Life science and cargo operations kicked off the week for the Expedition 68 crew aboard the International Space Station. Two astronauts also plan to leave the orbiting lab on Wednesday for a seven-hour spacewalk.
NASA flight engineers Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann took turns Monday with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) flight engineer Koichi Wakata servicing research samples for an experiment exploring the how bones heal in space. The survey can provide insight into debilitating bone conditions and help advance bone healing therapies for patients on and off Earth.
The three astronauts also teamed up with NASA flight engineer Frank Rubio and worked throughout Monday inside the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter attached to the Unity module’s Earth-facing port. The foursome rotated in and out of the vehicle to unpack cargo, including crew supplies, new science experiments and station equipment, as well as stowing trash and old equipment inside the freighter space for disposal.
Rubio then spent the afternoon installing multi-layer insulation inside the Harmony module’s international space-oriented docking adapter to which the SpaceX Dragon supply ship is docked. Wakata began his day by preparing samples for an experiment conducted inside the Materials Science Laboratory, a space physics research facility sponsored by the ESA (European Space Agency). Mann photographed a student-designed study that explores new methods for degrading plastic waste in space.
Cassada and Rubio plan to take their third spacewalk together at 7:45 a.m. EST on Wednesday. The pair will install another Deployment Solar Panel, also known as the International Space Station Deployment Solar Panel (iROSA), on the space station’s truss structure. This time, the duo will maneuver to the opposite side of the truss structure and install the station’s fourth iROSA on the Port-4 truss structure. The pair will spend around seven hours on the installation job live on NASA TV on the agency’s app and website.
NASA and Roscosmos continue to assess an external cooling loop leak from the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft docked to the International Space Station’s Rassvet module. Temperatures and humidity inside the Soyuz spacecraft remain within acceptable limits. Roscosmos has identified the source of the leak as the Soyuz’s outer cooling loop.
As part of the ongoing assessment and investigation, a robotic inspection of the suspected leak area was performed on December 18, using cameras on the Canadarm2 robotic arm. A small hole was observed and the surface of the radiator around the hole showed discoloration. Roscosmos is evaluating the images to determine if this hole could be from micrometeoroid debris or if it is one of the radiator’s pre-made vent holes.
Space station operations and research continue as station managers and international partners collect and analyze data and work to develop an action plan for the Soyuz and its crew.
With the help of cosmonauts aboard the station, Roscosmos performed tests on additional Soyuz systems on Dec. 16, including a short demonstration of the spacecraft’s propulsion system. So far, testing has revealed no additional issues.
The Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft carried NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin into space after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on September 21.
The leak was first detected around 7:45 p.m. EST on December 14, when pressure sensors in the cooling loop showed low readings. Data analysis indicates that the majority of the coolant had leaked by 1:30 p.m. on December 15.
At the time of the leak, Prokopyev and Petelin were preparing to perform a spacewalk. The spacewalk was postponed, so the cosmonauts did not exit the space station or be exposed to the leaking coolant.
Back inside the station, Prokopyev and Petelin configured the Poisk module and its airlock to its normal state. Prokopyev then salvaged obsolete hardware for disposal aboard Cygnus and also tested a 3D printer. Petelin inspected the cable connections and inventoried the spare parts on board the station. Flight engineer Anna Kikina spent the morning exploring futuristic spacecraft and robotic piloting techniques, then worked the afternoon servicing an oxygen generator.
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