Space Stations

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 14 September, 2021 – Two Astronauts Mission Extended

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
September 15, 2021
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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 14 September, 2021 – Two Astronauts Mission Extended
Astronaut Mark Vande Hei cleans up debris in the Plant Habitat. (Aug. 31, 2021)

Two International Space Station crew members have had their stay onboard the orbiting lab extended to nearly a year.
Meanwhile, space biology and life support maintenance kept the Expedition 65 crew busy on Tuesday.

With the plans for Russian spaceflight participants to visit the space station as part of the Soyuz MS-19 crew in October 2021, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov will remain aboard the station until March 2022. Upon return to Earth, Vande Hei will hold the record for longest single spaceflight for an American.

A potential benefit to this extension is NASA gaining deeper insight into how the human body adapts to life in microgravity for longer periods of time. This research helps prepare for Artemis missions to the Moon and eventually long-duration missions to Mars, as well as provides critical opportunities for additional research to be conducted aboard the station that can benefit life on Earth.

Rodents living on the station will soon be studied to understand how microgravity affects a variety of biological systems and processes. NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough began their day Tuesday training for the Rodent Research-1 Demonstration (RR-D1) experiment that will take place inside the Kibo laboratory module.

Afterward, Commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency joined Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and took their turn studying for the upcoming RR-D1 study. The rodents will live in JAXA’s Mouse Habitat Unit and the experiment will be housed inside Kibo’s Life Science Glovebox. The biology study specifically aims to understand how weightlessness impacts normal skin function and wound healing.

Vande Hei, with assistance from Kimbrough, removed support components today that kept a new carbon dioxide (CO2) scrubber attached to the SpaceX Cargo Dragon spaceship during its flight to the station last month. The device that cleans the station’s atmosphere of CO2 will soon be installed in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module.

Dubrov and fellow cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy are still reconfiguring the station’s Russian segment following their two spacewalks on Sept. 3 and Sept. 9. The duo also took turns wearing heart monitoring gear. Dubrov then began setting up a laptop computer and a European robotic arm controller inside the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.

On-Orbit Status Report


Biofilms: Following the end of the experiment session, the crew removed the 24 Experiment Containers (ECs) from the Kubik 5 and Kubik 6 facilities. The goal of the Biofilm Inhibition On Flight Equipment and On Board the ISS Using Microbiologically Lethal Metal Surfaces (ESA-Biofilms) investigation is to compare how biofilms are formed in low gravity, in a liquid environment on inhibiting and non-inhibiting metal surfaces, for the purposes of spacecraft sanitation and crew health. Various species of bacteria are tested not only on different metallic surfaces (copper, stainless steel, and brass), but also on an array of different laser-etched surface treatments to ascertain whether topological differences influence biofilm formation in space. Through this investigation, learning about what surface types hold the highest antimicrobial properties can contribute to knowledge when designing future spacecraft surfaces to safeguard crew health.

Biomole: The crew continued the series of activities started last week in preparation of amplified DNA for sequencing using the MinION. The Environmental Health System (EHS) Biomole Facility non-culture-based samples can provide microbial identification on-orbit within days of sampling. The goal of this Tech Demo is to conduct comparative analysis for possible replacement of current microbial monitoring systems.

Four Bed CO2 Scrubber: In preparation for the actual installation later this week, the crew removed the FSE (Flight Support equipment), and then temp-stowed the Four Bed CO2 scrubber. Four Bed CO2 Scrubber demonstrates a technology for removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere on a spacecraft. The technology is based on the current system in use on the International Space Station (ISS) with mechanical upgrades in absorption beds, heater elements, and valves and use of an improved zeolite absorbent to reduce erosion and dust formation. A goal for next-generation systems is continuous operation for 20,000 hours without a failure, and this technology is a step toward that goal.

