Space Stations

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 21 December, 2020 – New Research Airlock

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
December 23, 2020
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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 21 December, 2020 – New Research Airlock
The new NanoRacks Bishop research airlock is installed on the port side of the Tranquility module and significantly expands the capacity for commercial space research on the outside of the orbiting lab. Credit: NASA.

Science operations continue to expand aboard the International Space Station with the installation of a new research airlock over the weekend.
The seven-member Expedition 64 crew also stayed busy exploring a variety of space biology and physics phenomena.

Robotics controllers on Earth spent Saturday remotely commanding the Canadarm2 robotic arm to install the new NanoRacks Bishop science airlock delivered Dec. 7 aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship. During a series of hours-long maneuvers, Bishop was extracted from Dragon’s unpressurized trunk and installed on the port side of the Tranquility module adjacent to BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module.

Bishop significantly increases the capacity for public and private research on the outside of the orbiting lab. The new science airlock also enables the deployment of larger satellites and the transfer of spacewalking tools and hardware inside and outside the station.

Dragon also delivered over 2,000 pounds of new science investigations to the orbiting lab keeping the seven-member crew busy throughout December. Some of that research took place over the weekend with the astronauts studying planetary exploration technologies and potential treatments for heart conditions on and off the Earth.

The new BioAsteroid experiment is looking at microbes as a way to breakdown space rocks into fertile soils or extract valuable metals and minerals. The crew serviced samples inside the Kubik incubator on Sunday for the study seeking to enable biomining that may advance space exploration and settlement.

Flight Engineer Kate Rubins has been leading the Cardinal Heart study since activating the experiment shortly after its arrival aboard the Cargo Dragon. She serviced engineered heart tissues over the weekend to understand the cardiovascular response to microgravity. Results may give deeper insights into aging and weakening heart muscles that may lead to more effective therapies for humans living on and off the Earth.

On-Orbit Status Report


Airborne Particulate Monitor (APM): The APM hardware was relocated from the US Lab to Node 3. This hardware is routinely moved to different locations to allow monitoring of the particulate environment in those areas. Although requirements exist for maximum allowable concentrations of particulate matter, currently no measurement capability verifies whether these requirements are met. The Airborne Particulate Monitor (APM) demonstrates an instrument for measuring and quantifying the concentration of both small and large particles in spacecraft air. The data can be used to create a map of air quality in terms of particles and shed light on the sources of such particles.

Astrobee/SoundSee: The crew performed the installation and checkout of the SoundSee hardware on the Astrobee “honey” satellite. Investigation of Deep Audio Analytics on the International Space Station (SoundSee Mission) tests monitoring of the acoustic environment using an audio sensor on Astrobee, a mobile robotic platform aboard the space station. Microphones collect acoustic information, and the Astrobee determines the sensor’s position. The system can detect anomalies in the sound of components inside a machine, providing autonomous monitoring of the health of infrastructure such as life support and exercise equipment.

Combustion Integrated Rack/Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments (CIR/ACME)/Burning Rate Emulator (BRE-2): The crew replaced the current 40% O2 / 60% N2 manifold bottle with a full bottle of the same composition. This was in support of the continuing BRE part 2 investigation, which is one of the ACME suite of five gas combustion experiments. The BRE experiment runs are focused on spacecraft fire prevention. More specifically, BRE’s objective is to improve our fundamental understanding of materials flammability and to assess the relevance of existing flammability test methods for low and partial-gravity environments.

Genes in Space 7 (GIS-7): The crew set up the appropriate hardware and performed a GIS-7 run. Genes in Space-7 establishes a workflow in order to examine changes in gene expression in the nervous system of fruit flies, targeting those related to the circadian system. This system of daily rhythms for bodily processes is regulated by light cues, which are disrupted during space travel. Spaceflight is known to cause cognitive changes, and this study could help establish a way to monitor changes in nervous system gene expression during lengthy space travel.

Micro-14A: The crew completed an inoculation and preservation session for the ongoing Micro-14A experiment. The Characterizing the Effects of Spaceflight on the Candida albicans Adaptation Response (Micro-14) investigation aboard the International Space Station (ISS) extends previous flight and ground-based studies on an opportunistic yeast, Candida albicans, to define mechanisms that lead to cellular adaptation responses to the spaceflight environment. As an opportunistic pathogen, C. albicans is capable of causing severe, life-threatening illness in immunocompromised hosts. This investigation seeks to evaluate the responses of the microorganism to microgravity conditions and, in particular, to assess changes at the physiological, cellular, and molecular level and to characterize virulence factors.

