Station Orbits Higher as Crew Preps for Spacewalk and New Spaceship

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is processed for launch
The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is processed for its Aug. 21 launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: Roscosmos

The International Space Station is orbiting higher today as the Expedition 60 crew continued setting up for next week’s spacewalk. The orbiting residents also focused on space biology experiments and packing gear for return to Earth.

A docked Progress 73 (73P) spacecraft fired its thrusters overnight in two 10-minute burns three hours apart raising the station’s altitude. The maneuver puts the complex at the proper phasing for the rendezvous and docking of Russia’s unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 crew ship late next week.

The Soyuz MS-14 will lift off on Aug. 21 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a test of the spacecraft’s 2.1a booster during its ascent into Earth orbit. It will arrive at the station Aug. 24 for an automated docking to the Poisk module. The vehicle will undock on Sept. 6 for a return to Earth.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan continue servicing their spacesuits and reviewing procedures for the fifth spacewalk of the year. The duo will route cables and configure hardware to install the International Docking Adapter-3 on top of the station’s Harmony module. They will exit the station Aug. 21 for the six-and-a-half-hour job that takes place the same day the Soyuz MS-14 lifts off.

Rodent research and stem cell differentiation were Thursday’s primary space science activities. Flight Engineer Christina Koch fed mice and cleaned their cages as scientists observed the creatures that are genetically similar to humans. Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency wore the Bio-Monitor recording his vital signs while exploring how microgravity affects a variety of cell functions.

Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov will be ready for next week’s arrival of the Soyuz MS-14. They are taking inventory of gear for return in the spacecraft while continuing to unload cargo from the 73P.