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PARIS -  ESA’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle, Albert Einstein, completed a flawless rendezvous with the International Space Station on 15 June when it docked smoothly with orbital outpost at 14:07 GMT (16:07 CEST). The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is now connected to the Space Station.

“Bravo Europe, bravo ESA, bravo ATV. Thank you Member States, thank you industry, thank you CNES, thank you Russian partner,” commented Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA. 

“With the fourth ATV now ready to support and supply the Space Station with essential supplies and scientific experiments, ESA again proves itself to be a reliable partner in the international station upon which the future can be developed.” 

The 20-tonne ferry, the heaviest spacecraft ever launched by Europe, flew autonomously and docked with the 420-tonne complex with a precision of a few cm as both circled Earth at 28 000 km/h.

 Albert Einstein nears ISS Photo Credit: NASA TV

“Such a gentle contact between a spacecraft the size of a double-decker bus and a Station 20 times larger is an amazing achievement, highlighting the impressive level of control achieved by this European space system developed by our industry under ESA’s direction,” said Thomas Reiter, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations. 

“These impressive technological capabilities will live on in the service module of NASA’s upcoming Orion crew vehicle.” 

The rendezvous and docking were performed autonomously by ATV’s own computers, closely monitored by flight controllers from ESA and France’s CNES space agency at the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France, and by Luca Parmitano and his crewmates on the Station. Like its predecessors, ATV-4 is much more than a simple supply vessel: it is a space tug, a tanker, a freighter and a temporary habitation module.

To compensate for the natural decay in altitude of the Station’s orbit caused by atmospheric drag, it is loaded with 2580 kg of propellant to perform regular reboosts. It can even move the entire space complex out of the path of hazardous space debris. ATV also provides attitude control when other spacecraft are approaching the Station. 

In its tanks, it carries 860 kg of propellant, 100 kg of oxygen and air, and 570 kg of drinking water, all to be pumped into the Station’s tanks. In its pressurised cargo module, it carries more than 1400 items packed into 141 bags, including 2480 kg of dry cargo such as scientific equipment, spare parts, food and clothes for the astronauts.

During its four months attached to the Station, ATV will provide 45 cubic metres of extra crew quarters. On previous missions, the addition was welcomed by the astronauts as “the quietest place in the Station” and was often the preferred area for working. 

At the end of its mission, scheduled for 28 October, ATV-4 will separate from the Station, packed with waste bags. The following day, it will be directed to burn up safely in the atmosphere during reentry over the South Pacific Ocean.

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Soyuz Completes Expedited Journey to Station

MOSCOW - The Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft carrying three new Expedition 36 crew members docked with the International Space Station’s Rassvet module around 10:10 p.m. EDT Thursday, completing its journey from the launch pad to the orbiting complex in less than/about six hours.

Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:31 p.m. Tuesday (2:31 a.m. Wednesday, Baikonur time) to begin the accelerated four-orbit journey to the station.

Soyuz TMA-09M Docks With ISS Photo Credit: NASA TV

› View video of launch

After the hatches open at 11:55 p.m., the new trio will join Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy of NASA and Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos who docked with the orbital complex May 28. All six crew members will then participate in a welcome ceremony with family members and mission officials gathered at the Russian Mission Control Center in Korolev near Moscow.

Expedition 36 will operate with its full six-person crew complement until September when Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin return to Earth aboard their Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft. Their departure will mark the beginning of Expedition 37 under the command of Yurchikhin, who along with crewmates Nyberg and Parmitano will maintain the station as a three-person crew until the arrival of three additional flight engineers in late September. Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano are scheduled to return to Earth in November.

During the 5 ½-month timeframe of Expedition 36/37, the crew is scheduled to conduct five spacewalks to prepare the complex for the installation of the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module in December, as well as a Nov. 9 spacewalk to take the Olympic torch outside. The crew also will welcome the arrival of several visiting cargo vehicles: ESA’s “Albert Einstein” Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 in June, a Russian Progress cargo craft in July and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-4 in August.

Even with the challenges of managing visiting vehicle traffic and six spacewalks, the crew will continue supporting a diverse portfolio of research and technology experiments. Among the investigations that will be joining the list of approximately 1,600 station science studies conducted so far is the Hip Quantitative Computed Tomography (QCT) experiment, which will evaluate countermeasures to prevent the loss of bone density seen during long-duration space missions. The experiment, which uses 3-D analysis to collect detailed information on the quality of astronauts’ hip bones, also will increase understanding of osteoporosis on Earth.

The station’s crew will continue research into how plants grow, leading to more efficient crops on Earth and improving understanding of how future crews could grow their own food in space. The crew also will test a new portable gas monitor designed to help analyze the environment inside the spacecraft and continue fuel and combustion experiments that past crews have undertaken. Studying how fire behaves in space will have a direct impact on future spaceflight and could lead to cleaner, more efficient combustion engines on Earth.

This is the second space mission for Nyberg, who holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering. She visited the station in 2008 as an STS-124 crew member aboard space shuttle Discovery on a mission to deliver and install pressurized module portion of the Kibo laboratory and its robotic arm.

For Yurchikhin, this is his fourth spaceflight. He flew to the station in October 2002 aboard space shuttle Atlantis. He also participated in two long-duration missions aboard the station, first as an Expedition 15 crew member in 2007 and then as a member of Expedition 24/25 in 2010. Yurchikhin has performed five spacewalks and spent more than 371 days in space.

