ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 114 Increment 30
This is ISS status report #114 from the European Space Agency outlining ESA’s science-related activities that have taken place on the ISS during the past two weeks for different European experiments and experiment facilities. The report is compiled by ESA’s ISS Utilisation and Astronaut Support Department in cooperation with ESA’s Columbus Operations teams.
ISS Utilisation Programme
The principal focus of the European utilisation of the ISS is the Columbus laboratory, which was launched and permanently attached to the ISS in February 2008. In addition to the science taking place using the internal and external experiment facilities of the Columbus laboratory, ESA also has some further ongoing research taking place inside the Russian Segment of the ISS and in the US Destiny laboratory with international scientific collaboration agreements.
The current status of the European science package on the ISS is as follows:
European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Biolab and associated experiments
No activities were carried out using the Biolab facility in the two week period until 9 March. Biolab is a multi-user facility designed to support biological experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates.
Due to the still ongoing functional recovery activities for the Biolab facility the TripleLux experiments' execution has been deferred due to the Biolab microscope failure. The microscope which is needed for the TripleLux experiments was returned to ground with STS-134 and will be returned to the ISS tentatively in Autumn 2012 on Progress 48P to resume the utilisation of a fully operational Biolab facility after repair and full functional checkout. The modified gripper for the fixation syringes of the handling mechanism will be launched on ATV-3 in March and installed/tested subsequently in Biolab. The objective of the TripleLux A+B experiments is to further understand the cellular mechanisms underlying the aggravation of radiation responses, and the impairment of immune function under spaceflight conditions.
European Drawer Rack and Kubik 3 incubator
ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers set up the Kubik-3 incubator in Columbus and connected it to European Drawer Rack facility for power on 29 February. The following activities to undertake troubleshooting activities on the incubator were deferred however as communications could not be established with the European Drawer Rack at that time. The situation is currently being analysed.
The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which will temporarily host the Facility for Adsorption and Surface Tension (FASTER) in 2013 and also continuously the Electro-Magnetic Levitator payload after its upload on ATV-4. FASTER is a Capillary Pressure Tensiometer developed for the study of the links between emulsion stability and physico-chemical characteristics of droplet interfaces. The Electro-Magnetic Levitator (EML) will investigate thermophysical properties of metal alloys under weightlessness, supporting both basic and namely industrial research and development needs.
In addition the KUBIK incubator in the European Drawer Rack will also be used to process NASA's NIH Ageing experiment which is currently planned for the end of 2012.
ROALD-2 (in the KUBIK-3 incubator)
The experiment containers for the ROALD-2 (ROle of Apoptosis in Lymphocyte Depression 2) experiment are located in one of the MELFI freezers following processing in the KUBIK-3 Incubator which finished on 26 December. The samples within the experiment containers will return to Earth together with the Expedition 29/30 crew on Soyuz 28S at the end of April and handed over to the science team.
The ROALD-2 experiment expands on the initial ROALD experiment from 2008 and will determine the role of a certain lipid (Anandamide) in the regulation of immune processes in human lymphocytes and in the cell cycle under weightless conditions. This could help in the development of additional countermeasures to the effects of weightlessness on the human body in the future.
Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow-2 / FASES experiments
Science activities for the Geoflow-2 experiment inside the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) continued in the two weeks until 9 March. Five non-rotation runs were carried out from 27 February - 7 March. All set points were acquired except for one run where two of the 25 points were skipped. Temperature deviations were also only experienced on one run. Science data and data from the Microgravity Vibration Isolation System was downlinked between 27 February - 7 March for analyses by the science team.
These activities follow on from extensive Geoflow-2 experiment runs, which started processing in the Fluid Science Laboratory in March 2011. All mandatory experiment runs have now been completed for Geoflow-2 except for the high-rotation runs. Additional experiment parameter runs using a different optical diagnostic mode have also been carried out on top of the mandatory runs. The main experiment parameters of the GeoFlow-2 experiment are the core rotation speed, electrical field, temperature gradients and liquid viscosity variation of the spherical experiment cell with the experiment fluid.
Geoflow-2 (which follows on from the initial Geoflow experiment with new scientific objectives and a different experiment configuration) is investigating the flow of an incompressible viscous fluid held between two concentric spheres rotating about a common axis as a representation of a planet. This is of importance for astrophysical and geophysical problems such as global scale flow in the atmosphere, the oceans, and in the liquid nucleus of planets. For Geoflow-2 the incompressible fluid is nonanol which varies in viscosity with temperature (unlike silicon oil) to provide a different aspect of research with more of a simulation to Earth's geophysical conditions.
