International Space Station

OCO-3 Ready to Extend NASA’s Study of Carbon

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 Written by Jane Platt
 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

 

OCO-3 sits on the large vibration table (known as the “shaker”) in the Environmental Test Lab at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

When the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3, OCO-3, heads to the International Space Station, it will bring a new view – literally – to studies of Earth’s carbon cycle.

From its perch on the space station, OCO-3 will observe near-global measurements of carbon dioxide on land and sea, from just after sunrise to just before sunset. That makes it far more versatile and powerful than its predecessior, OCO-2.

 

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NASA Remembers Its Fallen Heroes, 30th Anniversary of Challenger Accident

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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and his wife Alexis lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as part of NASA’s Day of Remembrance, Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, at Arlington National Cemetery. The wreaths were laid in memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the quest for space exploration. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

 

NASA will pay tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other NASA colleagues, during the agency’s Day of Remembrance on Thursday, Jan. 28, the 30th anniversary of the Challenger accident. NASA’s Day of Remembrance honors members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, and other agency senior officials will hold an observance and wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia starting at 9 a.m. EST. Following the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington, various NASA centers will hold remembrance events Thursday for employees and the families of those lost in service to America’s space program.

At 10 a.m., NASA Television will provide live coverage of a wreath-laying ceremony at the Space Mirror Memorial located at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. The observance is hosted by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, which is a private, not-for-profit organization. It built and maintains the Space Mirror Memorial, which was dedicated in 1991 to honor all astronauts who lost their lives on missions or during training. It has been designated a National Memorial by Congress. 

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will observe the day with a candle-lighting ceremony for center employees, as well as a public event at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Marshall’s official visitor center, at 10 a.m. CST. NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, will hold an event for employees that includes placing flowers at the Apollo, Challenger and Columbia Trees at the center.

In partnership with the Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana, NASA’s Glenn Research Center will host former astronaut Greg Harbaugh for the opening of the exhibit “Inspiring the Future — The Legacy of Exploration,” at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond.

The agency also is paying tribute to its fallen astronauts with special online content available beginning Wednesday, Jan. 27 at: http://www.nasa.gov/dor

For NASA Television downlink information, schedule information and streaming video, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

 

 

 

 

Critical NASA Research Returns to Earth Aboard U.S. SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft

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SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was released from the International Space Station’s robotic arm at 7:04 a.m. EDT The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was released from the International Space Station’s robotic arm at 7:04 a.m. EDT Thursday. The capsule then performed a series of departure burns and maneuvers to move beyond the 656-foot (200-meter) “keep out sphere” around the station and begin its return trip to Earth. Credits: NASA TV
 
SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:42 p.m. EDT Thursday with almost 3,100 pounds of NASA cargo from the International Space Station, including research on how spaceflight and microgravity affect the aging process and bone health.

Dragon is the only space station resupply spacecraft able to return a significant amount of cargo to Earth. It is the U.S. company’s sixth NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station and carried more than two tons of supplies and scientific cargo when it lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 14. NASA also has contracted with American companies SpaceX and Boeing to develop their Crew Dragon and CST-100, respectively, to once again transport astronauts to and from the orbiting laboratory from the United States in 2017.

The returning Space Aging study, for example, examines the effects of spaceflight on the aging of roundworms, widely used as a model for larger organisms. By growing millimeter-long roundworms on the space station, researchers can observe physiological changes that may affect the rate at which organisms age. This can be applied to changes observed in astronauts, as well, particularly in developing countermeasures before long-duration missions.

“Spaceflight-induced health changes, such as decreases in muscle and bone mass, are a major challenge facing our astronauts,” said Julie Robinson, NASA’s chief scientist for the International Space Station Program Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We investigate solutions on the station not only to keep astronauts healthy as the agency considers longer space exploration missions but also to help those on Earth who have limited activity as a result of aging or illness.”

Also returned on Dragon were samples for the Osteocytes and Mechanomechano-transduction (Osteo-4) investigation. Researchers with Osteo-4 will observe the effects of microgravity on the function of osteocytes, the most common cells in bone. Understanding the effects of microgravity on osteocytes will be critical as astronauts plan for future missions that require longer exposure to microgravity, including the NASA’s journey to Mars. The results derived from this study also could have implications on Earth for patients suffering bone disorders related to disuse or immobilization, as well as metabolic diseases such as osteoporosis.

Equipment and data from the Special Purpose Inexpensive Satellite (SpinSat) investigation also made the trip back to Earth. The SpinSat study tested how a spherical satellite, measuring 22 inches in diameter, moves and positions itself in space using new thruster technology. Researchers can use high-resolution atmospheric data captured by SpinSat to determine the density of the thermosphere, one of the uppermost layers of the atmosphere. With better knowledge of the thermosphere, engineers and scientists can refine satellite and telecommunications technology.  

The Dragon will be transported by ship approximately 155 miles northeast of its splashdown location to Long Beach, California where NASA cargo will be removed and returned to the agency. The spacecraft then will be prepared for its trip to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing.