Parmitano, a major in the Italian Air Force, is making his first spaceflight. Selected as an astronaut candidate by ESA in 2008, Parmitano was certified as an astronaut in 2011.


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Printing Food For Astronauts

WASHINGTON -  NASA and a Texas company are exploring the possibility of using a "3D printer" on deep space missions in a way where the "D" would stand for dining.

NASA has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract to Systems and Materials Research Consultancy of Austin, Texas to study the feasibility of using additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, for making food in space. Systems and Materials Research Consultancy will conduct a study for the development of a 3D printed food system for long duration space missions. Phase I SBIR proposals are very early stage concepts that may or may not mature into actual systems. This food printing technology may result in a phase II study, which still will be several years from being tested on an actual space flight.

Dinner on ISS Photo Credit: NASA

As NASA ventures farther into space, whether redirecting an asteroid or sending astronauts to Mars, the agency will need to make improvements in life support systems, including how to feed the crew during those long deep space missions. NASA's Advanced Food Technology program is interested in developing methods that will provide food to meet safety, acceptability, variety, and nutritional stability requirements for long exploration missions, while using the least amount of spacecraft resources and crew time. The current food system wouldn't meet the nutritional needs and five-year shelf life required for a mission to Mars or other long duration missions. Because refrigeration and freezing require significant spacecraft resources, current NASA provisions consist solely of individually prepackaged shelf stable foods, processed with technologies that degrade the micronutrients in the foods.

Additionally, the current space food is selected before astronauts ever leave the ground and crew members don't have the ability to personalize recipes or really prepare foods themselves. Over long duration missions, a variety of acceptable food is critical to ensure crew members continue to eat adequate amounts of food, and consequently, get the nutrients they need to maintain their health and performance.

NASA is funding this phase I six-month $125,000 study on 3D printing of foods to determine the capability of this technology to enable nutrient stability and provide a variety of foods from shelf stable ingredients, while minimizing crew time and waste. NASA selected this proposal because the research team, subcontractors and consultants included premier food rheology and flavor expertise that would be required for a novel product development system. The work plan for this feasibility study also was well laid out and the technology offers the potential to meet some of the food requirements using basic food components for long duration missions.

NASA recognizes in-space and additive manufacturing offers the potential for new mission opportunities, whether "printing" food, tools or entire spacecraft. Additive manufacturing offers opportunities to get the best fit, form and delivery systems of materials for deep space travel. This's why NASA is a leading partner in the president's National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and the Advanced Manufacturing Initiative.

3D printing is just one of the many transformation technologies that NASA is investing in to create the new knowledge and capabilities needed to enable future space missions while benefiting life here on Earth.

Systems and Materials Research Consultancy proposal abstract is available online at

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The Joint US–Russian One-Year Mission: Establishing International Partnerships and Innovative Collaboration

WASHINGTON - Scientists, engineers, educators, physicians and space explorers from around the world are convening this month at Rice University in Houston at the annual International Space Medicine Summit. This summit provides an opportunity for space professionals in the international community to identify space medicine research goals and national policies that foster collaboration, communication and cooperation between spacefaring nations. This year's summit occurs at an ideal time, as the International Space Station partnership moves forward with its plan to put an American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut in space for an entire year.

Selected crew members for the one-year mission aboard the International Space Station, U.S. Astronaut Scott Kelly (pictured right) and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko (pictured left). (NASA)

Between 1987 and 1995, four Russian cosmonauts spent a year or more consecutively in space. Now, for the first time, an American astronaut, Scott Kelly, will be joining that exclusive club, as he and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko inhabit the space station for an entire year beginning in 2015. These two explorers will live on the space station for twice as long as a typical space station crew member. Researchers expect the one-year mission to yield beneficial knowledge on the medical, psychological and biomedical challenges explorers may face as they venture to an asteroid, Mars and beyond. This mission will also provide an additional opportunity for cooperation between research teams around the world.

To gain knowledge about how humans live and work in space from a one-year mission, NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) are evaluating a long list of potential investigations. Their goal is to determine which studies provide the most value in the joint effort to reduce the human risks of space exploration. Other international space agencies have the opportunity to weigh in as well, including participation in implementation and joint working groups where mutual strategy sharing contributes toward a more robust expedition. Collectively, these bilateral and multilateral efforts are expected to create a collaborative template for future exploration and lead to strengthened international partnerships.

"The International Space Station is the most advanced and well-equipped research laboratory ever put into orbit," says Dr. John Charles, chief of the International Science Office of NASA's Human Research Program at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "But its full utilization requires the combined efforts of [its entire] member partners. No single partner nation has all of the resources needed, but through their combined efforts, they can assure that enough crew members can participate in the most appropriate investigations with the minimum amount of effort and without duplicating instrumentation."

Charles explains, "Only in this way can the International Space Station be successful in reducing the risks to human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit by the end of its useful lifetime."

Between the U.S. and Russia, there are three approaches for bilateral collaboration: joint investigations with co-principal investigators from both nations, where the crew members perform the same investigations; cross-participation, where the crew members participate in the other nation's investigations; and data sharing, where crew members participate in their own national investigation, but the data are shared with the other nation. The chosen investigations, in this case, had to include a focus on exploration -- a criterion that all U.S. human research investigations on the space station currently meet. Additionally, NASA sought studies that were modifiable and easily ready for flight. Consideration was also given to previously flown investigations, preferably conducted by Kelly, who has already logged more than 180 days in space.

