ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 152 Increment 36: 10 – 23 August 2013

Columbus logo
Columbus logo
2 September 2013

This is ISS status report #152 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 from the ISS Programme and Exploration Department.

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 on-going research taking place inside the US Destiny laboratory within international scientific collaboration agreements.

The current status of the European science package on the ISS is as follows:


Human Research
Space Headaches Experiment
ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano continued filling in weekly questionnaires (his 11th and 12th) on 16 and 23 August as part of the Space Headaches experiment. The weekly questionnaires follow on from one week of filling in daily questionnaires during the first week after launch on Soyuz 35S on 28 May.

The Space Headaches experiment is determining the incidence and characteristics of headaches occurring within astronauts in orbit. Headaches can be a common astronaut complaint during space flights. This can negatively affect mental and physical capacities of astronauts/cosmonauts which can influence performance during a space mission.

Skin-B Experiment
On 22 August Luca Parmitano undertook his fourth session of ESA’s new Skin-B experiment which is carried out in cooperation with DLR. The session consisted of three different non-invasive measurements taken on the inside part of the forearm. This included skin moisture measurement with a corneometer; trans epidermal water loss measurement to determine barrier function of the skin with a tewameter; and surface evaluation of the living skin with a UVA-light camera (visioscan). All data was downlinked after the session.

The Skin-B experiment will help to develop a mathematical model of aging skin and improve understanding of skin-aging mechanisms, which are accelerated in weightlessness. It will also provide a model for the adaptive processes for other tissues in the body.


ISS Partner Research
In addition to the European human research activities, NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 in Columbus was used for undertaking body mass measurements for the three non-Russian crew members (ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano, Karen Nyberg and Chris Cassidy) on 19 August after equipment set up by Luca Parmitano,.

The ultrasound equipment in NASA’s Human Research Facility was used for undertaking spinal ultrasound scans for ISS Flight Engineers Chris Cassidy and Luca Parmitano on 20 and 21 August respectively with the  astronauts assisting each other as ultrasound operator. The spinal ultrasound scans are part of a NASA investigation to characterise spinal changes during and after spaceflight.


Biology Research
Biolab Facility Maintenance
A full characterisation test of the two newly installed Life Support Modules came to a successful conclusion on 14 August following its start on 5 August. Biolab is a multi-user facility designed to support biological experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates.


Radiation Research
DOSIS-3D experiment
Data acquisition has been on-going for the Dose Distribution inside the ISS 3D (DOSIS-3D) experiment using the two active detectors and the set of passive detectors which were deployed at various locations around the Columbus laboratory on 3 April. The active detectors undertake time-dependent cosmic radiation measurements for the experiment, while the passive detectors are used in order to undertake 'area dosimetry' i.e. to measure the spatial radiation gradients inside the Columbus module. A monthly downlink of data from the active detectors was undertaken via the European Physiology Modules facility (within which the active detectors are located) on 14 August

The aim of the DOSIS-3D experiment is to determine the nature and distribution of the radiation field inside the ISS and follows on from the DOSIS experiment previously undertaken in the Columbus laboratory. Comparison of the dose rates for the DOSIS-3D and the DOSIS experiments shows a difference in dose level which can be explained due to the different altitude of the Station during the measurements. The DOSIS-3D experiment will build on the data gathered from the DOSIS experiment by combing data gathered in Columbus with ISS International Partner data gathered in other modules of the ISS.


Solar Research
SOLAR Facility
A new Sun Visibility Window (the 68th) for the Solar facility to acquire data with its two active instruments (SOLSPEC and SolACES) opened on 16 August. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR, which is located on the external platform of Columbus, are open for the facility to acquire scientific data when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun.

The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range for more than 5 years. This has so far produced excellent scientific data during a series of Sun observation cycles. An extension to the payload’s time in orbit could see its research activities extend up to early 2017 to monitor the whole solar cycle with unprecedented accuracy.


Fluids Research
FASES Experiment in the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL)
Following successful troubleshooting in the previous reporting period engineering teams are working on modifications in the commands sent to the sample carousel for the Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) experiment during moves of the sample cells. Whilst this is on-going a go-ahead has been given to resume science operations for a reduced number of samples located in the near vicinity of the FASES Thermal Control Unit, i.e. the optical observation zone. Also the partially failed thermal control function needs to be fixed for a set of low temperature experiments.

