ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 72, Increment 24
This is ISS status report #72 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 Department in cooperation with ESA’s Columbus and Payload Operations Management and Mission Science teams from the ISS Utilisation 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 ongoing research taking place inside and outside the Russian Segment of the ISS and in the US Destiny laboratory. The current status of the European science package on the ISS is as follows:
European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Biolab, WAICO and other near-term experiments
No activities were carried out using the Biolab facility in the two weeks until 16 July. Biolab is a facility designed to support biological experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates. The Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots (WAICO) experiment was the very first experiment to take place in Biolab following the Columbus launch and part 2 of the experiment has been concluded recently. WAICO deals with the effect that gravity has on the spiralling motion (circumnutation) that occurs in Arabidopsis plant roots. It is suspected that this spiralling mechanism is an internal mechanism in the plant, independent of the influence of gravity. The four WAICO-2 experiment containers returned to earth on 26 May with STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis are undergoing analysis at the science team’s laboratory.
Due to the imminent functional recovery plan for the Biolab facility the TripleLux experiment sequence has been updated and TripleLux-B will be deferred from the ULF-5 flight to a later time, tentatively in 2011. Therefore TripleLux-A will the next experiment after WAICO-2 and tentatively be launched on Shuttle Flight ULF-6, being performed in the Biolab facility during Increment 26. The objective of this experiment is to further understand the cellular mechanisms underlying the aggravation of radiation responses, and the impairment of the immune function under spaceflight conditions.
European Drawer Rack and Kubik Incubators
Following the successful replacement of the Kubik-3 Incubator’s thermal e-box on 23 June, the Columbus Control Centre was supported by ISS Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell-Dyson on orbit in carrying out commissioning activities for the incubator on 5 and 6 July. After connecting the incubator to the front of the European Drawer Rack, Kubik-3 was checked out from the ground and Caldwell-Dyson set its temperature to 6 deg C (its internal temperature was measured at the time as almost 24 deg C). After some time the necessary draw on current was observed to indicate everything was working as expected. The following day Tracy set the temperature to 37 deg C (necessary temperature for human cell biology experiments) and again the appropriate draw on current was observed. Caldwell-Dyson also activated the incubator’s centrifuge. After these activities Kubik-3 was connected up the laptop of the European Drawer Rack and data was downlinked (via ESA’s Columbus Control Centre) to the Erasmus User Support and Operations Centre at ESA’s ESTEC establishment in the Netherlands. Erasmus acts as ESA’s Facility Responsible Centre for the European Drawer Rack. On 16 July the Kubik-3 and Kubik-6 incubators were set to 38 deg C to dry out humidity in the incubators over the following 24 hours.
Commissioning activities are being carried out in advance of the start of the PADIAC (PAthway DIfferent Activators) experiment, the upload of which has been deferred to the subsequent Soyuz flight 24S in September. The PADIAC experiment requires both the Kubik-6 incubator inside the European Drawer rack as well as the Kubik-3 incubator which will be located in the Columbus centre aisle and connected to the rack. The Kubik incubators are transportable incubators with centrifuge accommodations which were designed in the frame of the ISS Soyuz missions for biology experiments processing. The goal of PADIAC is to determine the different pathways used for activation of T cells, which play an important role in the immune system.
The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which had been continuously active and providing power, data and temperature control to the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostic Facility before the conclusion of 3½ months of successful experiment runs in July 2009.
In the future the European Drawer Rack will also host the Facility for Absorption and Surface Tension (FASTER) in 2011 and the Electro-Magnetic Levitator payload from 2012 onwards. FASTER is a Capillarity Pressure Tensiometer developed for the study of the links between emulsion stability and physico-chemical characteristics of droplet interfaces. The Electro-Magnetic Levitator will investigate properties of metal alloy under weightlessness, supporting basic and industrial research.
Fluid Science Laboratory and FASES/Geoflow-2 experiments
An initial attempt at troubleshooting the Video Management Unit of the Fluid Science Laboratory was carried out on 12 July by ISS Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell-Dyson. This consisted of demating and then remating the data and power connector between the hard disk drives and the Digital Line Tape Recorder of the facility’s Video Management Unit in order to ensure a tight and stable connection. The crew also inspected the status of the connectors and provided photos for downlink.