The evaluation of candidate investigations for the one-year mission began in 2012, when NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) and its Russian counterpart in Moscow, the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP), began exchanging lists of potential research opportunities. Charles reported that, starting with a pool of 33 U.S. and Russian studies, approximately half had been flown before and approximately one-third had been previously performed by Kelly, thus permitting a direct comparison of the effects of six months in space versus one year.

Final selections from Russia will include up to 24 investigations and NASA HRP will select up to 18 investigations. For comparison, a typical U.S. Operating Segment crew member has 9 to 10 HRP studies that are planned for a six-month mission on the space station. Other possible partner investigations are being assessed.

The specific investigations are still under evaluation for flight-readiness and mutual compatibility, but each investigation selected will be in one or more of these categories:

  • Risks not yet resolved, such as changes in the eye during spaceflight -- a phenomenon reported by more than 30 percent of American astronauts. Recent findings indicate there are structural changes to the eyes of some long-duration astronauts (those in space for six consecutive months or longer). This is possibly related to an increase in intracranial pressure, or increased fluid pressure in the head and spine, which may be due to changes in body fluid volume and distribution.
  • Research into the physiological cost of spaceflight adaptation, including changes in body chemistry and metabolism, immune function, cardiovascular capacity, bone architecture and integrated balance and movement by the nervous system. Long-term exposure to weightlessness causes a physiological, multi-system adaptation in crew members. Changes in sensory-motor, muscle, cardiovascular, locomotor and postural functions affect the ability of crew members to move and function upon immediate return to a gravitational environment. Scientists would like to assess functional abilities, physical performance and the state of the physiological systems in crew members shortly after their return to Earth. The intent is to develop methods for rapid evaluation of these functions, create a time course for recovery, and develop field technologies that allow crew members to assess their own physiological changes. Autonomous medical testing is crucial for crew members in successfully carrying out tasks upon terrestrial landings, as well as recovering and adapting to their environment.
  • Evaluation of countermeasures, such as improved exercise protocols to maximize the benefit (reducing the negative physiological effects of spaceflight, such as bone loss and muscle atrophy) while minimizing the crew members' time required.
  • Behavior and performance, especially sleep and wake cycles, cognitive performance, and team efficiency, including brain imaging pre-and post-flight. This research also looks at behavioral issues associated with isolation and confinement. Assessing how confinement affects individual and group performance will be crucial for long duration missions and lunar and planetary expeditions.

The investigations performed on this one-year space station mission will provide results that further our knowledge of human health and performance in space and on Earth. The opportunity to share those findings with research teams from around the world and at conferences, such as the annual International Space Medicine Summit, will demonstrate the achievement of the one-year mission and strengthen international partnerships through continued innovative collaboration. 

Courtney Barringer
Laurie Abadie
Human Research Program Education and Outreach

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Expedition 35 Crew Lands Safely in Kazakhstan

MOSCOW - Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield and Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko landed their Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft in southern Kazakhstan at 10:31 p.m. EDT Monday. Russian recovery teams were on hand to help the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and adjust to gravity after 146 days in space.

Soyuz TMA-07M lands with the Expedition 35 crew. Photo Credit: Roscosmos


The trio launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in December and spent 144 days living and working aboard the International Space Station.

Romanenko was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 7:08 p.m. Monday from the Rassvet module.

› Watch the Expedition 35 welcome ceremony
› Watch the Soyuz landing
› Watch the crew farewell and Soyuz undocking

The undocking marked the end of Expedition 35 and the start of Expedition 36 under the command of Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, who is scheduled to remain on the station with Flight Engineers Chris Cassidy and Alexander Misurkin until September. Hadfield ceremonially handed command of the station over to Vinogradov on Sunday. Vinogradov, Cassidy and Misurkin arrived at the station aboard the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft in March 2013.

Vinogradov, Cassidy and Misurkin will remain aboard the orbiting complex as a three-person crew until the May 28 launch and docking of Expedition 36 Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg, Fyodor Yurchikhin, Luca Parmitano.

Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko spent their final morning aboard the station Monday packing some final items for return to Earth aboard their Soyuz spacecraft. Marshburn removed a sample canister from a Japanese protein crystal growth experiment and handed it off to his Russian crewmates to stow inside the Soyuz.

With the successful completion of the Binary Colloid Alloy Test-6, or BCAT-6, Hadfield stowed the experiment hardware in the Zarya module. BCAT-6 took a look at how gasses and liquids come together and separate in space. Results from this experiment may lead to improvements in the shelf-life of household products, food and medicine.

Hadfield also assisted Cassidy with a periodic fitness evaluation as flight surgeons keep track of the crew’s health during these long-duration missions. Cassidy exercised on the station’s exercise bike -- the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization – while Hadfield collected blood pressure measurements.

Cassidy also installed a new HD camera in the Destiny lab and upgraded a video encoder card in an associated computer.

Astronaut Shannon Walker, who served as an Expedition 24/25 flight engineer in 2010, talked about the preparations crew members make before leaving the station during a Space Station Live interview on Monday.

› Watch the interview

The spare Pump and Flow Control Subassembly (PFCS) box installed Saturday by Cassidy and Marshburn during their 5-hour, 30-minute spacewalk continues to be checked out by flight controllers, but is showing no signs of ammonia leakage at this point and is functioning normally.