The FASES experiment, installed inside the Fluid Science Laboratory, investigates the effect of surface tension on the stability of emulsions. Thin emulsions of different compositions are stored inside 44 individual sample cells through which the emulsions will be optically and thermally characterised. The overall experiment duration is estimated with a minimum of 9 months. Results of the FASES experiment hold significance for oil extraction processes, and the chemical and food industries.


Materials Research
Materials Science Laboratory and Batch 2a experiments
The go-ahead has been given to resume the Batch 2a solidification experiments  (CETSOL-2, MICAST-2, SETA-2) in the Materials Science Laboratory (MSL). This had been temporarily on hold due to an unsolicited reboot of the Standard Payload Computer for the MSL which unexpectedly occurred during sample processing for one of the Batch 2a samples. As such on 21 August Luca Parmitano exchanged the SETA-2 cartridge located inside the MSL for a CETSOL-2 cartridge. Hereafter ground activated/deactivated the MSL in support of vacuum leak check and file transfers. 

ESA’s Material Science Laboratory is the primary research facility located in NASA’s Materials Science Research Rack-1 in the US Laboratory and jointly operated under a recently renewed bilateral cooperation agreement. 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. 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. Results of all these experiments will help to optimise industrial casting processes.


Technology Research
Vessel Identification System (Vessel ID)
Successful data acquisition is on-going 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. A problem with a Columbus  Mass Memory Unit which was preventing file uplink has been successfully resolved (see ISS General System Information and Activities below) and command file uplink has now been successfully achieved.

The Vessel Identification System has acquired an extensive amount of data for more than three years since its installation in Columbus. 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.


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 two weeks until 23 August include:

  • Ham Radio Sessions
    ISS Flight Engineer and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano used the amateur radio equipment in Columbus for undertaking a number of ham radio sessions in the two weeks until 23 August. This included sessions with participants of the 14th World Scout Moot Canada 2013 in Quebec on 12 August and also with students at a school and a university in Argentina on 14 and 19 August respectively.
  • Columbus Mass Memory Units
    A problem uplinking files to a Mass Memory Unit in Columbus has been successfully resolved. The problem affecting the file transfers from the Columbus Control Centre to the Mass Memory Unit was attributed to the Front End Processor located at control centre in Houston caused by a software modification. After a software fix was put in place, files were once again successfully uplinked to, and downlinked from, the Mass Memory Unit.
  • Smoke Detector Updates
    Several on-board limits of all the smoke detectors in Columbus have been updated in order to align caution trigger limits around the station.
  • Sound Level Measurements
    ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano undertook Station-wide sound level measurements on 19 August including in Columbus. This allowed the collection of the noise levels for Columbus Water Pump Assembly 2, which could only be outfitted with a partial acoustic cover when it was installed on 5 July. For the purpose of the measurements, all the available water flow selection valves were opened to increase the pump speed. Following the measurements, the valves were returned to their original position, Water Pump Assembly 2 was deactivated and Water Pump Assembly 1 was again re-activated.
  • Columbus Local Area Network (LAN)
    On 23 August Luca Parmitano successfully replaced an older Payload Ethernet Hub Gateway with an improved unit. The units are used for LAN communication with the US payloads in the Columbus module with the improved unit providing a data rate of 100 Mbps instead of 10Mbps like the older units as well as additional data channels.
  • Weekly Activities
    In addition to the above activities some standard weekly activities have taken place in Columbus including cycling of Interface Heat Exchanger Water On/Off Valves and Water Pump Assembly checkouts.


