Space Stations

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 16 July, 2021 – Free-flying Robotics

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
July 21, 2021
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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 16 July, 2021 – Free-flying Robotics
NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 16 July, 2021 - Free-flying Robotics.

The Expedition 65 crew members focused their Friday space research activities on nanoparticles and free-flying robotics.
Their International Space Station maintenance activities included updating science communications hardware and replacing life support components.

State-of-the-art space manufacturing techniques being studied on the orbital lab have the potential to improve building technologies on Earth. The new InSPACE-4 study, delivered last month onboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship, seeks to harness nanoparticles and fabricate new and advanced materials. NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Mark Vande Hei were conducting more runs of the space physics experiment, that has been ongoing for several days, inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox today.

An AstroBee robotic free-flyer was powered up in the Kibo laboratory module Friday morning to demonstrate complex maneuvers in the orbital lab while using less propulsion. Commander Akihiko Hoshide configured the toaster-sized device Friday morning and ground scientists uplinked software commands to control the AstroBee. The Astrobatics robotic mobility study has implications for future space missions and technologies on Earth.

NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough spent the day installing new communications gear inside the Human Research Facility-2 (HRF-2) rack. Located in the Europe’s Columbus laboratory module, the HRF-2 enables studies of the physiological, behavioral and chemical changes that take place in the human body while living in space.

Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) joined Vande Hei and continued replacing aging components inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module’s carbon dioxide removal assembly. Pesquet later swapped a laptop computer battery and Vande Hei reviewed procedures to support next week’s port relocation of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spaceship.

In the station’s Russian segment, first-time space flyer Pyotr Dubrov serviced communications hardware while veteran cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy swapped out a variety of electronics gear.

On-Orbit Status Report


Human Research Facility-2 (HRF-2): The crew removed the Payload Ethernet Hub Bridge (PEHB) from the HRF-2 rack and replaced it with an improved Payload Ethernet Hub Gateway (PEHG). HRF-2 provides an on-orbit laboratory that enables human life science researchers to study and evaluate the physiological, behavioral and chemical changes induced by spaceflight. Research performed using HRF-2 provides data to help scientists understand how the human body adapts to long-duration spaceflight.

Astrobatics: The crew installed Astrobatics skins onto the Astrobee freeflyer and assisted the ground team in performing science operations. Astrobee Maneuvering by Robotic Manipulator Hopping (Astrobatics) demonstrates the Astrobee robotic vehicles using robotic manipulators to execute a hopping or self-toss maneuver as the primary mean of propulsion, making it mostly propellant-less. Astrobee performs increasingly complex maneuvers between handrails using its perching arm to demonstrate vehicle dynamic modeling and guidance and control of the robot. These maneuvers may be incorporated into future robotic missions and advanced terrestrial robotic applications.

EarthKAM (Sally Ride Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle Schools): The crew performed the EarthKAM software shutdown and equipment stow. EarthKAM allows thousands of students to photograph and examine Earth from a space crew’s perspective. Using the Internet, the students control a special digital camera mounted on-board the ISS. This enables them to photograph the Earth’s coastlines, mountain ranges and other geographic items of interest from the unique vantage point of space. The EarthKAM team then posts these photographs on the Internet for viewing by the public and participating classrooms around the world.

EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments for Space Station (EXPRESS) Rack 6: The crew relocated the EXPRESS Rack 6 handrails and External Wireless Instrumentation System (EWIS) Antenna in order to make room for the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS) wireless sensor deployment. The EXPRESS Racks support science experiments in any discipline by providing structural interfaces, power, data, cooling, water, and other items needed to operate science experiments in space.

Fluids Integrated Rack (FIR): The crew performed an R&R of the FIR hard drive after it failed earlier this week. The FIR is a complementary fluid physics research facility designed to host investigations in areas such as colloids, gels, bubbles, wetting and capillary action, and phase changes, including boiling and condensation.

Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Ellipsoids (InSPACE-4): The crew distributed particles within the sample vial and initiated experiment runs using the new alternate method for particle distribution. InSPACE-4 studies the assembly of tiny structures from colloids using magnetic fields. These structures change the properties of the assembled material, such as its mechanical response to or interaction with light and heat. Microgravity allows observation of these assembly processes free of confining sample walls and sedimentation and during timescales not possible using simulated microgravity. Results could provide insight into how to harness nanoparticles to fabricate and manufacture new materials.

Materials Science Lab Batch 3a (MSL SCA-Batch 3a-ESA): Based upon an aborted MSL run on GMT 175 due to an indication of a the chamber lid not sealing fully, the crew inspected the MSL lid and removed some metal shavings from the lid and successfully closed the lid with MSL confirming a good seal. MSL is now performing a leak test to confirm functionality. MSL SCA-Batch 3a-ESA serves two projects investigating how different phases organize in a structure when metallic alloys are solidified. The Microstructure Formation in Casting of Technical Alloys under Diffusive and Magnetically Controlled Convective Conditions (MICAST) experiment aims to deepen the understanding of the physical principles that govern solidification processes in metal alloys. The Columnar-to-Equiaxed Transition in Solidification Processing (CETSOL) experiment aims to deepen the understanding of the physical principles that govern solidification processes in metal alloys.