The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that enables us to demonstrate new technologies and make research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. It has been continuously occupied since November 2000 and, since then, has been visited by more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft. The ISS remains the springboard to NASA’s next giant leap in exploration, including future missions to an asteroid and Mars.

For more information about the International Space Station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station.

For more information about SpaceX’s mission to the International Space Station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/spacex.

SpaceX Demonstrates Astronaut Escape System for Crew Dragon Spacecraft

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This image shows the SpaceX docking with the International Space Station. Image from NASA
 The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft descends under a parachute into the Atlantic Ocean Wednesday, May 6 following a simulated emergency at the launch pad.

Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflet 

A loud whoosh, faint smoke trail and billowing parachutes marked a successful demonstration Wednesday by SpaceX of its Crew Dragon spacecraft abort system – an important step in NASA’s endeavor to rebuild America’s ability to launch crews to the International Space Station from U.S. soil. The successful test of the spacecraft’s launch escape capabilities proved the spacecraft’s ability to carry astronauts to safety in the unlikely event of a life-threatening situation on the launch pad.

The Crew Dragon simultaneously fired its eight SuperDraco engines at 9 a.m. EDT and leapt off a specially built platform at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. The engines fired for about six seconds, instantly producing about 15,000 pounds of thrust each and lifting the spacecraft out over the Atlantic Ocean before jettisoning its trunk, as planned, and parachuting safely into the ocean. The test lasted about two minutes from engine ignition to splashdown.

The flight test is a vital milestone in the company’s development effort and furthers its plan to meet a major requirement for the next generation of piloted spacecraft — an escape system that can quickly and safely take crew members away from their rocket while on the pad and through their ascent to orbit. SpaceX can use the test data to help refine its aerodynamic and performance models, and its design, to help ensure crew safety throughout all phases of flight.

“SpaceX was founded with the goal of carrying people to space, and today’s pad abort test represented an important milestone in that effort,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer. “Our partnership with NASA has been essential for developing Crew Dragon, a spacecraft that we believe will be the safest ever flown. Today’s successful test will provide critical data as we continue toward crewed flights in 2017.”

The test was the first with a full-size developmental spacecraft using a complete set of eight SuperDraco engines in the demanding real-world conditions of a pad abort situation. SpaceX built the SuperDracos for pad and launch abort use. Each engine, the chambers of which are 3-D printed, burns hypergolic propellants monomethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide.

More than 270 special instruments, including temperature sensors and accelerometers, which are instruments that measure acceleration, were strategically placed in and around the vehicle to measure a variety of stresses and acceleration effects. A test dummy, equipped with sensors, went along for the ride to measure the effects on the human body. To further maximize the value of the test, weights were placed inside the capsule at crew seat locations to replicate the mass of a crewed launch.

The trunk, an unpowered cylinder with stabilizing fins, detached from the spacecraft when it reached maximum altitude and fell back to Earth, while the capsule rotated on as planned for a couple seconds before unfurling its drogue parachutes, which then deployed the main parachutes. Boat crews have begun the process of retrieving the Crew Dragon from the ocean and returning it to land for further analysis.

Spacecraft development and certification through the Commercial Crew Program is performed through a new arrangement that encourages innovation and efficiency in the aerospace industry, bringing to the process the space agency’s expertise in the form of safety and performance requirements for the spacecraft, boosters and related systems.

The pad abort test is a payment milestone funded by the Commercial Crew Program under a partnership agreement established with the company in 2012. The agency awarded contracts last year to Boeing and SpaceX to build their respective systems for flight tests and operational missions to the space station. Known as Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts, the awards allow continued work on Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon at a pace that is determined by their respective builders, but that also meets NASA’s requirements and its goal of flying crews in 2017.

“Our partners have met many significant milestones and key development activities so far, and this pad abort test provides visual proof of one of the most critical safety requirements — protecting a crew in the event of a major system failure,” Lueders said.

NASA already is preparing the space station for commercial crew spacecraft and the larger station crews that will be enabled by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100. NASA plans to use the new generation of privately developed and operated spacecraft to carry as many as four astronauts each mission, increasing the station crew to seven and doubling the amount of science that can be performed off the Earth, for the Earth.

For more information about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

For the latest on commercial crew progress, bookmark the program’s blog at: http://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

To see many videos about the SpaceX Dragon program, visit: http://nasasearch.nasa.gov/search?utf8=✓&affiliate=nasa&query=Spacex

Research for One-Year Space Station Mission Among NASA Cargo Launched Aboard SpaceX Resupply Flight

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The series of images shows the journey the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from its launch at 4:10 p.m. EDT on Tuesday from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, to solar array deployment. Image Credit: NASA TV

Research that will help prepare NASA astronauts and robotic explorers for future missions to Mars is among the two tons of cargo now on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. The spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:10 p.m. EDT Tuesday, April 14 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“Five years ago this week, President Obama toured the same SpaceX launch pad used today to send supplies, research and technology development to the ISS,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Back then, SpaceX hadn’t even made its first orbital flight. Today, it’s making regular flights to the space station and is one of two American companies, along with The Boeing Company, that will return the ability to launch NASA astronauts to the ISS from U.S. soil and land then back in the United States. That’s a lot of progress in the last five years, with even more to come in the next five.”

