ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 115 Increment 30

Columbus logo
23 March 2012

This is ISS status report #115 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.

Highlight: ESA's third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) called Edoardo Amaldi was launched to the ISS on 23 March by an Ariane 5 from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Europe's ISS logistics spacecraft will dock with the Space Station after a five to six day journey in orbit.

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

The Biolab facility was activated on 23 March and a ground-commanded alignment test of rotors A and B was carried out successfully. 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 Summer 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 was launched on ATV-3 on 23 March and will be 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 incubator

No activities were carried out using the European Drawer Rack facility in the two weeks until 23 March. 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 23 March. Two non-rotation runs were carried out from 13 - 15 March and all but one of the set points were acquired. Science data and data from the Microgravity Vibration Isolation System was downlinked and is undergoing analysis by the science team. The Geoflow-2 experiment campaign is now close to completion.

These activities follow on from extensive Geoflow-2 experiment runs, which started processing in the Fluid Science Laboratory in March 2011. 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 in Geoflow-1) 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 and associated experiments

The Passages neuroscience experiment was undertaken in front of the European Physiology Modules facility on 15 March (see below). Data from the two in-flight questionnaires filled in previously by André for the Neurospat experiment were also successfully transferred to the ground the same day. NeuroSpat, which was the first experiment to make full use the European Physiology Modules facility in June 2009, is investigating the ways in which crew members' three-dimensional perception is affected by long-duration stays in weightlessness. The NeuroSpat experiment protocol also incorporates an experiment (Prespat) from the European Commission within the SURE project.

The European Physiology Modules facility was additionally activated on 21 March in connection with the CARD experiment, undertaken by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers (see below). This also involved use of the ESA/NASA Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2.

ESA astronaut André Kuipers carried out troubleshooting steps on the Cardiopres Continuous Blood Pressure Device of the European Physiology Modules facility on 23 March. This included inspection of power adaptors and their connectors and powering up the device whilst testing each power adaptor individually and together. The device was assumed failed though the steps undertaken by Kuipers demonstrated specific functionality of the device. The cause of the previous failure is still under investigation.

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.

Card Experiment

André Kuipers session of the Card experiment scheduled for 21, 22 March has been deferred due to a problem associated with the Pulmonary Function System (see below) during cardiac output measurement.

Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)

The Pulmonary Function System was activated and calibrated by André Kuipers on 21 March to undertake rebreathing sessions in connection with the CARD experiment on 21, 22 March. Three rebreathing sessions were scheduled for the first day and two for the second. Following a successful first session where cardiac output measurement was undertaken during the rebreathing protocols the subsequent sessions had to be cancelled due to a problem with Pulmonary Function System Bag Filling Assembly. The connector of the bag-filling hose broke off during gas filling due to stress on the hose. The experiment consumables had not been used at that point allowing for a prompt replanning of the experiment if the connector can be repaired on orbit. Photos of the connector have been downlinked for analysis.

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.

Passages Experiment

ISS Commander Dan Burbank performed his final session of the PASSAGES experiment on 15 March. The data was downlinked after the session and has been confirmed as good quality for all of the measurements. This session also marks the completion of all the on-orbit activities for the experiment, which now only requires two post-flight baseline data collection sessions. PASSAGES uses the Neurospat light shield attached to a multipurpose laptop additionally attached to the front of the European Physiology Modules facility. The PASSAGES experiment is designed to test how astronauts interpret visual information in weightlessness using virtual reality stimuli such as traversing through a virtual door. This neurological experiment can improve our knowledge of neurological processes and provide an insight into the efficiency of performing certain tasks in space, which in turn can improve training techniques for astronauts.

European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS)

No activities were carried out using the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks until 23 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)

A troubleshooting plan is being developed to determine the source of high friction values and a communication problem experienced during commissioning activities for the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES). Functional testing will be resumed on resolution of this. 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 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.

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.

Space Headaches

ESA astronaut André Kuipers continued filling in weekly questionnaires as part of the Space Headaches experiment (on 16 and 23 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. All questionnaires (except one) have now been downlinked via a secure procedure.

