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Cygnus NG CRS-17 resupply flight to the ISS

Launch    Research Highlights    Arrival and Some Events    References


Cygnus NG-17 (Northrop Grumman-17) is a cargo resupply mission of the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. 1) 2)

Northrop Grumman and NASA jointly developed a new space transportation system to provide commercial cargo resupply services to the International Space Station. The Cygnus cargo ship consists of two parts, a service module built in USA based on the GEOStar platform, and a pressurized module, manufactured in France and Italy by Thales Alenia. The cargo is sent into orbit by a launcher specially developed for this purpose. Northrop Grumman named this spacecraft after the late Piers Sellers, in celebration of his role in assembling the International Space Station.


Figure 1: Overview of payload masses on the Cygnus NG CRS-17 flight (image credit: NASA)

Launch: Cygnus NG-17 of Northrop Grumman was launched on its Antares 230+rocket at 12: 40 p.m. EST Saturday (17:40 UTC), Feb. 19, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. The two-stage rocket placed the Cygnus spacecraft into orbit nearly nine minutes later. The spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at the station early Feb. 21 and be berthed by the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm. 3) 4)



Figure 2: An Antares rocket lifts off Feb. 19 from Wallops Island, Virginia, carrying a Cygnus cargo spacecraft (image credit: NASA TV)

Orbit: Near circular orbit, altitude of ~ 400 km, inclination = 51.6º, period of~92 minutes.

This is the first Cygnus mission featuring enhanced capabilities to perform a re-boost to the space station's orbit as a standard service for NASA; one re-boost is planned while Cygnus is connected to the orbiting laboratory.

Antares has a first stage based on Energiya lateral blocks, made in Ukraine by Yuzhnoye. It was initially powered by two NK-33, built in the 1960s for the Soviet N1 lunar launcher, before being replaced by RD-181s, derived from the RD-170s installed on Energiya and Zenit. The second stage, a Castor-30, is made in the USA, by Northrop Grumman.


Secondary payloads

NACHOS (Nanosat Atmospheric Chemistry Hyperspectral Observation System), a 3U CubeSat (6 kg) developed at LANL (Los Alamos National Laboratory) with 1.5U hyperspectral imager covering the 300-500 nm spectral range in 400 channels. Laboratory tests demonstrate spatial and spectral resolutions of <0.8 mrad and 1.3 nm, respectively, with good resolution of the spectral lines of our SO2 and NO2 target gases. NACHOS will locate sources of trace gases in areas as small as 0.15 square miles (0.4 km2). 5)

- In addition to an ultra-compact hyperspectral imager capable of gathering high-resolution data, NACHOS also uses onboard processing algorithms, which reduce both the size of its data transmissions and the amount of time it takes to relay those transmissions back to Earth.

- These algorithms run particularly well on small computers, giving NACHOS large amounts of computational power without increasing the instrument's size or weight.

- "More power and less weight set NACHOS apart and make it an excellent candidate for future atmospheric trace gas missions," said Love.

- NACHOS will remain aboard Northrop Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft until May 2022, when the spacecraft will unberth from the International Space Station and place NACHOS into a higher LEO (LowEarth Orbit) before the cargo spacecraft reenters Earth's atmosphere. Love and his team will spend three months commissioning NACHOS before it begins its technology validation and science mission. He expects NACHOS to remain in orbit for about one year.

- The prototype is funded through the InVEST program in NASA's Earth Science Technology Office.


Figure 3: The NACHOS CubeSat (image credit LANL)

KITSUNE (Kyutech standardized bus Imaging Technology System Utilizing Networking and Electron content measurements), a 6U CubeSat (~14 kg) developed by the HAK consortium, which consists of Haradaseiki Kogyo, Addnics Corporation, and Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech, Japan) and jointly with the Agencia Espacial del Paraguay (AEP). KITSUNE will be deployed from the ISS's Kibo Module. KITSUNE will conduct several missions, including observing Earth with a resolution of 5 m, and communicating in C-band.


Planned space station research supported by this mission includes: 6) 7)

• a study that examines the effects of a drug on breast and prostate cancer cells

• a new combustion facility

• an investigation from Colgate-Palmolive that will leverage the acceleration of skin aging in microgravity to help create and validate an engineered tissue model to serve as a platform for testing potential products to protect aging skin

• a demonstration of a lithium-ion secondary battery capable of safe, stable operation under extreme temperatures and in a vacuum environment.

