International Space Station news


Canadarm2 to help astronauts catch cargo ship and install new ISS batteries

Credit: NASA

On , the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) will head to the International Space Station (ISS) loaded with equipment, including new batteries to upgrade the orbiting laboratory's power system.

Four days later, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan will perform a cosmic catch, using Canadarm2 to capture the unpiloted cargo ship. Robotics controllers on the ground will then berth it to the Station's Harmony module.

After the high-flying manoeuvre, Canadarm2 will unload six new lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates. This new set will replace a dozen of the Station's nickel-hydrogen batteries that store electrical energy essential to its daily operations.

The replacement operations will be a unique combination of robotic and human collaboration. Robotics controllers will command Dextre to unlatch one of the fastening bolts on each new battery as Canadarm2 positions the new set near the worksite. The batteries will then be swapped out and manually connected by astronauts performing a series of spacewalks.

Live coverage of the HTV's launch begins on at 11:30 a.m. ET on NASA TV. The rendezvous and capture operations will also be broadcast on at 5:45 a.m. ET.

Canadian space robot Dextre to expand ability to refuel satellites and spacecraft in orbit

A computer animation of Dextre, Canada's robotic handyman on the International Space Station, performing some of the operations for NASA's Robotic Refueling Mission 3. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

From to , Dextre, Canada's robotic handyman on the International Space Station, will conduct a demonstration of how robots could refuel satellites and spacecraft to extend their useful lifetimes.

NASA's Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3) will use Dextre's proven ability to perform highly delicate tasks on the International Space Station, to test the hardware and procedures needed to store and transfer cryogenic fluids.

These fluids, which include liquid methane and hydrogen, are vital to the future of space exploration because they are used as coolant and fuel by satellites and spacecraft.

Being able to robotically refill these gases in liquid form while in orbit would enable longer exploration missions farther from Earth. For example, water available on the Moon could be chemically split into liquid hydrogen – the basis for rocket fuel – and liquid oxygen, which could replenish reserves of breathable air as astronaut crews travel to more distant destinations.

Working with cryogenic fluids in microgravity requires precision, as they:

  • must be kept at very low temperatures to avoid easy evaporation
  • would be in limited supply in remote places like the Moon or Mars

Robotics flight controllers on the ground will operate Dextre during RRM3 operations using tools specially designed for the test. Dextre aced previous phases of the mission between and , which included the installation of the payload itself followed by the demonstration of tasks including cap removal, wire cutting, and valve-opening – all on a mock satellite the size of a washing machine fitted with various satellite-like interfaces.

For more updates on Canadian robotics operations, follow the Canadian Space Agency on social media.

Canadarm2 gears up for a cosmic catch as Dragon resupplies Space Station

Credit: NASA

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

Two days later, NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch 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:

  • a data recorder and battery unit for the Bio-Monitor, a Canadian smart shirt system designed to record astronauts' vital signs around the clock
  • glucose testing strips for Vascular Aging, a new Canadian study taking a closer look at the development of arterial stiffness and insulin resistance among astronauts in orbit

Robotics controllers on the ground will use Dextre, the Station's two-armed robot, to unload the ship's trunk, extracting an important payload known as an International Docking Adapter (IDA) that will expand the ability of commercial vehicles to dock to the Station.

The installation of the IDA will be a collaborative effort between Dextre and ISS crew. The Canadian robot will position the IDA, and a pair of astronauts will venture outside the Space Station to finalize the IDA's electrical connections.

Dragon is scheduled to remain berthed to the Station for about a month. The vehicle will return to Earth with scientific cargo, including air, breath, and blood samples collected for MARROW, a Canadian study designed to measure fat changes in the bone marrow before and after astronauts spend six months in microgravity.

Coverage of Dragon's launch will be available on NASA TV on , beginning at 5:45 p.m. ET.

Canadarm2's capture of the vehicle will also be broadcast on .

David Saint-Jacques tops off space mission with flurry of Canadian science

David Saint-Jacques participates in the Radi-N2 experiment

Credits: Canadian Space Agency/NASA

Since his arrival on the International Space Station (ISS) in , Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut David Saint-Jacques has participated in hundreds of science experiments on board the orbiting laboratory.

With one month to go until his return to Earth, scheduled for , Saint-Jacques continues to collect data for Canadian experiments and technology demonstrations.