The Flight Acceptance Review for the Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) experiment and the Experiment Sequence Test in the associated User Support and Operations Centre MARS in Naples have been completed, and the Experiment Container is foreseen to arrive at the ISS on Progress flight 39P in early September 2010. This experiment will be studying emulsion properties with advanced optical diagnostics. Results of the FASES experiment hold significance for oil extraction processes, chemical industry and in the food industry.
The hardware modifications for the implementation of the GeoFlow-2 experiment are concluded. Final Flight Model testing is in progress in order to launch it on ATV-2 at the end of 2010 and the Experiment Sequence Test with the GeoFlow Engineering Model in FSL-EM will take place at MARS in October.
European Physiology Modules and Experiments
No activities were carried out using the European Physiology Modules facility in the two weeks until 16 July. The European Physiology Modules facility is equipped with different science modules to investigate the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body, with experiment results contributing to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle wastage.
Two Portable Clinical Blood Analyser Pouches, for use in connection with blood sampling for future runs of the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment, were stowed in one of the ESA-developed MELFI freezers in the Japanese laboratory on 7 July by ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker. These had been brought to the ISS by Progress 38P, which docked with the ISS on 4 July. SOLO is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects during long-duration space flight.
The Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment is progressing well during its time on orbit, with the instrument acquiring data using the active DOSTEL detector in the European Physiology Modules, following deinstallation and return of the passive dosimeters on STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis. The passive detectors are now undergoing scientific analyses. The DOSIS experiment determines the nature and distribution of the radiation field inside European Columbus laboratory using different active and passive detectors spread around the laboratory. This is the first time that 'area dosimetry' has been undertaken on Columbus to measure the spatial radiation gradients inside the module.
Vessel Identification System (VIS)
Following the successful commissioning of the Vessel Identification System (commonly known as Automatic Identification System, AIS) by 4 June the system is working extremely well and now continuing to acquire data, the telemetry from which is received by the Norwegian User Support and Operation Centre (N-USOC) in Trondheim via the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich, Germany. Part 2 commissioning of VIS was successfully performed on 15 and 16 July. The principal of this was to switch into a different command mode i.e. from so-called decode mode to sampling mode and test this new mode of operation out. Where in decode mode VIS has been successfully receiving the AIS data from ships since the beginning of June, in sampling mode the AIS signals have been digitized and sent to the ground for analysis of signal quality. This will be very helpful in making additional improvements/refinements to the VIS system in extremely crowded shipping areas where the possibility of lost signals or mixed signals can occur due to the quantity of maritime/signal traffic.
The system currently consists of the NORAIS receiver as well as the 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. More than 90,000 messages were received from ships during the first 14 hours of operation.
Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 16 July. The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA Human Research Facility 2, which was relocated from the US Destiny laboratory to the Columbus laboratory on 1 October 2008. The Pulmonary Function System is an ESA/NASA collaboration in the field of 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
ESA’s Genara-A experiment has been taking place in the European Modular Cultivation System in the two week period until 16 July. Following activation of the facility on 9 July by the User Support and Operations Centre in Trondheim, Norway, ISS Flight Engineer prepared and inserted the four Genara experiment containers into the European Modular Cultivation System. There was an initial problem with hydration of the experiment containers that took longer than expected, due to a low water flow rate, and involved a swap around of experiment containers by the crew though all samples were eventually watered. On 10 July the first set of images for the experiment were downlinked and centrifuge B was started containing two experiment containers for undertaking on-orbit 1g control experiments. Image acquisition continued during the experiment run and the experiment containers were supplied with required light conditions. Good germination and seed development have been noticed as expected in comparison to the ground experiments. The experiment is scheduled to continue until 23 July.
This experiment was transported to the ISS on Shuttle Flight STS-132 in May. Genara-A is studying plant (Arabidopsis) growth at molecular level in weightlessness. This will help to better understand gravitropism and to find plant systems that compensate for the negative impact on plant growth in space. ESA’s Gravi-2 experiment is planned to follow in April 2011 before a further NASA experiment, SeedGrowth.
The European Modular Cultivation System, which was flown 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 has been renewed after the initial 2 years time frame.