Genes in Space-8 (GIS-8): The crew performed the final (5th) run in the GIS-08 series, which began earlier this month. Some pharmaceuticals used to maintain astronaut health do not work as well in space, which may be linked to changes in levels of the liver enzymes that metabolize most drugs. Genes in Space-8 tests the Genes in Space Fluorescence Viewer, a new technology for monitoring the expression of genes that control these critical enzymes. This test could lead to a better understanding of spaceflight-induced changes in liver gene expression and may support development of new therapies that can account for the body’s adaptations to spaceflight.

Kibo Robot Programming Challenge-2: The crew participated in a briefing for the Robo-Pro challenge-2 event which occurs tomorrow. Of note, nine student teams will be participating in the challenge and watching the event on-line. The Kibo Robot Programming Challenge (Robo-Pro Challenge), also known as Kibo-RPC, allows students to create programs to control Astrobee, a free-flying robot aboard the International Space Station (ISS). This opportunity provides hands-on experience with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in space and inspires the next generation of explorers. This activity is based on Japan-U.S. cooperation through the Japan-US Open platform Partnership Program (JP-US OP3).

Manufacturing Device (ManD): Following the removal of the Redwire Regolith components from the ManD, the nominal ManD extruder, print tray, and feedstock canister were installed. The Manufacturing Device enables the production of components on the ISS for both NASA and commercial objectives. Parts, entire experiments, and tools can be created on demand utilizing the ManD printer that is installed into an Express Rack locker location. ManD can produce parts out of a wide variety of thermopolymer including engineered plastics.

Redwire Regolith Print (RRP): The crew removed and stowed the print tray and final printed item from the ManD print chamber. Although some extrusion did occur for the printed item, it was not fully completed. The printed item and its tray will be returned to the ground for further analysis. RRP demonstrates 3D printing with regolith feedstock material in microgravity using the Made in Space Manufacturing Device currently aboard the ISS. This demonstration could help determine the feasibility of using resources available on planetary bodies as the raw materials for on-demand construction of housing and other structures. This capability reduces the amount of materials needed on future exploration missions, thus reducing launch mass.

Ring Sheared Drop: The crew installed the next sample syringe to be processed. The Ring Sheared Drop investigation examines the formation and flow of amyloids without the complications associated with the solid walls of a container, because in microgravity, surface tension provides containment of the liquid. Fibrous, extracellular protein deposits found in organs and tissues; amyloids are associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Results could contribute to better understanding of these diseases as well as to development of advanced materials.

Standard Measures: The crew performed saliva sample collections and a Presleep questionnaire. The aim of the investigation is to ensure consistent capture of an optimized, minimal set of measures from crewmembers until the end of the ISS Program to characterize the adaptive responses and risks of living in space. Among other things, the ground teams perform analyses for metabolic and chemistry panels, immune function, microbiome, etc. These measures populate a data repository to enable high-level monitoring of countermeasure effectiveness and meaningful interpretation of health and performance outcomes, and support future research on planetary missions.


Post-Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Activities: The crew completed multiple post-EVA activities after Sunday’s successful 4A IROSA Prep EVA. Their activities included: a recharge of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) feedwater tanks, tool stowage, and battery charging.

Dragon Cargo Ops: Today, the crew performed cargo transfer operations for Cargo Dragon SpaceX-23 (SpX-23). SpX-23 undock is scheduled for September 30th and will return cargo and payloads to the ground.

In Flight Maintenance (IFM) Node 3 Smoke Detector Cleaning: The crew inspected and successfully cleaned the Node 3 smoke detector. The smoke detectors sample the atmosphere within racks and in the open cabin for particles that might correspond to smoke from a fire. The SDs use a light sensing sampling chamber or probe and rely on forced airflow to propagate any smoke particles that may be present in the atmosphere.

