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International Space Station news - 2013

The International Space Station turns 15 on ! Celebrate with a Virtual World-Wide Wave!

Since the launch of Zarya, the first module of the ISS, on , five space agencies have worked together to build the orbiting science lab—one of the most complex scientific and technological endeavours ever undertaken.

On , celebrate with us as we launch a world-wide wave on Twitter to cheer the International Space Station (ISS)!

Starting at midnight GMT—the official time zone of the ISS—the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the NASA, and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are launching a world-wide wave for ISS on Twitter! We will issue 24 ISS-related tweets in 24 hours, one tweet every 60 minutes at the top of the hour.

Join the wave by following the hashtag #ISS15! Keep the wave rolling by telling us what the ISS—its science, technology and astronauts—means to you. Head outside and see the space station for yourself. If you're lucky enough to photograph it, share your photo by tagging it with #ISS15.

It's your space station, and it's your turn to get involved! How will you do the world-wide wave?

Join the #ISS15 wave! Follow these Twitter handles:






Chris Hadfield to participate in the issue ceremony for the new $5 note featuring Canadarm2 and Dextre

Credit: Bank of Canada

Chris Hadfield, retired Canadian astronaut and former Commander of the International Space Station (ISS), presents the Bank of Canada's Governor, Stephen S. Poloz, with the $5 note that he flew to the space station earlier this year. The Bank of Canada also launched a $10 note at an event held simultaneously at Vancouver's train station. As those of us at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) watched the event linking the symbols of Canada's past and current ingenuity, we were reminded of this prophetic quote from John H. Chapman, father of the Canadian Space Program: "In the second century of Confederation, the fabric of Canadian society will be held together by strands in space just as strongly as railway and telegraphy held together the scattered provinces in the last century." We, in the space program, are humbled and honoured, and so very, very proud. And we hope Canadians are, too.

Astronaut Luca Parmitano conducts Canadian science on the ISS

Luca Parmitano

Credit: CSA

With the help of the Canadian Space Agency's Payload Telescience Operations Centre, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano set up another session of BCAT-C1 this morning on the International Space Station (ISS). Sample 3 will be initialized tomorrow morning. Learn more about this Canadian experiment.

Cygnus leaves the International Space Station

Cygnus and Canadarm2

Credit: NASA TV

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and ESA's Luca Parmitano used Canadarm2 to remove Orbital Science's Cygnus from the ISS and release it into space at 7:31 a.m. EDT. Congratulations to the international team, including the Canadian Space Agency's robotics group, on wrapping up another successful mission!

Canadarm2's next cosmic catch: Japan's HTV4

HTV4, the Japanese Aerospace Agency (JAXA) resupply mission, will launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday, August 3, at 3:48 p.m. EDT (11:48 p.m. on Saturday, in UTC). The cargo ship (named KOUNOTORI 4, for "white stork") will ferry 5.4 metric tons of supplies, clothing, food, drinking water and science to the ISS.

HTV4 will take approximately 5 days to rendezvous with the ISS. On Friday, , between 7:20-7:55 a.m. EDT (11:20-11:55 a.m. on Friday, in UTC), astronauts Karen Nyberg, Luca Parmitano and Chris Cassidy will use Canadarm2 to catch the free-flying capsule and attach it to the station.

Both Canadarm2and Dextre will be very involved in HTV4's 35-day mission. In addition to capturing, berthing and eventually releasing the HTV4 capsule, Canadarm2 will also unload an external pallet from HTV4, which carries three main payloads: a spare Main Bus Switching Assembly (which redistributes electrical loads on the ISS); a Utility Transfer Assembly (an interface that relays power and data between the station's main trusses); and NASA's Space Test Program - Houston 4 (a series of variable conductance thermal interface tiles that will be tested in the space environment on the station's exterior). Once Canadarm2 performs the delicate task of sliding the pallet out of HTV4 (much like you would slide a drawer out of a cabinet), the Canadian robotic arm will hand it over to the Japanese robotic arm, which will lower it gently onto the platform of the Japanese module of the station. Dextre will then unpack these items from the pallet, stowing each one on their new location on the ISS.