The subsequently planned Fluid Science Laboratory experiment "Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability" (FASES) has been thoroughly prepared via a full scientific verification programme of the emulsions' composition and the optical diagnostics' adjustment. The execution of the FASES experiment will require the full functionality of the recently upgraded FSL Video Management Unit which still needs to be proven during current activities on orbit. The flight of the FASES Experiment Container has been rescheduled to a launch on SpaceX in early 2013. This experiment will be studying emulsion properties with advanced optical diagnostics. Results of the FASES experiment hold significance for oil extraction processes, and in the chemical and food industries.
European Physiology Modules (EPM) facility
No activities were carried out using the European Physiology Modules facility in the two week period until 9 March. The European Physiology Modules facility is equipped with different Science Modules to investigate the cardio- and neurophysiological effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. Experiment results from the European Physiology Modules will contribute to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle atrophy.
Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment
The missing Portable Clinical Blood Analyser experiment parameters for the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment have now been successfully handed over to the science team for assessment. The parameters for ESA Astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers and NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Dan Burbank were discovered missing after the experiment sessions which took place at the end of January/beginning of February. Six parameters were missing (all those based on haemoglobin) from both crew for both SOLO sessions though the crew confirmed that the data was still available on orbit.
During the experiment the two astronauts carried out two six-day diet sessions consuming both a lower salt level diet and a higher salt level diet whilst logging what they had eaten and drunk on a daily basis. Body mass measurements were taken on diet days 4 and 6. Blood samples were taken, centrifuged and stored for return to earth as well as analysed on orbit on day 5, and 24 hr urine collection was concluded on the final day of each diet session. All samples were stored in one of the MELFI units.
SOLO is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects during long-duration space flight.
Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 9 March. The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA's Human Research Facility 2, which was relocated from the US Destiny laboratory to the Columbus laboratory in October 2008. The Pulmonary Function System is an ESA/NASA collaboration in respiratory physiology instrumentation, which analyses exhaled gas from astronauts' lungs to provide near-instant data on the state of crew health.
European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS)
No activities were carried out using the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks until 9 March. The European Modular Cultivation System, which was launched to the ISS in July 2006, is dedicated to biological experiments such as the effects of gravity on cells, roots and physiology of plants and simple animals. It was developed by ESA and is being operated jointly with NASA under a bilateral barter agreement which was renewed after the initial 2 year time frame. The next ESA experiment to take place in the facility is the Gravi-2 experiment which builds on the initial Gravi experiment in determining the gravity threshold response in plant (lentil) roots. The feasibility of the Gravi-2 experiment execution is linked to transportation on the SpaceX carriers.
Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES)
Following the commissioning activities started by André Kuipers on 16 February, André spent some time photographing the current configuration of the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES) and its cabling. The images will be downlinked to ground to help in determining the source of high friction values and a MARES communication problem experienced during the commissioning activities. Functional testing will be resumed on resolution of this.
MARES is capable of assessing the strength of isolated human muscle groups around joints to provide a better understanding of the effects of weightlessness on the muscular system of ISS astronauts.
Once MARES completes functional testing without a crew member using the system, it will then undergo a second functional testing with a crew member in the loop using the system. These two commissioning parts will include testing of hardware and software as well as testing downlink capabilities.
MARES consists of an adjustable chair with a system of pads and levers that fit to each astronaut and cover different movements, a main box containing the facility motor and control electronics to which the chair is connected by an articulated arm, as well as dedicated experiment software. The system is considerably more advanced than equivalent ground-based devices and a vast improvement on current muscle research facilities on the ISS.
ESA astronaut André Kuipers continued filling in weekly questionnaires as part of the Space Headaches experiment (on 2 and 9 March), which is determining the incidence and characteristics of headaches occurring within astronauts in orbit. The weekly questionnaires follow on from one week of filling in daily questionnaires during the first week after launch on Soyuz 29S on 21 December.
European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space
The Sun visibility window (the 50th) for the SOLAR facility to acquire scientific data which had started by 15 February closed on 26 February. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR are open for the facility to acquire scientific data when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun.
