A Critical Week Kicks Off Aboard the International Space Station

Four SpaceX Crew-7 Members

The four SpaceX Crew-7 members pose for a portrait in their pressure suits. From left are, Jasmin Moghbeli, Andreas Mogensen, Satoshi Furukawa, and Konstantin Borisov. Credit: SpaceX

The Expedition 69 crew is gearing up for cargo and crew vehicles headed to the International Space Station (ISS) this week. The seven orbital residents are also continuing critical space research while preparing for September’s crew departure activities.

Roscosmos Progress Activities

An extra port on the orbital outpost is now open after the departure of the Roscosmos Progress 83 cargo craft at 7:50 p.m. EDT on Sunday, August 20. It will be replaced by the Roscosmos Progress 85 cargo craft after it launches at 9:08 p.m. EDT on Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Progress 85 will dock to the port left vacant by the Progress 83 on the aft end of the Zvezda service module at 11:50 p.m. on Thursday.

Commander Sergey Prokopyev joined Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin on Monday training for the 85P’s arrival. The duo from Roscosmos practiced using the telerobotically operated rendezvous unit, or TORU, located in Zvezda. A cosmonaut would use the TORU to remotely control an arriving spacecraft in the unlikely event the approaching vehicle was unable to automatically dock.

ISS Configuration August 20 2023

International Space Station Configuration on August 20, 2023. Four spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter, the Soyuz MS-23 crew ship, and the Progress 84 resupply ship. Credit: NASA

SpaceX Crew-7 Mission

Four Commercial Crew members are at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center counting down to their launch to the orbital lab at 3:49 a.m. EDT on Friday. NASA Jasmin Moghbeli astronaut will command SpaceX Crew-7 mission specialists Andreas Mogensen of ESA (European Space Agency), Satoshi Furukawa of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and Konstantin Borisov of Roscosmos during their ride to the orbital lab. The quartet, inside the SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft, will dock to the Harmony module’s space-facing port at 2:02 a.m. on Saturday.

Departure of Expedition 69 Crewmates

One week after the arrival of the SpaceX Crew-7 mission, four Expedition 69 crewmates will return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft. NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen will lead Woody Hoburg of NASA, Sultan Alneyadi of UAE (United Arab Emirates), and Andrey Fedyaev of Roscosmos when they undock from Harmony’s forward port in Endeavour on September 1 and splash down off the coast of Florida about 24 hours later.

At the end of the day on Monday, the soon-to-be departing quartet reviewed their departure activities and Dragon deorbit procedures on computer tablets. Bowen, Hoburg, and Alneyadi also tried on specialized garments, also known as orthostatic intolerance garments, that will help their bodies quickly re-adapt to Earth’s gravity after returning. The foursome launched to the station as the SpaceX Crew-6 mission on March 2, docked the following day, entered the station, and became Expedition 68-69 flight engineers.

Suit Evaluations and Ongoing Research

Cosmonauts Petelin and Fedyaev tested their own version of a suit, called the lower body negative pressure suit, that helps crew members readjust to Earth’s gravity environment. They are evaluating the unique suit for its potential to redistribute fluids that have pooled in the upper body, due to microgravity, toward the lower extremities.

Even amid the upcoming mission activities, microgravity science was underway aboard the orbital lab. NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio worked on science hardware throughout Monday, first reconfiguring the Cell Biology Experiment Facility, a biology research incubator. Afterward, he swapped out more graphene aerogel samples in the Microgravity Science Glovebox for a space manufacturing study. Alneyadi set up the Neuronix gene therapy study in the Life Science Glovebox to begin exploring potential therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

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