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International Space Station news - 2017

CSA astronaut David Saint-Jacques reveals new ground-breaking science and technologies

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut David Saint-Jacques poses with CSA President Sylvain Laporte, Space Advisory Board Chair Lucy Stojak, and scientists and engineers who developed the Canadian experiments and technology. (Credit: CSA)

On , CSA astronaut David Saint-Jacques, joined by CSA President Sylvain Laporte, announced two new Canadian health experiments to be conducted and a new biotechnological device to be used on the International Space Station (ISS).

  • Bio-Analyzer: A new Canadian instrument that will perform near real-time analysis of blood, providing data on multiple biological markers and cell counts for research purposes. It has the potential to enhance patient testing on Earth with simple, point-of-care services at any location.
  • Immuno Profile: This experiment will investigate and monitor astronauts' immune systems over long-duration missions on board the ISS. The results may help us understand how certain diseases evolve over time, such as the reactivation of latent viral infections and age-related decreases in immune defences.
  • Vascular Aging: Building on previous work in space, this experiment will study the impact of weightlessness, nutrition, physical activity and radiation on the cardiovascular system and the onset of insulin resistance in orbit. This collaborative study will be the first of its kind and will provide insights that will maintain crew health and point to important lifestyle factors that can affect us on Earth.

Dr. Saint-Jacques also presented ongoing Canadian health experiments and biotechnological devices in use during his mission on the Station. These include Vascular Echo, MARROW, TBone, At Home in Space, and Wayfinding. The Bio-Monitor is scheduled to make its debut aboard the ISS in .

Canadarm2 to catch its 27th spaceship as Dragon resupplies the ISS

Canadarm2 holding Dragon

Credit: NASA

On at 11:24 a.m. EST SpaceX's Dragon resupply ship will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Three days later, it will arrive at the International Space Station (ISS), where NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joseph Acaba will use Canadarm2 to capture the vehicle.

The mission marks the 27th time Canadarm2 will be used for this type of "cosmic catch."

Robotics controllers on the ground at CSA headquarters will support capture and release operations.

SpaceX's 13th cargo mission will deliver almost 2,200 kilograms of research equipment, crew supplies, and hardware.

Equipment for Canadian studies Vascular Echo and MARROW will be delivered to the ISS, while blood and breath samples collected by astronauts for MARROW will be returned to Earth.

The resupply ship is expected to be released from the ISS on January 8, 2018.

Live coverage of the capture and berthing will begin at 4:30 a.m. EST on on NASA TV and UStream.

Canadarm2 to catch Cygnus

Canadarm2 holding Cygnus

Credit: ESA/NASA

On , Orbital ATK's Cygnus resupply ship will be on its way to deliver several tons of cargo, including crew supplies and science experiments on the International Space Station (ISS).

Using Canadarm2, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli and NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik will be catching Cygnus two days later. This will be the robotic arm's first capture of a resupply ship since one of its "hands," known as a Latching End Effector (LEE), was replaced in .

Once Cygnus is caught, the robotic controllers on the ground will take over and berth it to the Station.

Cygnus is expected to be released from the ISS at the beginning of .

Live coverage of the capture and berthing will begin at 4:15 a.m. EST on , on NASA TV and UStream.

Canadarm2 gets a new hand


Credit: NASA

Canadarm2 will be getting a new "hand" during a spacewalk scheduled for . After 16 years of tireless work on board the International Space Station (ISS), one of Canadarm2's Latching End Effectors (LEEs) will be replaced as a result of normal wear and tear.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA have decided to replace the LEE to ensure that the robotic arm can continue performing critical operations for the Station, including maintenance tasks and catching supply ships.

Much like a car, Canadarm2 was designed for this kind of routine repair. It was built in segments that can easily be pulled out and replaced in space. Knowing that Canadarm2 would eventually have to be repaired, the CSA planned shipments of key spares to the ISS well in advance. A spare LEE has been on board the ISS since .

During the spacewalk, the LEE on Canadarm2 will be swapped with the LEE that is currently on the Mobile Base System. It will later be returned to Earth for refurbishing.

Live coverage of the spacewalk will begin at 6:30 a.m. (EDT) on NASA TV.

A series of activities for Canadian experiment At Home in Space

Earth from the International Space Station

Credit: NASA

A series of activities for the Canadian science experiment At Home in Space (AHIS) will be undertaken this week both in space and on Earth.

