Space Stations

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 30 April, 2020 – Free-flying Robots

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
May 2, 2020
Filed under , ,
NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 30 April, 2020 – Free-flying Robots
The New York/New Jersey metropolitan area is pictured from the International Space Station as it orbited above the Atlantic Ocean just off the northeast coast of the United States. Credit: NASA. (Apr. 28, 2020)

Free-flying robots and heart research filled the science schedule aboard the International Space Station today.
The Expedition 63 crew also managed cargo activities in a pair of resupply ships and cleaned biology research gear.

Astrobee is a robotics investigation that explores the ability of a trio of cube-shaped, free-flying robots to assist crews aboard the station. Commander Chris Cassidy set up one of the autonomous robotic assistants in the afternoon for a test of its mobility and vision system. Astrobee could perform routine lab chores giving astronauts more time to conduct critical space research.

Cassidy also finalized the cleaning of a mouse habitat that housed rodents monitored for changes to their genetic expression due to microgravity. The mice have since returned to Earth aboard the last SpaceX Dragon cargo mission on April 7.

Living and working in space impacts the human body and scientists are exploring measures to ensure astronauts adapt successfully to weightlessness. How heart performance changes in space is fundamental to keeping crews healthy during long-term missions.

Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner continued a long-running Russian heart study today that utilizes the Lower Body Negative Pressure Suit. The investigation examines how the heart behaves as the specialized spacesuit prevents blood from pooling in a crewmember’s head reducing head and eye pressure.

The Russian duo then spent the afternoon transferring cargo to and from the Progress 74 and 75 space freighters. Ivanishin packed trash and old gear in the 74P which is due to complete its mission in July. Vagner unloaded new gear and supplies from the 75P which just arrived on April 25.

On-Orbit Status Report

Space Fibers: The test run on GMT 118 terminated early when the fiber broke from the spool. The 2nd test on GMT 119 appeared to have a broken fiber on the spool that had occurred sometime prior to the run. Though both runs were not fully completed, science was still acquired with regards to fiber behavior. The crew removed and stowed the Space Fibers Reflight hardware from the Microgravity Science Glovebox which completes all the objectives for the Reflight mission. Manufacturing Fiber Optic Cable in Microgravity (Space Fibers) evaluates a method for producing fiber optic cable from a blend of zirconium, barium, lanthanum, sodium and aluminum, called ZBLAN, in space. ZBLAN produces glass one hundred times more transparent than silica-based glass, exceptional for fiber optics. Microgravity suppresses two mechanisms that commonly degrade fiber, and previous studies showed improved properties in fiber drawn in microgravity compared to that fabricated on the ground.

Veggie PONDS (Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System): The crew performed the deactivation of the Veggie Facility. Organisms grow differently in space, from single-celled bacteria to plants and humans. Future long-duration space missions will require crew members to grow their own food. Therefore, understanding how plants respond to microgravity and demonstrating the reliable vegetable production on orbit are important steps toward that goal. Veggie PONDS uses a newly developed passive nutrient delivery system and the Veggie plant growth facility aboard the ISS to cultivate lettuce and mizuna greens which are to be harvested on-orbit, and consumed, with samples returned to Earth for analysis.

CBEF (Cell Biology Experiment Facility): The crew completed the 2nd part of post Mouse Mission Habitat-5 CBEF cleaning activities. The CBEF is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) subrack facility; it is an incubator with an artificial gravity generator. CBEF is housed in the Saibo (living cell) Experiment Rack with the Clean Bench (CB).

Astrobee: The crew assisted Astrobee ground controllers with collecting mapping data inside the Japanese Experiment Module for localization along with a series of movements using the Astrobee Free Flyer for mobility testing. A new buzz comes to the International Space Station (ISS): Astrobee. Three free-flying, cube-shaped robots. The robots are designed to help scientists and engineers develop and test technologies for use in microgravity to assist astronauts with routine chores, and give ground controllers additional eyes and ears on the space station. The autonomous robots, powered by fans and vision-based navigation, perform crew monitoring, sampling, logistics management, and accommodate up to three investigations.


Environmental Health System (EHS) Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) Water Recovery System (WRS) Sample Analysis & Data Record:Crew performed an analysis of the water processing assembly (WPA) using the TOCA. The TOCA unit oxidizes organic carbon species present in the water to carbon dioxide gas and measures the concentration using nondispersive infrared spectroscopy. Analysis of the potable water using the TOCA occurs on a weekly basis.

Completed Task List Activities:
ESA Trash Pre-gather For NG-13 Disposal
Air Quality Monitor Alternate Powercycle
Payload Hardware Trash

Today’s Ground Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.
GNC MDM Swap (GNC-1 to Primary)
PCS Reboots
Nitrogen Leak Check

Look Ahead Plan
Friday, 5/1 (GMT 122)
RADI-N SBD deploy (CSA)
JSSOD-13 removal (JAXA)
CIR Manifold Bottle change (Joint)
RED-EYE restow (NASA)

Cygnus Cargo Ops

Saturday, 5/2 (GMT 123)
No Crew payload activities

Crew Off Duty
Cygnus Cargo Ops

Sunday, 5/3 (GMT 124)
No Crew payload activities

Crew Off Duty

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

Regeneration of Micropurification unit (???) ?2 cartridge (end)
Laptop RSK1 battery checkout
Veggie Facilities Deactivation after Veggie Ponds Ops
BIOCARD. Experiment Session with Photography Assistance
ISS crew and ???? (RSA Flight Control Management Team) weekly conference
Atmosphere analysis using Freon Leak Analyzer/Detector (???)
Cable Reconfiguration for WAP/Camera Unit operation
UF-ATMOSFERA. PL Deactivation/Closeout Ops
Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF-L) Power Cable Reconfiguration
Cell Biology Experiment Facility-Left (CBEF-L) Wipe post JAXA Mouse Mission 5
JEM CTB Relocate
Environmental Health System (EHS) Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) Water Recovery System (WRS) Sample Analysis & Data Record
Astrobee OBT Review
Filling SM Rodnik H2O Tank 2 with disinfectant
Progress 443 (DC1) Stowage Ops with IMS Support
ISS HAM Service Module Pass
Space Fibers Hardware Stow
Priority and US cargo transfers from Progress 448 (SM Aft) and IMS Ops
Acoustic Monitor Data Transfer and Stow
Astrobee Crew Conference
Monthly maintenance of RS video recording equipment
Astrobee Free Flyer Localization and Mobility Ops Part 1
Maintenance of ?????? emergency valve from spare parts kit
Checking ??-2 treadmill carriage position and photography
INTERACTION-2. Experiment Ops
URAGAN. SOVA PL Installation and Activation
Food Physiology Crew Diet Briefing

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