ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 79, Increment 25
This is ISS status report #79 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 and Japanese Kibo 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 and experiments
The Biolab Facility was supporting activities for the PADIAC experiment (details see European Drawer Rack) in the two weeks until 22 October. Biolab´s Thermal Control Unit 2 was set to 4 deg C on 9 October, with Experiment Containers for PADIAC being placed inside over the following two days after processing. These were removed on 12 October for transfer to a MELFI freezer before deactivating Biolab.
Ground-commanded functional testing of Biolab also continued between 15 – 22 October, undertaken by the engineering team via the MUSC User Support and Operations Centre in Cologne and the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany. This included Handling Mechanism functional and positioning tests, a Handling Mechanism force margin test, an Incubator containment test and a spectrophometer functional test. Results of the tests are being analysed.
Biolab is a multi-user facility designed to support biological experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates. Due to the still ongoing functional recovery activities for the Biolab facility the TripleLux experiments’ planning has been revised and TripleLux-A has been de-manifested from the ULF-6 / STS-134 flight mainly due to the Biolab microscope failure. 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 PADIAC Experiment
Following its launch in conditioned storage on Soyuz flight 24S on 8 October, the PADIAC (PAthway DIfferent Activators) experiment has been carried out in the two weeks until 22 October using both the Kubik-6 incubator inside the European Drawer Rack as well as the Kubik-3 incubator located in the Columbus centre aisle and connected to the European Drawer Rack.
On 9 October both incubators were set to 37 deg C. The following day the PADIAC Experiment Containers were installed in the two incubators and experiment processing started. Seven 24-hour experiment containers were placed in the Kubik-6 Incubator and a control sample was placed in Kubik-3. After 1h 45 min the control sample was placed in Biolab’s Thermal Control Unit 2 and seven 4-hour PADIAC experiment containers were then placed in Kubik-3. These were also placed in Biolab’s Thermal Control Unit 2 after processing. On 11 October the longer-duration experiment containers in the Kubik-6 Incubator were moved to Thermal Control Unit 2. Data from both Kubik incubators has now been downlinked to ground. All samples were removed from Biolab’s Thermal Control Unit 2 on 12 October and placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers (at -95 deg C). The Kubik 3 Incubator was disconnected and stowed.
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 scientific objective of the PADIAC experiment 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 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 22 October. The Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) experiment is undergoing extensive science testing using the flight sample cells in the Engineering Model of the Fluid Science Laboratory at the MARS User Support and Operations Centre (USOC) in Naples, Italy. This replanning follows the demanifesting of FASES from the 39P Progress launch in September (due to the upgrade constraints of the Video Management Unit of the Fluid Science Laboratory). The flight of the Experiment Container will now be rescheduled to a later Progress launch in 2011. This experiment will be studying emulsion properties with advanced optical diagnostics. Results of the FASES experiment hold significance for oil extraction processes, and in the chemical and food industries.
The GeoFlow-2 experiment has been handed over to ATV team for stowage for the launch on ATV-2 in February 2011 and subsequent processing of an exhaustive scientific programme for a couple of months in the Fluid Science Laboratory. Final operations preparation is currently taking place at the MARS USOC.
European Physiology Modules and Experiments
The European Physiology Modules facility was activated on 20 October to undertake sessions of the PASSAGES experiment with ISS Commander Doug Wheelock and ISS Flight Engineers Scott Kelly and Shannon Walker as test subjects. After connecting the Neurospat Light Shield and Trackball for the experiment, the sessions were conducted and hereafter data was downlinked. PASSAGES is designed to test how astronauts interpret visual information in weightlessness. It aims at studying the effects of microgravity on the use of the ‘Eye-Height’ strategy for estimating allowed actions in an environment, and whether this could possibly decrease after a long exposure to weightlessness.
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 is progressing well during its time on orbit, with the instrument still acquiring data using one of the active DOSTEL detectors in the European Physiology Modules. The other DOSTEL detector appears to still be operational and the problem has been isolated to a power supply problem in the Data and Power Unit for the detector. Troubleshooting steps have been identified to be undertaken in the future. The passive detectors for DOSIS, which were deinstalled and returned to earth on STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis, are currently 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.
The ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects on Astronauts) Shield experiment is ongoing and acquiring data following its recent activation. On 15 October hardware for the experiment was deactivated by ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker, relocated to the second chosen experiment location within the US Laboratory and reactivated. The experiment aims at obtaining a better understanding of the light flash phenomenon, and more generally the interaction between cosmic rays and brain function, as well as testing the effectiveness of different types of shielding material. The experiment is currently undertaking a 3-dimensional survey of the radiation environment in the US laboratory.
Vessel Identification System (VIS)
No activities were carried out using the Vessel Identification System (commonly known as Automatic Identification System, AIS) in the two weeks until 22 October. The Vessel Identification System had been working extremely well for several months and has already acquired an extensive amount of data based on the NORAIS receiver. As no communication has been established with the LuxAIS receiver after it had been connected, plans are being put in place to swap back to the NORAIS receiver in the near future. The data telemetry for Vessel Identification System, for both receivers, is received by the Norwegian User Support and Operation Centre (N-USOC) in Trondheim via ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Germany.
The system consists of two different receivers (NORAIS and LuxAIS), which are alternated every three months or so, and 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. Meanwhile various service entities have been asking to get access to the VIS data which is continuously acquired on Columbus.
Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 22 October. 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
The water pump servicing activity for the European Modular Cultivation System was successfully performed on 15 October. The culture chambers for the Genara-A experiment (which took place in the European Modular Cultivation System) are currently in a General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER) 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 and SODI experiments
Following the successful conclusion of ESA’s SODI–Colloid experiment, which was delivered to the ISS on Progress 39P in September, and carried out in the Microgravity Science Glovebox, SODI and Colloid hardware was deinstalled and stowed by Shannon Walker on 13 October. On 20 October ISS Commander Doug Wheelock stowed the Glovebox video equipment and laptop. The following day Wheelock and ISS Flight Engineer Scott Kelly relocated the Microgravity Science Glovebox rack from Columbus back to the US Laboratory.
The Colloid experiment 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. Colloid is the second in the series of three SODI experiments. 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.
The subsequent DSC experiment (‘Diffusion and Soret Coefficient Measurements for Improvement of Oil Recovery’) will 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 22 October. Once the facility is fully commissioned it 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.
Following completion of an electrical checkout of the system (i.e. with no functional testing), MARES will be placed in its on-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 new Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility to gather scientific data, which opened on 4 October, closed on 14 October. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR are open when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun. During this period Solar was placed in a Safe configuration for Soyuz 24S docking on 10 October and two carrier tests.
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. The final NASA MICAST sample, which will complete processing of the first batch of CETSOL/MICAST samples, will be processed following the upcoming exchange of the Material Science Laboratory’s Low Gradient Furnace to its Solidification and Quenching Furnace. This will in turn be followed by the second batch of CETSOL/MICAST samples for processing and samples for the SETA experiment.
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. The SETA (Solidification along a Eutectic path in Ternary Alloys) experiment will be looking into a specific type of eutectic growth in alloys of aluminium manganese and silicon. Results of all these experiments will help to optimise industrial casting processes.
Portable Pulmonary Function System
No activities have taken place in the Portable Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 22 October. The system has been recently used for undertaking ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment. The Thermolab experiment investigates thermoregulatory and cardiovascular adaptations during rest and exercise in the course of long-term exposure to weightlessness. The VO2 Max is aimed at measuring oxygen uptake and cardiac output in particular, during various degrees of exercise. The Portable Pulmonary Function System is an autonomous multi-user facility supporting a broad range of human physiological research experiments under weightless conditions in the areas of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic physiology.
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 continuously acquiring scientific data. A tentative return of the sample trays is foreseen for November 2010 which allows for a scientifically beneficial extension of the open space exposure period to more than 1.5 years, though a recent request from Roscosmos could potentially lead to an extension of the mission until spring 2011. A detailed impact assessment by the Expose-R science team is in progress. Accumulated data for Expose-R was transferred and downlinked on 13 and 15 October.