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NASA's Robotic Refueling Mission Practices New Satellite-Servicing Tasks

GREENBELT, MD -  With a historic robotic refueling demo ticked off its checklist, NASA's Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) put down the hose and picked up the screwdriver and utility knife. This latest round of satellite-servicing tasks, completed in the early morning of May 10, will show how robots could access and further maintain satellites in orbit.

Five days of operations were held aboard the International Space Station, during which the Canadian-built Dextre robot with RRM tools demonstrated how tiny caps can be retrieved and stowed in space. This task, along with slicing through satellite blanket tape were performed on the RRM module affixed outside the space station.

Dexter at work during the Robotic Refueling Mission Photo Credit: NASA

The conclusion of the May operations wraps up the first phase of tasks for RRM, a modular activity box with tools that launched to the space station aboard the final space shuttle flight. New task boards and tools are slated for launch this summer and again in early 2014, along with another set of activities for this groundbreaking operation.

NASA developed RRM to demonstrate how remotely-operated robot mechanics could extend the lives of the hundreds of satellites residing in geosynchronous-Earth orbit (GEO). "Revolutionizing GEO satellites through servicing is my passion," says Frank Cepollina, primary investigator for RRM and the architect of five successful Hubble servicing missions.

Costly assets traveling about 22,000 miles above Earth, GEO spacecraft deliver such essential services as weather reports, cell phone communications, television broadcasts, government communications and air traffic management. Servicing capabilities could greatly expand the options for government and commercial fleet operators in the future. They could potentially deliver satellite owners significant savings in spacecraft replacement and launch costs.

A joint effort with the Canadian Space Agency, RRM uses the space station as a test bed for technology research and development.

Robots at Work: RRM May Operations

"Some RRM tasks may sound straightforward at first," says Benjamin Reed, deputy project manager of the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. According to Reed, working with robots in space demands a level of foresight, planning and practice that can never be taken for granted.

"What may seem mundane can actually be quite tricky. Having remote-controlled robots service satellites on orbit -- satellites that were never designed to be accessed, refueled or fixed in space -- is a new frontier," says Reed. He also talked about activities astronauts could perform without a second thought, like aligning the tip of a screwdriver with the head of a screw. For robot operations, such a simple task requires a careful thought process and robot scripting.

RRM gives NASA a platform to work out these problems by practicing them on orbit. "RRM demonstrations are paving the way for increased capabilities on orbit not just for GEO satellites, but for possible future NASA missions," says Reed.

The RRM team began development by focusing on an assortment of satellite-servicing tasks fundamental to satellite repair, refueling and upgrade. One of the tasks performed this May had RRM working with small screws in microgravity. "We drew a lot from our Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission experience to solve this one," says Reed.

Even for humans on gravity-bound Earth, these tiny fasteners can be difficult to handle. A servicing mission would add the extra challenges of a near zero-gravity environment, a robot mechanic and a mandate not to add space junk to orbit.

One solution the team developed was to build a special adapter for the RRM Safety Cap Tool (SCT) that turns the device into a space power screwdriver. This adapter allowed Dextre to remove screws already affixed into the RRM practice module task boards. Tool cameras gave mission operators the view needed to align Dextre, the SCT and the adapter's tool bit into the right position.

Once released, the screw was trapped within a cage fixed over holes large enough for the screwdriver bit, yet small enough to ensure the screw did not float away. The cage was inspired and adapted from capture plate technology the team developed for Hubble's fourth servicing mission. That capability allowed astronaut Mike Massimino to remove and safely stow 111 individual screws.

Another task demonstrated how the SCT and an additional adapter could remove and stow the tiny coaxial radio frequency connector caps. Such a task would be the first step to allowing a servicer to plug into a spacecraft to diagnose a system problem. This connection is similar to an automotive technician connecting a computer to communicate and diagnosis an automotive system.

The final RRM activity revolved around handling satellite blankets in space. Once a servicer rendezvous with a client, the first hurdle the robot mechanic would face would be removing protective thermal blankets. These blankets are held together over the satellite like a tightly tucked patchwork quilt.

Getting through these blankets is like opening a wrapped present. However, unlike excited humans, robot servicers are under strict orders not to rip and throw jagged pieces of the blanketing into space. RRM demonstrated a technique that mimics what the most tidy of gift-openers do: save the wrapping by heading straight for the taped seam that holds the coverings together.

Ongoing Efforts

NASA continues to test capabilities for a new robotic servicing frontier. In conjunction with RRM, the SSCO team has been studying a conceptual servicing mission while building the necessary technologies, including an autonomous rendezvous and capture system, a propellant transfer system and specialized algorithms to orchestrate and synchronize satellite-servicing operations. On Jan. 15, NASA released a Request for Information to seek input on a potential public-private partnership to understand the need for satellite-servicing capabilities for client satellites located in GEO. RRM is proving the technology to achieve such a future mission.


Adrienne Alessandro
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

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Astronauts Complete Spacewalk to Repair Ammonia Leak

WASHINGTON -  Expedition 35 Flight Engineers Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn completed a spacewalk at 2:14 p.m. EDT Saturday to inspect and replace a pump controller box on the International Space Station’s far port truss (P6) leaking ammonia coolant. The pair began the 5-hour, 30-minute spacewalk at 8:44 a.m.

A little more than 2 1/2 hours into the spacewalk, Cassidy and Marshburn removed the 260-pound pump controller box from the P6 truss and replaced it with a spare that had been stowed nearby on the port-side truss, or backbone of the station. Mission Control ran the new pump while the spacewalkers watched for any ammonia snowflakes, but so far there have been no new signs of a leak. Long-term monitoring of the pump will be required to determine whether the pump replacement has fixed the leak.

Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn work outside ISS. Photo Credit: NASA TV

As the spacewalkers prepared the reenter the station, Chris Cassidy took a moment to radio down to Earth his thanks to Marq Gibbs, longtime lead diver at NASA's Sonny Carter Training Facility Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL), who died unexpectedly last week at age 43. Spacewalkers practice underwater in the facility and divers provide assistance and dive safety protection during spacewalk simulations.

› Listen to the audio clip (mp3 audio)

Station managers and the international partners approved plans late Friday to conduct the spacewalk after a day-long review of procedures and the crew’s preparations to support the excursion.

A leak of ammonia coolant from the area near or at the location of a Pump and Flow Control Subassembly was detected on Thursday, prompting engineers and flight controllers to begin plans to support the spacewalk. The device contains the mechanical systems that drive the cooling functions for the port truss.

› View video of ammonia coolant leak on Thursday

The P6 truss was launched to the station as the oldest component of the station’s backbone aboard the shuttle Endeavour on the STS-97 mission in November 2000. It was relocated from its original installation position to the far left side of the station during the STS-120 mission of the shuttle Discovery in October/November 2007.

The spacewalk is the 168th in support of the assembly and maintenance of the space station and the third for both Cassidy and Marshburn, who conducted two spacewalks together during the STS-127 mission of the shuttle Endeavour to the station in July 2009.

Commander Chris Hadfield will ceremonially hand command of the station over to Expedition 36 Commander Pavel Vinogradov on Sunday. NASA TV coverage of the ceremony will begin at 3:40 p.m. EDT.

The undocking of the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft set for 7:08 p.m. EDT Monday will officially mark the end of Expedition 35 and the start of Expedition 36. Hadfield, Marshburn and Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko are scheduled for a 10:31 p.m. landing in southern Kazakhstan, wrapping up 146 days in space for the trio.  EDITORS NOTE - will be broadcasting the landing live on its home page begining at 3:30 pm Eastern Time US



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Spacewalk Under Way to Repair Ammonia Leak

WASHINGTON -  Expedition 35 Flight Engineers Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn began a spacewalk at 8:44 a.m. EDT Saturday to inspect and possibly replace a pump controller box on the International Space Station’s far port truss (P6) suspected of leaking ammonia coolant. Station managers and the international partners approved plans late Friday to conduct the spacewalk after a day-long review of procedures and the crew’s preparations to support the excursion.

A leak of ammonia coolant from the area near or at the location of a Pump and Flow Control Subassembly was detected on Thursday, prompting engineers and flight controllers to begin plans to support the spacewalk. The device contains the mechanical systems that drive the cooling functions for the port truss.

 Expedition 35 EVA Worksite. Photo Credit: NASA

 › View video of ammonia coolant leak on Thursday

The P6 truss was launched to the station as the oldest component of the station’s backbone aboard the shuttle Endeavour on the STS-97 mission in November 2000. It was relocated from its original installation position to the far left side of the station during the STS-120 mission of the shuttle Discovery in October/November 2007.

The spacewalk is the 168th in support of the assembly and maintenance of the space station and the third for both Cassidy and Marshburn, who conducted two spacewalks together during the STS-127 mission of the shuttle Endeavour to the station in July 2009.

Cassidy is designated as Extravehicular crewmember 1 (EV 1) whose spacesuit will be distinguished by red stripes. Marshburn is designed Extravehicular crewmember 2 (EV 2), and is wearing the suit with no stripes.

Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency is serving as the intravehicular crewmember or IV, choreographing the suit up of the spacewalkers and their tasks outside.

The spacewalk is expected to last around 6 ½ hours. A post-spacewalk briefing will be broadcast on NASA TV no earlier than 4:30 p.m. EDT.

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Ammonia Leak Outside Station; Crew in No Danger

HOUSTEN - At around 10:30 a.m. CDT on Thursday, the Expedition 35 crew reported seeing small white flakes floating away from an area of the International Space 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. 

› Audio: Commander Hadfield reports ammonia leak to Mission Control Houston (mp3 audio)
› Audio: Capcom Doug Wheelock updates station crew on status of ammonia leak (mp3 audio) 

The crew 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 has 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 Nov. 1, 2012. It is not yet known whether this increased ammonia flow is from the same leak, which at the time, was not visible. 

The station continues to operate normally otherwise and the crew is in no danger. 

Plans are being developed to reroute other power channels to maintain full operation of those and other systems normally controlled by the solar array that is cooled by this loop. 

The early analysis by thermal control systems specialists indicates that the leak rate could result in a shutdown of this one cooling loop in about 48 hours. The team is looking at whether any additional imagery is needed to isolate the leak’s location. 

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Space Station Communications Test Bed Checks Out; Experiments Begin

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) test bed has begun its experiments after completing its checkout on the International Space Station.

The SCaN test bed is an advanced, integrated communications laboratory facility that uses a new generation of software-defined radio (SDR) technology to allow researchers to develop, test and demonstrate advanced communications, networking and navigation technologies in space. This radio communication technology is based on a new standard that enables radio characteristics and functionality to be changed simply by altering the software. It can be transferred to any radio built to the standard. The cost savings and efficiency of this new technology will improve NASA's data communications in the future.