International Space Station update

Following Thursday's identification of an ammonia coolant leak outside the International Space Station (ISS), the Expedition 35 crew Friday began preparing for a possible spacewalk Saturday. Mission managers are discussing the information that was gathered overnight about the leak on the far left-side of the station's truss structure, called the P6 with P standing for port. A final decision on whether to go forward with a spacewalk is not expected until late tonight.

The crew is not in danger, and the station continues to operate normally otherwise. Work is under way to reroute power channels to maintain full operation of the systems normally controlled by the solar array that is cooled by the suspect loop.

Expedition 35's Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn began preparing for the possible spacewalk to inspect the area it appears the leak is originating from, and potentially make repairs to the leaking ammonia cooling loop. Station managers are meeting this morning and will meet again tonight to discuss procedures and timeline work for a spacewalk, if approved.

Working in the Quest airlock, astronauts Cassidy and Marshburn checked out the U.S. spacesuits they would wear if a spacewalk is approved, and Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield began preparing to assist as the "intravehicular" crewmember, or spacewalk choreographer.

Cassidy and Marshburn have each conducted three spacewalks, all on the STS-127 mission to the ISS in . They collaborated on two of those spacewalks.

Late Thursday morning, the Expedition 35 crew reported seeing small white flakes floating away from an area of the station's P6 truss structure. The crew used handheld cameras and Mission Control used external television cameras to gain additional imagery in an attempt to narrow down the leak's location. The crew's reports, along with imagery and data received by flight controllers in Mission Control in Houston, confirmed that the rate of the ammonia leaking from this section of the cooling system increased.

Ammonia is used to cool the station's power channels that provide electricity to station systems. Each solar array has its own independent cooling loop. This ammonia loop is the same one that spacewalkers attempted to troubleshoot a leak on during a spacewalk on . It is not yet known whether this increased ammonia flow is from the same leak, which at the time was not visible. It is anticipated that the 2B power channel, which is one of eight power channels to supply electricity for station systems, will be depleted of ammonia coolant by late this morning and will be shut down.

Dextre tackles tasks for the Robotic Refueling Mission

Dextre, the Canadian-built robotic handyman on board the International Space Station (ISS), will continue to perform a series of tasks for the Robotic Refueling Mission, a joint NASA-CSA technology demonstration mission to show how a robot could refuel and repair a satellite in space. On , , and , Dextre will conduct a series of very tricky operations, including removing caps, small screws and cutting through thermal blankets on the NASA-provided module that serves as a typical satellite for the tests.

Follow Dextre's operations on Twitter and Facebook to see how space robots today are working towards saving failing satellites—and reducing space debris—tomorrow.

Dragon's departure from the ISS


SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth on March 26 for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja, California. It will be bringing back over a ton of experiment samples and equipment, including blood samples for the Canadian VASCULAR experiment.

Canadian Commander Chris Hadfield and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn will begin releasing Dragon around 4:05 a.m. Eastern (1:05 Pacific), with the spacecraft's actual departure set for 6:56 a.m. (3:56 Pacific). Dragon currently sits on the end of Canadarm2. On Friday, ground controllers at NASA's Johnson Space Center and the CSA's headquarters used the station's robotic arm to preposition it for its release.

Watch live starting at 4:00 a.m. Eastern (1:00 a.m. Pacific) and follow on the CSA's Twitter account.

Happy 5th birthday, Dextre!


Dextre, the Canadian-built robotic handyman on board the International Space Station, was launched on board the Space Shuttle Endeavour on . Since then, Dextre has given a helping hand (two, to be precise!) to the crew by taking care of a variety of routine maintenance jobs outside the station. Dextre has moved cargo transport containers, replaced failed electrical parts, unpacked visiting spacecraft and became the first robot ever to refuel a mock satellite in space.