Activities of ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano

  • Experiment Activities
    In addition to the European science programme detailed in other parts of this report ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano has carried out other research activities in support of the science programmes of ESA’s ISS partners. This included: being a subject of NASA’s ‘Reaction Self Test’ experiment which looks into how planned sleep shift for ISS crews affects performance; removing and re-installing alignment guides from  the Combustion Integrated Rack in the US Laboratory for performing the Italian Combustion Experiment for Green Air (ICE-GA) which observes how different fuels burn in weightlessness (with a focus on second/third generation biofuels, or fundamental biofuel surrogates); and transferring accumulated imagery and additional tasks for NASA’s  Binary Colloidal Aggregated Test 3 (BCAT-3) experiment which will help manufacturers develop stronger, smarter materials for such things as faster computers and advanced optical devices.
  • Other activities
    During the two weeks until 23 August, Parmitano 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 Parmitano also: extended and rerouted the air duct line for the Amine Swingbed hardware, which is testing a smaller, more efficient carbon dioxide removal system; and tested air and surface samples throughout the station for microbial contamination together with NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy.


Activities in the European-built Node 3

  • 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 August include:
    • Waste and Hygiene Compartment:
      The pre-treat tank of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment was replaced by Luca Parmitano on 13 August.
    • Water Recovery System racks:Water Processor Assembly
      The two multifiltration beds from the Water Processor Assembly were replaced by Chris Cassidy on 21 August. This maintenance was required following earlier measurements with the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA)  that indicated the beds degradation.
  • Exercise Equipment
     NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg replaced a rope on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) on 21 August. ARED uses vacuum cylinders to simulate free weights for resistive exercise that helps astronauts maintain bone and muscle strength while in space.  

Russian Spacewalks

  • Spacewalk Preparations
    Prior to the first Russian EVA, Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin (the spacewalking cosmonauts): prepared EVA tools, carried out telemetry and communications checks on their Orlan EVA suits, conducted EVA suit fit and leak checks, and installed EVA lights, cameras and tool belts on their suits.
  • Russian EVA 34
    On completion of the standard pre-EVA procedures, the spacewalk was carried out by ISS Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin on 16 August. The first task that was achieved during the 7 hr 29 min EVA, which started at 16:36 (CEST) was the set-up of a Strela cargo boom (telescopic crane) on the Poisk Mini-Research Module 2. Once this was complete the boom was used by Misurkin to manoeuvre Yurchikhin (with Ethernet cables) to the Zarya module where Yurchikhin rerouted a cable connector and installed the cables. Prior to joining Yurchikhin, Misurkin installed a materials exposure experiment on the outside of the Poisk module as well as two connector patch panels and gap spanners (to assist spacewalkers in moving between modules outside of the ISS). Misurkin then assisted Yurchikhin in installation of the Ethernet cables and routing of power cables. A majority of the EVA work is in preparation for the arrival of the ‘Nauka’ Multipurpose Laboratory Module and European Robotic Arm, the final major modules set for launch to the ISS. The duration of the spacewalk makes it the longest Russian spacewalk in history. Once the EVA was complete the Service Module Transfer Compartment was repressurised, communications, ventilation and other systems were reconfigured back to the pre-EVA conditions and the cosmonauts carried out post-EVA medical procedures. During the Russian-based EVA Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Commander Pavel Vinogradov and NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy were isolated in the Russian Poisk Mini Research Module 2 with access to Soyuz 34S in case of a depressurisation contingency while ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano (ESA) and Karen Nyberg (NASA) were in the US segment of the ISS with access to Soyuz 35S docked at the Russian Rassvet Module for similar reasons. 
  • Post-EVA activities
    During the EVA the water-cooling loop on Fyodor Yurchikhin’s Orlan suit automatically switched over to the backup pump. Attempts by the crew to manually transition to the prime unit were unsuccessful. A checkout performed the day after the EVA reproduced the anomaly and the Orlan suit was declared unavailable with the exception of a contingency EVA. Fyodor Yurchikhin will use a different suit for the next Russian EVA. In the run up to the second Russian EVA, similar preparations was undertaken to the first EVA.
  • Russian EVA 35
     On completion of the standard pre-EVA procedures, Russian EVA 35 was carried out by ISS Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin on 22 August. The main tasks that were achieved during the 5 hr 58 min EVA, which started at 13:34 (CEST) were: the replacement of a laser communications experiment with a new biaxial pointing platform which will house a small optical camera system (to be installed on a future spacewalk in December); the inspection of six antennas on Zvezda used during ATV rendezvous and docking (as one cover had been seen floating away from the ISS on 19 August); installation of gap spanners on Zvezda, collecting  samples  under thermal insulation near Poisk’s hatch, and photographing a materials exposure experiment and associated cabling along Poisk.