The Canadian astronaut will take part in a variety of activities, including:

  • Filling out a questionnaire for At Home in Space, Canada's first psychosocial study in orbit that examines how crewmembers adapt to being away from home in an often stressful space environment
  • Setting up the Bio-Analyzer, a Canadian technology that can quickly test different body fluids such as blood, saliva, and urine
  • Finalizing the configuration of the Bio-Monitor, a Canadian smart shirt system that seamlessly measures astronauts' vital signs around the clock
  • Collecting blood, breath, and air samples for MARROW, a study that measures spaceflight-related changes in bone marrow and the blood cells it produces
  • Collecting a blood sample, performing ultrasounds, and undergoing continuous blood pressure monitoring for Vascular Echo, the second in a series of Vascular studies aiming to deepen our understanding of the effects of microgravity on the cardiovascular system
  • Placing and retrieving bubble monitors designed to detect neutron radiation, for Radi-N2, a Canadian experiment that could help develop countermeasures to health risks for future space explorers on long-duration missions

Canadian science performed on the ISS helps obtain knowledge that improves quality of life on Earth and prepares humanity for missions to more distant destinations.

For more updates, follow David Saint-Jacques and the CSA on social media.

Canadian space robotics ace critical procedure to restore full power to the ISS

Dextre during replacement operations on . The failed electrical unit is visible at the bottom of the image. (Credit : NASA)

A swift international effort resulted in the successful completion of a critical robotics operation that saw Canadarm2 and Dextre restore full power to the International Space Station (ISS) in the early hours of .

Three days earlier, on , the failure of an electrical component known as a Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) caused an outage of approximately 25% of the Station's power.

An international team, including the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), NASA and MDA robotics specialists, worked quickly and diligently to plan how Canadarm2 and Dextre would remove the failed unit and install a spare.

The power failure had no immediate impact on the ISS's crew, who connected jumper cables to reroute electrical power to science experiments and other hardware inside the orbiting laboratory.

This intensive operation marks only the second time this type of unit has been replaced robotically. The accelerated achievement – completed in a record-setting 72 hours – was made possible by applying invaluable expertise gained two years ago. A previous replacement required around-the-clock work lasting three times longer, a total of almost 10 days.

Without Canadian space robotics, the recent failure would likely have required an unscheduled spacewalk, a complex activity that pulls astronauts away from their core task of conducting science in microgravity.

The successful operation also paves the way for the launch of the Dragon cargo vehicle, which will be captured on by Canadarm2, controlled by David Saint-Jacques. It will be the first time a CSA astronaut performs a "cosmic catch."

David Saint-Jacques to capture a Dragon spacecraft with Canadarm2

Credit : NASA

SpaceX's Dragon cargo ship is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on . It will blast off from Cape Canaveral aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.

Two days later, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut David Saint-Jacques, assisted by NASA astronaut Nick Hague, will use Canadarm2 to capture the vehicle.

It will mark the first time that a CSA astronaut uses the Canadian robotic arm to perform a "cosmic catch," and the 35th time that the 17-metre-long arm grapples a free-flying vehicle.

Astronauts inside the Station will then unload Dragon's pressurized cargo, which includes 1.2 million tomato seeds sent to space as part of the Canadian Tomatosphere educational project.

In the days following Dragon's capture, flight controllers on the ground at CSA headquarters and at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston will use Dextre to unload and then reload its unpressurized trunk.

Dragon is scheduled to stay at the Station for approximately one month. It will return the tomato seeds to Earth for students to grow as part of an educational science experiment to measure and compare the seeds' growth. The Dragon vehicle will also deliver blood and air samples for MARROW, a Canadian experiment that studies space-related changes to astronauts' bone marrow.

Coverage of Dragon's launch will be available on NASA TV on , beginning at 2:30 a.m. ET.

Capture operations will be broadcast on the CSA's YouTube channel on , beginning at 6:40 a.m. ET (capture scheduled to take place around 7 a.m. ET).

Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques to use Canadarm2 to catch spaceship loaded with Canadian cargo

Credit : NASA

On , Northrop Grumman's Cygnus resupply ship will launch from Wallops Island, Virginia, on a cargo resupply mission heading to the International Space Station (ISS).