Expedition 35 Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn, NASA astronaut, installs the redundant Ku Communications 1 unit in Destiny to complete the refurbishment of the Ku system aboard the International Space Station. Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield (out of frame), astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency, joined Marshburn for this work. Photo Credit: NASA

"The space station serves as a dynamic test bed for the technologies needed for future human and robotic exploration," said International Space Station Program Manager Michael Suffredini. "SCaN is an example of the technologies that are being matured in low-Earth orbit and used to increase science return of many different types of spacecraft."

Checkout activities completed in February established the status and health of the payload, including the antenna systems and software on each of three SDRs. The test bed will help technology developers and mission planners understand how they will be used in future missions.

"With the development and deployment of this test bed, NASA has enabled significant future advancements by gaining knowledge and understanding of SDR development," said John Rush, technology and standards director for SCaN at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
"That has created expertise across the agency that will define and develop the next generation of SDRs for future missions."

Initial experiments under way include advancing in S-band and Ka-band SDR technology and enhancing the capabilities of the existing communications paths, especially in the Ka-band. Researchers expect the test bed to operate aboard the space station for as long as six years.

"The SCaN Test bed represents a significant advancement in SDRs and its applications for NASA," said David Irimies, project manager for the SCaN test bed at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. "Investigating these SDR technologies in the dynamic space environment increases their technology readiness level and maturity, which in turn can be used for future missions as risk reduction."

An experiment with NASA's latest Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS)-K will be the first in-orbit test and demonstration of a TDRS spacecraft acquiring and successfully auto-tracking a Ka-band user in low-Earth orbit.

This reconfigurable in-orbit laboratory provides broad participation to NASA, industry, academia and other government agencies. These experiments will contribute data to the Space Telecommunications Radio Standard Compliant repository and will enable future hardware platforms to use common, reusable software modules to reduce development time and costs.

NASA continues to solicit proposals to participate in the development, integration and in-orbit execution of research and technology experiments and demonstrations using the test bed. The first users outside NASA are expected to demonstrate experiments on the SCaN test bed by 2014.

Glenn Research Center leads the SCaN test bed multi-center team, which includes the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.; and Johnson Space Center in Houston. General Dynamics of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., developed SDRs under cooperative agreements with NASA. The SCaN Program Office in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington manages, oversees and funds the test bed.


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Spacewalkers Deploy Plasma Experiment, Install Navigational Aid

HOUSTEN -  Two members of the Expedition 35 crew wrapped up a 6-hour, 38 minute spacewalk at 4:41 p.m. EDT Friday to deploy and retrieve several science experiments on the exterior of the International Space Station and install a new navigational aid.

Russian Flight Engineers Pavel Vinogradov and Roman Romanenko opened the hatch to the Pirs airlock and docking compartment to start the spacewalk at 10:03 a.m.

The spacewalkers' first task was to install the Obstanovka experiment on the station's Zvezda service module. Obstanovka will study plasma waves and the effect of space weather on Earth's ionosphere.

Photo Credit: NASA TV

While at the far end of Zvezda, Vinogradov and Romanenko replaced a faulty retro-reflector device, one of a suite of navigational aids that will provide assistance to the European Space Agency's Albert Einstein Automated Transfer Vehicle 4 cargo ship during its final approach for an automated docking to the space station in June.

After deploying a pair of sensor booms for Obstanovka, Vinogradov and Romanenko retrieved the Biorisk experiment from the exterior of Pirs. The Biorisk experiment studied the effect of microbes on spacecraft structures.

For their final task, the two spacewalkers translated to the Poisk module to retrieve one of two Vinoslivost Materials Sample Experiment panels from the Poisk module. As Vinogradov was removing the panel, it slipped out of his grasp and was irretrievable. The trajectory the panel took will move it away from the space station with no chance of the two making contact.

This was the 167th spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance, totaling 1,055 hours, 39 minutes. Vinogradov's seven spacewalks total 38 hours, 25 minutes. Romanenko completed his first spacewalk.

This was the first of as many as six Russian spacewalks planned for this year. Two U.S. spacewalks are scheduled in July.

During Friday’s spacewalk, Flight Engineers Alexander Misurkin and Chris Cassidy were restricted to their Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft and the Poisk module to which it is docked. This is a standard procedure during Russian spacewalks as hatches are closed to protect the remainder of the station while still providing crew members access to their Soyuz vehicles.

Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn, whose Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft is docked to Rassvet module, had a freer run of the station, including the Zarya module and all modules on the U.S. side of the station. While Vinogradov and Romanenko performed their spacewalk outside the station, Hadfield and Marshburn continued scientific research and maintenance activities inside.

Marshburn delved into his first onboard session with the BP Reg, a Canadian medical experiment that seeks to understand the causes of fainting and dizziness seen in some station astronauts upon return to Earth. BP Reg collects data before, during and after the mission using inflatable cuffs attached to the legs. The experiment will not only help understand dizziness in astronauts, but also have direct benefits for people on Earth – particularly those predisposed to falls and resulting injuries, as seen in the elderly.

› Read more about BP Reg from the Canadian Space Agency

Marshburn also collected data from NanoRacks and transferred the data to a laptop computer. NanoRacks provides microgravity research facilities for small standardized payloads aboard the station.

Hadfield retrieved acoustic dosimeters that Cassidy deployed throughout the station Thursday and downloaded the data from these devices to track the noise levels that crew members are exposed to.

