MDA Wins Contract to Support Robotic Arms on Space Station

Spacewalker Luca Parmitano is guided on the Canadarm2 robotic arm toward the work site on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, the space station’s cosmic particle detector. (Credit: NASA)

OTTAWA, March 26, 2020 (CSA PR) — Today, the Government of Canada issued a new contract to MDA for the continuing operations and maintenance of the Mobile Servicing System, the Canadian Space Agency’s robotics suite—comprised of Canadarm2Dextre and the Mobile Base System—on the International Space Station (ISS). The contract, worth $190 million, will enable MDA to provide essential engineering and logistics support over the next four years.

The ISS is a test bed and stepping stone to the Moon and Mars. This investment is an opportunity for the Canadian space sector to maintain its international leadership in space robotics as Canada prepares for the next chapter of space exploration, the Lunar Gateway—the cornerstone of Canada’s Space Strategy.

Preparations Continue for Soyuz Crew Flight to ISS

The crew of Soyuz MS-16: Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin and with NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy. (Credit: Roscosmos)

BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan, March 25, 2020 (Roscosmos PR) — The final pre-flight training session of the prime and backup crews of Soyuz MS-16 transport manned spacecraft under the program of the ISS 62/63 Expeditions to the International Space Station (ISS) began at the Baikonur Launch Site.

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Astronaut Christina Koch Services a 3-D Biological Printer

Christina Koch handles media bags that enable the manufacturing of organ-like tissues using the BioFabrication Facility. (Credit: NASA)

In this image from December 2019, astronaut Christina Koch handles media bags that enable the manufacturing of organ-like tissues using the BioFabrication Facility (BFF), a 3-D biological printer on the International Space Station. The BFF could become a part of a larger system capable of manufacturing whole, fully functioning human organs from existing patient cells in microgravity.

Learn more about science experiments aboard the station and how they helps improve life on Earth.

NASA Statement on SpaceX Crew Dragon Parachute Test Mishap

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — To date, SpaceX has completed 24 tests of its upgraded Mark 3 parachute design they are working to certify for use on the Crew Dragon spacecraft that will fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. The system was used during the SpaceX in-flight abort test in January.

On March 24, SpaceX lost a spacecraft-like device used to test the Crew Dragon Mark 3 parachute design. The test requires a helicopter to lift the device suspended underneath it to reach the needed test parameters. However, the pilot proactively dropped the device in an abundance of caution to protect the test crew as the test device became unstable underneath the helicopter. At the time of the release, the testing device was not armed, and a test of the parachute design was not performed.

Although losing a test device is never a desired outcome, NASA and SpaceX always will prioritize the safety of our teams over hardware. We are looking at the parachute testing plan now and all the data we already have to determine the next steps ahead of flying the upcoming Demo-2 flight test in the mid-to-late May timeframe.

Upcoming Launches to Close Out March

Astra Space 1 of 3 rocket on the launch pad in Alaska. (Credit: DARPA webcast)

Here’s quick look at the launches scheduled for the rest of March. Information from Spaceflightnow.com’s launch schedule.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled for March 30 is listed. However, unofficial reports say it has been delayed indefinitely due to travel restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The booster will launch the SAOCOM 1B Earth observation satellite for Argentine.

What the months ahead hold in terms of launch is uncertain. Europe has suspended flights out of its launch base in French Guiana. Whether other spaceports are closed remains to be seen. China appears to have weathered the worst of the virus.

I would expect crew and cargo flights to the International Space Station (ISS) to continue. The first crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to ISS is scheduled for mid- to late May. It’s difficult to say whether that schedule will hold.

March 23/24

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2C
Payloads: 3 Yaogan 30-06 military surveillance satellites
Launch Time: Approximately 11:40 p.m. EDT on 23rd (0340 GMT on 24th)
Launch Site: Xichang, China

UPDATE: Launch successful.

March 24

Launch Vehicle: Astra Rocket 3.0 “1 of 3”
Payloads: TBA
Launch Window: TBA
Launch Site: Pacific Spaceport Complex, Alaska

UPDATE: Media report of an “anomaly” during a dress rehearsal on Monday.. Extend of anomaly and new schedule uncertain. Doesn’t sound like they’re launching on Tuesday. More details here: https://kmxt.org/2020/03/anomaly-at-pacific-spaceport-complex-launch-rehearsal-no-injuries-as-a-result/

March 26

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payload: AEHF 6 military communications satellite
Launch Window: 2:57-4:57 p.m. EDT (1857-2057 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.ulalaunch.com

March 29

Launch Vehicle: Electron “Don’t Stop Me Now”
Payloads: Multiple CubeSats
Launch Window: 12:43-2:33 a.m. EDT (0443-0633 GMT)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com/

UPDATE: Rocket Lab has suspended preparations on this launch due to the coronavirus.

March 30
(Possibly Postponed)

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SAOCOM 1B Earth observation satellite
Launch Time: 7:21 p.m. EDT (2321 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

An Astronaut’s Tips For Living in Space – Or Anywhere

Expedition 58 Flight Engineers Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency pose for a portrait inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. (Credit: NASA)

NASA Press Release

Adapted from a Twitter Thread by astronaut Anne McClain

One thing astronauts have to be good at: living in confined spaces for long periods of time. Here are some tips for all who find yourself in a similar scenario.