Two days later, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques will control Canadarm2 to perform a "cosmic catch" – capturing the free-flying vehicle as both spacecraft orbit Earth at approximately 28,000 km/h.

While McClain pilots the robotic arm, Saint-Jacques will act as co-pilot by continually monitoring the status of the arriving ship. A Canadian flight controller will be part of the ground team overseeing the robotics operation from NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas.

Loaded with hundreds of kilograms of supplies, this Cygnus mission includes important Canadian cargo:

  • Bio-Analyzer, a device that will reduce the need to freeze samples on board the ISS by analyzing blood, urine or saliva right on board the Station
  • Bio-Monitor smart shirts and sample collection kits that will be used to gather data for Vascular Aging, a new Canadian health study that takes a closer look at arterial stiffening and insulin resistance in astronauts
  • Canadian-made food for the crew, including smoked salmon, maple cream cookies, mushroom and cheese risotto, and bison chili (a meal based on David Saint-Jacques' favourite family recipe)

Cygnus is expected to remain berthed to the orbiting laboratory until the end of July.

The launch will be broadcast on NASA TV on starting at 4:15 p.m. ET. Coverage of the capture operations will begin on at 4:00 a.m. ET.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques successfully completes spacewalk

Credit: Canadian Space Agency/NASA

Accompanied by NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut David Saint-Jacques successfully completed a six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS).

The pair relocated a battery adapter plate and connected electrical cables, establishing an alternate path of power to the Station's robotic arm, Canadarm2.

The astronauts also upgraded the Station's wireless communications system and installed structural equipment in preparation for an external science platform.

After donning their spacesuits, Saint-Jacques and McClain ventured outside the airlock at 7:31 a.m. ET as the Station passed over Chile. They concluded their spacewalk and returned inside the orbiting laboratory at 2:00 p.m. ET.

It was the 216th spacewalk in the history of the ISS. Prior to Saint-Jacques, the last CSA astronaut to participate in a spacewalk was Dave Williams on , during Mission STS-118.

A recording of the spacewalk is available on the CSA's YouTube channel.

Canadian ISS research and technology highlighted in "International Space Station Benefits for Humanity" book

International Space Station

Credit: NASA

In over 18 years of continuous human habitation, the Station has been the scene of more than 2,500 research experiments. The third edition of the book, "International Space Station Benefits for Humanity,"  highlights some of this science, including a number of Canadian contributions:

The book is a product of the ISS Program Science Forum, made up of senior science representatives across the ISS international partnership, which includes the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Russian State Space Agency Roscosmos, Italian Space Agency, and NASA.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques to perform his first spacewalk

David Saint-Jacques prepares for a spacewalk

Credit: Canadian Space Agency/NASA

On , David Saint-Jacques will perform his first spacewalk on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS). He will be joined by NASA astronaut Anne McClain.

The pair will undertake an estimated seven-hour-long operation, beginning with the relocation of a battery adapter plate, followed by an upgrade to the ISS's wireless communications system.

Saint-Jacques and McClain will also connect jumper cables along the midpoint of the Station's main truss, which features the rail system used by Canadian robotics to access several ISS worksites.

Connecting these electrical cables will provide an alternate path of power to Canadarm2, the 17-metre-long arm that plays a crucial role in the maintenance of the orbiting laboratory.

Finally, the astronauts will install structural equipment for an upcoming external platform designed to hold science experiments.

A briefing on the spacewalk operations will be broadcast on the Canadian Space Agency's YouTube channel on at 2 p.m. ET.

Live coverage of the spacewalk will be available on the Canadian Space Agency's YouTube channel on starting at 6:30 a.m. ET. Saint-Jacques and McClain are expected to exit the Station's airlock at approximately 8:20 a.m. ET.

Pair of spacewalks planned to complete installation of new International Space Station batteries

Credit: NASA

On , NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Nick Hague will perform a spacewalk on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS).

A week later, Hague will be joined by NASA's Christina Koch; the pair will finalize the installation of the Station's new lithium-ion batteries.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques will lend a hand, helping the spacewalkers don the white suits designed to protect them from the harsh environment of space.

The new batteries arrived at the ISS aboard the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) in .

In the days before each spacewalk, flight controllers in Houston and at Canadian Space Agency headquarters in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, will use Dextre to robotically swap a dozen of the original nickel-hydrogen batteries for six new ones.