Hadfield also performed some maintenance on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, one of the toilets aboard the station. The commander rounded out his workday loading software on a laptop computer associated with EXPRESS rack 8. Each of the eight EXPRESS racks aboard the complex provides simple, standard interfaces to accommodate up to ten small payloads, resulting in a total capability to operate up to 80 experiments.

› Read more about EXPRESS racks

Over the weekend, the Russian crew members will spend some time drying out their Orlan spacesuits and stowing the tools used in Friday’s spacewalk. All six crew members will participate in weekly housekeeping tasks and enjoy some off-duty time to rest and catch up with friends and family back on Earth.

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April 18, 2013

HOUSTEN -  It looks like something out of a sci-fi robotic spheres hovering around the International Space Station with goggles on. The Visual Estimation and Relative Tracking for Inspection of Generic Objects (VERTIGO) study, a part of the Synchronized Position, Hold, Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) investigation explores the use of small satellites equipped to analyze and capture data from specified objects, producing a 3-D model of those objects.

The 1.6 kilogram VERTIGO goggles designed for the each SPHERES satellite are similar to a small computer tablet -- with 1.2 gigahertz data processor, camera, Wi-Fi device and batteries -- allowing the satellite to see what it is navigating around. This technology could result in techniques for space recycling of old aperture satellites or mapping of an asteroid for exploration, among other missions.

NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn conducts the SPHERES-VERTIGO investigation aboard the International Space Station to study the ability to create a three-dimensional model of an unknown object in space using only one or two small satellites. (NASA)

In a March 26 interview on NASA Television, Brent Tweddle, a doctoral candidate at the Space Systems Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., said the goggles allow for each satellite to, "see, perceive and understand its world visually. We use that … to communicate that information to the SPHERES satellites using a package called the VERTIGO goggles. [The goggles] are their own little intelligence block that sticks on the front-end of the SPHERES satellite and allows it to see the rest of the world that it wants to navigate through."

Tweddle talked about a variety of topics related to the SPHERES and VERTIGO during the interview, including the different teams interested in this research. He described how the SHPERES are commanded by algorithms. Tweedle also spoke on the February 2012 test run and future SPHERES tests.

The VERTIGO addition to the SPHERES satellites is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-funded International Space Station SPHERES Integrated Research Experiments (InSPIRE) program that leverages the human presence in space for rapid, iterative experimentation and design of space capabilities. It is providing the next generation of scientists and engineers (through the ZERO Robotics Competition) with exposure and experience in carrying out meaningful space experimentation economically and over reasonable time scales.

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PARIS - Quantum Communications now there is a mouthful! Most people cant even pronounce it let alone know what it is. But if a group of European researchers have there way the International Space Station could become a quantum communications network and revolutionize communications as we know it.


Quantum Communications involves using atoms to carry data. Now stick with me here because this is going to get a little heavy. There is a theory in physics known as entanglement. Two partials become attached in such a way that if you effect one you can instantaneously effect the other.  So applying this you can change the spin of one atom and instantaneously do the same thing to an entangled partial even if that partial is at Mars.  In this way you create ones and zeros – binary code. Instantaneous communication at any distance – and they are PERFECTLY secure! Anybody attempting to listen in to a quantum entanglement would disrupt the entanglement and betray the spy. So this is pretty useful stuff.


ISS at Sunrise Photo Credit: NASA


Although scientists have set up quantum networks before the problem with these networks has always been that they were fragile. This is mostly because the network is effected by the Earth’s atmosphere which is often turbulent and full of water. But in a new paper published in the New Journal of  Physics by a group of scientists from the institute of physics the International Space Station can be used as a sort of quantum communications relay thus bypassing most of the problem and allowing for stable quantum networks.  


The problem is nobody has ever tried anything like this so the team has proposed a simple experiment to prove it could work. A photon detector would be added to one of the Earth cameras inside the Copula on the International Space Station. A series of entangles photons would then be sent to ISS at regular intervals. If the entangled partials are detected it will prove that such partials can be transmitted over 500 km stably . That would prove that ISS can be used as a quantum relay station allowing for true quantum networks to be established.


The team hopes set up and run the detector for about a week. If it works it will enable entire quantum networks to be established for the cost of the detector. This stands opposed to constructing an entire fleet of satellites to do the same thing.


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Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer Team Publishes First Findings

WASHINGTON - Until the launch of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) experiment in 2011, scientists had compiled a mere anthill of information about the kinds of charged particles, or cosmic rays, that shoot around the universe. Two short years later, they have amassed an Everest-sized mountain of such information.

Using the power and data transmission capabilities of the International Space Station, AMS is circling Earth and sifting through matter, antimatter and other particles that are yet to be confirmed, 365 days a year. Scientists now are beginning to sift through that mountain of data and figure out how it may change our concept of the cosmos.

AMS is seen here on ISS Photo Credit: NASA

Astronomical evidence currently indicates that the universe is made of matter; however, the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe requires equal amounts of matter and antimatter. There also is a significant difference between what physicists believe should be the total amount of mass in the universe and what they have observed so far. Whether or not there is a significant antimatter, or another kind of matter called “dark matter,” is one of the fundamental questions of the origin and nature of the universe that AMS may be able to help answer.

AMS collects its data by recording the number of particles that pass through its collectors; details on the kinds of particles passing through, such as protons and electrons; physical information such as particle charge, mass and velocity; and information on which direction they came from so that scientists can attempt to track down their source. Each one of these pieces of data is called a particle event. Since its activation on May 19, 2011, AMS has collected detailed information on more than 31 billion particle events and downlinked this data for analysis by AMS collaboration scientists on Earth. In its first six months of operation on the station, AMS had accumulated more data on charged cosmic rays than had been previously collected in the history of human physics studies. And AMS continues to gather data on about 1.4 billion particle events every month.