Completed Task List Activities:

Photo/TV Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Camera Disassembly
SSC14 Network Cable Fix
Adlink recovery
Today’s Ground Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Water Recharge
Atmosphere Revitalization System (ARS) Node 3 Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly (CDRA) 4 Half Cycles
Mobile Transporter (MT) Translation
Mobile Servicing System (MSS) JEM Airlock ORU Install
FGB Survey
Look Ahead Plan

Wednesday, September 15 (GMT 258)

BCM Robot Test
Eklosion Water fill, t/s, and message photo
ESA EPO Touching Surfaces
ESA EPO BLOB data transfer
Food Acceptability
Four Bed CO2 install
JEM Water Recovery Gas Trap Install
KUBIK MPCC deinstall
Kibo Robot Programming Challenge-2 final round
Rodent Research Demo-1 Experiment 1A and Hab restock
Standard Measures Saliva collect and Fecal Setup
Turbine CMM Module swap

EVA Tool Stow
Cryo Glove Wanted Poster
Thursday, September 16 (GMT 259)

CBEF-L LTL Box setup and VRU2 cable reconnect
Food Acceptability
Four Bed CO2 install
Fridge-2 label
ISS Experience EVA Z-Cam removal
LIDAL Relocate 3
NanoRacks Module 9 Ops 3
POLAR desiccant swap
PLT5 and ELT5 reconnect config
Rodent Access unit clean
Standard Measures Saliva, body, fecal collect
Turbine CMM Module removal and Ice berg-2 Insert

Post EVA activities
Adlink setup
Regenerative ECLSS OGS H2 Sensor Replacement
HMS Ultrasound
Dragon Cargo Ops
CQ Battery R&R
Friday, September 17 (GMT 260)

Astrobee perching arm remove
BCM Robot Test
ESA EPO BLOB Deinstall
FSL VMU2 Board Exchange
ISS Experience EVA Z-Cam relocate and data transfer
JEM Microbe Sample Collect
Lumina Deinstall and reinstall
SOUNDSEE T/S ops and stow
Standard Measures Saliva Collect and stow

EVA Loop Scrub
BEAM ingress
Dragon Cargo Ops
IFM WHC urine receptacle and insert filter R&R
Dust filter transfer
Today’s Planned Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

Four Bed CO2 Temp Stow Assist [Aborted]
Four Bed CO2 Scrubber Flight Support Equipment Removal
Four Bed CO2 Scrubber Flight Support Equipment Removal Assist
Four Bed CO2 Scrubber Temporary Stow
APEX-08 Hardware Deactivation
Astrobee Prep
Biofilms Experiment Container deinstallation
Merlin hardware transfer
BioMole MELFI Retrieve
Environmental Health System (EHS) BioMole Maintenance Work Area Prep 2
BioMole Part 3: DNA Prep and Sequencing
Environmental Health System (EHS) – Surface Sample Kit (SSK) Analysis (T+5)
EVA Battery Operations Terminal Autocycle Init
Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Water Recharge
High Definition EMU Camera Assembly Terminate
Metal Oxide (METOX) Regeneration Initiation
US Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Tools Stow
Food Acceptability Survey
Genes in Space 8 Freeze and Fly Run 5
Genes in Space-8 MELFI Insert 5
Genes in Space-8 MELFI Sample Retrieve 5
Genes in Space-8 Mini-PCR Stop and Stow 2
Genes in Space-8 MWA Preparation
HRF Generic MELFI Sample Insertion Operations
HRF Generic Saliva Collection 10 Minutes
In Flight Maintenance (IFM) Node 3 Smoke Detector (SD) Cleaning
LSG Primary Crew Restraint Fold
LSG Secondary Crew Restraint Fold
LSG Work Volume Stow
Manufacturing Device Feedstock, Extruder and Print Tray Installation
Robot Programming Challenge Briefing for Final Round
R PAO event report preparation
Warming Controller Stow
Redwire Regolith Extruder Removal
Ring-Sheared Drop Sample Install
Standard Measures Post-Sleep Questionnaire
Cargo Transfer to Dragon

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