The SolACES instrument from SOLAR was placed in a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument's optics from degradation) on 28 February in preparation for an ISS reboost the following day. Following the reboost SolACES remained in this warm-up configuration until the end of the reporting period. The next Sun visibility window is expected to open on 18 March.
The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun's irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range currently for around four years on orbit. This has so far produced excellent scientific data during a series of Sun observation cycles. Following the conclusion of the detailed technical feasibility study for on-orbit lifetime extension the science team will be able to continue gathering further science data in a period of increasing solar activity up to 2013 and possibly beyond.
Vessel Identification System (Vessel ID)
Successful data acquisition is ongoing for the Vessel Identification System (commonly known as the Automatic Identification System, AIS), using its Norwegian receiver, and telemetry is still being successfully received by the Norwegian User Support and Operation Centre (N-USOC) in Trondheim via ESA's Columbus Control Centre in Germany. The Vessel Identification System has acquired an extensive amount of data in the past 20 months since its installation in Columbus.
The Vessel Identification System consists of two different on-board receivers (NORAIS and LuxAIS), which were originally scheduled to be alternated every three months or so, and the so-called ERNO-Box, which is used as a data relay for the Vessel Identification System, whose antenna was installed on the outside of Columbus during an EVA on 21 November 2009. The Vessel Identification System is testing the means to track global maritime traffic from space by picking up signals from standard AIS transponders carried by all international ships over 300 tonnes, cargo vessels over 500 tonnes and all types of passenger carriers. Meanwhile various service entities have been asking to get access to the Vessel ID data which is continuously acquired on Columbus.
Additional European science inside the US ISS segment
Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) in the First Materials Science Research Rack (MSRR)
The science programme for the MSL Batch 2a experiments (MICAST-2, CETSOL-2, SETA-2) is currently on hold pending the assessment of the power down of the Materials Science Research Rack and the Materials Science Laboratory that occurred on 30 September due to the crash of the primary Payload Multiplexer/Demultiplexer (MDM) computer in the US laboratory. Following a ground-commanded furnace characterisation test on 15 November, engineering teams have defined the next steps to be taken to help bring the Material Science Laboratory back to full functionality. During the 30 September power down some graphite foil detached from an element of the Sample Cartridge Assembly of the SETA experiment sample. This sample was being processed inside the Materials Science Laboratory at the time.
The first six Batch 2 samples were delivered to the ISS on STS-135/ULF-7 Shuttle Atlantis in July 2011 (two each for the CETSOL, MICAST and SETA experiments). In addition to the one SETA sample one CETSOL and one MICAST sample have already been processed from the Batch 2a samples. Very promising preliminary scientific results from the first batch of CETSOL/MICAST samples that were processed in Materials Science Laboratory in 2009/2010 have already been presented by the science teams. This constitutes an excellent basis for further materials research with international collaboration.
CETSOL (Columnar-to-Equiaxed Transition in Solidification Processing) and MICAST (Microstructure Formation in Casting of Technical Alloys under Diffusive and Magnetically Controlled Convective Conditions) are two complementary material science projects. The goal of MICAST is to study the formation of microstructures during casting of technical alloys. In space, buoyancy convection is eliminated and the dendritic solidification of the alloys can be quantitatively studied under purely diffusive conditions. The objective of CETSOL is then to study the transition from columnar growth to equiaxed growth that occurs when crystals start to nucleate in the melt and grow independently. The SETA (Solidification along a Eutectic path in Ternary Alloys) experiment is looking into a specific type of eutectic growth in alloys of aluminium manganese and silicon. Results of all these experiments will help to optimise industrial casting processes.
Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) and associated experiments
With experiment activities for the SODI-DSC experiment complete on 16 January activities have been on-going inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for NASA's Structure and Liftoff In Combustion Experiment (SLICE), which was installed inside the Glovebox on 20 January. ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit configured the experiment's pyrometry hardware on different days between 27 February - 9 March and completed four different flame tests. The tests covered different conditions. The goal of the experiment is to gain unique data which will help improve numerical modelling, and hence improve design tools and practical combustion on Earth by increasing combustion efficiency and reducing pollutant emission for practical combustion devices.
The SODI-DSC experiment was the third Selectable Optical Diagnostic Instrument (SODI) experiment processed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox. The DSC ('Diffusion and Soret Coefficient Measurements for Improvement of Oil Recovery') experiment followed the implementation of the partially re-defined liquid mixtures in conjunction with the new ELIPS project DCMIX. The experiment is supporting research to determine diffusion coefficients in different petroleum field samples and refine petroleum reservoir models to help lead to more efficient extraction of oil resources.