For more information about Dextre

Practice catching an ISS module with the Canadarm2 Simulator!

If you've dreamed of being an astronaut at the controls of Canadarm2, the Canadian Space Agency has launched a new Canadarm2 game on its Website.

Canadarm2 catches a Dragon carrying Canadian medical technology to the Space Station

Microflow, an ingenious piece of Canadian biotechnology, has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft. The ISS crew used Canadarm2, the station's 17-metre robotic arm, to catch Dragon at 5:31 a.m. EST.

Canadarm2 to capture SpaceX's Dragon

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft is set to launch on March 1, 2013 at 10:10 a.m. EST (7:00 a.m. PST). On Saturday, March 2, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield will monitor Dragon as it approaches the space station. Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford and the NASA Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn will then use Canadarm2 to perform a cosmic catch around 6:30 a.m. EST (3:30 a.m. PST, exact time to be confirmed), grappling Dragon and attaching it to the station's Harmony node for a few weeks while astronauts unload its cargo.

Dragon will ferry over a ton of supplies and science experiments to the orbiting laboratory, including the Canadian experiment, Microflow. On -, ground operators at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) headquarters in Longueuil, Quebec, will use Canadarm2 to extract two new grapple bars and stow them on the mobile base. They will be installed during a spacewalk later this year.

Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth on for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja, California. It will be bringing back over a ton of experiment samples and equipment, including blood samples for the Canadian VASCULAR experiment.

Follow the cosmic catch live on the CSA's Twitter account.

Practice catching an ISS module with the Canadarm2 Simulator!

Dextre successfully refuels mock satellite and aces a major test for space robotics

Dextre, the Canadian Space Agency's robotic "handyman" on board the International Space Station, made space history last night by successfully refueling a mock satellite on the exterior of the station.

Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) robotics to resume on January 17

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has cleared the International Space Station's (ISS) robotic arm, Canadarm2, to continue work on the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) following a short delay to verify software settings in the robotic arm's control system.

Robotics engineering teams had discovered an intermittent anomaly in the software that controls Canadarm2, which could potentially have caused the system to use the wrong parameters while in motion, a particular concern when the arm must work close to other structures (as is the case with RRM). After detailed analysis, the CSA identified steps that can be taken to ensure Canadarm2's software selects the right parameters, thereby ensuring it is safe to proceed.

Canadarm2 and Dextre, the ISS's robotic handyman, will resume Day 2 operations of RRM tomorrow. Because Dextre successfully stowed the tertiary cap in the RRM module on Tuesday, the robot's next step will be to cut two sets of wires on the safety cap. The goal of RRM is to demonstrate how robots could service and refuel satellites to extend their useful lifetime.

For more information on the Robotic Refueling Mission

Temporary pause in the operations for the Robotic Refueling Mission

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) yesterday evening requested a temporary pause in the operations for the Robotic Refueling Mission. An intermittent difference in the software that controls of Canadarm2, the International Space Station's Canadian-built Remote Manipulator System, requires further analysis to ensure safe operations. Canadarm2 and the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or Dextre, has temporarily been placed in a safe configuration while engineering teams on the ground assess the data. The CSA will provide a status shortly to determine when work can safely resume.

For more information on the temporary pause in the operations for the Robotic Refueling Mission

Fuel transfer task: Fill'er up, robot!

This animation gives an overview of the next operations for the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM), scheduled to take place from -. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

From to

In , Dextre will perform the first attempt to demonstrate that a robot can refuel a satellite in orbit. Since the fuel tank on real satellites are triple-sealed to avoid hazardous leaks, Dextre will start by removing a series of seals, nuts and safety caps, each tethered by a wire (much like the gas cap on a car is held in place by a small strip of plastic).

For more information about Fuel transfer

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