Canadarm2 and Dextre will help monitor operations during the spacewalks, as the astronauts manually connect the adapter plates and electrical wiring.

A briefing on the spacewalk operations will be broadcast on NASA TV on at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Live coverage of the spacewalks will be available on the Canadian Space Agency's YouTube channel on starting at 6:30 a.m. ET and starting at 6:30 a.m. ET.

Multilateral Coordination Board Joint Statement

The Lunar Gateway

Credit: NASA

The International Space Station (ISS) Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB), which oversees the management of the ISS, met on . Its membersFootnote 1 acknowledged the recent 20th anniversary of the launch of the first ISS module and celebrated the success of the ISS partnership. This international team has not only built the space station and risen to the challenges of its day-to-day dynamic operation, but – most importantly – delivered tangible benefits to humanity.

Important outcomes of the ISS include both new scientific knowledge and technical innovation. These advancements address sustainable development here on Earth and help preparations to extend human presence further into our Solar System. The MCB highlighted the fact that more than 100 countries have now used the space station for research or education. Furthermore, representatives noted with satisfaction that the ISS is nurturing a growing economy in Low Earth Orbit research, business and services.

Looking beyond the ISS, the MCB recalled the historic achievement almost fifty years ago of the first human landing on the Moon. It reviewed the extensive work carried out by the ISS partners to study concepts for extending human exploration to the Moon and subsequently to Mars. Emphasising the importance of affordable and sustainable exploration, the MCB discussed their common interest in deploying a human outpost in the lunar vicinity as the next step. Known as the Gateway, it will serve as a way station one thousand times more distant from Earth than today's ISS, to support exploration of the lunar surface.

Within a broader open architecture for human lunar exploration, the MCB acknowledged the Gateway as a critical next step. The Gateway will support human and robotic access to the lunar surface, and build invaluable experience needed for the challenges of later human missions to Mars. The unique location of the Gateway will offer a platform for important scientific discovery in a deep space environment very different from that of the ISS and enable lunar surface exploration. Its special orbit will also provide excellent visibility of both the Earth and the Moon's surface for communications relay purposes. It will stimulate the development of advanced technologies, expand the emerging space economy, and continue to leverage the societal benefits of space exploration for citizens on Earth. Gateway will ultimately enable international and commercial partners to participate in human exploration, research and technology development and will be foundational for establishing a sustained human presence around and on the Moon.

Following several years of extensive study among the agencies culminating in a successful technical assessment, the MCB endorsed plans to continue the Gateway development. It welcomed each agency's intention to proceed toward their respective stakeholders' approval and funding processes for providing specific elements, modules, and capabilities to the Gateway and associated benefits based on a common concept (see Graphic entitled Gateway configuration concept).

The MCB welcomed with enthusiasm Canada's announcement on , that it would participate in the Gateway and contribute advanced robotics, making the Canadian Space Agency the first partner agency to join NASA in the Gateway.

Finally, recalling the ambition and far-sighted decisions that led to the success of both Apollo and the ISS, MCB members affirmed their common hope that the Gateway should secure new achievements in the field of space exploration, serve as the next step on a sustainable path to the Moon and beyond, and inspire the next generation as a future success of international cooperation in science and technology.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques to monitor SpaceX's Crew Dragon as it arrives at the International Space Station

Credit: SpaceX

On , SpaceX will launch its Crew Dragon spacecraft on a test flight, known as Demo-1, to the International Space Station.

One day later, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut David Saint-Jacques and NASA astronaut Anne McClain will perform a visual inspection of Demo-1's unassisted docking manoeuvre upon its arrival. Saint-Jacques will then be the first astronaut to enter the docked spacecraft.

Launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the uncrewed spacecraft will carry about 180 kilograms of supplies and equipment to the Station, where the vehicle will remain docked for five days. On and , robotics controllers on the ground will use Canadarm2's cameras to inspect the exterior of the capsule.

The arrival and docking of commercial crew vehicles aboard the Station represent an important historical milestone for human spaceflight and for NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

Coverage of launch (, 2:00 a.m. ET), rendezvous and docking (, 3:30 a.m. ET), and hatch opening (, 8:30 a.m. ET) will be available on NASA TV.

On , 10:35 a.m. ET, the Crew Dragon Welcoming Ceremony will be broadcast on the CSA's YouTube channel.

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