Mochii check: The crew performed a routine power/vacuum supply check for the Mochii hardware. Mochii is a miniature scanning electron microscope (SEM) with spectroscopy to conduct real-time, on-site imaging and compositional measurements of particles on the International Space Station (ISS). Such particles can cause vehicle and equipment malfunctions and threaten crew health, but currently, samples must be returned to Earth for analysis, leaving crew and vehicle at risk.

Thermal Amine Scrubber (TAS): The crew performed effluent sampling in support of the TAS investigation. Thermal Amine Scrubber tests a method to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from air aboard the International Space Station, using actively heated and cooled amine beds. Controlling CO2 levels on the station reduces the likelihood of crew members experiencing symptoms of CO2 buildup, which include fatigue, headache, breathing difficulties, strained eyes, and itchy skin. The system includes elements that reduce loss of water vapor, and recover CO2 for use in electrolysis to produce oxygen.

Vascular Aging: The crew set up the appropriate hardware, and performed the designated Doppler ultrasound scans as well as a blood pressure measurement in support of the Vascular Aging experiment. Emerging data point towards linkages among cardiovascular health risk, carotid artery aging, bone metabolism and blood biomarkers, insulin resistance, and radiation. Data indicate that aging-like changes are accelerated in many International Space Station (ISS) crew members, particularly with respect to their arteries. As part of the Space Environment Causes Acceleration of Vascular Aging: Roles of Hypogravity, Nutrition, and Radiation (Vascular Aging) investigation, ultrasounds of the arteries, blood samples, oral glucose tolerance, and wearable sensors from ISS crew members are analyzed.


Mobile Servicing System (MSS) Operations/ NanoRacks Airlock (NRAL) Install: Over the weekend, Robotics Ground Controllers powered up the MSS and maneuvered the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) to grapple the NRAL in the SpX-21 vehicle trunk. The SSRMS umbilicals were not connected to the NRAL since the decision was made to skip the NRAL power up through SSRMS due the issue with the ISS 4B electrical power channel. The SSRMS extracted the NRAL from the trunk and maneuvered it to Passive Common Berthing Mechanism (PCBM) inspection position. Inspection was nominal. The SSRMS maneuvered the NRAL to the Node 3 Port Active Common Berthing Mechanism (ACBM) and berthing was completed nominally. NRAL activation and pressurization will be planned for a later date. The NRAL is an enabling system which provides additional capability for future utilization of ISS for both commercial and governmental use. It also provides additional airlock capacity for deploying satellites from the ISS, hosting experiments, and moving equipment from inside the ISS to the outside.

Channel 4B Status: Channel 4B loads remain supported by Chanel 4A. Loading on Channel 4A is also being preserved to prevent further occurrences of the automatic load shed observed last Thursday due to a BCDU discharging anomaly on Channel 4A. Teams are reviewing data from both anomalies and will determine a forward plan for untying the channels and returning 4B to nominal operation.

Nitrogen/Oxygen Recharge System (NORS) N2 Transfer: The crew unstowed and installed the NORS N2 tank to the Airlock Interface Kit (AIK) and initiated a N2 transfer from the NORS tank to the ISS Airlock N2 tank via equalization.

Waste & Hygiene Compartment (WHC) Maintenance: The crew R&Rd the WHC Wring Collector (COT). This activity is part of the WHC preventive maintenance replacement cycle.

Completed Task List Activities:

Today’s Ground Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

Dragon cargo transfer ops
N2 transfer
Payloads ops support
Look Ahead Plan

Tuesday, 12/22 (GMT 357)

Confocal Microscope t/s, FOP sample exchange, Genes in Space-7, ISS Experience, Micro-14A preservation, POLAR desiccant swap, Space Fibers-2, Standard Measures, Time Perception

JEM Return Grille cleaning, Dragon cargo transfer ops, NRAL vestibule outfitting
Wednesday, 12/23 (GMT 358)

Bacterial Adhesion and Corrosion, Cardinal Heart, CBEF-L config change, FOP sample exchange, ISS Experience, Rodent Research, Space Fibers-2, Standard Measures, Veggie Monitoring

N3 IMV install/checkout, ITCS Maintenance Canister install
Thursday, 12/24 (GMT 359)

AstroPi, Food Acceptability, FOP sample exchange, ISS Experience, JAXA video take, Rodent Research, Standard Measures, SoundSee stow, Veggie Monitor

MAS/SSK sampling, NRAL vestibule outfitting, Galley supply hose R&R
Today’s Planned Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

CIR bottle replace
Vascular Echo
NORS N2 transfer
Dragon cargo ops
Genes in Space
N3 Endcone replace
M-14A inoculation/preservation

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