ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 74, Increment 24
This is ISS status report #74 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:
Note before: Science activities have been temporarily but significantly reduced in the two week period until 13 August while ISS activities focus on reinstating a second External Thermal Control System cooling loop. (see ‘ISS general system information and activities’ below).
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 13 August. 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 (requiring samples’ download) will be 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, Kubik Incubators and ERB-2
The PADIAC (PAthway DIfferent Activators) experiment will be uploaded on Soyuz flight 24S in September. PADIAC 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 European Drawer 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.
On 3 August the European Drawer Rack was also activated in order to carry out commissioning activities on the Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 (ERB-2). ISS Flight Engineer Tracy-Caldwell-Dyson calibrated the dual camera using an optical target and thereafter recorded a video sequence using the camera. This footage will be downlinked through the Columbus Control Centre to the Erasmus User Support and Operations Centre at ESA’s ESTEC facility in the Netherlands during future commission activities with the camera. ERB-2 is a high definition 3D video camera conceived by the Erasmus Centre of ESA’s Human Spaceflight Directorate and takes advantage of high-definition optics and advanced electronics to provide a vastly improved 3D video effect for mapping the Station.
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 alloys under weightlessness, supporting basic and industrial research.
Fluid Science Laboratory and FASES/Geoflow-2 experiments
No activities were carried out using the Fluid Science Laboratory in the two weeks until 13 August. 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 will now be rescheduled for transportation to the ISS from Progress flight 39P in September to a later Progress flight in 2011. 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 and the bench review for the launch on ATV-2 at the end of 2010 has been successfully performed.
European Physiology Modules and Experiments
No activities were carried out using the European Physiology Modules facility in the two weeks until 13 August. 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.
The Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment, which has been progressing well during its time on orbit, was powered off on 1 August due to the failure of one loop of the External Thermal Control System. Data has been acquired recently using the active DOSTEL radiation detector in the European Physiology Modules, following deinstallation and return of the experiment’s 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.
Portable Clinical Blood Analyzer measurement pouches for the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment were transferred from the European-built MELFI 1 freezer to the European-built MELFI 2 freezer following the failure of one loop of the External Thermal Control System. There is a tentative plan to run sessions of the SOLO experiment with ISS Flight Engineers Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker at the end of August/beginning of September. ESA’s SOLO experiment is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related physiological effects.
Vessel Identification System (VIS)
The Vessel Identification System (commonly known as Automatic Identification System, AIS) was deactivated on 1 August in connection with the failure of one loop of the External Thermal Control System. The system was again reactivated the following day. The ERNO-Box was mounted on the Columbus Mass Memory Unit on 11 August in order to carry out file transfer activities.
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 13 August. 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
Following the successful conclusion of ESA’s Genara-A experiment on 23 July, no activities have taken place in the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks until 13 August. The culture chambers for Genara-A are currently located in the European-built MELFI-2 freezer until their return by Shuttle on ULF-5. 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
The Columbus Control Centre supported activities inside the ESA-built Microgravity Science Glovebox on 2 August. One session of NASA’s Smoke and Aerosol Measurement Experiment (SAME) experiment was carried out by ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker. The experiment 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 performed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox was IVIDIL (Influence of Vibrations on Diffusion in Liquids), which 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 13 August. 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
In the past two weeks the SOLAR facility was in survival mode due to the failure of one loop of the External Thermal Control System. 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
No activities were carried out using the Portable Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 13 August. 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 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.
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 13 August. 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 all completed another week-long session of NASA’s Sleep experiment on 2 August 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. The Human Research Facility 1 rack was activated on 10 August for downloading data from the experiment. The Human Research Facility 1 activities were supported by ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.
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, though Columbus is on a reduced power configuration due to the failure of the Pump Module of the External Thermal Control System. 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.
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 2 August by NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Doug Wheelock. On 12 August the assembly was reconfigured by NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker to backflow the contents for processing. The following day NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Tracy-Caldwell Dyson reconfigured the Waste and Hygiene Compartment to feed into the Urine Processor Assembly.
ATV 2 Arrival Preparations
On 10 August Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin reconfigured four navigation electronics modules of the ASN-M Satellite Navigation System, in the Russian Service Module, with new cable network connections. This will provide better operating conditions and maintenance access. The ASN-M Satellite Navigation System is extremely important for the docking of ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), the next one of which is due to be launched to the ISS at the end of the year.