• new hydrogen sensors that will be tested for the space station's oxygen generation system

• a system that will test hydroponic and aeroponic techniques for plant growth and allow scientists to observe root growth through video and still images



Research Highlights

Scientific investigations on skin aging and tumor cells. Deterioration of skin tissue, a normal part of aging, occurs over decades. Microgravity leads to changes in the body that are similar to aging but happen much more quickly and can be more easily studied.

- Colgate Skin Aging evaluates cellular and molecular changes in engineered human skin cells in microgravity. Results could show that these engineered cells may serve as a model to rapidly assess products aimed at protecting skin from the aging process back on Earth.

Figure 4: Preparation of tissue culture plates for Colgate Skin Aging, which evaluates changes in skin cells in microgravity and could help provide a model for assessing products for protecting skin from the effects of aging (image credit: Colgate-Palmolive)

Testing tumor drugs: The ISS National Lab's MicroQuin 3D Tumor examines the effects of a drug on breast and prostate cancer cells in space. In microgravity, these cells can grow in a more natural three-dimensional model, which makes it easier to characterize their structure, gene expression, cell signaling, and response to the drug. Results could provide new insight into the cell protein targeted by the drug and help advance development of other drugs that target cancerous cells.


Figure 5: This image shows immunofluorescence of breast cancer cells treated with a MicroQuin therapeutic. Staining shows a normal nucleus (blue) and the therapeutic (green) localized to the cell's endoplasmic reticulum (red). The drug forces the cytoskeleton (yellow) to collapse, inducing cell death (image credits: Scott Robinson, MicroQuin)

- "Our 3D tumor modelling investigation on the space station provides a phenomenal opportunity to study cancer more naturally, allowing us to better assess drug penetration, tumor response, cell-to-cell signaling, disease progression, and even how drug resistance can emerge," says Scott Robinson, MicroQuin principal investigator. "Cancerous cells ignore signals to stop growing, stop dividing, or even to die. In microgravity, these signals change considerably and can either benefit or hinder cancer growth. Knowing what signaling pathways are affected and how, allows us to focus research efforts on defining new therapeutic interventions that are more effective, less toxic, and have better patient outcomes."

Improving hydrogen sensors: The OGA H2 Sensor Demo tests new sensors for the space station's oxygen generation system (OGS). The OGS produces breathable oxygen via electrolysis, or separation of water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is either vented overboard or sent to a post-processing system where it is recombined with waste carbon dioxide to form water. Current sensors ensure that none of the hydrogen enters the oxygen stream into the cabin, but are sensitive to moisture, nitrogen, drift in calibration, and other issues that can cause problems. They must therefore be swapped out after every 201 days of use.


Figure 6: Hardware for the OGA H2 Sensor Demo shown in preparation for flight. This technology demonstration tests new sensors for detecting hydrogen in oxygen generating systems on spacecraft (image credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center)

- This technology could provide more durable sensors for situations where replacement is not practical every 201 days, reducing the number of spares needed on longer space missions such as to the Moon or Mars. Improved technology for monitoring oxygen generation systems also has potential applications in contained environments on Earth, such as underwater facilities and those in remote and dangerous locations.

Better batteries: An investigation from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Space As-Lib demonstrates operation of a lithium-ion secondary battery capable of safe, stable operation under extreme temperatures and in a vacuum environment. The battery uses solid, inorganic, and flame-retardant materials and does not leak liquid, making it safer and more reliable. Results could demonstrate the battery's performance for a variety of potential uses in space and other planetary environments. Solid-state batteries also have potential applications in harsh environments and in the automotive and aerospace industries on the Earth.


Figure 7: The Space As-Lib hardware is shown undergoing thermal vacuum testing prior to launch (image credit: JAXA)

Plants in space: Current systems for growing plants in space use soil or a growth medium. These systems are small and do not scale well in a space environment due to mass and containment, maintenance, and sanitation issues. XROOTS tests using hydroponic (water-based) and aeroponic (air-based) techniques instead, which could reduce overall system mass. The investigation takes video and still images of root zone and crops for evaluation of the plant life cycle from seed germination through maturity in multiple independent growth chambers.


Figure 8: Green onion plants grown using aeroponics are held to display their roots. The XROOTS study tests hydroponic (water-based) and aeroponic (air-based) techniques to grow plants in space (image credit: Sierra Space)

- "The investigation incorporates unique Root Modules designed to provide delivery and recovery of nutrient solution to the plants so they can be grown without the additional mass of any soil media," explains principal investigator John Wetzel of Sierra Nevada Corporation. "This approach is much more mass efficient for future large-scale plant growth systems in space."

