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SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off

Credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

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

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 sets a new personal best in weightlifting

Dextre is hoisting three old batteries, one in each arm and one on his temporary stowage platform

Dextre sets a new personal best in weightlifting: In this image, Dextre is hoisting three old batteries, one in each arm and one on his temporary stowage platform. As each battery weighs approximately 170 kg, roughly the weight of a refrigerator, Dextre is bearing the heaviest load to date, about 500 kg. (Credit: NASA)

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson at work during her spacewalk

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson at work during her spacewalk

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson at work during her spacewalk: During the six-hour and 32-minute spacewalk on , Whitson and Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough installed three new adapter plates and hooked up electrical connections for three of the six new lithium-ion batteries on the ISS. (Credit: NASA)

Back at the ISS airlock

ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet waves after completing his very first spacewalk

Back at the ISS airlock: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet waves after completing his very first spacewalk on . (Credit: NASA)

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

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.

A shout out to the CSA from NASA astronauts during a spacewalk

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)

Transcript

"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 Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, by members of the CSA/NASA Combined Robotics Team.

HTV-6 departure from the International Space Station

Credit: NASA

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

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.