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was developed by ESA within the Early Utilisation barter agreement with NASA. The Glovebox provides the ability to perform a wide range of experiments in the fields of materials science, biotechnology, fluid science, combustion science and crystal growth research, in a fully sealed and controlled environment.
Portable Pulmonary Function System (PPFS) Experiments
On 2 March another session of ESA's Thermolab and EKE experiments in conjunction with NASA's Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment was performed by ISS Commander Dan Burbank (his 4th). On 6 March ESA astronaut André Kuipers undertook his third session of the joint experiments. He was followed on 7 March by Don Pettit who also undertook his 3rd session of the experiments. Data was downlinked to ground after the sessions. The Thermolab experiment uses the ESA-developed Portable Pulmonary Function System to investigate thermoregulatory and cardiovascular adaptations during rest and exercise in the course of long-term exposure to weightlessness. The EKE experiment has specific goals to develop a diagnostic tool for the assessment of endurance capacity from oxygen uptake and heart rate in response to changes in exercise intensity and the development of a physiological model to explore the transport of oxygen from the lungs to muscle cells. The Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) is aimed at measuring oxygen uptake and cardiac output in particular, during various degrees of exercise.
The Portable Pulmonary Function System is an autonomous multi-user facility supporting a broad range of human physiological research experiments under weightless conditions in the areas of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic physiology.
The ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts) hardware has been active since 15 February to undertake data acquisition under NASA responsibility. The hardware was deactivated and the associated facility laptop rebooted followed by reactivation of the ALTEA hardware. ESA astronaut André Kuipers restarted dosimetry data acquisition hereafter. Data acquisition for the previous ALTEA-Survey part of the latest ESA ALTEA-Shield experiment series had finished on 4 December with 112 cumulative days of science acquisition in its most recent location. The Survey part of the experiment has been undertaking a 3-dimensional survey of the radiation environment in the US laboratory.
The ALTEA hardware will be moved to the Columbus laboratory after ATV-3 launch and docking in March. The ALTEA hardware will hereafter be installed in EXPRESS Rack 3 to undertake the Shield part of the experiment, testing two different types of shielding materials (and different thicknesses of each material) against cosmic rays. This will be undertaken in two sessions scheduled to last 40 days each.
The ALTEA experiments aim at obtaining a better understanding of the light flash phenomenon, and more generally the interaction between cosmic rays and brain function.
Commissioning of ESA's new NightPod system has been on-going with André Kuipers continuing to use the system during the weekend of 25, 26 February. The objective of the commissioning activity is to verify the ability of the system to collect photos of selected targets in manual and automatic mode. The confirmation that all NightPod commissioning objectives have been met is pending the retrieval and analysis of the photos acquired during the commissioning activities.
The NightPod 'tracking device' will support a Nikon 3DS camera in taking high-definition pictures of the Earth, especially at night. In a global outreach effort, the footage will be available for the public on the internet. The payload will also be used for education purposes in order to teach children and students about geography and demographic distribution on Earth.
European science inside the Russian ISS Segment
GTS-2 (Global Transmission Service)
The Global Transmission Service was deactivated on 31 May 2009 though following negotiations with Russian representatives the instrument has been successfully reactivated and functionally tested for continuation as a cooperative joint European-Russian experiment on the ISS. This experiment is intended to test the receiving conditions of a time and data signal for dedicated receivers on the ground. The time signal distributed by the GTS has special coding to allow the receiver to determine the local time anywhere on Earth without user intervention. The main scientific objectives of the experiment are to verify under real space operation conditions: the performance and accuracy of a time signal transmitted to the Earth's surface from low Earth orbit; the signal quality and data rates achieved on the ground; and measurement of disturbing effects such as Doppler shifts, multi-path reflections, shadowing and elevation impacts.
Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Human Research Facility 1
On 8 March Human Research Facility 1 was used in connection with NASA's Integrated Cardiovascular experiment with ESA astronaut André Kuipers as test subject assisted by ISS Commander Dan Burbank. This consisted of ultrasound scans using the facility as well ECG and heart rate measurements being taken and downloading experiment data to the facility laptop. The following day the same procedures were undertaken with ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit as test subject assisted by André Kuipers. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms.