- Results could provide insight into the development of larger scale systems to grow food crops for future space exploration and habitats. Components of the system developed for this investigation also could enhance cultivation of plants in terrestrial settings such as greenhouses and contribute to better food security for people on Earth.

Improving fire safety: The Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction (SoFIE) facility enables studies of flammability of materials and ignition of fires in realistic atmospheric conditions. It uses the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR), which enables testing at different oxygen concentrations and pressures representative of current and planned space exploration missions. Gravity influences flames on Earth; but in microgravity aboard the space station, fire acts differently and can behave in unexpected ways. Some evidence suggests that fires may be more hazardous in reduced gravity, a safety concern for future space missions.

- Results may improve understanding of how fires start and grow in reduced gravity, helping to validate methods for testing and models for predicting the flammability of spaceflight materials and models. This insight could help ensure crew safety by improving design of extravehicular activity suits, informing selection of safer cabin materials, and helping to determine the best techniques for suppressing fires in space. Project data also could provide better understanding of fire safety and improve methods for testing material for homes, offices, aircraft, and other uses on Earth.



Cygnus arrival at the ISS and some events/activities (in reverse order)

• March 25, 2022: We spy from way up high an ESA astronaut dangling from the International Space Station. 8)

- Matthias Maurer performed his first spacewalk during his Cosmic Kiss mission yesterday with fellow astronaut Raja Chari of NASA. Extravehicular activity or EVA 80 lasted 6 hours and 54 minutes and was not without some excitement.

- An hour into the spacewalk, the camera and light assembly on Matthias' helmet needed some readjustments, which Raja was able to fix using some wiring. The duo were then able to carry on with the tasks, which included installing hoses on a radiator beam valve module that helps regulate Space Station system temperatures, replacing an external camera on the Station's truss and installing a power and data cable on the Bartolomeo science platform outside ESA's Columbus module.

- Matthias' first task involved routing an ethernet cable along the Space Station's handrails for the camera installation. He then made his way to the Columbus module to install a data and power cable for Bartolomeo.

- Bartolomeo is the first European commercial facility to be positioned outside the International Space Station. Built and operated by Airbus, it will offer a high-speed data feed and a unique view of Earth and deep space. Thanks to Matthias' efforts yesterday, the facility is ready for full operations.

- Finally, Matthias and Raja worked together to install a new camera. Overall, the duo accomplished all main tasks and headed back to the airlock after nearly seven hours outdoors. Matthias did exceptionally well on his sortie and returned to the Space Station safe and sound.


Figure 9: Matthias Maurer performed his first spacewalk during his Cosmic Kiss mission yesterday with fellow astronaut Raja Chari of NASA. Extravehicular activity or EVA 80 lasted 6 hours and 54 minutes and was not without some excitement (image credit: ESA/NASA)

• March 24, 2022: The Expedition 66 crew is turning its attention to the departure of three crew members late next week following the completion of a pair of spacewalks. The International Space Station is also gearing up to welcome the first private astronaut mission aboard a SpaceX Dragon vehicle in early April. 9)

- Two astronauts had medical checkups and a light duty day today following Wednesday's spacewalk to install thermal gear and electronics components on the orbiting lab. Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Matthias Maurer spent a few moments Thursday morning getting blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate and breathing checks. The duo spent six hours and 54 minutes on Wednesday working outside the orbital lab readying it for a third roll-out solar array and connecting cables to the Bartolomeo science platform on the Columbus laboratory module. They were joined Thursday afternoon by NASA astronauts Kayla Barron and Tom Marshburn for a conference with spacewalk specialists on the ground.

- The four astronauts also called down to mission controllers and discussed the upcoming private astronaut mission from Axiom currently targeted for launch no earlier than April 3. NASA, SpaceX, and Axiom mission managers will hold a media teleconference one hour after NASA's Flight Readiness Review, or approximately Friday at 6 p.m. EDT following their flight readiness review. Former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria will command the Axiom-1 mission with Pilot Larry Connor and Mission Specialists Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy aboard the SpaceX Dragon Endeavor vehicle.

- In the meantime, NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei is nearing his return to Earth with cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov on March 30. The trio will enter the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship, undock from the Rassvet module, and parachute to landing in Kazakhstan. Vande Hei will land with a NASA-record breaking 355 days in space surpassing former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly's single spaceflight record of 340 days.

