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International Space Station news - 2018


New Canadian health technology heads to the International Space Station

Canadarm2 catches SpaceX's Dragon resupply ship

Credit: NASA

On , SpaceX's unpiloted cargo ship Dragon will head to the International Space Station after launching from Cape Canaveral aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.

Three days later, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA's Serena Auñón-Chancellor will use Canadarm2 to capture the vehicle and berth it to the Station.

Astronauts on board the orbiting laboratory will unpack Dragon's pressurized cargo, which includes two Canadian elements:

  • Bio-Monitor, the Canadian Space Agency's smart shirt system, designed to record astronauts' vital signs without interfering with their daily activities.
  • A rubber exercise band for Vascular Echo, a Canadian study that examines astronauts' blood vessels using blood tests and ultrasound technology.

In the days that follow Dragon's arrival, robotics controllers on the ground will use Dextre, the Station's two-armed robot, to unload the ship's trunk and extract a pair of unpressurized payloads. 

Dragon will remain berthed to the Station until mid-January, when it returns to Earth carrying samples for Canadian experiment MARROW that tracks space-related changes in bone marrow and blood cells.

Coverage of Dragon's launch will be available on NASA TV on , beginning at 12:45 p.m. ET.

Canadarm2's "cosmic catch" of the vehicle will also be broadcast on , beginning at 4:30 a.m. ET.

Canadarm2 to catch a Cygnus resupply ship

Credit: NASA

On , Northrop Grumman's Cygnus will blast off from Wallops Island, Virginia, aboard an Antares rocket, destined for rendezvous with the International Space Station.

The resupply ship will be loaded with supplies and equipment to support science investigations unfolding 400 km above Earth.

Cygnus will carry a head and neck brace to the Station for Vection, a Canadian experiment that will use virtual reality to study how weightlessness affects astronauts' perception of their motion.

Two days later, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA's Serena Auñón-Chancellor will control Canadarm2 to perform a cosmic catch, grappling the unpiloted vehicle and berthing it to the Station. The cargo ship is scheduled to stay there until mid-February.

The launch will be broadcast on NASA TV on . Coverage of the capture operations will begin on .

Canadarm2 and Dextre to take centre stage during upcoming resupply mission

Credit: Canadian Space Agency

Canadian robots Canadarm2 and Dextre are essential to the smooth operation of the International Space Station (ISS). The robotic duo will team up again next week, when the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) heads to the orbiting laboratory, loaded with equipment.

On , Canadarm2 will catch the cargo ship and berth it to the ISS. The 17-metre-long robotic arm will also be used to unload important cargo: six new lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates.

This new set is designed to replace 12 of the Station's original nickel-hydrogen batteries located on the port side of the ISS. These batteries store electrical energy generated by the Station's solar arrays, power that is essential for the ISS's daily operations.

Once Canadarm2 positions the new batteries near the worksite, flight controllers on the ground will command Dextre to perform the replacement.

They will also use Dextre's cameras to monitor operations during two spacewalks as astronauts manually connect the adapter plates and electrical wiring.

Live coverage of the HTV's launch begins on on NASA TV. The rendezvous and capture operations will also be broadcast on .

Watch the spacewalks live on the Canadian Space Agency's Facebook page.

In , Dextre performed identical battery replacement operations to upgrade the ISS's power system. Thanks to over 165 hours of intensive operations, Dextre reduced the need for six spacewalks to two—a benefit that will be replicated this month!
Having the multitalented robot on board helps astronauts spend more time focused on conducting science experiments inside the Station.

Canadarm2 to make its 30th cosmic catch as SpaceX's Dragon brings Canadian supplies to Station

Credit: Canadian Space Agency

On , Dragon will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, destined for the International Space Station.

As part of its cargo, the unpiloted ship will transport important materials for the Canadian Space Agency:

  • 57 Canadian food items including crab, lobster and salmon pâtés, smoked salmon, and maple glazed salmon for David Saint Jacques' December 2018 mission
  • a spare “hand” or Latching End Effector (LEE) for Canadarm2

When Dragon arrives at the Station two days later, NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel will use Canadarm2 to capture the vehicle and berth it to the Station.

Over the following days, robotics controllers on the ground will then use Canadian robotic handyman Dextre to unload Dragon's trunk. Dextre will unload the spare LEE and store it securely on an external platform.

The failed LEE, which was removed from Canadarm2 during a spacewalk in January, will be loaded into Dragon and returned to Earth at the beginning of August.

Live coverage of Dragon's launch begins on at 5:15 a.m. ET on the Canadian Space Agency's YouTube channel.

The rendezvous and capture operations will also be broadcast on at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Canadarm2 to catch Cygnus cargo ship during resupply mission

Credit: NASA

On , Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo vehicle will launch from Wallops Island, Virginia, aboard an Antares rocket, heading for the International Space Station (ISS).

Cygnus will bring five new breath sample kits and 10 air-sample canisters for Canadian study MARROW, which takes a closer look at changes to bone marrow and blood cells caused by space flight.

Live launch coverage begins at 4 a.m. (ET).