Microgravity Science Glovebox, SODI and additional experiments
Tracy Caldwell-Dyson exchanged the Sample Processing Unit for NASA’s Coarsening in Solid-Liquid Mixtures experiment in the ESA-built Microgravity Science Glovebox on 6 July. The latest run of of the experiment continued until 8 July when activities were finalised by Caldwell-Dyson. She serviced the experiment during processing with the Sample Processing Unit finishing its allotted four vacuum vent cycles. The following day the Glovebox was again activated to remove acoustic damping foam padding inside the working volume. It was previously discovered that small pieces of the foam had been coming away in clumps. On 13 July Caldwell-Dyson removed the Coarsening in Solid-Liquid Mixtures experiment hardware from the Glovebox. The Coarsening in Solid-Liquid Mixtures experiment is examining the kinetics of competitive particle growth within a liquid metal matrix, which has applications to metal alloy manufacturing on Earth. The activities were supported by ESA’s Columbus Control Centre.
On 14 July the Glovebox was again activated for set up of hardware for NASA’s Smoke and Aerosol Measurement Experiment (SAME). On 15 and 16 July ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker carried out the first two sessions of the SAME experiment, which is determining smoke properties, or particle size distribution from spacecraft fires to support/improve requirements and capabilities for smoke detection in space.
The avionics hardware for ESA’s triple SODI (Selectable Optical Diagnostics Instrument) experiments is being analysed on ground before being returned to the ISS tentatively on Progress flight 39P in early September 2010 for continuation of the experiment series. The first SODI experiment which was performed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox was IVIDIL (Influence of Vibrations on Diffusion in Liquids) was successfully completed on 20 January. Now the Colloid experiment will follow, which covers the study on growth and properties of advanced photonic materials within colloidal solutions. The focus is on materials that have a special interest in photonics, with emphasis on nano-structured, periodic dielectric materials, known as photonic crystals, which possess appealing properties and make them promising candidates for new types of optical components. This will take place following completion of ground analysis activities and return of SODI hardware on orbit. The Colloid experiment cells will be also uploaded on Progress flight 39P in September.
The DSC experiment (‘Diffusion and Soret Coefficient Measurements for Improvement of Oil Recovery’) will now be the third and final SODI experiment processed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox which is now tentatively foreseen around mid 2011. The DSC cells, which originally arrived at the ISS on Progress 36P on 5 February, were returned on STS-131 Shuttle Discovery for re-filling due to SODI avionics failure and rescheduling of the experiment series.
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.
Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES)
No activities were carried out using the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES) in the two weeks until 16 July. The facility will be used for undertaking neuromuscular and exercise research on the International Space Station. MARES is capable of assessing the strength of isolated muscle groups around joints to provide a better understanding of the effects of weightlessness on the muscular system. In the August/September timeframe MARES will be placed from its launch to its in-orbit configuration to carry out an electrical check out of the system (i.e. with no functional testing). Once complete the system will be placed in its in-orbit stowage configuration. In the future this will be followed up by functional testing of MARES in two parts: the first part (during Expedition 26) without a crew member using the system, the second functional testing (during Expedition 27/28) with a crew member 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.
European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space
The SOLAR facility is again acquiring scientific data with the opening of the recent Sun visibility window on 8 July (Sun visibility windows for SOLAR are open 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 currently for more than two years on-orbit. The SOLAR facility 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.
European science inside the US Destiny Laboratory
Material Science Laboratory in the Material Science Research Rack
ESA’s Material Science Laboratory is the primary research facility located in NASA’s Materials Science Research Rack-1, which was launched together with a total of six sample cartridges for NASA and for ESA’s MICAST and CETSOL projects on STS-128/17A under a cooperation agreement with NASA and is now installed in the US Laboratory on the ISS. Seven more sample cartridges were launched on 16 November 2009 with STS-129/ULF-3. Twelve of the CETSOL/MICAST experiment samples have been processed to date with the processed samples currently being analysed by the relevant science teams on ground.
Together with NASA a joint Material Science Laboratory/Materials Science Research Rack operations technical interface meeting has been performed at the Microgravity User Support Centre (MUSC), ESA’s Facility Responsible Centre for the Materials Science Laboratory. This meeting comprised operations, engineering, science, and agency representatives. The smooth and highly successful Material Science Laboratory experimentation has been highlighted and the scientists presented very promising preliminary scientific results stemming from analysis of the first samples. This constitutes an excellent basis for further materials research with international collaboration.