- Shkaplerov continued packing the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship while Dubrov helped the station's three newest crew members get familiar with space station systems. Veteran cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev with first time space-flyers Sergey Korsakov and Denis Matveev are in the first week of six-and-a-half month mission that began on March 18 when they arrived aboard the Soyuz MS-21 crew ship.


Figure 10: Astronaut Matthias Maurer is pictured during a spacewalk to install thermal gear and electronics components on the space station as it orbited 268 miles above the Pacific Ocean (image credit: NASA TV)

• March 23, 2022: Expedition 66 Flight Engineers Raja Chari of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) concluded their spacewalk at 3:26 p.m. EDT after 6 hours and 54 minutes in preparation for upcoming solar array installation. 10)

- Maurer and Chari completed their major objective for today to install hoses on a Radiator Beam Valve Module that routes ammonia through the station's heat-rejecting radiators to keep systems at the proper temperature. The crew members also installed a power and data cable on the Columbus module's Bartolomeo science platform, replaced an external camera on the station's truss, and conducted other upgrades to station hardware. The pair deferred a few secondary tasks, such as torque resets and cable routing, to a future spacewalk.

- It was the 248th spacewalk in support of space station assembly, upgrades and maintenance, and was the second in Chari's career and the first for Maurer. Chari and Maurer are in the midst of a planned six-month science mission living and working aboard the microgravity laboratory to advance scientific knowledge and demonstrate new technologies for future human and robotic exploration missions as part of NASA's Moon and Mars exploration approach, including lunar missions through NASA's Artemis program


Figure 11: Astronauts Raja Chari and Matthias Maurer are pictured replacing an external high-definition camera during a 6-hour 54-minute spacewalk today (image credit: NASA TV)

• March 18, 2022: ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer is scheduled to perform his first spacewalk next week, stepping outside the International Space Station on Wednesday 23 March alongside NASA's Raja Chari. 11)

- The pair will exit the airlock around 13:50 CET (Central European Time) and spend approximately six and a half hours working in space. Matthias will be EV-2, wearing an all-white spacesuit, while Raja will be lead spacewalker, known as EV-1, in a white spacesuit with red stripes.

- Their tasks include installing hoses on a radiator beam valve module that routes ammonia through the Station's heat-rejecting radiators to regulate system temperatures, installing a power and data cable on the Bartolomeo science platform outside ESA's Columbus module, replacing an external camera on the Station's truss, and conducting other upgrades to Station hardware.

- It is a busy schedule that will see Matthias traverse much of the Station's exterior, something Matthias recently joked about with his colleagues on board.

- "I will go out with my dear colleague Raja. He will do some repairs for the cooling system of the Station, and I will walk around or, I should say, crawl around another part of the Station and do different small activities," Matthias explains.

- "I really do have to do a complete tour of the Space Station," he says. "It is a motley mix and I'm totally looking forward to it."

- Known as US EVA 80, this will be the 248th spacewalk carried out in support of Space Station assembly, upgrades and maintenance. Matthias will be the 12th ESA astronaut to perform a spacewalk.


Figure 12: NASA astronaut Raja Chari (left) and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer (right) check the fit of their Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuits ahead of a spacewalk scheduled for 23 March 2022. The pair are helped by NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn (image credit: ESA/NASA)

- The Bartolomeo science platform is the first European commercial facility positioned outside of the International Space Station. Built and operated by Airbus, it was installed on the exterior of Columbus and is designed to offer a high-speed data feed and a unique view of Earth and deep space.

Figure 13: Matthias Maurer: training for a spacewalk in September 2020. ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer has been training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, USA. In this video, he walks us through training for a spacewalk with NASA colleagues in the 12 m deep Neutral Buoyancy Facility (NBL), video credit: ESA

- Matthias travelled to Houston from Europe with fellow ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Thomas has flown to the International Space Station before, while Matthias is training for his first Space Station mission. Mission dates are yet to be confirmed, but as the next two ESA astronauts in line for flights, the pair are working to ensure they fully trained and ready.

- Due to the current situation with COVID-19, all personnel are required to adhere to special safety precautions while training. These include wearing a mask – as seen in the clip.

- Matthias will continue his training in Houston over the next weeks and months. Stay tuned for further footage of his training and experiences.