Human Research Facility 2
The facility was activated on 24 February in connection with blood draw activities for ESA astronaut André Kuipers for NASA's Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol. Following the blood draw, the samples were centrifuged in the facility's Refrigerated Centrifuge before being stowed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers. Activities were supported by the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.
The two NASA Human Research Facilities support different areas of physiology research.
ISS general system information and activities *
Columbus laboratory and Columbus Control Centre
In addition to the Columbus experiment facilities mentioned above, the Columbus systems have been working well. Some regular maintenance activities have been executed by the crew and the Flight Control Team on top of the regular conferences of the ISS Crew with the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Highlights of the past two weeks include:
ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers took air samples in Columbus (as well as the US laboratory and Russian Service Module) on 27 February using Grab Sample Containers. Analyses of the oxygen levels in the Columbus cabin atmosphere were also undertaken by Kuipers the following day using two Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen instruments.
Kuipers set up two new T61p laptops in the Columbus laboratory on 28 February as part of transitioning the Columbus laboratory to new Cycle 13 software. As part of procedures, after laptop set up Kuipers initiated a complete software reload of the laptops. This will be followed in the future by upgrading the Columbus Data Management System and then integrating Columbus into the Joint Station LAN.
ISS Live Link with German Chancellor at World's Largest IT Show
An ESA public affairs event was successfully carried out in the Columbus laboratory on 5 March with a live link between ESA astronaut André Kuipers on the ISS and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to open the world's largest IT show (CeBIT) in Hannover, Germany. Questions were also put to André by students from the YouTube Space Lab science competition. Also participating in the event were ESA's Director for Human Spaceflight and Operations, Thomas Reiter, Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, David McAllister, the Prime Minister of the German State of Lower Saxony and Prof. Dieter Kempf, President of the German Association for Information Technology. The keynote speaker was Eric Schmidt, Chairman of the Board of Google. Kuipers downlinked the footage to the Columbus Control Centre over the next two days.
Activities of ESA astronaut André Kuipers
System and payload activities
During the two weeks until 9 March in addition to what is stated in the rest of the report, ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers: serviced the GLACIER (General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator) freezer in the US laboratory by replacing its dessicant packs with fresh ones; performed periodic hatch seal inspection in all modules in the non-Russian segment of the ISS; activated the Multi-Protocol Converter and started downlink of video recorded during an education activity the previous day; carried out a periodic inspection of portable emergency equipment including fire extinguishers and breathing apparatus; and inspected and cleaned bacterial filters in the three ISS Nodes, the US Airlock and the US laboratory.
In addition to the European science programme detailed above ESA astronaut André Kuipers has carried out science activities in support of the science programmes of ESA's ISS partners. This included: being a subject for NASA's 'Reaction Self Test' experiment which looks into how planned sleep shift for ISS crews affects performance; diet logging and pH spot tests as well as 24 hr urine collection and blood sampling as part of NASA's Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocols; and conducting the weekly inspection and maintenance of Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus payloads 4 and 5 in the US laboratory. Kuipers also assisted Don Pettit by taking documentary photographs of NASA's Binary Colloidal Alloy Test-6 experiment during experiment procedures.
Health status activities
The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the two weeks until 9 March André Kuipers has undertaken: a session of the Russian "Hematokrit" test which measures the red blood cell count; a Russian body mass measurement protocol; filling in Food Frequency Questionnaires used to estimate nutritional intake for the astronauts and give recommendations to ground specialists that help maintain optimal crew health; as well as undertaking regular exercise routines to maintain his physical well-being while in orbit. Kuipers also acted as Crew Medical Officer for ISS Commander Dan Burbank for undertaking a US Periodic Health Status check which uses a stethoscope, oral thermometer and Blood Pressure Cuff for measurement.