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and two other astronauts, who have now returned from space, will be completing questionnaires to help researchers understand how they adapt to their new environment and customize it to feel at home, live with coworkers from all over the world, and cope with being away from home and their loved ones. During that same timeframe, other crewmembers aboard the ISS will be snapping pictures of their living quarters.

The findings of this experiment could help researchers suggest improvements for similar Earth environments. For example, nursing homes and assisted living centres may be able to make their residents feel more at home by learning about how a group of people living together in a confined space can form their own culture and what the best approaches are to encouraging friendship and boosting morale.

A total of twelve astronauts will participate in the AHIS experiment.

MARROW marathon week

European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli taking a breath sample for MARROW, a Canadian experiment being conducted on the International Space Station (ISS). (Credit: ESA.)

On September 17, three astronauts aboard the ISS started on-orbit operations for Canadian science experiment MARROW. Over the next eight days, they will be collecting blood, breath and ambient air samples to better understand the impact of the microgravity on blood cell generation and function. Results from this experiment will provide additional insight into space anaemia but also help bedridden patients here on Earth. A total of 12 astronauts will participate in the study.

Pass the CREAM, please: Canadarm2 to handoff U.S. science experiment to Japanese robotic arm

You got it? A computer-generated image of Canadarm2 passing CREAM to the Japanese arm. (Credit: CSA)

After capturing Dragon on August 16, Canadarm2 will unload a U.S. science experiment called CREAM (The Cosmic-Ray Energetics and Mass investigation) from the spacecraft's cargo trunk and transfer it to the Japanese arm (the Japanese Experiment Module Remote Manipulator System). This handoff marks the first time an American science experiment will be transferred from Canadarm2 to the Japanese arm.

CREAM is a cosmic ray instrument that will study how our galaxy, and perhaps the universe, is built and works. Led by a principal investigator from the United States with collaborators from South Korea, Mexico and France, CREAM is an example of the international cooperation within the space program.

Dragon will also be carrying canisters and breath sample collection kits used to support MARROW, a Canadian science experiment. Blood samples for a second Canadian experiment, Vascular Echo, will be brought back to Earth upon the spacecraft's return scheduled on September 10.

Dragon is scheduled for launch on August 14 at approximately 12:31 p.m. EDT (9:31 a.m. PDT). Canadarm2 will catch Dragon on August 16 at approximately 7 a.m. EDT. CREAM operations are slated for August 21. Watch live on UStream or NASA TV.

ROSA jettisoned from International Space Station

ROSA ("Roll-Out Solar Array") is jettisoned from Dextre and Canadarm2. (Credit: NASA)

After a week of valuable tests on ROSA (the Roll-Out Solar Array), attempts to reel the array back in were unsuccessful. As reloading the deployed solar array into Dragon's cargo trunk would not be possible, it was decided to execute the back-up plan to jettison ROSA from Dextre on the tip of Canadarm2. ROSA will burn up in the atmosphere and will not pose any dangers to the International Space Station or interfere with any upcoming visiting spacecraft.

Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth on with blood and breath samples from two Canadian experiments, MARROW et Vascular Echo.

ROSA (Roll-Out Solar Array) technology demonstration

Credit: CSA

Robotics experts from the Canadian Space Agency and NASA operated Canadarm2 and Dextre over the weekend to unload ROSA, the Roll-Out Solar Array, from Dragon's cargo trunk. Over the next few days, the team will maneuver ROSA around to conduct a technology demonstration. To view the operations, which are expected to run until June 25, please consult NASA's UStream.

Four Canadian science experiments conducted on board the International Space Station

The CSA team is supporting real-time operations from The Payload Telescience Operations Centre. (Credit: CSA)

On May 29 and May 30, scientists and engineers from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) supported operations for the Canadian experiment, Vascular Echo, led by the University of Waterloo (UOW). Scientists from UOW guided two astronauts in real-time as they took ultrasound measurements and blood samples aboard the International Space Station.

During that period, three additional Canadian studies, MARROW, RaDI-N2, and At Home in Space, were also conducted in the orbiting laboratory. The CSA team provided operational support for these science sessions, which lasted approximately eight hours over the two-day period.

The findings from these Canadian science experiments will advance our knowledge in areas such as the health risks of radiation, the effects of a lack of physical activity on arteries, and on the production of blood cells. The results will not only help protect the health and safety of the astronauts, but also improve quality of life of Canadians on Earth.