• March 15, 2022: NASA astronauts Kayla Barron and Raja Chari concluded their spacewalk at 3:06 p.m. EDT after 6 hours and 54 minutes in preparation for upcoming solar array installation. 12)

- Barron and Chari completed their major objectives for today to prepare the space station for upcoming solar array upgrades by assembling and installing modification kits. The duo built a support bracket onto which a future ISS roll out solar array (iROSA) will be mounted. So far, two of six iROSAs have been deployed on station with four additional arrays to be delivered. The arrays will ultimately augment six of the station's eight power channels, increasing the station's total available power from 160 kW to up to 215 kW.

- It was the 247th spacewalk in support of space station assembly, upgrades and maintenance, and was the first in Chari's career and the second for Barron. Chari and Barron are in the midst of a planned six-month science mission living and working aboard the microgravity laboratory to advance scientific knowledge and demonstrate new technologies for future human and robotic exploration missions as part of NASA's Moon and Mars exploration approach, including lunar missions through NASA's Artemis program.

- Astronaut roles for the next spacewalk on March 23 will be confirmed soon. NASA TV coverage for the March 23 spacewalk will begin at 7:30 a.m. for a spacewalk expected to begin around 8:50am.

- For the Wednesday, March 23, spacewalk, designated U.S. EVA 80, two astronauts will install hoses on a Radiator Beam Valve Module that routes ammonia through the station's heat-rejecting radiators to keep systems at the proper temperature. The crew members also will install a power and data cable on the Columbus module's Bartolomeo science platform, replace an external camera on the station's truss, and conduct other upgrades to station hardware.


Figure 14: NASA astronaut Kayla Barron works to ready the space station for a third set of roll-out solar arrays about 260 miles above the Earth (image credit: NASA TV)

• March 15, 2022: Mark Vande Hei made it into record books on Tuesday, March 15, 2022: He broke the record for the most consecutive days in space by an American explorer. 13)

- Vande Hei arrived at the space station on April 9, 2021, and is expected to return home March 30, 2022, after spending 355 days in low-Earth orbit. This duration breaks the previous record, held by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, by 15 days.

- While clocking the single longest spaceflight by a NASA astronaut, Vande Hei contributed to dozens of studies from the hundreds executed during his mission, including six science investigations supported by NASA's Human Research Program(HRP).

- "Our astronauts are incredible explorers helping expand our knowledge of how humans can live and work in space for longer periods of time," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "Mark's record-setting mission and his contributions to science are paving the way for more people to travel to space on longer duration missions as the agency pushes the boundaries of exploration to the Moon and Mars. Thank you for your service, Mark, and congratulations!"

- For one investigation, Vande Hei helped grow and evaluate vegetables harvested with the space station's Vegetable Production System, or Veggie. The investigation seeks to develop a food production system that can help astronauts meet their dietary needs with fresh vegetables cultivated in space.


Figure 15: Aboard the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei squeezes in time to unwind with a book. Vande Hei made it into record books on Tuesday, March 15, 2022, breaking the record for the most consecutive days in space by an American explorer (image credit: ESA/NASA-T. Pesquet)

- Vande Hei also provided biological samples for an investigation that collects a core set of measurements, called Spaceflight Standard Measures. The investigation seeks to characterize "normal" changes in the human body during spaceflight. For instance, wrist-worn sensors that measure activity levels and light exposure can help researchers better understand the sleep-wake cycle of astronauts. Blood and saliva samples collected by crew members throughout their mission can also help scientists assess changes in various hormones, proteins, and cells that reveal how the immune system changes in space.

- In addition, he contributed to a separate investigation collecting biological samples from the crew aboard the space station and placing them in a storage bank. Researchers can draw upon the samples to study spaceflight-induced changes in human physiology.

- Vande Hei also participated in the first formal investigation into how eating repetitive meals in spaceflight changes the appeal of certain foods over time. In space, menu fatigue can have serious consequences, including lost appetites, nutritional deficiencies, and loss of body mass. Results will help researchers improve the design of current and future space food systems.

- He is also the first astronaut on an extended mission to help researchers investigate whether an enhanced spaceflight diet can allow humans to better adapt to space. Scientists seek answers to questions such as: Could a diet packed with foods rich in nutrients such as flavonoids, lycopene, and omega-3 fatty acids boost immunity and gut microbe function on long journeys into space?

- After he lands, Vande Hei will provide additional feedback to researchers investigating potential injuries such as bruises incurred by astronauts from the force of landing. This feedback will help scientists better understand whether long-term human spaceflight makes crew members more susceptible to such injuries. Results will also help NASA design protective measures in future spacecraft.

