued setting up a new science and cargo airlock for operations today since its installation last year on the International Space Station. The orbital residents also researched how microgravity affects humans, plants and physics.
Glover started the morning with NASA Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module researching how the human nervous system adapts to weightlessness. The duo took turns seated in a specialized chair performing a series of dexterous manipulation tasks for the GRIP study. Insights may help engineers and doctors develop better spacecraft interfaces and treat neurological conditions on Earth.
Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov were back on exercise research today studying how the lack of gravity impacts the effectiveness of a workout. The duo strapped sensors to themselves measuring their heart and breathing rate as they jogged on the Zvezda service module’s treadmill.
The space-exposed human nervous system may impact how an astronaut grips and manipulates objects during a mission. NASA Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover participated in the GRIP study today that could help engineers and doctors develop better spacecraft interfaces and treat neurological conditions on Earth.
Glover also checked out components on safety jetpacks that an astronaut would use in the unlikely event a spacewalker became untethered from the space station. NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker worked during the afternoon on batteries that keep U.S. spacesuit life support systems powered during spacewalks.
NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins tried on the experimental AstroRad radiation protection vest during the afternoon testing it for fit and comfort while working. Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) serviced the Cell Biology Experiment Facility, an incubator that cultivates cells and plants for research, throughout the day.
Exercise research is also important as flight surgeons learn to maximize the effects of a crew member’s workout to account for the lack of gravity. Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov strapped sensors to themselves and jogged on the Russian treadmill on Wednesday. Data will be sent down to doctors to review how a cosmonaut’s body adjusts to working out in space.
Two Cargo Ships Near Launch as Crew Conducts Space Research
A Russian resupply ship departed the International Space Station overnight as two more cargo missions get ready for their launch. Meanwhile, the Expedition 64 crew has been focusing on space research exploring botany and biology.
Russia’s uncrewed ISS Progress 76 space freighter undocked from the station’s Pirs docking compartment early Tuesday packed with trash and discarded gear. The Progress 76 then fired its engines one last time for a safe, but fiery reentry above the Pacific Ocean ending its six-and-a-half-month cargo mission.
A new Russian space freighter, the ISS Progress 77, is gearing up for its launch to the station on Sunday at 11:45 p.m. EST from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It will dock to Pirs’ vacant port two days later delivering 1.1 tons of nitrogen, water and propellant.
The U.S. Cygnus cargo craft from Northrop Grumman will follow the Progress 77 blasting off from Virginia on Feb. 20. It will rendezvous with the station for a robotic capture and installation on Feb. 22 carrying about 8,000 pounds of crew supplies and science experiments.
Space scientists are learning how to grow food in space so future crews can support themselves on long-term missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Today, NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker set up hydroponics components for a study exploring ways to sustain plants in microgravity from germination through harvest.
Flight Engineer Kate Rubins swabbed station surfaces on Tuesday collecting microbe samples for DNA sequencing to understand their adaptation to weightlessness. Flight Engineer Victor Glover strapped himself into a restraint then wore a virtual reality headset to understand how an astronaut visually interprets motion, orientation, and distance in space.
The two cosmonauts, Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, trained to remotely dock a spacecraft in the unlikely event its automated rendezvous system fails. The duo practiced using the tele-robotically operated rendezvous unit (TORU) to safely maneuver a spacecraft to its docking port.
Crew Gets Ready for Cargo Missions, Opens New Airlock
Two cargo rockets on opposite sides of the world are nearing their launch to resupply the Expedition 64 crew this month. A new science and cargo airlock installed late last year on the International Space Station is now open for business.
Russia’s Progress 76 (76P) cargo craft, packed with trash and discarded hardware, will depart the orbiting lab tonight completing a 201-day mission attached to the Pirs docking compartment. It will deorbit a few hours later for a fiery, but safe destruction over the South Pacific.
The 76P will be replaced after the Progress 77 (77P) cargo craft blasts off on Feb. 14 at 11:45 p.m. EST from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The 77P will dock to the vacant Pirs port a little more than two days later on Feb. 17 at 1:20 a.m. The launch and docking activities will be broadcast live on NASA TV.
The next cargo mission to resupply the station will be Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo ship lifting off atop an Antares rocket on Feb. 20 from Virginia. Cygnus will be delivering about 8,000 pounds of station hardware, science experiments, and crew supplies to replenish the orbiting lab on Feb. 22. It will be captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm and installed to the Unity module‘s Earth-facing port.