Space Stations

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 29 December, 2020

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
January 4, 2021
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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 29 December, 2020
NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 29 December, 2020.

Two U.S. resupply ships are being readied for their departure next month from the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the Expedition 64 crew continued its intense schedule of space research with cardiac studies and radish harvesting today.
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is due to be the first cargo craft to leave the station in 2021 on Jan. 6. Ground controllers will remotely command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Cygnus into Earth orbit after 93 days attached to the Unity module. Cygnus will separate to a safe distance away from the station and continue orbiting Earth for an extended mission of flight tests and science experiments.

Less than a week later, the SpaceX Cargo Dragon will undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. The upgraded version of the returnable space freighter will splash down the same day in the Atlantic Ocean loaded with space station hardware and science investigations for analysis.

The station residents also focused Tuesday on a host of space studies exploring heart cells, semiconductors and botany. These studies and others being hosted on the station may benefit human health and improve products around the world and on future space missions.

Samples of engineered heart tissues were serviced aboard the orbiting lab today for the Cardinal Heart study that seeks to understand space-caused cell and tissue abnormalities. Hardware is being set up this week to learn more about the process of semiconductor crystal growth to benefit Earth and space industries. Finally, radish plants are being harvested on the station this week helping botanists learn to manage food production in space and evaluate nutrition and taste in microgravity.

On-Orbit Status Report


Cardinal Heart: The crew performed a periodic cell culture media exchange in the various cell culture chambers. Cardinal Heart studies the effects of change in gravitational force on cardiovascular cells at the cellular and tissue level using engineered heart tissues (EHTs). Microgravity significantly affects heart tissues that perform work and exert an opposite force to gravity and is known to cause molecular and structural abnormalities in cells and tissues that can lead to disease. The investigation could provide new understanding of similar heart issues on Earth and help identify new treatments.

The ISS Experience: The crew recorded a session with the Russian Cosmonauts, and a conclusion recording and then performed the setup for data download. The ISS Experience is a cinematic virtual reality (VR) series documenting life and research aboard the space station. Filmed over multiple months, the immersive VR series documents different crew activities – from science conducted aboard the station to preparation for a spacewalk.

Solidification Using Baffles in Sealed Ampoules (SUBSA): The crew partially completed the setup of the SUBSA hardware. The remaining steps will be scheduled later this week. The objective of the SUBSA investigation is to advance understanding of the processes involved in semiconductor crystal growth. It offers a gradient freeze furnace for materials science investigations that can reach 850°C. Samples are contained in transparent quartz or ceramic ampoules with high definition video imaging available in real-time along with remote commanding of thermal control parameters.

Burning Rate Emulator (BRE): The crew completed the activities needed to replace the current 40% O2 / 60% N2 manifold bottle with a full bottle of the same composition. The Burning Rate Emulator (BRE) investigation is conducted in the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR) on the International Space Station (ISS), as part of the Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments (ACME) project. In this fire safety study, the flammability of solid and liquid materials is simulated by burning gaseous fuels under key conditions corresponding to the solid and liquid materials. This technique has been demonstrated for a wide variety of materials in normal-gravity and could provide an efficient way to screen and select fire-resistant materials for use in spacecraft, if the technique is similarly effective in microgravity.


Microbial Air/Surface Sampling Analysis: Following last week’s microbial air and surface sampling, today the crew visually analyzed the media slides and petri dishes following incubation and prepared them for return for ground analysis.

Completed Task List Activities:

MELFI failed EU removal for packing
Today’s Ground Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

Payloads ops support
Thermal Amine troubleshooting
Look Ahead Plan

Wednesday, 12/30 (GMT 365)

Cryo Chiller Cartridge install (NASA)
MAND print remove and stow (NASA)
MVP-02 Cell-06 removal with video (NASA)
Plant Hab-02 Harvest 2 (NASA)
Rodent Hab restock (NASA)
TangoLab-2 Card cube remove for SpX-21 return (NASA)
KIBO Studio Setup (JAXA)
JAXA EPO video take 3 (JAXA)

Cygnus cargo transfer ops
Thursday, 12/31 (GMT 366)

Kibo Studio Ops part 1-4 (JAXA)
Food Acceptability (NASA)
Food Physiology Brief (NASA)
Monoclonal Antiboides-PCG-5 Ops 2 (NASA)
Plant Hab-02 Facility Clean (NASA)
Rodent Injections 1 (session 2) (NASA)
ISS Experience Stow (NASA)
RR Access Unit Clean (NASA)

Cygnus cargo transfer ops
Friday, January 1 (GMT 001)

Rodent Hab Access unit clean (NASA)
Rodent Injections 1 (session 2) (NASA)
Saturday, January 2 (GMT 002)

Rodent Research ops (NASA)

Crew off duty
Sunday, January 3 (GMT 003)

Rodent Research ops (NASA)
Cardinal Heart

Dragon cargo transfer ops
Today’s Planned Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

Eye ultrasound
Air/surface microbial sampling analysis
Cardinal Heart
ISS Experience setup in the RS
SUBSA hardware setup [Partially completed]
FOP hardware stow

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