- Vande Hei's contributions will expand NASA's knowledge about how the human body adapts to long-term spaceflight as the agency plans for future missions to the Moon and Mars. Until then, taking time to relax and read will help him balance out the rigors of space travel.

- His then-crewmate Thomas Pesquet, who snapped the picture (Figure 15), said: "If you are reading this sitting down, maybe on a sofa or couch, consider that we will not sit down... until we are back on Earth! Of course we don't need to sit down up here, and I am not complaining at all, but sometimes that wonderful feeling of relaxation – that moment when you change from running around to letting yourself drop into a chair – that moment can be wonderful I am sure you all agree, and we do miss it sometimes! I think Mark did here too and made a makeshift reading table to enjoy a book – absolutely unnecessary in weightlessness but so nice to construct some semblances of normal life every now and again!"

Figure 16: NASA astronaut answers social media questions about record breaking spaceflight (video credit: NASA)

• March 2, 2022: Skycorp Inc., a California company focused on orbital logistics, is preparing to test a key component of future satellite servicing vehicles on the International Space Station. 14)

- Within days testing will begin of the robotic connector developed by Germany's iBoss GmbH to transmit power and data like a computer's USB (Universal Serial Bus) cable, alongside a Skycorp computer and a radiation sensor built by Space Environmental Technologies and jointly funded by the Defense Department and NASA Science Mission Directorate.

- If successful, tests of the iBoss Intelligence Space Systems Interface will help pave the way for on-orbit servicing, assembly and manufacturing, Dennis Wingo, Skycorp founder and CEO, told SpaceNews.

- The technology demonstration payload, called Intelligent Space Systems Interface Flight Qualification Experiment (iSSIFQE), traveled to ISS in February on a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft. This week, astronauts assembled iSSIFQE in the Japanese Kibo module. Tomorrow, the payload is scheduled to be mounted on a platform outside the space station's Japanese Experimental Module. The demonstration is scheduled to last more than six months.

- Funding and support for the project was provided by the Pentagon's Defense Innovation Unit, the ISS National Laboratory, Japanese startup Space BD and NASA.

- In addition to testing the robotic connector, the iSSIFQE experiment is expected to shed light on the ISS orbital debris environment. Launchspace Technologies, a Florida company focused on orbital debris detection, tracking and removal, plans to measure the impact of orbital debris on a multilayer insulation blanket that will cover iSSIFQE to provide passive thermal protection.

- After the iSSIFQE experiment concludes, the blanket will be returned to Earth in a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule. Once on the ground, Launchspace will examine it in an effort to characterize the ISS orbital debris environment prior to deploying its own ISS experiment in 2023.

- Data on the orbital debris environment around ISS is increasingly important in light of the recent Russian antisatellite test, Bauman said.

- Launchspace is raising money and conducting research aimed at sending Debris Impact Pads to capture small debris in equatorial low Earth orbit as it crosses the equator.

- "We are extremely interested in the impact that orbital debris has on human and robotic spaceflight," Wingo said in a statement. "We are happy to facilitate the work of Launchspace in this very important area that we believe is far worse than most people realize."


Figure 17: Skycorp's Intelligent Space Systems Interface Flight Qualification Experiment traveled to the International Space Station in February on a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo vehicle. Astronauts have assembled the payload which is scheduled to be installed tomorrow on a space station external platform (image credit: NASA)

• February 28, 2022: The Expedition 66 crew kicked off the week working on robotics, spacesuits, and advanced research equipment. The International Space Station is also orbiting higher to get ready for a crew swap at the end of March. 15)

- Flight Engineers Raja Chari of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) started Monday collecting their blood samples then stowing them for future analysis. The duo then split up, as Chari spent the afternoon studying robotics mobility using the cube-shaped, toaster-sized Astrobee free-flyer. The Astrobatics investigation explores using hopping maneuvers to minimize propellant to inform future robotic missions. Maurer set up the Fluid Science Laboratory for the PASTA experiment that has implications for commercial applications such as pharmaceuticals, oil and fuels, paints and coatings, and more.

- The crew is also revving up for a pair of spacewalks in mid-March to continue modifying the orbiting lab's power systems. Maurer and NASA Flight Engineer Thomas Marshburn worked on U.S. spacesuit jet packs that an astronaut could use to maneuver to safety in the unlikely event of becoming untethered from the station. Marshburn also reviewed plans to assist spacewalkers from inside the space station including suit up procedures, hardware checks and a communications gear overview.