The mission is the company’s sixth cargo delivery flight to the station through NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. Dragon’s cargo will support approximately 40 of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will be performed during Expeditions 43 and 44, including numerous human research investigations for NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s one-year mission in space.

Science payloads will support experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science — research that improves life on Earth and drives progress for future space exploration. Investigations include:

  • A study of potential methods for counteracting cell damage that occurs in a microgravity environment 

The Cell Shape and Expression research program will provide for the first time a reliable experimental model able to highlight the relationships between microgravity, cell shape and gene expression, which may also inform pharmacological ways to counteract microgravity-induced cell damages.

  • Research to improve understanding of bone cells, which could lead to treatments for osteoporosis and muscle wasting conditions 

Osteo-4 studies the effects of microgravity on the function of osteocytes, which are the most common cells in bone. These cells reside within the mineralized bone and can sense mechanical forces, or the lack of them, but researchers do not know how. Osteo-4 allows scientists to analyze changes in the physical appearance and genetic expression of mouse bone cells in microgravity.

  • Continued studies into astronaut vision changes

Dragon also will deliver hardware to support an ongoing one-year crew study known as Fluid Shifts. More than half of American astronauts experience vision changes and alterations to parts of their eyes during and after long-duration spaceflight. The Fluid Shifts investigation measures how much fluid shifts from the lower body to the upper body, in or out of cells and blood vessels, and determines the impact these shifts have on fluid pressure in the head and changes in vision and eye structures.

  • Tests on a new material that could one day be used as a synthetic muscle for robotics explorers of the future

Robots can perform tasks too repetitive, difficult or dangerous for humans. Robots built with synthetic muscle would have more human-like capabilities, but the material would have to withstand the rigors of space. This investigation tests the radiation resistance of an electroactivepolymer called Synthetic Muscle, developed by RasLabs, which can contract and expand like real muscles.

The spacecraft also will deliver hardware needed for the installation of two International Docking Adapters scheduled for delivery on future SpaceX missions. Once installed, these adapters will enable commercial crew spacecraft to dock to the space station. 

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will use the space station’s robotic arm to grapple Dragon to the station at 7 a.m. Friday, April 17. Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA will assist.

After about five weeks, Dragon will depart the space station for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California. The capsule will return more than 3,000 pounds of science, hardware, crew supplies and spacewalk tools.

The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that enables us to demonstrate new technologies and make research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. It has been continuously occupied since November 2000 and, since then, has been visited by more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft. The ISS remains the springboard to NASA’s next giant leap in exploration, including future missions to an asteroid and Mars.

For more information about International Space Station science and research, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/station

For more information about the SpaceX resupply mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/spacex 

One-Year Crew Set for Launch to Space Station; NASA TV to Air Live Coverage

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The prime crew members for International Space Station Expedition 43 take a break in training for a crew portrait. From left are Flight Engineers Scott Kelly of NASA, Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos. Kelly and Kornienko will be spending an entire year in space on board the ISS. Image Credit: Roscosmos/GCTC


The first one-year crew for the International Space Station is set to launch Friday, March 27.NASA Television will provide extensive coverage of the launch and the crew’s arrival to the orbital laboratory.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend a year living and working aboard the space station and will launch with cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. The trio will become part of the station’s Expedition 43 crew.

NASA TV coverage will begin at 2:30 p.m. EDT March 27, with launch scheduled for 3:42 p.m. (1:42 a.m. Saturday, March 28 in Baikonur) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The trio will ride to space in a Soyuz spacecraft, which will rendezvous with the space station and dock after four orbits of Earth. Docking to the space station’s Poisk module will take place at 9:36 p.m. Friday. NASA TV coverage of docking will begin at 8:45 p.m.

Hatches between the Soyuz and the station will be opened at approximately 11:15 p.m., at which time Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA and his crewmates, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency), will greet Kelly, Kornienko and Padalka. Hatch opening coverage begins on NASA TV at 10:45 p.m.

Kelly and Kornienko will spend a year on the space station to better understand how the human body reacts and adapts to the harsh environment of space. Data from the expedition will be used to determine whether there are ways to further reduce the risks on future long-duration missions to an asteroid and eventually Mars.

The crew will support several hundred experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science — research that impacts life on Earth. Data and samples will be collected throughout the year from a series of studies involving Scott and his twin brother, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. The studies will compare data from the genetically-identical Kelly brothers to identify any subtle changes caused by spaceflight.

Padalka will spend six months aboard the outpost, during which he will become the first four-time station commander and record holder for most cumulative time spent in space.

For the full schedule of prelaunch, launch and docking coverage, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

For more information about the one-year crew, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/oneyear

For more information about the International Space Station, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/station

Follow the space station crew members on Instagram:

http://instagram.com/iss

Follow the space station via Twitter at:

http://www.twitter.com/Space_Station