Space Stations

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 4 February, 2021 – Free-flying Robotics

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
February 5, 2021
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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 4 February, 2021 – Free-flying Robotics
Astronaut Kate Rubins assists crewmates during spacesuit fit check.

Free-flying robotics and fluid physics dominated the research schedule aboard the International Space Station today.
The Expedition 64 crew also trained for an emergency while also preparing for upcoming U.S. and Russian cargo missions.

The Astrobee experimental robotic assistants were flying around inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module on Thursday. The cube-shaped, toaster-sized robots are being tested for their ability to autonomously navigate and maneuver inside the orbiting lab. NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins set up the robotic free flyers and live streamed their activities to ground specialists during the afternoon.

Rubins also set up a fluid physics experiment in the morning that NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker would work on the rest of the day. Walker was studying simpler, more advanced ways to manage fluid and gas mixtures inside spacecraft life support systems.

Walker would also join her flight engineer crewmates Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA for Crew Dragon emergency training. The quartet reviewed the procedures they would use in case the Crew Dragon encountered a chemical leak, depressurization or a fire.

Commander Sergey Ryzhikov is readying the station’s Russian segment for upcoming resupply ship missions. The commander is packing the Progress 76 cargo craft with trash and discarded gear ahead of its Feb. 9 undocking. Ryzhikov also tested video communications gear that will be used when the Progress 77 space freighter approaches the station for a docking on Feb. 17.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship is due to arrive at the station on Feb. 22 carrying over 8,000 pounds of crew supplies, science experiments and station hardware. NASA will host a media teleconference on Feb. 11 to discuss the new research and technology demonstrations Cygnus is delivering.

On-Orbit Status Report


FLARE (Solid Combustion Assembly): The crew removed and replaced the FLARE-Solid Combustion Experiment Module (SCEM) Igniter for Experiment Insert #2. Fundamental Research on International Standard of Fire Safety in Space – Base for Safety of Future Manned Missions (FLARE), a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) investigation, explores the flammability of materials in microgravity. Various solid fuels are burned under different conditions and observed inside a flow tunnel. Microgravity significantly affects combustion phenomena and results are expected to contribute to the improvement of fire safety in space.

CBEF-L (Cell Biology Experiment Facility-L): The crew installed the Micro-G Sample Tray into the CBEF-L Facility. CBEF-L is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) new subrack facility, which is an upgraded facility of the original Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF) currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS). CBEF-L provides new capabilities with additional new resources such as Full High Definition video interface, Ethernet, 24 VDC power supply, and a larger diameter centrifugal test environment. By using the original CBEF and CBEF-L as one facility for the same experiment, the payload user is provided with an upgraded experimental environment that can handle the processing of more experimental samples for a wider array of experiments.

Capillary Structures: The crew performed a demonstration of fluid flow through four parallel open capillary conduits (wedges). This completes the last session of this experiment ending a five year study. Current life-support systems on the ISS require special equipment to separate liquids and gases, including rotating or moving devices that could cause contamination if they break or fail. The Capillary Structures for Exploration Life Support (Capillary Structures) investigation studies a new method using structures of specific shapes to manage fluid and gas mixtures. The investigation studies water recycling and carbon dioxide removal, benefiting future efforts to design lightweight, more reliable life support systems for future space missions.

Astrobee: The crew installed the Perching Arms (2) hardware onto Free Flyer units and performed checkout maneuvers. Astrobee is made up of three free-flying, cube-shaped robots which 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.

AstroRad Vest: A crewmember donned the AstroRad Vest for an overnight sleep test. The AstroRad vest is a personal protective equipment (PPE) device which functions as a radiation shield for astronauts. The AstroRad shields astronauts from space-borne ionizing radiation in an efficient way, provides operational simplification, and allows for the use of recycled material on-board the vehicle. The concept behind the AstroRad evolved from a commercially available device, the 360 Gamma shield, made by StemRad Ltd., which is an effective wearable shield for first responders to radiation incidents on the Earth.

NanoRacks Platforms: The crew relocated NanoRacks Platforms 2 & 3 into Express Rack 3 in order to make room for the Spaceborne Computer hardware which will arrive on NG-15. NanoRacks Platforms is a multipurpose research facility on board the International Space Station (ISS). NanoRacks Platforms supports NanoRacks Modules in the CubeSat form factor by providing power and data transfer capabilities to operate investigations in microgravity.


NanoRacks Airlock (NRAL) Pressurization and Leak Check – Yesterday, the Pressure Management Device (PMD) was used to pressurize NRAL to approximately 5 psi to begin a 44-hour leak check. It is scheduled to conclude on Friday. PMD went Loss of Comm overnight, however, this does not have impacts to the leak check. Pressure insight was regained this morning. Ground teams are meeting today to assess the data and verify that the pressure remains within the leak check criteria.

Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) Recycle Tank Drain/Fill: Today the crew set up the recycle tank to drain to a ???-?. Following the setup the ground performed the tank drain using the Urine Transfer System (UTS). Once the ground specialists completed the transfer, the crew verified the recycle tank was empty, terminated the drain, and repositioned the fill/drain valve to fill.

Crew On-Board Training (OBT) Review: The crew reviewed procedures for emergency situations, such as Crew Dragon free flight Depress response, free flight fire response, and contingency deorbit, entry, and landing response. They also practiced emergency mask don/purge techniques using training only emergency masks. This is done as a refresher for the crew in the event of an emergency.

Completed Task List Activities:

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

Columbus Smoke Detector (SD) ABIT Synchronization
PRO CIR Activation Commanding
NanoRacks Airlock Leak Check
Payload Rack Officer Express Rack 1 Activation commanding
Look Ahead Plan

Friday, February 5 (GMT 036)

AC Touch (NASA)
HRF VEG POMS Questionnaire (NASA)
AstroRad doff and survey (NASA)
HRF Urine setup

Crew off duty
Saturday, February 6 (GMT 037)

AstroRad Vest survey #2 (NASA)

Crew off duty
Sunday, February 7 (GMT 038)

HRF Urine collect and Blood Setup (NASA)

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

JEM Cell Biology Experiment Facility Alternative LED Lighting Check [DEFERRED]
Solid Combustion Experiment Module (SCEM) Igniter of Experiment Insert 2 Removal and Replacement
Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Air Lock Deconfiguration
NanoRacks Platform-2 Relocate
NanoRacks Platform-3 Relocate
Mission Data Recorder Laptop Configuration Portable 4TB HDD R&R
Max Cycle Ergometer w/Vibration Isolation & Stabilization (CEVIS) Portable PFS
Cell Biology Experiment Facility Left (CBEF-L) Micro-G Sample Tray Installation
SpX-CREW DRAGON Deorbit Entry and Landing Contingencies Refresher
Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) Recycle Tank Drain
Columbus Payload Power Switching Box (PPSB) reconfiguration
SpX-CREW DRAGON Free-Flight Depress Response Refresher
Acoustic Monitor Data Transfer and Stow
Integrated Emergency Procedure Review
Astrobee Perching Arm Installation and Checkout
Extravehicular Activity Battery Stowage Assembly Reinitiation
Urine Transfer System Offload EDV Swap
Relocate PBAs after EVA
SAMS CU Laptop Crew Activation
Capillary Structures Sorbent Science 4-Cell Ops
MERLIN 5 Desiccant Swap
MERLIN 1 Drawer Install
Plug-In Plan (PiP) AC Inverter Secure
SpX-CREW DRAGON Free-Flight Fire Response Refresher
AstroRad Vest Don
Three Dimensional Microbial Monitoring (3DMM) Reminder for Surface sampling

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