CETSOL and MICAST are two complementary material science projects, which carry out research into the formation of microstructures during the solidification of metallic alloys. 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 these experiments will help to optimise industrial casting processes.
Portable Pulmonary Function System
On 7 July ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker successfully completed her first session of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with NASA’s VO2Max experiment. This was supported by ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Thermolab uses the ESA-developed Portable Pulmonary Function System (combined with exercise) to investigate thermoregulatory and cardiovascular adaptations during rest and exercise in the course of long-term exposure to weightlessness. The Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment 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 condition in the areas of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic physiology.
European science inside the Japanese Kibo Laboratory
ESA’s Matroshka payload, which has been located in the Japanese Kibo laboratory since 4 May, is continuously acquiring data about the radiation environment inside the ISS. The accumulated radiation levels are being measured using the passive radiation dosimeters (including PADLES type from JAXA) which were recently installed inside the Matroshka Phantom, which simulates a human body (head and torso). Following agreements with JAXA and Roscosmos, the joint long-duration experiment run will be performed until HTV-2 arrives in 2011. In the long-term Matroshka may again be accommodated on an external ISS platform to measure cosmic radiation levels in Low Earth Orbit which are of relevance for EVA activities.
European science inside the Russian ISS Segment
GTS-2 (Global Transmission Service)
The Global Transmission Service was deactivated on 31 May 2009 though negotiations with Russian representatives are ongoing for reactivation of the instrument and continuation of the so-called test mode. GTS will be tentatively a cooperative European-Russian experiment on ISS in the future. 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 the 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; measurement of disturbing effects such as Doppler shifts, multi-path reflections, shadowing and elevation impacts.
ISS Commander Alexander Skvortsov serviced the latest experiment run of the Russian/German KTP-21 Plasma Crystal-3 Plus (PK-3+) experiment in the Russian “Poisk” Mini Research Module 2 until 9 July by evacuating the vacuum chamber with a vacuum pump and downlinking data from the experiment. 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.
Additional European science outside the ISS in open space
The Expose-R facility, which was installed outside the Zvezda Service Module during the Russian-based spacewalk on 10 March 2009, is functioning well and acquiring scientific data in the two weeks until 16 July. A tentative return of the sample trays is foreseen for autumn 2010 which allows for a scientifically beneficial extension of the open space exposure period of 50%.
Expose-R hosts a suite of nine new astrobiology experiments (eight from ESA, one from IBMP, Moscow), some of which could help understand how life originated on Earth. This suite of experiments was transported to the International Space Station on Progress flight 31P, which docked with the ISS on 30 November 2008. The experiments are accommodated in three special sample trays, which are loaded with a variety of biological samples including plant seeds and spores of bacteria, fungi and ferns, which are exposed to the harsh space environment (Solar UV, cosmic radiation, vacuum), for about one and a half years.
The individual Expose-R experiments are as follows:
- AMINO: Photochemical processing of amino acids and other organic compounds in Earth orbit
- ENDO: Response of endolithic organisms to space conditions
- OSMO: Exposure of osmophilic microbes to the space environment
- SPORES: Spores in artificial meteorites
- PHOTO: Measurements of vacuum and solar radiation-induced DNA damages within spores
- SUBTIL: Mutational spectra of Bacillus subtilis spores and plasmid DNA exposed to high vacuum and solar UV radiation in the space environment.
- PUR: Responses of Phage T7, Phage DNA and polycrystalline uracil to the space environment.
- ORGANIC: Evolution of organic matter in space.
- IMBP: Exposure of resting stages of terrestrial organisms to space conditions.
Expose-R complements the exobiology science package that was performed in Expose-E, a twin facility which had been in operation on ESA’s EuTEF facility outside of Columbus since February 2008 until EuTEF’s return to Earth with the STS-128/17A Shuttle Flight in September 2009.
Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Human Research Facility 1
ISS Flight Engineers Tracy Caldwell-Dyson, Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker each carried out another week-long session of NASA’s Sleep experiment starting from 5 July during which data was transferred to the Human Research Facility laptop from the Actiwatches they were wearing to monitor sleep patterns and light exposure levels.
