Space Stations

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 4 January, 2021 – Preparing for Resupply Ship Departures

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
January 5, 2021
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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 4 January, 2021 – Preparing for Resupply Ship Departures
NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 4 January, 2021 - Preparing for Resupply Ship Departures.

The seven-member Expedition 64 crew relaxed on New Year’s Day and went into the first weekend of 2021 researching space biology.
The International Space Station residents are also packing a pair of U.S. resupply ships for departure this week and next.

Three astronauts spent Saturday and Sunday studying how microgravity affects vision and bone tissue in rodents. Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover of NASA spent the weekend observing several dozen mice to help scientists prevent vision and bone conditions that astronauts experience while living in space. JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi assisted the duo during the two life science experiments.

A different pair of biology studies is exploring how weightlessness impacts potential treatments for Earth and space-caused conditions. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins spent Sunday peering through a microscope at protein crystals which are much higher quality than those produced on Earth. Results from that experiment could inform ways to commercialize the development of cancer therapies in space. She also looked at engineered heart tissues to gain insights into aging and weakening heart muscles that humans experience on and off the Earth.

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker spent the weekend readying the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter and the SpaceX Cargo Dragon for their upcoming departures. Cygnus will be completing a 93-day stay and the Cargo Dragon a 35-day stay at the orbiting lab.

Rubins will monitor Cygnus’ departure first on Jan. 6 after mission controllers on the ground command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove it from the Unity module then release it into Earth orbit. Cygnus will orbit Earth on its own until Jan. 26 for flight tests and remotely controlled science experiments.

The Cargo Dragon will be loaded with samples from this weekend’s experiments and more, including space station hardware, for return to Earth on Jan. 11. Glover will monitor the first undocking of the Cargo Dragon from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. This will also be Dragon’s first planned splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.

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.

SUBSA (Solidification Using Baffles in Sealed Ampoules): The crew performed the remaining SUBSA hardware installation steps and performed the first sample exchange. 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.

Veg-03: The crew installed the Veggie-03 root mat and small plant pillows in the VEGGIE facility and initiated the experiment. Organisms grow differently in space, from single-celled bacteria to plants and humans. But future long-duration space missions will require crew members to grow their own food, so understanding how plants respond to microgravity is an important step toward that goal. Veg-03 uses the Veggie plant growth facility to cultivate Extra Dwarf Pak Choi, Amara Mustard and Red Romaine Lettuce using Seed Film which are harvested on-orbit with samples returned to Earth for testing.

Antimicrobial Coatings: The crew deployed the Antimicrobial Coatings experiment, and performed the first touch application operations to initiate the experiment. The investigation 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.

Rodent Research-23 (RR-23): The crew performed fixation swaps on the Rodent samples. The Rodent Access unit was then cleaned. Effects of Microgravity on Ocular Vascular Hydrodynamics, or Rodent Research-23 (RR-23), studies function of arteries, veins, and lymphatic structures in the eye and changes in the retina before and after spaceflight. The aim is to clarify whether these vascular changes impair visual function. At least 40 percent of astronauts experience vision impairment known as Spaceflight-Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS) on long-duration spaceflights, which could adversely affect mission success.


Robotics On-Board Trainer (RoBOT) On-Board Training (OBT): FE-6 configured and completed a training session to enhance Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) proficiency. Robotics instructors observed the activity real time. She also completed an on-board review of the ground control Cygnus release procedure and training video in preparation for NG-14 departure planned for January 6.

Completed Task List Activities:

Rodent Research gather
ARED spreadsheet record
Battery powered portable fan ops
VEGGIE display OBT
Today’s Ground Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

OBT support
SSRMS Elbow Pitch joint test
MSS maneuver for SSRMS walkoff to N2 PDGF
SSRMS Cygnus grapple
Payloads ops support
Look Ahead Plan
Tuesday, January 5 (GMT 005)

Moderate Temp PCG icebrick install (JAXA)
Repository: Urine Collect and saliva setup (NASA)
Food physiology Blood setup
SAFFIRE Diagnostics prep (NASA)
Rodent Hab restock and access unit clean and fixative (NASA)
Bacterial Adhesion and Corrosion inoculation 3 (NASA)
Cardinal Heart Chamber fixation (NASA)

Dragon cargo transfer ops
Cygnus egress
Wednesday, January 6 (GMT 006)

FLUIDICS run 2 and 3 and closeout (ESA)
Food Physiology Blood collect,
Repository: urine, saliva collect (NASA)
NanoRack Module 9 mixture ops 4 (NASA)
HRF VEGGIE questionnaire (NASA)
Rodent Habitat Stow (NASA)
ACE Module Reconfiguration (NASA)
SUBSA Sample exchange and photo (NASA)
CommuBios (Icebricks into SABL 3) (NASA)
Antimicrobial Coatings pad touch ops(NASA)
Actiwatch Hardware return (NASA)
Cardinal Heart Chamber fixation and microscopy ops and data download (NASA)
Thermal Amine Effluent sampling part 1 and 2 (NASA)

NG-14 departure
EVA DOUG review, Airlock unstow, CWC-I degas
Thursday, January 7 (GMT 007)

VEG-03 wick open (NASA)
Food Physiology Saliva collect (NASA)
BAC Cell fixation (NASA)
Food Acceptability (NASA)
Today’s Planned Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

Solidification Using Baffles in Sealed Ampoules Hardware Setup
TOCA Water Recovery System (WRS) Sample Analysis
On-board Training (OBT) Cygnus Review
Payload Laptop Terminal 3(PLT3) Relocation
VEGGIE Display On-Board Training
VEG Series Experiment On-Board Training.
Cargo Transfer to Dragon
VEG-03 MWA Preparation
On Board Training (OBT) Cygnus Ground Control Release Self Study
VEG-03 Experiment Install
Water Recovery System (WRS) Waste Tank Sample
LSG Decon Reconfig
PCS Laptop Relocate
Rodent Research MELFI Remove
PCS Laptop Relocate
Rodent Research Fixative Swap
VEG-03 Experiment Install
Gather Vestibule Outfitting Kit (VOK)
SAFFIRE Diagnostic Prep Procedure Review
Rodent Research MELFI Insert 3
Cargo Transfer to Dragon
SLAMMD Hardware Review Body Mass Measurement
SLAMMD Bag Gather
Antimicrobial Coatings Deploy
Systems Operations Data File (SODF) Update
Antimicrobial Coatings Photo [Aborted]
Antimicrobial Coatings Placard Touch [Aborted]
On Board Training (OBT) ROBoT T&C Self Study
Rodent Research Access Unit Clean
Cardinal Heart Tissue Chamber Media Change and Fixation
Cargo Transfer to Dragon
Solidification Using Baffles in Sealed Ampoules Sample Exchange
TOCA Sample Data Record
Cygnus Cargo Closeout
Nikon Camera Time Synch with the ISS Time
Packing of Non-Recoverable Cargo in DC1 Progress 444 (76P). IMS Update
Cargo Transfer to Dragon
Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) Hardware Setup
Cardinal Heart MELFI Sample Insertion Operations Session 2
Cardinal Heart Tissue Chamber Media Change and Sample
Photography of ВЛ1 and ВЛ2 EVA Hatch Windows in MRM2 and ВЛ1 EVA Hatch Window in DC1
SLAMMD Bag Mass Measurement
SLAMMD Hardware Stow
HRF Generic Urine Collection Setup
Cardinal Heart MELFI Sample Insertion Operations Session 1
Reminder HRF Generic Urine Collection
Reminder Rodent Research Thermal Consideration
UV-ATMOSPHERE. Hardware Monitoring

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