The Russian Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft departed the International Space Station and landed in Kazakhstan Thursday, bringing home outgoing space station commander Luca Parmitano, Soyuz pilot Alexander Skvortsov, and NASA astronaut Christina Koch, who concluded a 328-day mission, the longest-ever spaceflight by a woman. The Soyuz undocked from the station at 0550 GMT (12:50 a.m. EST) Thursday, then landed on the Kazakh steppe at 0912 GMT (4:12 a.m. EST).
Christina Koch, veteran of six spacewalks outside the International Space Station — including the first all-female excursion — will join a Russian commander and an Italian flight engineer for a fiery plunge back to Earth early Thursday, setting a new world record for the longest single flight by a female astronaut.
A Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft departed the International Space Station Friday to close out a three-month stay, then raised its orbit to release multiple experimental nanosatellites for NASA, the U.S. military and research institutions, including one that was snap-assembled by astronauts using 3D-printed parts produced on the station.
NASA has selected Axiom Space, a Houston-based startup partnering with Boeing and other aerospace contractors, to attach a commercial habitat to the International Space Station and begin constructing an orbiting complex that the company says could ultimately replace the international research outpost.
During a fourth spacewalk Saturday to wrap up repairs of the coolant system in a $2 billion cosmic ray detector, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano and Drew Morgan discovered a leak in one of eight coolant lines that were spliced into a new pump module during three earlier excursions. But Parmitano was able to tighten a fitting on the line and the astronauts were able to complete the repair work, setting the stage for the instrument to resume science operations.
It took NASA more than 50 years to stage its first all-female spacewalk last October. It took three months before the second on Jan. 15 and just five days more for the third on Monday, a successful six-hour 58-minute excursion to finish installing a set of new solar array batteries aboard the International Space Station.
SpaceX performed a dramatic high-altitude test flight Sunday of the company’s Crew Dragon capsule over Florida’s Space Coast, testing the human-rated ship’s ability to escape a rocket failure and save its crew before two NASA astronauts strap in for a flight to the International Space Station as soon as this spring.
A NASA official said Friday that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft could be ready to ferry astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station as soon as early March, pending the results from a major demonstration of the ship’s launch abort system this weekend, a pair of parachute drop tests, and space station crew schedules.