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. Portable Clinical Blood Analyzer measurement pouches for the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment were transferred from the European-built MELFI 1 freezer to the European-built MELFI 2 freezer following the failure of one loop of the External Thermal Control System. On 9 August MELFI 1 was prepared for reactivation by Shannon Walker.
External Thermal Control System Pump Failure
On 31 July one of the Pump Modules of the External Thermal Control System failed. As this left just one working ammonia loop for dispersal of excess heat from the ISS, some non- essential systems were shut down to relieve demand on cooling systems. The failure led to the necessity to plan additional EVAs to replace the failed Pump Module and defer an original EVA to install a Power and Data Grapple Fixture. Spare Pump Modules are already on orbit.
In additional to relevant EVA procedure reviews involving specialists on ground, the airlock and the EVA suits were prepared along with preparing and configuring EVA tools and tethers. On 4 August the Mobile Base System on which the Station’s principal robotic arm is currently located was moved to Worksite 2 and the robotic arm was relocated thereafter to a different Power and Data Grapple Fixture on the Mobile Base System. This was in support of the upcoming EVA activities. On 6 August the EVA astronauts (Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell-Dyson) were sealed in the airlock for the evening at a reduced pressure and pre- breathing pure oxygen as a standard procedure to remove nitrogen from their bodies prior to a spacewalk. Similar preparation also took place prior to EVA 2.
The first EVA related to the External Thermal Control System Pump Module replacement started at 13:19 CEST on 7 August from the US Airlock and lasted 8 hours 3 min making it the longest ISS EVA and the 6th longest EVA in history. The planned removal of the failed Pump Module during the EVA did not occur as a leak occurred during demating of one of the four Quick Disconnects of the ammonia lines to the Pump Module. The suspect Quick Disconnect was reconnected to stop the leak. As EVA clear up time necessitated precautions to stop any ammonia getting inside the ISS no further activities related to Pump Module replacement could take place.
Post EVA procedures
Standard procedures were undertaken after the EVA including EVA suit and tether inspection, recharging batteries for the EVA suits, helmet lights, and tools; refilling the EVA suits with water; and regenerating metal oxide canisters used for removing carbon dioxide from the EVA suits during spacewalks.
The second EVA related to the External Thermal Control System Pump Module replacement was completed successfully on 11 August. The spacewalk, which was again undertaken by Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell-Dyson lasted 7hr 26min and removed the failed Pump Module on the S1 truss section, which included successful demating of the Quick Disconnect where the ammonia leak had occurred during EVA 1. Robotic arm activities supporting the EVA were undertaken by Shannon Walker and Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Commander Alex Skvortsov. The final related EVA will take place on 16 August. During the spacewalk, which started at 14:27 CEST the astronauts also relocated a Crew and Equipment Translation Aid cart located on the Station’s truss, retrieved and attached a grapple fixture to the failed Pump Module, before temporarily stowing it on the Mobile Transporter on the Station’s truss. The spare Pump Module on External Stowage Platform 2 was also prepared for relocation during the next spacewalk.
New Air Quality Monitor
Following about 100 runs with the previous Air Quality Monitor, ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker carried out another session with the new Air Quality Monitor in the two-week period until 13 August. 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.
Russian Internal Thermal Control System
Major in-flight maintenance was carried out by ISS Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin on the Internal Thermal Control System in the Russian Service Module during the two week period until 13 August. Old condensate lines and components between two condensate pumps, an air conditioner and a control valve were replaced with new ones on 5/6 August. ISS Commander Alexander Skvortsov replaced one of the condensate lines on 12 August. The same day Yurchikhin drained some coolant from loop 2 of the system and carried out pressure checks at various valve settings in order to determine leak tightness and volume of air in the system.
Russian TVIS treadmill
On 9 August Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko replaced a control panel on the TVIS treadmill in the Russian Service Module before carrying out an inspection and recording audio to capture noise from the exercise device during an unmanned speed run with the gyro deactivated.
Other activities that have taken place in the two-week period until 13 August include: installation of cabling for wireless (and wired) access for Station Support Computers in the Russian Rassvet Module; and transferring trash and equipment no longer need on the Station to the Progress 38P spacecraft, which is scheduled to undock at the beginning of September.
(*)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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