To do this, the 15,251-pound AMS and its eight primary science instrument systems use 300,000 data channels. The instruments are similar to those used in particle accelerators on Earth such as the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) outside of Geneva, Switzerland. The primary difference between the terrestrial-based instruments and AMS is that AMS' science instrument systems were miniaturized and ruggedized for launch on the space shuttle and operation on the space station.

AMS is operated from the ground by two full shifts and one partial shift at the AMS Payload Operations Control Center (POCC) at CERN. The daily partial shift is run from the AMS Asia POCC at the Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology in Taiwan. AMS data are downlinked using the space station’s high-rate data system, the same one that is used to transmit television of astronauts living and working on the station. The data are sent from the orbiting outpost to NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellites, which relay it to the satellite reception dishes at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. From there, the data go to NASA’s Payload Operations Integration Center at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and then on to the AMS Payload Operations Control Center in Switzerland.

The space station’s solar arrays generate the electricity used by AMS, and they provide up to 1,780 watts of continuous power. That’s a little more electricity than an average household on Earth uses continuously when averaged over time.

The AMS project began in 1994, when Professor Samuel Ting, a Nobel laureate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was considering a new high-energy physics experiment. The concept of an international space station had just been announced in 1993, and Ting and his collaborators saw an opportunity for groundbreaking science in space. This group of particle physicists, called The Antimatter Study Group, published the concept for “An Antimatter Spectrometer in Space.” The United States Department of Energy agreed to sponsor the project; NASA agreed to put it in space and the AMS team grew.

To prove the concept, an early version of AMS spent 10 days in space aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1998. The experiment ran for 103 hours and collected data for nearly 100 million cosmic rays. The data gathered provided the first accurate measurement of the composition of primary cosmic rays. From that experiment, seven scientific papers were published.

Work on the current version of the AMS began in 1998. It shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida in August 2010. Space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 crew carried it into orbit in May 2011, where it was installed on the station’s truss structure. It has been measuring particles ever since.

AMS is composed of a magnet and eight detectors that provide the scientists on the ground with information about the particles that travel through the magnet. All of the information is collected in the fraction of a second it takes a particle to travel through AMS.

Led by Principle Investigator and Spokesperson Samuel Ting of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the AMS team includes some 600 physicists from 56 institutions in 16 countries from Europe, North America and Asia. The various participants built their particular contributions, which were all integrated when the AMS was built at CERN.

During the STS-134 mission, and for the first several months afterward, about 40 members of the AMS team monitored the experiment and analyzed the data it sent down from the Payload Operations Control Center at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. In July 2011, AMS operations moved back to CERN, where the AMS team continues monitoring and controlling the experiment 24 hours a day, with the capability to gather data for as long as the space station is in orbit. 


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New Crew Aboard Station After Express Flight

HOUSTEN -  The Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft carrying three new Expedition 35 crew members docked with the International Space Station’s Poisk module at 10:28 p.m. EDT Thursday, completing its accelerated journey to the orbiting complex in less than six hours.

Soyuz TMA-8M nears ISS Photo Credit: NASA TV

› View video of docking


Soyuz Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, who launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:43 p.m. (2:43 a.m. Friday, Baikonur time) are the first station crew members to take this expedited route to the orbiting laboratory. The Soyuz reached the station after only four orbits instead of the usual two-day launch-to-docking mission profile for a Russian spacecraft. While this is the first crewed spacecraft to employ this technique, Russian space officials successfully tested it with the last three Progress cargo vehicles.

› View video of launch

After the hatches opened at 12:35 a.m. Friday, Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin joined Commander Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency and Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn of NASA and Roman Romanenko of Roscosmos who have been residing at the orbital laboratory since Dec. 21, 2012. All six crew members crew then participated in a welcome ceremony with family members and mission officials gathered at the Russian Mission Control Center in Star City near Moscow.

› Watch hatch opening and welcome ceremony

Expedition 35 will operate with its full six-person crew complement until May when Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko return to Earth aboard their Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft. Their departure will mark the beginning of Expedition 36 under the command of Vinogradov, who along with crewmates Cassidy and Misurkin will maintain the station as a three-person crew until the launch of three additional flight engineers in late May. Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin are scheduled to return to Earth in September.

During the approximate six-month timeframe of Expeditions 35 and 36, 137 investigations will be performed on the U.S. operating segment of the station, and 44 on the Russian segment. More than 430 investigators from around the world are involved in the research. The investigations cover human research, biological and physical sciences, technology development, Earth observation, and education.

Cassidy, a commander in the U.S. Navy, is making his second spaceflight. His first visit to the station was as an STS-127 mission specialist aboard space shuttle Endeavour in July 2009. During that mission Cassidy performed three spacewalks, spending more than 18 hours outside the orbiting complex.

This is the third space mission for Vinogradov, a former design engineer. Previously, Vinogradov was a crew member aboard space station Mir for 197 days in 1997-98 and spent 182 days aboard the International Space Station in 2006 as an Expedition 13 flight engineer.

A retired lieutenant colonel in the Russian Air Force, Misurkin is making his first spaceflight. He was selected as a cosmonaut candidate in 2006 and qualified as a test-cosmonaut in 2009.


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