Space Stations

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 22 February, 2021 – Cygnus Berthed

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
February 24, 2021
Filed under , ,
NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 22 February, 2021 – Cygnus Berthed
The Cygnus space freighter moments before its capture.

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft was berthed to the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:16 a.m. EST Monday morning and subsequently bolted into place.
Cygnus will remain at the space station until May, when the spacecraft will depart the station. Following departure, the Cygnus will dispose of several tons of trash during a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

The spacecraft, which launched at 12:36 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 20, on an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, brings approximately 8,000 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies to the orbiting laboratory to support the Expedition 64 and 65 crews. The Cygnus was captured earlier Monday morning at 4:38 a.m. EST.

Highlights of science investigations aboard this Cygnus include:

A new vision

Millions of people on Earth suffer from retinal degenerative diseases. These conditions have no cure, although treatments can slow their progression. Artificial retinas or retinal implants may provide a way to restore meaningful vision for those affected. In 2018, startup LambdaVision sent their first experiment to the space station to determine whether the process used to create artificial retinal implants by forming a thin film one layer at a time may work better in microgravity.

A second experiment by LambdaVision launching on NG CRS-15, Protein-Based Artificial Retina Manufacturing, builds on the first project, evaluating a manufacturing system that uses a light-activated protein to replace the function of damaged cells in the eye. This information may help LambdaVision uncover whether microgravity optimizes production of these retinas, and could assist people back on Earth.

Bringing advanced computing aboard the space station

Due to a need to prioritize reliability over performance, computing capabilities in space are reduced compared to capabilities on the ground, creating challenges when transmitting data to and from space. Although relying on ground-based computers is possible for exploration on the Moon or in low-Earth orbit, this solution will not work for exploration farther into the solar system. Launched in 2017, the SpaceborneComputer study ran a high-performance commercial off-the-shelf computer system in space with the goal of having the system operate seamlessly for one year. It successfully performed more than 1 trillion calculations (or one teraflop) per second for 207 days without requiring reset.

Spaceborne Computer-2 builds on the successes of this first study, exploring how off-the-shelf computer systems can advance exploration by processing data significantly faster in space with edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. This experiment plans to demonstrate that Earth-based data processing of current station science data can instead be performed on station. Eliminating the need for researchers to send all raw data back to Earth for analysis could speed scientists’ time-to-insight from months to minutes.

Space worms to the rescue

Tiny worms could help us determine the cause of muscle weakening that astronauts can experience in microgravity. Astronauts work out more than two hours a day aboard the space station to prevent bone and muscle loss caused by living in a microgravity environment during long-duration missions. Thanks to a new device for measuring the muscle strength of tiny C. elegans worms, researchers with the Micro-16 study can test whether decreased expression of muscle proteins is associated with this decreased strength. The device consists of a small microscope slide filled with little rubber pillars. The strength of the worms is measured by how much force the worms apply to the pillars as they move around the slide.

Preparing for the Moon

The International Space Station serves as a testing ground for technologies we plan to use on future Artemis missions to the Moon. The NASA A-HoSS investigation puts to the test tools planned for use on the crewed Artemis II mission that will orbit the Moon. Built as the primary radiation detection system for the Orion spacecraft, the Hybrid Electronic Radiation Assessor (HERA) was modified for operation on the space station.

Verifying that HERA can operate without error for 30 days validates the system for crewed Artemis mission operations. A related investigation, ISS HERA, flew in 2019 aboard the space station. ISS HERA provided data and operational feedback in preparation for the Orion spacecraft’s uncrewed Artemis I mission that will launch in 2021.

On-Orbit Status Report


SABL (Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory): The crew removed the CO2 Incubator Controller from the SABL-1 unit. SABL supports a wide variety of investigations in the life, physical and material sciences with a focus on supporting research of biological systems and processes. It has over 23 liters of temperature-controlled volume with LED lighting for scientific hardware and investigations. It can be fitted to provide 5% CO2 (or any required concentration of CO2) for cell cultures or other types of investigations and has two USB 2.0 ports and two Ethernet LAN connections. It also has switchable 28VDC and 5VDC power supplies for investigation use.

ISS HAM: The crew performed a reconfiguration of the Columbus module ISS HAM radio hardware in effort to recover transmission capability. ISS Ham Radio provides opportunities to engage and educate students, teachers, parents and other members of the community in science, technology, engineering and math by providing a means to communicate between astronauts and the ground HAM radio units.

Antimicrobial Coatings (Boeing Environment Responding Antimicrobial Coatings or AC): The crew touched each coupon on the AC placard and took photos of the experiment. Boeing Environment Responding Antimicrobial Coatings tests an antimicrobial coating on several different materials that represent high-touch surfaces. Some microbes change characteristics in microgravity, which could create new risks to crew health and spacecraft systems as well as creating the possibility of contaminating other planetary bodies. The samples remain in space approximately six months then return to Earth for analysis.


Northrop Grumman (NG)-15 Mission: The NG-15 Cygnus vehicle (S.S. Katherine Johnson) rendezvoused with the ISS and was captured by the ISS Crew utilizing the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) at 3:40 AM CT. Following capture, the Cygnus spacecraft was maneuvered and berthed to the Node 1 Nadir Common Berthing Mechanism (CBM) by Robotics Ground Controllers and fully integrated with the ISS. Once integrated, the crew ingressed the Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) to transfer time critical payloads and cold bags from Cygnus to the ISS. The Cygnus NG-15 mission is part of the Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS-2) contract and is expected to be berthed to ISS until May 28, 2021.

Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Hardware Install: The crew installed a High Definition EMU Camera Assembly (HECA) and Lithium-Ion EVA Helmet Interchangeable Portable Light (EHIP) Power Adapters (LEPA) on EMU 3015. The HECA is a collaborative technology between the Gateway/xEVA Project and the ISS/EMU program.

Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) Remove and Replace (R&R): The crew removed the TOCA from the Water Recovery System (WRS) 1 Rack face and installed the New TOCA onto the front of the WRS 1 Rack. The TOCA provides capabilities to measure total organic carbon, total inorganic carbon, total carbon, pH and conductivity in water.

Airlock (A/L) Thermal Cover Hardware Preparation: The crew installed a Tether Extension Assembly (D-Ring Extender) onto the A/L Cover Stiffener to act as a safe tether location for temporary stowage of the A/L Cover Strap and Hook. During this activity, the crew also measured and marked the A/L Cover Stiffener Strap, removed an unnecessary grounding wire, and removed all launch packaging. The A/L Thermal Cover hardware is planned to be installed during an upcoming EVA in order to fix the current cover which is mishappen and provide better protection for the A/L structure.

Waste and Hygiene Compartment (WHC) Pre-Treat Tank R&R: The crew R&R’d the Pre-Treat Tank as part of nominal WHC preventative maintenance. Each tank contains five liters of pre-treat solution, a mix of acid, chromium oxide, and water, used for toilet flushing and required for nominal WHC operation.

Completed Task List Activities:

Wanted Poster for JSL Firewalls
WHC KTO Replace
Today’s Ground Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

Cygnus Berthing and Integration Commanding
A/L Configuration for METOX Regeneration
Lab CDRA Activation (In-Work)
Look Ahead Plan

Tuesday, February 23 (GMT 054)

PBRE Water inspect (NASA)
Astrobee prep and crew conf (NASA)
ISAAC install and chkout (NASA)
Micro-16 Microscope setup and MELFI insert (NASA)
AstroRad Vest don and survey 2 (NASA)
TangoLab-1 Activation and chkout (NASA)

Cygnus Cargo Ops
EVA Loop Scrub
EMU H2O Recharge
EVA Enhanced Caution & Warning System OBT
Cygnus Emergency OBT
30 to 28 VDC Converter Power Cable Install
Wednesday, February 24 (GMT 055)

PBRE Water inspect (NASA)
AC touch (NASA)
CIR-FOMA Calibration unit replace (NASA)

EMU On-orbit Fitcheck Verification
IROSA Prep EVA Procedure Review
HRF Rack 1 PEHG Install
Thursday, February 25 (GMT 056)

PBRE Water inspect (NASA)
Food Acceptability (NASA)
Food Physiology Brief (NASA)
Industrial Crystallization Facility (ICF) install (NASA)
CIR FOMA Calibration prep part 1(NASA)
Micro-16 Microscopy, Experiment setup and init. Ops (NASA)
ELF Fastener R&R, Cartridge Install (JAXA)
CBEF Ethernet cable reconnect (JAXA)

EMU Resize
EVA Tool Config
EVA Procedure Conference
IFM Hatch Seal Inspect
Today’s Planned Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

Robotics Workstation (RWS) Configuration
Rendezvous and Prox Ops Program (RPOP) Setup
Cygnus PCS Command and C2V2 Link verification
Centerline Berthing Camera System (CBCS) Powerup
[??]-??? hatch opening in SM
Ultrasound 2 HRF Rack 1 Stow Alternate
Cygnus R-BAR Approach
Battery [???] SM-AGAT-U55 Charge Termination (2 pieces) and GoPro Installation in ???
ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA) HD EMU Camera (HECA) Install
X2R19 Software Transition Review
In Flight Maintenance (IFM) Waste and Hygiene Compartment (WHC) Pre-Treat Tank Remove & Replace
Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) Cygnus Capture
Remote Workstation Monitor HD Video Downlink Deactivation RWS.
MELFI 1 Ice Brick Insert 1
Station Support Computer (SSC) 24 Shell Swap
Space Automated Bioproduct Lab, CO2 Incubator Removal
Virtual Reality Training (VRT) Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue (SAFER)
Antimicrobial Coatings Touch
ISS HAM Columbus Reconfiguration
Rodent Research Hardware Wanted
Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Lithium-Ion EVA Helmet Interchangeable Portable (EHIP) Power Adapter Installation
Node 1 Centerline Berthing Camera System (CBCS) Removal
PHOTOBIOREACTOR. Glovebox-C” Nutrient Medium Tank Replacement (first session)
Cygnus/Node 1 Pressurization and Leak Check
PCS Laptop Relocate
PILOT-T. Experiment Ops
Portable Computer System (PCS) Hard Drive Image
Node 1 Nadir to Cygnus Vestibule Outfitting, Part 1
GoPro Removal, video downlink via broadband communication system and charging SM-GLS-U02 Battery (2 pieces) and ??? SM-AGAT-U55 Battery (2 pieces) initiation
Health Maintenance System (HMS) Spaceflight Cognitive Assessment Tool for Windows (WinSCAT) Test
Airlock Thermal Cover Hardware Preparation
Node 1 Nadir to Cygnus Vestibule Outfitting Part 2
Common Berthing Mechanism (CBM) Controller Panel Assembly (CPA) Rotation and Closeout
Cygnus Ingress
[??-1?] air sampling in Cygnus prior to air duct laying
Cygnus Cargo Photo
HRF Rack 1 PEHG Big Picture Words And Crew Procedure Review
Transfer Cygnus Cargo Operations
HRF Rack 1 Crew PEHG Installation Operations Conference
GOPRO SM-GLS-U02 Battery (2 pieces) Charge Termination
X2R19 Portable Computer System (PCS) Verification
Metal Oxide (METOX) Regeneration Initiation
Scalar DG-3X Battery Charge Initiate & Terminate

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