ISS – Advanced Plant Habitat

One of the experiments making its way to the International Space Station (ISS) today is the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH). As part of the journey to Mars and beyond being able to grow plants for eating will be very important. This experiment builds on the older Veggie experiment that has been active on the station for a while now.

Prototype, of NASA’s APH

APH will be an enclosed facility that will allow the team to control the environment including lighting levels, humidity, watering etc. Once installed on the station the first two plants to be grown are Wheat and Arabidopsis which will allow the scientists determine how the facility is operating and have well-known structures that have been studied on Earth.

As with the early Veggie experiments, the crew will not eat anything that has been grown initially, however, one of the scientists said during the NASA “What’s On Board” briefing mentioned.

The APH has the ability to grow four different plants even if they have different growth times, this could allow future crews to grow lettuce, tomato, onions and peppers and have a fresh salad.

More information on the can be found here.

Jeff Williams sets new cumulative time in space record for US astronaut

m16-026NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams broke NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly’s record today for the longest cumulative time spent in space for a US astronaut. Jeff is on his fourth mission to space, which include one Space Shuttle mission and three long duration missions to the International Space Station.

For this current mission Jeff launched on March 18th, 2016 with Cosmonauts Aleksey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka aboard their Soyuz TMA-20M vehicle and docked at the station 6 hours later. Jeff later took command of the station just before the departure of previous commander NASA Astronaut Tim Kopra.

Jeff previous flew on STS-101, Soyuz TMA-8 (Expedition 13), Soyuz TMA-16 (Expedition 21/22).

Jeff will return to Earth in September having surpassed 533 cumulative days in space.

Progress MS-02 launches to ISS

The Russian Progress MS-02 spacecraft launched successfully today beginning a two day journey to dock with the International Space Station.

Roscosmos elected to do the two day journey to allow time to fully test all the upgraded systems on the newer MS version of the vehicle.  The first Soyuz MS crewed mission is due to launch in June and validation of the systems is required before that can occur.

This is the second of three cargo vehicles scheduled to travel to the station in less than a month.

First British Astronaut arrives at the #ISS

European Space Agency Astronaut Tim Peake of the UK arrived at the International Space Station today following a smooth launch and four orbit accelerated rendezvous.  Tim and fellow travelers NASA’s Tim Kopra and RSA’s Yuri Malenchenko lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 6:03 AM EST today and once in orbit begun there four orbit, six hour journey to the station.

The crew had to perform a manual docking after the KURS automated docking was aborted when the craft was just 20 metres away from the station.

Tim’s mission called Principia will see him stay at the station for six months during which time he will perform numerous experiments including interacting with two Raspberry PI’s that were recently launched to the station aboard the Cygnus spacecraft.  The PI’s will be executing programs created by school children around the UK which were selected during a competition.

Tim is the second UK astronaut to travel into space and the first to the ISS, the previous traveler Helen Sharman visited the Mir station.

Current station commander Scott Kelly posted the following picture of the launch captured from the station today.

Video of launch

Video of arrival and docking

Video of the hatch opening

Orbital ATK’s CRS Cargo Missions resume

More than a year after the catastrophic failure of the Antares Launch vehicle which resulted in the lose of the Cygnus Cargo vehicle and its payload Orbital’s enhanced Cygnus vehicle lifted off from Cape Canaveral today with the help of an United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.  The launch which was delayed three times due to inclement weather finally lifted off this afternoon when the Atlas V RD-180 came to life.

Orbital elected to purchase two Atlas V launches to allow it to resume its Commercial Resupply contract with NASA for the International Space Station while the enhancements to its Antares rocket continue.  Orbital were also able to introduce there enhanced Cygnus vehicle which can carry an additional 1,200-1,500 kg of cargo depending on launch vehicle.


Important Step forward for Manned Space Flight

ISS_Lettuce3Today on the International Space Station the crew had the opportunity to eat Lettuce that had been grow on the station.

While they have grown vegetables before on the station this was the first time they actually were able to harvest and eat them, previous tests had been returned to Earth for testing.

As we move further away from Earth it becomes more expensive to bring resources to the crews.  Now that we have demonstrated that we can grow vegetables in space some of the cargo can be seeds and other materials that will produce much greater quantities of food.  Another important factor is the physiological impact on the crew where until now they have been fully reliant on supplies from Earth.

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TMA-17M Docks with ISS

Following the successful launch earlier the Soyuz TMA-17M carrying Oleg Kononenko, Kimiya Yui and Kjell Lindgren arrived at the international Space Station following a four orbit journey.

After the launch it became clear that as with TMA-14M one of the solar panels had not deployed correctly, this didn’t impact the docking and as before the panel deployed either during or after docking.

Once the spacecraft completed the docking leak tests were performed to ensure a good connection between both vehicles before the hatches were opened allowing the three crew members to join Gennady Padalka, Mikhail Korniyenko and Scott Kelly.

Videos of the docking and hatch opening

Soyuz TMA-17M launches to ISS

Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko, Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui and NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren launched this evening from Baikonur Cosmodrome towards the International Space Station.

Once in orbit the spacecraft deployed its solar panels and KURS docking antenna’s before beginning the six hours, four orbit chase of the ISS.

We will follow up with an article after the docking and hatch opening.

Image below of the launch

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ISS Resupply Vehicle Launches successfully

Following on from two recent failures the Progress 60P (M-28M) spacecraft lifted off successfully this morning,

Lifted to orbit aboard a Soyuz-U rocket the automated spacecraft successfully deployed its Solar Arrays and Kurs docking antennas before firing its thrusters to begin the journey to the ISS, for this flight the spacecraft will use the two day approach due to the phasing of ISS and the schedule change due to the previous Progress M-27M failure.

The last progress launch made it to orbit aboard the newer Soyuz-2.1a rocket but due to a malfunction in the upper stage the spacecraft span out of control and eventually burnt up in the atmosphere.

Below is a video of the launch, we will publish another article following the successful docking.

ISS and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year

It does seem like the International Space Station is having quite a bad time with re-supply at the moment, three missions have been lost since last October. However things are not really as bad as the title suggests.

Tomorrow morning another re-supply vehicle is scheduled to liftoff from Baikonur, the Russian Progress 60P spacecraft. This is the first flight of the Progress since the previous vehicle 59P was lost after it reached orbit earlier this year. Next month Japan’s HTV spacecraft is also scheduled to launch to the station.

At present the crew has supplies to last them until October without the supplies that both of the flights above launch will be bring with them.

Later this year the Cygnus spacecraft will once again launch to the station, this time using an Atlas 5 vehicle, Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket is scheduled to return to flight next year.

At present we don’t have a timeline for SpaceX to resume flights of there Falcon 9 rocket. Once the details of what happened and what needs to be done to resolve it are available SpaceX will then determine when flights can resume.

So while it has been a bad year for ISS, all that has been lost is replaceable cargo.

We will be publishing an article tomorrow after the launch of the Progress 60P spacecraft.