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet explains how crews cope with living in space

Credits: CSA, ESA, NASA

Exploring space can be thrilling but adjusting to life in a big tin can travelling 28,000 km/h has its downsides, too. In this video, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet talks about Canada's first psychosocial experiment delving into this area. The study, "At Home in Space", assesses how astronauts from all over the world adapt to living together aboard the International Space Station (ISS). It also draws a parallel to the people on Earth who share similar living conditions, including:

  • people working in remote and isolated areas, or in extreme conditions
  • deployed military personnel
  • or the elderly who have relocated to retirement homes and are adjusting to the smaller spaces and sharing common areas.

After spending six months in his home-away-from-home aboard the ISS, Thomas Pesquet is scheduled to return to Earth after a thrilling ride aboard the Soyuz on Friday, June 2, 2017.

Thomas, all of your friends at the Canadian Space Agency wish you a safe and pleasant journey home!

Canadian team plays key role in capturing and unloading Dragon and leads tests for innovative solar array panels in space

ROBO team at work in the Canadian Space Agency's Mission Control Room. (Credit: CSA)

A team of robotic experts at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)—known as ROBOs—will collaborate with their NASA counterparts to conduct a series of complex operations when SpaceX's Dragon reaches the International Space Station (ISS) on June 5.

Lasting 21 days, these operations begin with setting Canadarm2, the Station's robotic arm, in place for NASA astronaut Jack Fischer. He will use it to capture the free-flying spacecraft on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. ET. The CSA-NASA team will then resume control of the arm to attach Dragon to the ISS.

For the next 12 days, the ROBOs will carefully maneuver Canadarm2 and Dextre, the Canadian robotic repairman, to extract three science experiments from Dragon's trunk, two of which will be installed on the ISS.

The third experiment, ROSA (the Roll-Out Solar Array), is a technology demonstration. ROSA is lighter and stores more compactly than the existing solar array panels on the ISS, with state-of-the-art deployment technology. Over seven days, the CSA robotics team will perform multiple tests with ROSA attached to Dextre, in collaboration with members of the U.S. science team. After testing is complete, the ROBOs will use Canadarm2 and Dextre to load ROSA back in Dragon's trunk, which will take two additional days.

Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth in early July, and will bring back blood and breath samples for two Canadian science experiments, MARROW and Vascular Echo.

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer to make spacewalking debut with Canadarm2

Credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer will forever remember where he was on his very first spacewalk; fastened securely to Canadarm2. Jack Fischer's venture outside the International Space Station (ISS) happens to coincide with a milestone occasion in space; the 200th spacewalk in ISS history. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will join Jack Fischer for the 6.5-hour excursion in space, planned for Friday, May 12.

The two astronauts are tasked with replacing a large avionics box that supplies electricity and data connections to the science experiments, and hardware stored outside the ISS. In addition to installing a new high-definition camera and a pair of wireless antennas, they will also do some work on an adapter that will support a new international docking port for the arrival of commercial crew spacecraft.

Live coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. EDT on NASA Television.

Dextre repairs an electrical distribution box on the International Space Station


Credit: NASA

, Canada's robotic handyman, Dextre, will repair one of the International Space Station's four electrical distribution boxes. This critical task will ensure there is enough power for all Space Station systems to run smoothly. The intensive 30-hour operation took almost two weeks to plan and will be executed by the combined Canadian Space Agency-NASA Robotics Team.

Canada and Europe join together for a live concert with the International Space Station

Credit: Canadian Space Agency (CSA)

On , CSA astronaut David Saint-Jacques and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will join Jean-Willy Kunz, organist in residence at the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM), for the concert Organ and space: Gaze up at the heavens.

The concert will be a compilation of music, interpreted for the organ by Mr. Kunz, a backdrop of inspiring images of space and the Earth captured from the International Space Station (ISS), with commentary by David Saint-Jacques.

During the event, David Saint-Jacques will connect with the ISS to speak with Thomas Pesquet live from space. Using a smart tablet, Pesquet will then play a few notes of "Highest Light," an original composition by Canadian artist Matthew Ricketts created specifically for this concert.

In the spirit of international cooperation that built the ISS, Organ and space: Gaze up at the heavens celebrates the close partnership between the CSA and ESA, of which Canada is the only non-European member state.

View the entire concert

Canadarm2 gets a shout out from NASA astronaut Jack Fischer during a video conference with the President of the United States

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer during a video conference with the President of the United States (Credit: NASA)

While speaking with U.S. President Donald Trump during a space-to-Earth video conference, NASA astronaut Jack Fischer highlighted the important role Canadarm2 played in capturing and docking the Cygnus spacecraft after its launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 20th. Fischer also emphasized how the ISS is the best example of international cooperation.