Mission X - Train Like An Astronaut

On 23 March André Kuipers closed out the Mission X: train like an astronaut education programme by recording a video announcing the winners of the participating teams and providing an encouraging message to all those who participated. Mission X is a worldwide educational initiative supported by ESA and national space agencies to encourage healthy and active lifestyles among children aged 8-12 years. As a focus of the programme, astronauts inspire children to eat healthily and exercise regularly.

European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space

SOLAR

The 51st Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility to acquire scientific data opened on 19 March. 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 had been in a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument's optics from degradation) at the beginning of the reporting period, though the instrument was cooled back down from 12 March in anticipation of this latest Sun Visibility Window.

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 12 March - 23 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

No activities were carried out using the Portable Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 23 March. 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.

ALTEA-Shield Experiments

The ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts) hardware has been active since 15 February to undertake data acquisition under NASA responsibility. 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 docking at the end of 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.

NightPod

The confirmation that all NightPod commissioning objectives have been met is pending the retrieval and analysis of the photos acquired during the commissioning activities which took place in 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 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

During the two-week period until 23 March activities were carried out using NASA's Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESA's Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers carried out his third ambulatory monitoring session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment from 12 - 14 March assisted by Dan Burbank as Crew Medical Officer. ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit carried out his third ambulatory monitoring session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment from 14 - 16 March assisted by Kuipers as Crew Medical Officer. These sessions included 24-hr blood pressure measurement using ESA's Cardiopres device, 48-hr ECG measurement with a holter device and 48-hr activity measurements using two Actiwatches. Relevant data for the experiment was downloaded to the Human Research Facility laptop after the sessions. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms.

André Kuipers set up of the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) in Human Research Facility 1 on 15 March and he and Pettit undertook body mass measurement with the device.

On 21 March ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit used facility hardware to perform a leg muscle ultrasound scan on himself for NASA's SPRINT protocol, assisted by Kuipers. SPRINT evaluates the use of high intensity, low volume exercise training to minimize loss of muscle, bone, and cardiovascular function in ISS crewmembers during long-duration missions.

Human Research Facility 2

Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 21 March for undertaking rebreathing sessions for
André Kuipers with the ESA/NASA Pulmonary Function System in connection with ESA's CARD experiment (see above). 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:

  • Power Outlet Tests
    NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit conducted Ground Fault Interrupt tests on twelve 120 V DC outlets in the Columbus laboratory on 16 March to verify their integrity.
  • ISS Agricultural Camera
    ESA astronaut and ISS astronaut André Kuipers located two missing installation DVDs for the NASA ISS Agricultural Camera in Columbus on 16 March and stowed them for future use.
  • Video Compression test
    A Video Compression High Rate Data test was performed on 17 March. A documented incompatibility anomaly was observed for different compressed video data rates though. settings have been established at each data rate where the anomaly is no longer observed.

Activities of ESA astronaut André Kuipers

  • System and payload activities
    During the two weeks until 23 March in addition to what is stated in the rest of the report, ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers: supported ISS Commander and NASA astronaut Dan Burbank with servicing two US EVA suits; tightened loose fasteners on the Sample Delivery System sample probe in the US Airlock; activated the Multi-Protocol Converter and started downlink of recorded video/data; and carried out troubleshooting activities for NASA's ISS Agricultural Camera via its laptop.
  • Experiment Activities
    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; conducting the weekly inspection and maintenance of Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus payloads 4 and 5 in the US laboratory; activating relevant equipment and installing experiment units in the 0g and 1g Incubation Units of the Cell Biology Experiment Facility in the Japanese laboratory in support of ground-commanded research; removing the Marangoni Surface fluid physics experiment from the Fluid Physics Experiment Facility of Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack in the Japanese laboratory; activities for NASA's NanoRacks Smartphone Module-17 experiment, which is checking out how smartphones operate in space; and servicing NASA's VIABLE (eValuatIon And monitoring of microBiofiLms insidE the ISS) experiment, by touching and blowing on the top of each bag to collect environmental samples for the evaluation of microbial biofilm development on space materials.
  • Health status activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the two weeks until 23 March André Kuipers has undertaken: an On-Orbit Hearing Assessment; a session of the WinSCAT (Spaceflight Cognitive Assessment Tool for Windows) experiment, which is used for testing cognitive abilities; a US Periodic Health Status check which uses a stethoscope, oral thermometer and Blood Pressure Cuff for measurement; a Russian Biochemical Urinalysis assessment; and filled 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 carried out a monthly check of the Crew Health Care Systems defibrillator; a monthly Crew Medical Officer training to refresh ability in a number of critical health areas; and acted as Crew Medical Officer for ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit for undertaking a US Periodic Health Status check.
  • Other activities
    During the two weeks until 23 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: initiated an additional run of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere; helped in clearing up the European-built Permanent Multipurpose Module partly in preparation for receiving cargo destined for delivery on ATV-3; carried out inventories of the Contingency Water Containers on board; and performed an acoustic survey in different ISS modules. Kuipers also supported public affairs/education activities during the two-week period. This included responding to interview questions form Bloomberg TV in London (together with the US ISS crew members); signing nine paintings by Shilov with the rest of the ISS Crew for return to earth with Soyuz 28S, and conducting amateur radio contacts with Middenschool de Regenboog Bree, in Bree, Belgium and the Centre de Formation de la Base Aerienne de Payerne, in Switzerland