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The Shape of Watering Plants in Space

Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques is photographed performing a reservoir fill on the Veggie Ponds facility in the Columbus module of the International Space Station in 2019. The primary goal of the hardware validation test was to demonstrate plant growth in a newly developed plant growing system, Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System (PONDS). (Credits: NASA)

By Danielle Sempsrott
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

The challenge: getting water to behave the way it does on Earth while in a microgravity environment. A collaboration between NASA, Techshot, Inc., and the Tupperware Brands Corporation is working to get the solution just right.

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How Space Station Research is Helping NASA’s Plans to Explore the Moon and Beyond

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly undergoes ultrasound measurements for the Fluid Shifts experiment during his one-year mission. The investigation measures how much fluid shifts from the lower to the upper body and in or out of cells and blood vessels as well as the effect on vision and the eye. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — As part of the Artemis lunar exploration program, NASA plans to return astronauts to the Moon and use that experience to inform future human exploration of Mars. To safely and comfortably explore for days at a time on the surface of these celestial bodies, astronauts need suitable equipment and places to live. Almost 20 years of human habitation aboard the International Space Station and a growing body of research conducted there are contributing important insights into how to meet these needs for future lunar explorers.

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NASA Leadership Assessing Mission Impacts of Coronavirus

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2020 (NASA PR) — To protect the health and safety of the NASA workforce as the nation responds to coronavirus (COVID-19), agency leadership recently completed the first assessment of work underway across all missions, projects, and programs. The goal was to identify tasks that can be done remotely by employees at home, mission-essential work that must be performed on-site, and on-site work that will be paused.

“We are going to take care of our people. That’s our first priority,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Technology allows us to do a lot of what we need to do remotely, but, where hands-on work is required, it is difficult or impossible to comply with CDC guidelines while processing spaceflight hardware, and where we can’t safely do that we’re going to have to suspend work and focus on the mission critical activities.” 

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Crew Dragon Flight to ISS Set for May

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken practice extraction from a Crew Dragon capsule. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Media accreditation is open for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 flight test, which will send two astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. This mission will be the return of human spaceflight launch capabilities to the United States and the first launch of American astronauts aboard an American rocket and spacecraft since the final space shuttle mission on July 8, 2011.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will launch Crew Dragon, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the spacecraft, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA and SpaceX are currently targeting no earlier than mid-to-late May for launch.

This second demonstration mission of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is another end-to-end flight test of SpaceX’s human spaceflight system, which will include launch, docking, splashdown and recovery operations. It is the final flight test of the system before SpaceX is certified to carry out operational crew flights to and from the space station for NASA.

NASA is proactively monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation as it evolves. The agency will continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the agency’s chief health and medical officer and communicate any updates that may impact mission planning or media access, as they become available.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry through a public-private partnership to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil. The goal of the program is to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the space station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration. The space station remains the springboard to NASA’s next great leap in space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

For launch coverage and more information about the mission, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

Tackling Immune System Dysfunction— from Multiple Angles

European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, perform a Functional Immune Blood Sample Draw at the Human Research Facility (HRF), in the Columbus Module. The Functional Immune investigation analyzes blood and saliva samples to determine the changes taking place in crew members’ immune systems during flight. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Getting sick is no fun for anyone, but it especially taxes crew members aboard the ISS. Protecting crew health is important as NASA prepares for long-duration, deep-space missions. The human immune system is a complex web of biological structures and processes; decreased activity in one piece of it can change overall disease risk. Studies have shown microgravity causes modifications in the human immune system. Figuring out why and how this occurs could help not only astronauts, but people affected by immune dysfunction here on Earth.

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Science Takes Time, Even in a Lab Moving 17,500 Miles per Hour

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly undergoes ultrasound measurements for the Fluid Shifts experiment during his one-year mission. The investigation measures how much fluid shifts from the lower to the upper body and in or out of cells and blood vessels as well as the effect on vision and the eye. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The International Space Station, a microgravity laboratory orbiting Earth at 17,500 miles per hour, has hosted a variety of scientific research for nearly 20 years. Some of that research continues for months and even years.

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What is the Fatigue Countermeasures Lab?

View of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Koichi Wakata, Expedition 38 Flight Engineer, strapped into his sleeping bag in his sleep station located in the Node 2. (Credits: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — For many of us, it’s OK to feel a little sleepy at your desk after lunch. But for people with jobs where it’s critical to be alert and able to think quickly and clearly, feeling fatigued from sleep loss, jet lag, shift work or waking up groggy can be a problem.

The Fatigue Countermeasures Lab at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley, studies the way fatigue affects people with complex tasks to perform. The realms for these tasks can be as diverse as aviation and spaceflight, NASA space mission operations, military settings and operating self-driving cars.

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Producing Human Tissue in Space

Space Tango CubeLab on board the International Space Station ISS. (Credit: Space Tango)

ZURICH (University of Zurich PR) — The University of Zurich has sent adult human stem cells to the International Space Station (ISS). Researchers from UZH Space Hub will explore the production of human tissue in weightlessness.

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Plant Growth on the International Space Station has Global Impacts on Earth

Astronaut Peggy Whitson with the ADVASC soybean plant growth experiment during Expedition 5. (Credits: NASA)

MADISON, WI (NASA PR) — Understanding the effects of gravity on plant life is essential in preparing for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. The ability to produce high-energy, low-mass food sources during spaceflight will enable the maintenance of crew health during long-duration missions while having a reduced impact on resources necessary for long-distance travel.

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