- Orbital maintenance is key in space ensuring the station's multitude of systems, including research and life support, operate safely and continuously. Astronaut Kayla Barron of NASA worked on payload components that support science experiments outside the space station's Kibo laboratory module on its exposed facility unit. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei spent some time unpacking cargo from the Cygnus space freighter before swapping out gear inside the U.S. oxygen generation assembly.

- The space station is orbiting slightly higher after Russia's ISS Progress 79 cargo craft fired its engines for eight minutes on Friday evening. The orbital reboost maneuver puts the station at the proper altitude for the Soyuz MS-21 crew ship launch on March 18 and Vande Hei's return to Earth on March 30 with cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov inside the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship.


Figure 18: The aurora australis streams above the Indian Ocean in this picture from the space station as it orbited 270 miles above the Earth (image credit: NASA)

• February 25, 2022: Friday's research schedule aboard the International Space Station included exploring how microgravity affects skin cells and cotton genetics. The Expedition 66 crew is also learning how to exercise more effectively in weightlessness. 16)

- Living in space has been shown to accelerate the rate of skin aging and a new study delivered aboard the Cygnus space freighter seeks to understand why and protect astronaut's health. NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn started the experiment on Tuesday and has been servicing skin tissue samples that will grow inside the Life Science Glovebox. The samples will be stowed later in a science freezer and analyzed back on Earth to evaluate the cellular and molecular changes that take place in microgravity.

- Weightlessness also affects how plants grow and Flight Engineers Kayla Barron of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) spent Friday morning exploring genetic expression in cotton cultures. The duo worked on cotton cell samples being grown in the Plant Habitat to learn more about the process of plant regeneration possibly improving crop production on Earth.

- Exercise is very important in space as the microgravity environment can lead to muscle and bone loss. Two exercise studies on the orbiting lab are investigating different ways to maximize the effectiveness of working out in microgravity. Maurer began his day pedaling on an exercise cycle wearing the EasyMotion body suit that stimulates muscles. The specialized suit may improve and lessen the duration of exercise sessions in space. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov attached sensors to himself and worked out on the Zvezda service module's treadmill for a Russian exercise study. That investigation looks at how an exercising crew member expends energy and other physiological factors to help keep crews fit and healthy on a long duration spaceflight.

- NASA Flight Engineer Raja Chari worked throughout Friday troubleshooting components on the COLBERT treadmill located in the Tranquility module. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei performed orbital plumbing duties and took photos for the ongoing SQuARE archaeological project.

- At the end of the day, all six flight engineers joined Commander Anton Shkaplerov and practiced an emergency drill. The seven-member crew located station safety gear, translated along escape paths, and coordinated communications with mission controllers for unlikely events such as an ammonia leak, depressurization, or a fire.


Figure 19: Astronaut Mark Vande Hei harvests plants and collects samples to analyze later for a space agriculture study (image credit: NASA)

• February 23, 2022: New human research is underway aboard the International Space Station using the microgravity environment to gain unique insights into aging skin cells and cancer tumors. The Expedition 66 crew also continues to unpack cargo from a U.S. cargo craft while keeping up with eye checks to ensure the crew stays healthy in space. 17)

- Weightlessness provides scientists a unique opportunity to observe phenomena not possible in Earth's gravity. Biology including microbes, plants, and humans, changes in response to microgravity and observations are helping NASA plan longer missions farther into space. Doctors on Earth also use the information to improve numerous treatments and conditions on the ground.

- Two new biology experiments delivered on Monday aboard the Cygnus space freighter are already being activated on the orbital lab. NASA Flight Engineer Thomas Marshburn set up the Microgravity Science Glovebox and began exploring the cellular and molecular alterations taking place in samples of skin cells. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei is observing tumor cells in the Life Science Glovebox to better understand the onset and progression of cancer. Both investigations have the potential to inform space research techniques and improve therapies on Earth.

- Astronauts Raja Chari of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) worked throughout Wednesday continuing to offload the 8,300 pounds of cargo delivered Monday inside Cygnus. NASA Flight Engineer Kayla Barron deactivated space botany hardware then photographed cotton cell samples being harvested for the Plant Habitat-05 space agriculture study.

- Working in the orbiting lab's Russian segment, Commander Anton Shkaplerov studied plasma physics while Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov recorded his heart activity wearing a portable electrocardiogram. The duo from Roscosmos then wrapped up the day with more eye and retina checks using medical imaging gear.