On 13 July ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker undertook a resting echo scan, supported by the Columbus Control Centre, in connection with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment. This included ECG and heart rate measurements being taken. She also undertook her second resting echo scan in connection with the experiment. On 16 July Walker concluded her second ambulatory session of the experiment, which includes 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. On 8 July all device data was downloaded to the Human Research Facility laptop. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms. The Human Research Facility 1 activities were supported by ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.
On 14 July the Columbus Control Centre supported Tracy Caldwell-Dyson, Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker in carrying out ultrasound eye examinations as part of a medical procedures eye test. Procedures for the Panoptic eye test were also undertaken on 15 and 16 July using an opthalmascope.
Human Research Facility 2
ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany supported blood draw activities with NASA’s Human Research Facility 2 in Columbus on 3, 12 and 14 July. Blood samples from Shannon Walker and Doug Wheelock for the Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocols were spun in the Refrigerated Centrifuge before being placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers.
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. Main points of interest include:
Formaldehyde Monitoring Kit
In connection with lose foam from the Microgravity Science Glovebox, two formaldehyde sampling assemblies were placed around air ducting in Columbus on 8 July to catch any traces of formaldehyde in the atmosphere. The assemblies were replaced with new units the following day and collected in on 10 July. Samples will be analysed on return to ground.
Portable Workstation Software Reload
After readying two compact disks on 15 July, ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Shannon Walker carried out a complete software reload of the Portable Workstation 1 laptop on 16 July.
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 include:
Water Recovery System rack 2: Urine Processor Assembly
The Recycle Filter Tank Assembly which filters pre-treated urine for processing into water was again replaced on 14 July by ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock.
Oxygen Generation System
The Hydrogen Dome of the US Oxygen Generator Assembly is considered failed and in need of replacement for a spare on-orbit unit. Doug Wheelock carried out preparations for the weekend’s replacement on 16 July. The Oxygen Generator Assembly is the principal element which electrolyzes water into oxygen and hydrogen in the Oxygen Generation System.
Atmosphere Revitalization Rack: Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly
Maintenance was carried out on the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly to add a second desiccant/sorbent bed (which absorbs cardon dioxide) to the system as a back up from 7 – 12 July. After the installation of the desiccant/sorbent bed, the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly was reinstalled in the Atmosphere Revitalization Rack and fluid, power and data cables were connected.
Waste and Hygiene Compartment
The failed Waste and Hygiene Compartment is again operational following successful troubleshooting and maintenance activities carried out on orbit by Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker from 6 – 9 July. The problem was isolated to a pump/separator, which was replaced with an on-orbit spare. In the meantime the crew had been using the Russian Service Module toilet facility.
Minus-Eighty Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
Currently there are three European-built MELFI freezers on the ISS: MELFI 1 and MELFI 3 in the Japanese laboratory and MELFI 2 in the US laboratory. Blood and urine samples for ISS Flight Engineers and NASA astronauts Shannon Walker and Doug Wheelock for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol were placed in one of the MELFI freezers in the past two weeks as well as hair samples from JAXA’s Hair experiment. Doug Wheelock also retrieved 8 sample bags from the MELFI 2 freezer (stored at 2 deg C) for JAXA’s 2D Nano Template experiment. After removing sample bag clips to allow mixing of two solutions: sodium hydroxide and a concentrated peptide, the sample bags were returned to MELFI. The experiment is looking into development of nano peptide arrays in weightlessness.
The Russian Progress M-06M spacecraft docked successfully with the aft port of the Service Module of the ISS on 4 July at 18:17 (CEST) under control of the spacecraft’s automatic Kurs docking system. Retraction of the docking probe and hook closure was complete soon after. After hooks closure the ISS was put back on Russian Service Module attitude control from free drift and thereafter back to US attitude control systems. The docking occurred two days later than originally planned due to a communications loss with the Progress spacecraft. Back up systems worked as planned. The reason for the communication loss has been determined.