     During installation of the camera pointing platform the cosmonauts noticed that its base plate was not properly aligned.  However the base plate was installed after determining that the alignment issue could be corrected after its installation. Once again during the EVA the non-spacewalking astronauts were isolated in the same areas inside the ISS.


ATV-4 Activities
Approximately 10kg of oxygen (O2) and 18kg of air were released into the ISS cabin atmosphere from the ATV gas tanks. The cabin fan was activated for the duration of the O2 transfer. Additional liquid waste was transferred back into ATV tanks for disposal by ISS Commander Pavel Vinogradov and a bladder integrity test was performed on another ATV tank for future liquid waste transfers. Following completion of propellant transfers (in the previous reporting period) a purge of the propulsion lines was undertaken on 13 August in preparation for ATV departure. With the Russian EVA’s that took place on 16 and 22 August the ATV-4 hatch was closed up prior to the EVA’s and re-opened after the EVA’s had finished. Subsequently three containers of water were transferred from an ATV water tank.

HTV-4 Activities
Following the berthing of the fourth Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-4) to the ISS on Friday 9 August, on 12 August the exposed pallet was removed from HTV-4 using the Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2) and handed over to the robotic arm on the Japanese Kibo Laboratory where it was installed on Kibo’s Exposed Facility. The exposed pallet contains unpressurised spare parts and experiments. Inside the Station the hatch into HTV-4 was opened and Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg started cargo transfer operations. These continued over the following days and cargo transfer is now completed with the exception of some items, which will be transferred just before hatch closure.

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 arriving on HTV-4 were placed in MELFI-1 for JAXA’s Space Pup experiment which is studying the effects of space radiation on mammalian reproduction.

Microgravity Science Glovebox
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was active in the two-week period until 23 August in order to undertake numerous runs for NASA’s InSPACE-3 (Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions 3) experiment. InSPACE-3 studies the fundamental behaviour of magnetic colloidal fluids under the influence of various magnetic fields. On-orbit activities were undertaken on different days by ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano, Karen Nyberg and Chris Cassidy.

The Microgravity Science Glovebox was developed by ESA within a barter agreement with NASA. The Glovebox provides the ability to perform a wide range of experiments in the fields of material science, biotechnology, fluid science, combustion science and crystal growth research, in a fully sealed and controlled environment.

EMU Troubleshooting
Following the water leak experienced with Luca Parmitano’s spacewalking suit (Extravehicular Mobility Unit or EMU) during the 16 July US spacewalk, additional troubleshooting steps have been undertaken. Chris Cassidy inspected the water separator systems of the other two on-board EMUs to also look for indications of leakage into the ventilation loops. No water leakage was observed. The likely cause of the leak in Luca’s EMU is a malfunction of its water separator loop, which allows excessive amounts of water to enter the ventilation loop. These checks on the non-leaking suits have taken place in the event that a contingency EVA would be necessary. With respect to the suit used by Luca, preparatory activities are on-going in preparation for replacing a suspected condensate water relief valve in the suit’s cooling loop. In addition to troubleshooting Cassidy also performed a water recharge of the U.S. spacesuits on 23 August.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 23 August include: replacing a malfunctioning smoke detector in the European-built Permanent Multipurpose Module; replacing the infrared imager of the Fluid Physics Experiment Facility, in the Japanese Kibo module; preparations by Cassidy, Misurkin and Vinogradov for return to earth including a fit check of their Soyuz “Kazbek” seat liners; further successful test runs with the Amine Swingbed hardware which is testing a more efficient way of removing carbon dioxide from the ISS cabin atmosphere; and the final session of NASA’s Surface Telerobotics experiment involving remotely controlling a robotic rover at the Ames Research Center in California, from the ISS to investigate space-based crew control of surface tele-robotics in preparation for future exploration missions.  

(*)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.

Martin Zell  
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department

Rosita Suenson  
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer

Weekly reports compiled by ESA's ISS Utilisation Department.

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