Manufacturing Device (ManD): The crew performed a ManD print removal, clean and stow. ManD 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 is capable of producing parts out of a wide variety of thermopolymers including engineered plastics.

Space Acceleration Measurement System-II (SAMS-II): The crew deployed SAMS-II sensor, cabling, and seat track device in the US LAB for wireless support of First Materials Science Research Rack (MSRR-1) / Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) and Keyence Research Microscope Testbed (KERMIT) experiments. SAMS-II is an ongoing study of the small forces (vibrations and accelerations) on the ISS resulting from the operation of hardware, crew activities, dockings and maneuvering. Results generalize the types of vibrations affecting vibration-sensitive experiments and structural life of ISS. Investigators and Structural Analysts seek to better understand the vibration environment on the ISS using SAMS-II data and assessing station loads and dynamics.


LAB Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly (CDRA) Maintenance: The crew continued work on the CDRA temporarily stowed in the JPM and returned the hardware back to the LAB Atmosphere Revitalization (AR) rack. Next, the crew mated the CDRA utilities connections and the ground performed a checkout to confirm good power and data to all Orbital Replacement Units (ORUs). Finally, the crew closed out the rack, mated fluid connections at the rack Utility Interface Panel (UIP), and stowed tools and equipment. This activity concludes the week-long maintenance of the LAB CDRA. CDRA maintains cabin carbon dioxide partial pressure levels within specified limits, while minimizing air and water losses to space. Over time, the adsorbent material inside the CDRA beds breaks down creating dust which eventually reduces the airflow to the point where CDRA is no longer operable and an R&R of the bed is desired. Performing an R&R of a CDRA bed is a multi-crew and multi-day activity due to the complexity of the equipment. The removed bed will be disassembled and cleaned at a later date.

Air Avionics Assemblies (AAAs) Checkouts De-Configure: The crew returned to the LAB AR rack to de-configure the AAA Fan checkout setup in order to restore the LAB AR rack to a nominal configuration and prepare it for CDRA reinstallation. Both suspect AAAs will be checked out at a later date in order to determine the sparing posture for the equipment. These AAAs were removed from the Water Processor Assembly (WPA) rack and the EXPRESS rack-1 in May due to separate upset events. There are currently no on-orbit AAA spares other than these suspect units; and therefore, checkouts are highly desired. AAAs are high speed fans that provide cooling and smoke detection to racks in the ISS.

Crew Dragon Port Relocation On-Board Training (OBT): FE-6 completed a Crew Dragon port relocation OBT in order to maintain situational awareness for the upcoming Endeavour port relocation. Endeavour is scheduled to relocate from the Node 2 Forward International Docking Adapter (IDA) to the Node 2 Zenith IDA on Wednesday, July 21st. This relocation will clear the Node 2 Forward IDA for OFT-2 docking planned for Saturday, July 31st.

Completed Task List Activities:

CEVIS Control Panel Time Sync
Today’s Ground Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

LAB CDRA Checkout and Activation
Node 3 CDRA Deactivation (In Work)
Thermal Amine Scrubber Vacuum Leak Check (In Work)
EPS System Configurations for High Solar Beta (On-going)
Look Ahead Plan

Saturday, July 17 (GMT 198)

Crew Off-Duty

Crew Off-Duty
Sunday, July 18 (GMT 199)

Crew Off-Duty

Crew Off-Duty
Monday, July 19 (GMT 200)

Z-book HDD Update (ESA)
Kibo Studio 1 Video Take (JAXA)
JAXA Video Take 6 (JAXA)
Toilet Operations (NASA)
InSPACE-4 Runs 28-30 (NASA)
CIR Manifold 4 Bottle Change (NASA)
J-SSOD 17 Removal (JAXA)

Crew Dragon Relocation Simulation
IFM Hatch Seal Inspection
CCHA Troubleshooting
PLDR Sensor Installation
Today’s Planned Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

INSPACE-4 Experiment Run Ops
MSL Debris Inspection
In Flight Maintenance (IFM) AAA Closeout
HRF-2 Rack Tilt Down
Manufacturing Device Print Removal, Clean and Stow
Acoustic Monitor Data Transfer and Stow
ER6 Handrail Relocate
SAMS Wireless Deployment
Food Acceptability Survey
HRF-2 PEHG Install
Astrobatics Operations
IFM Sidekick Setup
IFM LAB CDRA Chassis Replace
EarthKAM Node 2 Shutdown, Disconnect and Stow
Sidekick Stow
Hypervisor (HV) 5 Shell Swap
Systems Operations Data File (SODF) Update
IFM CDRA Equipment Stow
FIR IPSUG Hard Drive Install
HRF-2 Rack Tilt Up
SpX Crew Dragon Port Relocation OBT
Crew Dragon Tablet Sync

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