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Dragon’s Final Countdown: ISS Crew’s Pre-Departure Frenzy and the Cygnus Curveball

Thrusters on the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft fire automatically while adjusting the vehicle’s slow, methodical approach toward the International Space Station for a docking to the Harmony module’s forward port. Credit: NASA

The Expedition 70 crew is packing a U.S. cargo craft ahead of its planned Wednesday departure. The seven residents aboard the International Space StationThe International Space Station (ISS) is a large spacecraft in orbit around the Earth that serves as a research laboratory and spaceport for international collaboration in space exploration. It was launched in 1998 and has been continuously occupied by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts from around the world since 2000. The ISS is a joint project of five space agencies: NASA (USA), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada). It orbits the Earth at an altitude of approximately 400 kilometers (250 miles), and provides a unique platform for scientific research, technological development, and human space exploration.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>International Space Station (ISS) are also keeping up their regularly scheduled research and maintenance activities.

NASAEstablished in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Its vision is "To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity." Its core values are "safety, integrity, teamwork, excellence, and inclusion." NASA conducts research, develops technology and launches missions to explore and study Earth, the solar system, and the universe beyond. It also works to advance the state of knowledge in a wide range of scientific fields, including Earth and space science, planetary science, astrophysics, and heliophysics, and it collaborates with private companies and international partners to achieve its goals.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>NASA astronauts Loral O’Hara and Jasmin Moghbeli worked together on Tuesday morning to remove biological specimens from the Destiny laboratory module, stowing them in transporters, then installing the science cargo inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft. Afterward, O’Hara wrapped up her day with a vision test reading characters off a standard eye chart found in a doctor’s office on Earth. Moghbeli treated brain cell-like samples to understand neurodegenerative processes at a molecular and cellular level.

Expedition 70 Flight Engineers Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O'Hara

Expedition 70 Flight Engineers (from left) Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara, both from NASA, pose for a portrait inside the Destiny laboratory module following the successful docking of the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Astronauts Andreas Mogensen and Satoshi Furukawa continued the cargo transfers during the afternoon packing and securing a variety of hardware inside Dragon for analysis and retrieval on Earth. Mogensen from ESA (European Space AgencyThe European Space Agency (ESA) is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration and study of space. ESA was established in 1975 and has 22 member states, with its headquarters located in Paris, France. ESA is responsible for the development and coordination of Europe's space activities, including the design, construction, and launch of spacecraft and satellites for scientific research and Earth observation. Some of ESA's flagship missions have included the Rosetta mission to study a comet, the Gaia mission to create a 3D map of the Milky Way, and the ExoMars mission to search for evidence of past or present life on Mars.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>European Space Agency) earlier serviced numerous science components including charging virtual reality hardware, loading software on a fluorescence microscope, and setting up the Life Science Glovebox for Moghbeli’s sampling work. Furukawa from JAXAFormed in 2003, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was born through the merger of three institutions, namely the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL) and the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA). JAXA performs various activities related to aerospace, from basic research in the aerospace field to development and utilization and is responsible for research, technology development, and launch of satellites into orbit, and is involved in advanced missions such as asteroid exploration and possible human exploration of the Moon.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) installed new gas bottles on combustion research gear located inside the Kibo laboratory module.

Working in the RoscosmosRoscosmos, also known as the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities, is the Russian government agency responsible for space activities, including the development and operation of spacecraft, launch vehicles, and space stations. It was formed in 2015 through the merger of the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and the United Rocket and Space Corporation. Roscosmos is responsible for Russia's space program and works closely with other international space agencies on joint projects, such as the International Space Station. The agency is also involved in a wide range of space-related activities, including scientific research, earth observation, telecommunications, and manned spaceflight.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>Roscosmos segment of the orbital outpost, cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko activated a 3D printer to explore printing tools and supplies in microgravity. Flight Engineer Nikolai Chub tested a radio communications antenna and then studied ways space crews and ground controllers from around the world can communicate more effectively. Flight Engineer Konstantin spent his morning on orbital plumbing tasks then worked during the afternoon inspecting windows in the Zvezda service module and disinfecting surfaces inside the Nauka science module.

SpaceX Cargo Dragon Resupply Ship Departing Space Station

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship is pictured departing the station in September of 2021 during a previous cargo mission. Credit: NASA

Following a weather review about 24 hours prior to undocking, NASA and SpaceXCommonly known as SpaceX, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company that was founded by Elon Musk in 2002. Headquartered in Hawthorne, California, the company designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. SpaceX's ultimate goal is to reduce space transportation costs and enable the colonization of Mars.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>SpaceX now are targeting no earlier than 9:05 p.m. ESTEST is an abbreviation for Eastern Standard Time, the time zone for the eastern coast of the United States and Canada when observing standard time (autumn/winter). It is five hours behind Coordinated Universal Time. New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, and the Kennedy Space Center are in the Eastern Time Zone (ET).” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>EST Wednesday, December 20, for the undocking of the company’s 29th Dragon commercial resupply services mission from the International Space Station.

Coverage of Dragon’s departure Wednesday will begin at 8:45 p.m. on the NASA+ streaming service via the web or the NASA app. Coverage also will air live on NASA Television, YouTube, and on the agency’s website. Learn how to stream NASA TV through a variety of platforms including social media.

Additional undock and return opportunities are continuing to be considered as joint teams work to identify the best autonomous undocking and return weather conditions as a cold front passes through the splashdown zones off the coast of Florida. More updates will be made following the next weather review about 12 hours prior to Dragon undocking from the space station.

After re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft will splash down off the coast of Florida, which will not be broadcast on NASA TV.

Northrop Grumman’s Cymbal-Shaped Solar Array Contrasts a Bahamas Backdrop

In the foreground, the golden cymbal-shaped solar array of Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft is partially illuminated by the Sun and shadowed by other exterior station hardware. Below it, the teal waters of the Bahamas create a contrasting backdrop. The International Space Station was orbiting 259 miles above as this image was taken. Credit: NASA

With the changes to Dragon’s space station operations, NASA and Northrop Grumman now are targeting a Friday, December 22, for the departure of the Cygnus spacecraft from the orbital complex.

Coverage of Cygnus departure Friday will begin at 7:45 a.m. ahead of the robotic release of the spacecraft at 8:05 a.m. on the NASA+ streaming service via the web or the NASA app. Coverage also will air live on NASA Television, YouTube, and on the agency’s website.

Cygnus will conduct secondary payload operations following unberthing and complete a safe and harmless re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere where it will harmlessly burn up over the Pacific Ocean.

Source: SciTechDaily