During the two weeks until 9 March Kuipers and the other ISS crew members have had their regular Planning Conferences with ESA's Columbus Control Centre as well as Mission Control in Houston and Moscow, and the Japanese Flight Control Team at the Tsukuba Space Centre. In addition Kuipers also: deployed (and two days later retrieved) four Formaldehyde Monitoring Kits in the US laboratory and Russian Service Module to catch any atmospheric formaldehyde; initiated additional runs of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere; helped in clearing up the US Airlock and the endcone of the European-built Permanent Multipurpose Module in preparation for receiving cargo destined for delivery on ATV-3; and carried out inventories of the Contingency Water Containers on board. Kuipers also supported public affairs/education activities during the two-week period. This included the opening event for the CeBIT IT Show (see above) with a live link with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel; a live amateur radio session on 6 March to ESA's ESTEC facility in Noordwijk the Netherlands with children who won ESA's Ruimteschip Aarde (Spaceship Earth) competition; and two NASA education events, the first demonstrating the concept of how changing dimensions changes volume to provide students a better understanding of the habitable volume and stowage situation on the ISS, the second aimed to demonstrate optic image inversion using a free floating sphere of water.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
No activities were carried out using the exercise equipment in the European-built Node 3 in addition to the regular use, inspection and servicing of ARED and the T2/COLBERT treadmill in which ESA astronaut André Kuipers was also involved.
Regenerative ECLSS and Additional Environmental Control Racks
The two Water Recovery System racks, together with the Oxygen Generation System rack, form the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) which is necessary in support of a six-person ISS Crew to help reduce upload mass. Other environmental control racks in Node 3 include an Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack and a Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Highlights of the two weeks until 9 March include:
Water Recovery System racks: Sampling
Kuipers used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks on 27 February and 6 March.
Water Recovery System rack 1 - Water Processor Assembly
The Water Processor Assembly was shut down on 3 March following a pressure decrease in the catalytic reactor, which is indicative of an internal leak since the crew did not observe any water spills. As a consequence the Sabatier was shut down and the Oxygen Generator Assembly performance has been reduced accordingly to limit potable water consumption. Following the shutdown additional water transfer operations were taking place and the ISS crew were feeding the Water Processor Assembly's drinking water tank with water from contingency water containers.
On 8 March the catalytic reactor was replaced with an on-orbit spare by ISS Commander Dan Burbank. The new catalytic reactor is fitted with a new type of seal. Burbank inspected the failed reactor the following day, and found a leak on a catalyst tube fitting. Activities were closed out and the new catalytic reactor is successfully processing
Water Recovery System racks: Urine Processor Assembly
At the start of the two week period André Kuipers carried out procedures to manually fill the Urine Processor Assembly in Water Recovery System 2 from waste water containers.
Waste and Hygiene Compartment
André Kuipers swapped out elements of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment (Urine Receptacle hose and Insert Filter) on 1 March.
Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack
A number of problems have been affecting the Node 3 Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly (in the Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack) requiring the restart of the equipment and causing large inoperable periods. The same system in the US laboratory has therefore been activated and both assemblies have been running in parallel to allowing the CO2 levels to fall a nominal level.
Minus-Eighty degree Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
There are three European-built MELFI freezers on the ISS: MELFI-1 and MELFI-2 in the Japanese laboratory and MELFI-3 in the US laboratory. In the two-week reporting period samples were placed in the MELFI units for NASA's Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol (blood, urine) for ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers.
Soyuz 28S Descent Drill
A standard Soyuz emergency descent drill was carried out by ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin and NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Dan Burbank on 27 February. The descent drill, which took place in the Descent Module of the Soyuz 28S spacecraft is for the review of Soyuz descent procedures including emergency procedures and manual undocking. The training session used a descent simulator application on a Russian laptop together with a descent hand controller.
Chibis Suit Upgrade
ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Oleg Kononenko converted the two Russian Chibis suits into advanced Chibis-M suits on 28 February, using components delivered in a Chibis-M Kit. The suits were then powered up and tested for several pressure settings. The Chibis lower body negative pressure suit provides stress that simulates gravity to the body's cardiovascular/circulatory system and helps to evaluate how the Russian crewmembers would cope with, and prepare them for, exposure to gravity on return to Earth.
Orbital debris from a Chinese CZ-4B launcher was being monitored for the possibility of it coming in close proximity to the ISS (times of closest approach on 29 February). A reboost was already planned and this was used to increase the separation from the debris. On 29 February the reboost of the ISS was undertaken using the Service Module Propulsion System. The manoeuvre lasted 1 min 16 sec, and increased the ISS altitude by 2.1 km placing it at a mean altitude of 391 km. In addition to acting as a debris avoidance manoeuvre, the reboost placed the ISS in an optimal flight profile for future launch and docking of Progress 47P and Soyuz 30S and undocking and landing of Soyuz 29S.