During the 30 minute conversation, the President congratulated NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson for breaking the record for cumulative time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut.

A tiny satellite designed and built by Canadian students to fly to the ISS aboard Cygnus

An artist's rendering of the Experimental Albertan #1 (Ex-Alta 1) CubeSat, built and designed by a team of students from the University of Alberta. (Credit: Andy Kale, University of Alberta)

In this image taken in March 2016, Canadarm2 prepares to capture the Cygnus spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

When it launches on April 18, 2017, Cygnus will carry 28 square-shaped miniature satellites, known as CubeSats, including Alberta's first home-grown satellite—entirely designed and built by a team of students from the University of Alberta. Funded in part by the Canadian Space Agency, the team equipped their CubeSat, Experimental Albertan #1 (Ex-Alta 1), with a magnetic field instrument that will measure patterns of space weather.

These 28 CubeSats are part of the European QB50 mission, which challenges participating university students from around the world to create and operate their own CubeSat.

Arriving at the International Space Station on April 22, Cygnus will be captured by Canadarm2. The CubeSats will then be launched from the Station by a NanoRacks deployer in two cycles. Ex-Alta 1 will be deployed in the second cycle planned in May or June.

To watch the coverage of the launch live, please consult the schedule on NASA TV.

Spacewalkers Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet to do a tune-up on Dextre, the Space Station's robotic handyman, on March 24

First space selfie of Thomas Pesquett

First space selfie of Thomas Pesquet taken during his initial spacewalk on January 13, 2017. (Credit: ESA/NASA)

As expected, after nine years of intensive and flawless operations, the moving part that allows Dextre's to be anchored to the International Space Station is showing signs of wear and tear. To ensure Dextre's optimal performance for future robotic activities, astronauts Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA) will lubricate this part during their spacewalk.

The astronauts will also lay the ground work for the installation of the second International Docking Adapter (IDA), the physical connecting point for spacecraft. The new IDA will serve as a gateway for future crews arriving on Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon, the first new human-rated spacecraft since the space shuttle.

Two additional spacewalks to continue the prep work for the future arrival of commercial crew spacecraft and to upgrade station hardware are scheduled on March 30 and April 6.

Find out how and when to watch the spacewalk live.

Canadarm2 releases Dragon from the International Space Station

To learn more, watch the video called Food for thought: Let's talk Tomatosphere™ with astronaut Thomas Pesquet. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency/NASA/ESA/Let's Talk Science)

Using Canadarm2, astronauts Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Shane Kimbrough of NASA released the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station (ISS) just after 5:00 a.m. EDT on Sunday, March 19.

Dragon's cargo included 1.2 million tomato seeds for the Tomatosphere™ educational project. Students in approximately 20,000 classrooms across Canada and the United States will receive the space-faring seeds that were launched to the ISS on board Dragon on February 19, 2017. They will then grow these tomato seeds, or others that remained on Earth, in a blind study that teaches students about plants, space, careers, nutrition and agriculture. Students will only find out which seeds went to space once they complete the experiment.

Tomatosphere™ is sponsored by HeinzSeed, Stokes Seeds, the University of Guelph, Let's Talk Science, First the Seed Foundation and the Canadian Space Agency.

Dextre packs Dragon for its return flight

Dextre loading a completed science experiment inside Dragon's trunk. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

Dextre is now equipped to provide tips to space travellers on how to pack efficiently (well, almost!).

On March 3, 2017, the space handyman performed a task never before attempted by robots or humans when he loaded the first of three completed experiments inside Dragon's trunk. For safety reasons astronauts do not have access to this area so having Dextre handle this task is tremendously helpful. The final two experiments will be loaded during the week of March 13th. Now that Dextre has proven he can handle this task, it will become a regular item on his 'to do' list.

Dextre performs first robotic handoff in space

Illustration de Dextre

Credit: Canadian Space Agency

Dextre will perform his very first handoff in space when he transfers nearly 440 kilograms of cargo known as STP-H5 (Space Test Program-Houston 5), a suite of 13 U.S. experiments, from one robotic hand to another.

The operation will begin with Dextre unloading STP-H5 from the newly arrived Dragon spacecraft using Arm 1. Dextre will then transfer STP-H5 to Arm 2 to provide power to heat the experiments. The operation is time critical because the experiments will be damaged by the cold and fail to work if they are not heated in time.