Activities in the European-built Node 3

  • Exercise Equipment
    Sessions of the new Treadmill Kinematics protocol on the T2 COLBERT treadmill in the European-built Node 3 were carried out by Dan Burbank, Don Pettit and André Kuipers on 13, 14 and 16 March respectively. This protocol is making an assessment of current exercise protocols. Burbank also performed the six-month inspection/maintenance of the treadmill on 23 March. These activities were in addition to the regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (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 23 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 12 March. This was also undertaken by ISS Commander Dan Burbank on 19 March.

    • Water Recovery System racks - Water Processor Assembly
      Following replacement of its catalytic reactor on 8 March a full process cycle of the Water Processor Assembly has been completed and the system continues to operate normally. An effluent sample from a Multifiltration Bed of the Water Processor Assembly in Water Recovery System 2 was taken by Dan Burbank on 19 March. Three days later André Kuipers transferred the contents of a contingency water container to the Waste Water Tank of the Water Recovery System for processing.

    • Water Recovery System racks: Urine Processor Assembly
      André Kuipers replaced the Recycle Filter Tank Assembly in Water Recovery System Rack 2 on 19 March. The old-style Recycle Filter Tank Assemblies are currently being used for approximately six months, instead of the Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly units, until all onboard spares of the older units are depleted. The following day Kuipers undertook manual transfer of urine from a waste container to the Waste Storage Tank of the Urine Processor Assembly. In addition Dan Burbank hooked up the Recycle Filter Tank Assembly to the Water Recovery System Rack for the periodic backfill.

    • Waste and Hygiene Compartment
      Dan Burbank carried out troubleshooting on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment on 20, 21 March. After looking for an air leak in the flush water lines and water valve block on the first day, Burbank replaced the pre-treat/water pump and pre-treat tank with spares. Functionality of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment has now been recovered These activities followed a pre-treat 'bad quality' indication on 17 March.

  • Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter
    On 12 March the Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter, one of the principal radiation measurement devices on the ISS, was relocated from Node 3 to the Russian Service Module by André Kuipers.

ATV-3 Launch

  • Launch preparations
    In preparation for the arrival of the third of ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV-3) at the ISS, Flight Engineers André Kuipers (ESA) and Oleg Kononenko (Roscosmos) carried out training sessions on an ATV rendezvous simulator in the Russian Service Module on 21 and 23 March, which included rendezvous and docking malfunctions. The two astronauts also tested the ATV's Proximity Communications Equipment, Antenna Feeder Unit, and Hand Controller. On 22 March Kononenko tested the Service Modules TV system for monitoring ATV docking. The following day Kuipers gathered equipment together for ingressing ATV after docking.
  • ATV-3 Launch
    ESA's third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) called Edoardo Amaldi was launched on 23 March at 05:34 CET (01:34 local time) by an Ariane 5 from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Europe's ISS logistics spacecraft will deliver 100 kg of oxygen, 285 kg of water, 4 tonnes of propellant, and 2.25 tonnes of dry cargo to the ISS.

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. ESA astronaut André Kuipers removed the desiccant packages from MELFI-3 on 14 March. MELFI-3 was also powered up from ground to perform a Brayton motor characterisation test.