ATV-3 Launch Preparations
During the two week reporting period ESA astronaut André Kuipers took part in activities to clear up the US Airlock and the endcone of the European-built Permanent Multipurpose Module in preparation for receiving cargo destined for delivery on ATV-3, which is now scheduled for launch on 23 March. ISS Commander Dan Burbank also assisted in the activities.
Payload Multiplexer/Demultiplexer Computers
ISS commander Dan Burbank removed the Payload 2 Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computer from Avionics Rack 3 in the US laboratory on 28 February and installed a new Enhanced Processor and Integrated Communications (EPIC) processor card loaded with new software, Ethernet cable and front cover before reinstalling the computer back in the avionics rack. Burbank repeated the activities on the Payload 1 Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computer in Avionics Rack 3 the following day. The new software will allow more payloads to be active and communicate with the Payload Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computers simultaneously.
Russian Thermal Control System
From 28 February - 2 March Ivanishin carried out major maintenance activities on the thermal control system in the Russian Service Module by removing the old SMOK condensate lines and replacing them with new spares.
Soyuz 29S Couch Fit Check
ISS Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko, André Kuipers and Don Pettit carried out fit checks of their Soyuz Kazbek couches on 29 February whilst wearing their Russian Sokol spacesuits in the Soyuz 29S spacecraft.
Multipurpose Small Payload Rack
From 29 February - 2 March ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit successfully completed a functional checkout of the Multipurpose Small Payload Rack Combustion Chamber in the Japanese laboratory. He removed the combustion chamber and mounted it on the work volume to check out the power, verify the Local Area Network and USB connections and inspect the cables and hardware. Hereafter a functional and a video connection checkout were successfully performed.
Robotic Refuelling Mission
The Mobile Transporter (with the Stations principal robotic arm) was moved along the Station truss to Worksite 2 from Worksite 5 on 1 March in preparation for the Robotic Refuelling Mission which was carried out from 7 - 10 March to demonstrate techniques and technologies that can be used for servicing satellites in space in the future. The activities used the Station's robotic arm together with the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (Dextre) and additional tools. The tasks undertaken included unstowing different tools (Wire Cutting Tool, Multi-Function Tool, Safety Cap Removal Tool), checking out the tools and stowing them again.
H-II Transfer Vehicle 3 (HTV-3) Preparations
In preparation for the future launch of the Japanese HTV-3 ISS logistics vehicle, André Kuipers set up its ISS control panel in the Japanese laboratory on 2 March for checking out the related Proximity Communication System. On 4 March Kuipers supported Japanese ground operations by powering up the system in the Inter-Satellite Communication System rack in the Japanese laboratory to verify if ground controllers could turn control panel switches on and off, and check out baseband function performance and the command transmission from the HTV control panel to the HTV simulator on ground. The test was successful. On 6 and 7 activities with the control panel and proximity equipment were again undertaken, with parameters being reset from the ground in order to undertake a system checkout, this time for the Cygnus commercial logistics spacecraft for the ISS which is also due to be launched in the future. Activities were again supported by André Kuipers.
Coronal Mass Ejection
An energetic solar particle event started on 7 March and was on-going at the end of the reporting period on 9 March. This event was largest Coronal Mass Ejection seen in 15 years. It sparked a radiation alert for the ISS but did not require the crew to shelter during this period.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 9 March include: unloading cargo delivered on Progress 46P and loading Progress 46P with waste and excess equipment no longer needed on the ISS; replacing the failed Rack Interface Controller in EXPRESS Rack 4; replacing the TVS video system monitor in the Russian Service Module with an upgraded unit; a thorough cleaning of intake and exhaust ducts, ventilation fan and airflow sensor in the Deck Crew Quarters in Node 2; troubleshooting on NASA's ISS Agriculture Camera; swapping an electrical food warmer in the Russian Service Module with a new spare; replacing three smoke detectors in the Russian Poisk module with upgraded units; and replacing a light fixture in the Russian toilet facility with a new unit.
(*)These activities are highlights of the past two weeks and do not include the majority of standard periodic operational/maintenance activities on the ISS or additional research activities not mentioned previously. Information compiled with the assistance of NASA sources.
ISS general system information and activities *
(*)These activities are highlights of the past two weeks and do not include the majority of standard periodic operational/maintenance activities on the ISS or additional research activities not mentioned previously. Information compiled with the assistance of NASA sources.
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer
Weekly reports compiled by ESA's ISS Utilisation Department.
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