Figure 20: The Cygnus space freighter is pictured moments away from being captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm above northern Iraq on Feb. 21, 2022 (image credit: NASA TV)

• February 21, 2022: Northrop Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft installation on the International Space Station is now complete. Cygnus launched atop an Antares rocket at 12:40 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 19 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. At about 4:44 a.m., NASA astronaut Raja Chari, along with NASA astronaut Kayla Barron as backup, captured Cygnus, carrying 8,300 pounds of research, hardware, and science experiments to the International Space Station. 18)

- Cygnus will deliver critical hardware to be installed during the upcoming ISS Roll-Out Solar Array (IROSA) spacewalks, as well as other components for the successful functioning of astronaut life on the space station, such as a trash deployer and acoustic covers for the waste management system.

- This Cygnus mission is the first to feature enhanced capabilities that will allow the spacecraft to perform a reboost, using its engines to adjust the space station's orbit as a standard service for NASA. The agency has one reboost is planned while Cygnus is connected to the orbiting laboratory. A test of the maneuver was performed in 2018 during Cygnus' ninth resupply mission.

- Cygnus will remain at the space station until May before it deploys CubeSats, then disposes of several thousand pounds of trash during its re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, which will result in its destruction.


Figure 21: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon; Northrop Grumman's Cygnus space freighter; and Russia's Soyuz MS-19 crew ship and the Progress 79 and 80 resupply ships (image credit: NASA)

• February 21, 2022: At 4:44 a.m. EST (09:44 UTC), NASA astronaut Raja Chari, with NASA astronaut Kayla Barron acting as backup, captured Northrop Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft over the Indian Ocean. Mission control in Houston will send ground commands for the station's arm to rotate and install it on the station's Unity module Earth-facing port. 19)


Figure 22: The Cygnus ND-17 space freighter is pictured in the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm shortly after it was captured by NASA astronaut Raja Chari (image credit: NASA TV)


1) "CRS NG-17," Next Spaceflight, URL:

2) "Overview for Northrop Grumman's 17th Commercial Resupply Mission," NASA, 14 February 2022, URL:

3) Jeff Foust, "Antares launches Cygnus cargo spacecraft to ISS," SpaceNews, 19 February 2022, URL:

4) Gina Anderson, Dylan Connell, Keith koehler, "Northrop Grumman Sends NASA Science, Cargo to International Space Station," NASA Press Release, 22-019, 19 February 2022, URL:

5) Gage Tylor, "High-flying NASA ‘NACHOS' Instrument May Help Predict Volcanic Eruptions," NASA Feature, 19 February 2022, URL:

6) "NASA Invites Media to Northrop Grumman's February Launch from Virginia," NASA Press Release M22-005, 12 January 2022, URL:

7) Melissa Gaskill, "Northrop Grumman's 17th Resupply Mission Carries Science Experiments, Technology Demonstrations to Space Station," NASA Space Station Research, 3 February 2022, URL:

8) "Blow a Cosmic Kiss," ESA Science & Exploration, 25 March 2022, URL:

9) Mark Garcia, "Station Nears Crew Departure and First Private Astronaut Mission," NASA Space Station, 24 March 2022, URL:

10) Heidi Lavelle, "Astronauts Complete Spacewalk to Install Station Upgrades," NASA Space Station, 23 March 2022, URL:

11) "First spacewalk for Matthias Maurer," ESA Science & Exploration, 18 March 2022, URL:

12) Heidi Lavelle, "NASA Astronauts Complete Spacewalk for Solar Array Work," NASA Space Station, 15 March 2022, URL:

13) Nathan Cranford, Jennifer L. Turner, "Record-Breaking NASA Astronaut Mark Vande Hei's Contributions to Human Research Studies," NASA Feature, 15 March 2022, URL:

14) Debra Werner, "Skycorp to test "USB for space" cable outside ISS," SpaceNews, 2 March 2022, URL:

15) Mark Garcia, "Crew Works Robotics, Spacesuits as Station Orbits Higher for Crew Swap," NASA Space Station, 28 February 2022, URL:

16) "Friday's Station Research Looks at Skin Cells, Plant Genetics and Exercise," NASA Space Station, 25 February 2022, URL:

17) Mark Garcia, "Crew Kicks Off Skin Aging, Cancer Research and Unloads New Cargo Craft," NASA, 23 February 2022, URL:

18) Mark Garcia, "Cygnus Installed to Station for Cargo Transfers," NASA, 21 February 2022, URL:

19) Mark Garcia, "Astronauts Capture U.S. Resupply Ship Packed With Cargo," NASA, 21 February 2022, URL:

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (


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