Prior to installing STP-H5 to its final site on the International Space Station, Dextre will perform a second transfer from Arm 2 to Arm 1 in order to fasten it in place.

Tune in to NASA TV or UStream to watch this operation live. The extraction of STP-H5 from the Dragon trunk starts at  EST (1:30 p.m. PST) on Friday . The first handoff between the two arms is currently planned to start at  EST ( PST).

SpaceX Dragon rendezvous second attempt planned for Thursday

Credit: NASA TV

Canadarm2 to capture Dragon

SpaceX's Dragon resupply spacecraft called off its rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) initially scheduled on Wednesday, at  EST. Computers onboard Dragon activated the cancellation after identifying incorrect data about the ISS' location and automatically reset for a second attempt in 24 hours. The crew onboard the ISS is safe and the spacecraft is intact.

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Shane Kimbrough of NASA will capture the arriving spacecraft using Canadarm2. The robotics team comprised of experts from the Canadian Space Agency and NASA will then berth Dragon to the ISS. The spacecraft will spend about a month in orbit before returning to Earth in late .

Live coverage of the capture and berthing will begin at  EST ( PST) on Thursday, , on NASA TV and UStream.

Tomato seeds for a Canadian student experiment to be launched to the International Space Station

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off

Credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Space's Dragon cargo spacecraft is slated for take-off on .

At EST on Sunday, , a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch its 12th unpiloted Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). Canadarm2 will perform the capture with European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet at the helm. Docking with the ISS is scheduled for .

In addition to supplies and equipment, Dragon will deliver 1.2 million tomato seeds as part of the Tomatosphere™ experiment. The tomato seeds will be sent back to Earth, along with samples from two Canadian experiments, Vascular Echo and Marrow, when Dragon returns to our planet on .

Dextre successfully completes the most extensive robotics operation ever conducted on the International Space Station

In a message recorded during their spacewalk, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson expressed their appreciation to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for Dextre, also known as SPDM (the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator), and for the CSA's significant contributions to this important mission. (Credit: NASA)


Harnessing the power of human ingenuity and complex robotics, ground controllers and astronauts teamed up with Dextre, the Canadian robotic handyman, to efficiently upgrade the International Space Station's (ISS's) power system. The intensive operation, which lasted a total of between and , consisted in replacing 12 old nickel-hydrogen batteries with six lighter, smaller and more efficient lithium-ion batteries. The batteries are vital to the ISS, as they store electrical energy generated by the Station's solar arrays.

Improving crew safety and increasing science opportunities

In a well-choreographed task split between robots and astronauts, Dextre carefully removed nine of the 12 batteries from the worksite and placed them on the exposed pallet of the Japanese cargo spacecraft HTV-6. The three other batteries were moved to their final stowage locations by two teams of astronauts during their respective spacewalks. Both teams also effectively installed new adapter plates and hooked up electrical connections for the new batteries. The first tag team, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson, carried out their spacewalk on , while the second one, European Space Agency's Thomas Pesquet and Shane Kimbrough, did theirs on .

Without the proven capabilities of Canadian robotics, the astronauts would have had to execute the entire operation during spacewalks, which are always risky and take a lot of time and resources to prepare. Entrusting Dextre to do most of the work reduced the number of spacewalks from six to two.

"The ability to blend robotics with spacewalks to perform this battery upgrade saved us days of precious crew time. By swapping in these new batteries for the Station's power system, Dextre and Canadarm2 helped position us to continue powering the important research for the future, while saving crew time for the research of today."

- Kirk Shireman, NASA's International Space Station Program Manager

Planning this intricate mission took over one year and required more than 1,000 pages of robotics procedures (whereas a more routine operation would consist of 75 to 100 pages). Dextre was operated from the ground from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and the CSA in Longueuil, Quebec, by members of the CSA/NASA Combined Robotics Team.

Canadarm2 to release H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-6) from the International Space Station

HTV-6 departure from the International Space Station

Credit: NASA

At approximately 10:30 a.m. (ET) on January 27, robotics controllers at the Canadian Space Agency and NASA will position Canadarm2 for NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet to release the Japanese cargo spacecraft, HTV-6. Weighing in at over 15 metric tons, this is the heaviest HTV ever released by Canadarm2.

Watch live on NASA's UStream channel and on NASA TV.

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