Three days later, NASA astronauts Scott Tingle and Ricky Arnold will use Canadarm2 to perform a "cosmic catch" and berth Cygnus to the Station. The unpiloted vehicle is expected to remain at the ISS until mid-. Rendezvous and capture operations will also be broadcast on at 7:30 a.m. (ET).

Dextre helps unload Dragon's trunk during nine-day operations streak

Credit: NASA

Canadian robotic handyman Dextre helped unload Dragon's trunk during an action-packed week on the International Space Station (ISS).

Dragon's trunk is designed to transport large, unpressurized cargo. Without Dextre, a team of astronauts would have to embark on risky spacewalks to unload the bulky payloads.

Luckily, the Station's multitalented robot was on hand to remove three payloads from Dragon's cargo compartment. Each bundle contains supplies for an experiment to be conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Ground teams at Canadian Space Agency headquarters and NASA Houston controlled Dextre during nine consecutive days of robotics operations.

The visiting SpaceX cargo ship was successfully berthed to the ISS by Canadarm2 on . Currently on its 14th supply run to the ISS, Dragon will remain berthed to the Station until the cargo ship returns to Earth in early .

Canadarm2 to capture SpaceX's Dragon loaded with Canadian science cargo

Animation of Canadarm2 catching and berthing SpaceX's Dragon. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

On , Dragon will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, headed for the International Space Station.

The vehicle will transport thousands of kilograms of important equipment to the orbiting laboratory, including the following supplies for Canadian experiments:

  • new air canisters and breath kits for MARROW, a study investigating the changes to bone marrow and blood cells caused by space flight
  • a 24-hour blood pressure monitor to streamline data collection for Vascular Echo, which examines the effects of weightlessness on the heart and blood vessels

Two days after launch, JAXA astronaut Norishige Kanai and NASA's Scott Tingle will use Canadarm2 to catch Dragon as it arrives. This will mark the Canadian robot's 28th cosmic catch.

Approximately one month later, Dragon will carry blood samples and air canisters from the MARROW and Vascular Echo studies back to Earth for analysis by Canadian scientists.

Coverage of the launch begins at 4 p.m. ET on NASA TV.

The rendezvous and capture operations will also be broadcast on at 5:30 a.m. ET.

Dextre celebrates a decade in space

Credit: ESA/NASA

On , Dextre blasted off aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour, heading to its new home: the International Space Station! The multi-talented Canadian robot has spent the last 10 years performing important maintenance tasks that help keep the orbiting lab functional and safe.

Operated by robotics specialists at NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Dextre has saved astronauts from conducting over 25 spacewalks. Delegating time-consuming tasks to Dextre allows astronauts to focus on doing science experiments on the Space Station.

Highlights from Dextre's stellar career include successfully refuelling a mock satellite, becoming the first robot to repair itself in space, and using its portable "nose" tool to sniff out hazardous ammonia leaks.

The future looks bright for the robotic handyman: the CSA is planning to add another gadget to Dextre's tool belt. DOC, or Dextre-Operated Camera, is an enhanced vision system that the robot will use to inspect the Station for even the smallest signs of damage.

Spacewalk postponed thanks to a creative Canadian software solution

Credit: NASA

International Space Station officials Saturday postponed Monday's spacewalk to swap Latching End Effectors on the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

The decision was made after the Canadian Space Agency and its robotics specialist team wrote and tested a diagnostics software patch that confirmed that an anomaly noted in the end effector installed during last Tuesday's spacewalk can be corrected through new software, also developed by Canadian engineers.

Solutions will be implemented and so there is no longer a need for a spacewalk at this time.

An update on Canadarm2

Canadarm2 seen from space

Credit: NASA

On January 23, 2018, two NASA astronauts successfully replaced Canadarm2's "hand," known as a latching end effector.

As the new hand was undergoing routine tests, an anomaly was detected in one of the two electronic systems that controls its mechanisms. Both systems need to be functional (one acting as a backup) for Canadarm2 to be fully capable of performing its tasks on the International Space Station.

Therefore, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency have agreed to reinstall the hand previously removed. Even though it is showing initial signs of wear and tear, both of this hand's systems are functional.

This operation is planned as part of an upcoming spacewalk on .

Canadarm2 gets a grip on wear and tear

Astronauts take part in a spacewalk to replace Canadarm2's second "hand". (Credit: NASA)

Canadarm2 will be getting a new "hand" during a spacewalk scheduled for . NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Scott Tingle will exchange the Latching End Effector (LEE) for a new one stored on the International Space Station (ISS).

On , Vande Hei will be joined for a second spacewalk by JAXA astronaut Norishige Kanai. They will attach the original LEE to the Mobile Base System.

Canadarm2's other hand was successfully replaced due to normal wear and tear during a similar procedure in . With its fresh pair of hands, the Station's robotic arm will be well equipped to continue its essential work for the ISS.

Canadarm2 is routinely used to perform maintenance tasks. It can move Dextre, equipment and even astronauts. It is also responsible for capturing and docking unpiloted spacecraft that carry everything from science payloads and critical spare parts to necessities for the crew on board the ISS.

Live coverage of the spacewalk will begin at 5:30 a.m. (EST) on NASA TV.

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