Robotics Activities

Kuipers and Pettit undertook a periodic proficiency test with the Station's principal robotic arm on 12 March. Based inside the European-built Cupola Module the astronauts were tasked with releasing the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator 'Dextre' from its grapple fixture outside the ISS, manoeuvre it to a different position, then command an auto sequence to manoeuvre the robotic arm to a position for translation along the ISS truss. On 14 March the Mobile Transporter with the ISS robotic arm was manoeuvred from Worksite 2 on the Station's truss to Worksite 4.

PK-3+

ISS Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko installed the Russian/German Plasma Crystal-3 Plus (PK-3+) hardware on 12 March. The main objective of this experiment is to obtain a homogeneous plasma dust cloud at various pressures and particle quantities with or without superimposition of a low frequency harmonic electrical field. The PK-3+ experiment was also undertaken during the Astrolab mission with ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter.

KVD Pressure Equalization Valve

Kononenko replaced a pressure equalisation valve in the hatch between the Zarya Module's Instrumentation and Cargo Compartment and the Service Module on 12 March. Two days later Kononenko together with Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov performed a successful leak check of the pressure valve, lasting several hours. The valve was replaced because it functioned nominally in manual mode, but leaked when operated in electrical mode.

Robonaut

Testing of NASA's Robonaut hardware continued on 13, 14 March. On the first day Don Pettit installed heat sinks in both forarms of the robotic mannequin to eliminate thermal constraints for Robonaut operations. This was followed by ground-commanded activities including running sign language scripts for Robonaut's arms, hands and fingers. On the second day of testing the ground-commanded activities included commanding the robot hardware to measure air velocity in the US laboratory using the Velocicalc instrument on the ISS. On completion Dan Burbank and André Kuipers dismantled and stowed the robotic hardware.

High Rate Communication System

Following inspections undertaken the previous day ISS Commander Dan Burbank (assisted by Don Pettit) spent the majority of his working day on 16 March upgrading the ISS Ku-band system, routing and installing cabling (Ethernet, power and 1553 data cable bundles) in the US laboratory for the High Rate Communication System. The work involved clearing stowage items out of the way and rotating a rack forward. On 20 March Burbank additionally installed a connector panel for the system. Additional installation tasks will be planned in the future. Once complete the High Rate Communication System will provide substantially faster uplink and downlink speeds, improved bandwidth, two extra Space/Ground) voice loops, two extra video downlink channels, contingency Ku Commanding capability, and additional data to be downlinked from the Payload and Command and Control multiplexer/demultiplexer computers.

Orbital Debris

Orbital debris from a Chinese Fengyun satellite was being monitored for the possibility of it coming in close proximity to the ISS (time of closest approach on 23 March). However it was subsequently determined that the debris posed no threat of a collision with the ISS so no further action was required. The following day more debris generated from the collision between the Russian Cosmos 2251 and US Iridium 33 communications satellites in 2009 with a possible time of closest approach on 24 March. Due to the late notification of this small piece of debris, there was not sufficient time to plan a debris avoidance manoeuvre by the ISS. As such the crew took shelter in their Soyuz vehicles the following morning about 30 mins before the time of closest approach. The debris passed by the ISS without incident.

Other Activities

Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 23 March include: photographing a possible defect on a window in the Russian 'Poisk' Mini-Research Module 2 for ground analysis; installing cables and accessories between the Cell Biology Experiment Facility and the Video Signal Converter Unit of the Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack in the Japanese laboratory; installation of sliding shelves in the Russian 'Rassvet' Mini-Research Module 1; servicing the two MERLIN (Microgravity Experiment Research Locker Incubator) freezers, placing desiccant packs in one and emptying and drying out the other; a checkout of the service Module thermal loop 2 and associated equipment, looking for possible leaks and assessing the amount of air contained in the coolant; a characterisation test on the Lira antenna feeder using a spectrum analyser in preparation of planned launches of more Russian Luch (Altair) communications satellites; checking out the Lulin-ISS radiation hardware to allow for an extension of its operations warranty; and testing of the Electric Power System Channel B Power Controller in the Service Module.

(*)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.

Contact:
Martin Zell
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department
martin.zell[@]esa.int

Rosita Suenson
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer
rosita.suenson[@]esa.int

Weekly reports compiled by ESA's ISS Utilisation Department.

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