Post docking activities
Following Progress 36P docking the standard leak checks were performed before opening the hatches and installing clamps to further stabilise the connection between the Progress and the ISS. After performing the standard air sampling inside Progress, the spacecraft was deactivated, ventilation ducting was installed into Progress, its docking mechanism was removed and relevant temperature equipment was installed. Unloading of cargo from the newly arrived logistics vehicle was carried out at different times until the end of the two week period until 16 July. Activities were carried out by the Russian ISS crew members.
TORU manual docking system test
On 7 July, ISS Commander Alexander Skvortsov and ISS Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin, both representing Roscosmos, carried out initial investigative steps using a test program with the Russian manual TORU rendezvous and docking system to discover the cause of the Progress docking abort on 2 July.
Progress Fluid Transfers
ISS Flight Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko configured pumping equipment before transferring 150 litres of water from the Progress 38P BV1 tank to a Progress 37P tank on 5 July. The following day he was due to transfer urine from nine containers back into the empty Progress 38P BV1 tank from which the water had been transferred, though this was postponed when an air leak from the tank was indicated. On 10 July equipment was set up to leak check the BV2 tank of Progress 38P prior to urine transfer. The BV1 tank will now only be filled with urine for disposal just prior to Progress 38P departure. 116kg of fuel and 188kg of oxidizer were transferred from Progress 38P to the ISS towards the end of the two-week period.
Russian EVA preparations
In preparation for Russian EVA 25, which is due to take place on 26 July, Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Mikhail Kornienko and Fyodor Yurchikhin spent a number of hours preparing EVA equipment, inspecting replaceable elements for their Russian Orlan EVA suits, configuring the Pirs Docking Compartment (and Airlock) and Service Module Transfer Compartment as well as carrying out Russian pre-spacewalk medical procedures in the past two weeks. The spacewalk will focus on outfitting of the Russian “Rassvet” Mini Research Module 1 on which major hardware spares for the European Robotic Arm are located including a spare elbow and limb sections.
Orbital debris that was in its closest proximity to the ISS on 6 July was being monitored from the ground though there was no need for avoidance action by the ISS. A similar situation occurred with orbital debris from an old Russian satellite being monitored that was in its closest proximity to the ISS on 12 July. Again there was no need to plan any evasive action by the ISS.
Station Robotic Arm Activities
The Station’s principal robotic arm was walked off from its attachment point on the US laboratory to a new attachment point on the Mobile Base System on the Station’s truss on 9 July. Robotic activities were undertaken by ISS Flight Engineers Shannon Walker and Tracy Caldwell-Dyson. The relocation was due to an upcoming swap of a Remote Power Controller Module.
In the US segment of the ISS Command and Control computers and laptops were transitioned to new software version X2 R9. This includes installation of hard drives with upgraded software. The activity was completed on 14 July.
The Progress M-06M/38P, docked to the aft port of the Russian Service Module, performed a reboost of the ISS on 16 July. The altitude of the ISS was raised by 3.72 km in altitude during the almost 18 min reboost, which was carried out to help place the ISS in the correct orbital profile for launch, rendezvous and docking of Progress 39P and Soyuz 24S and undocking and landing of Soyuz 22S.
New Air Quality Monitor
Following about 100 runs with the previous Air Quality Monitor, ISS Flight Engineers and NASA astronauts Tracy Caldwell-Dyson and Shannon Walker carried out additional sessions with the new Air Quality Monitor in the two-week period until 16 July. This device is being used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere. This new technology is being evaluated over a period of several months.
Aurigae Eclipse Observation
This ISS is currently involved in an astronomical observation programme of the Epsilon Aurigae Eclipse, which occurs about every 27 years. The eclipse of the Epsilon Aurigae star, which is in the Constellation Auriga, lasts for nearly 2 years and indicates an enormous eclipsing object though the nature of this is still unknown. Ground observation mid eclipse is prevented due to the Sun’s proximity.
Other activities that have taken place in the two-week period until 16 July include: replacing a failed 800A storage battery in the Russian Zarya Module; scrubbing the cooling loops of two US EVA suits of particulate matter; replacing a mini centrifuge in the Russian M-1100 payload used for blood centrifugation; troubleshooting a communication problem between the laptop and camera of the EarthKAM system in the US laboratory; an ISS crew fire drill; and reconfiguring ventilation between the Russian Zarya and Rassvet modules and the Soyuz 23S spacecraft.
(*)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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