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
During the two-week period until 22 October activities were carried out using NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. ISS Commander Doug Wheelock and ISS Flight Engineers Scott Kelly and Shannon Walker all completed week-long sessions of NASA’s Sleep experiment on 17 October during which data was transferred to a Human Research Facility 1 laptop from the Actiwatches they were wearing to monitor sleep patterns and light exposure levels. On 21 October Wheelock prepared Actiwatches for a further round of the experiment.
On 22 October ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker completed her fourth Integrated Cardiovascular Ambulatory Monitoring session. The NASA Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment consists of an a ultrasound Echo session and of an Ambulatory Monitoring session, 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. Data is downloaded to the facility laptop for downlinking. 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.
Human Research Facility 2
Blood draw activities in connection with NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol were carried out on Scott Kelly on 22 October. Samples were spun in the Refrigerated Centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 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 are as follows:
vRack Flow Control Assembly
On 20 October ISS Commander and NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock reconfigured the Rack Flow Control Assembly from Low Temperature Loop operation to Moderate Temperature Loop operation in preparation for relocation of the ESA-developed Microgravity Science Glovebox from Europe’s Columbus Laboratory to the US Laboratory.
With the second European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2) called ‘Johannes Kepler’, due for launch in February 2011, preparations are gaining momentum on ground and in orbit. From 12-14 October the new Proximity Communications Equipment, (needed during ATV rendezvous and docking) was checked out by ESA and Roscosmos. The tests were checking the functionality of the low and medium gain antennas installed on the outside of the ISS and the internal equipment inside the Russian Service Module. For the tests the ISS assumed a different flight attitude to maximise antenna coverage. ESA’s Maspalomas and Villafranca ground stations were tracking the ISS and checking the signal received.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
Thermal Control System Sampling
On 14 October the handrail of the T2/COLBERT treadmill was removed in Node 3 in order to make room to take a sample from the Medium Temperature Loop of the Internal Thermal Control System. The sample will be returned to ground for analysis.
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:
Oxygen Generation System
Continuing with installation procedures for the Sabatier reactor in the Oxygen Generation System rack in Node 3, Doug Wheelock installed the reactor itself along with guide rails, the Main Controller, the Motor Controller, and the Compressor on 12 October. The following day he replaced the rack’s Avionics Air Assembly manifold with a new manifold which is compatible with the Sabatier reactor. Hereafter Wheelock connected all relevant power, data and fluid lines from the rack to the new reactor. With Wheelock completing all the connections on 14 October Scott Kelly took measurements of flow rates inside the rack on 14, 15 October in order to optimise the thermal control system flow rates inside the rack with the Sabatier reactor now part of the system. The activation and check out of the Sabatier reactor was carried out successfully on 21 October.
The Sabatier reactor will combine carbon dioxide coming from Node 3’s Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly with H2 (hydrogen) from the Oxygen Generator System to form H2O (Water) and CH4 (Methane). The water will be sent to the Waste Water Bus and reprocessed through the Water Processor Assembly. The Methane will be vented overboard.
Minus-Eighty degree 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. Samples were placed in the MELFI freezers related ESA’s PADIAC experiment (see European Drawer Rack above), NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol, and for the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s 2D Nano Template experiment.
On 18 October in preparation for the relocation of the Micrgoravity Science Glovebox to the US laboratory, Wheelock and Walker relocated the MELFI 2 freezer within the US laboratory before connecting up umbilicals.
Soyuz TMA-01M/24S Docking
Soyuz TMA-01M docking
The Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft docked successfully with the zenith port of the Russian “Poisk” Module of the ISS at 02:01 (CEST) on 10 October. The Soyuz spacecraft had been successfully launched on flight 24S to the ISS on 8 October carrying Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka, and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. Kaleri and Skripochka are Flight Engineers for ISS Expeditions 25 and 26 (Kaleri is also the Soyuz TMA-01M Commander). Scott Kelly is a Flight Engineer for ISS Expedition 25 and will become ISS Commander for Expedition 26. Prior to Soyuz TMA-01-M docking the ISS crew configured relevant communications and video equipment.
This newer version of the Soyuz spacecraft has the older computer and analogue elements replaced with digital avionics. The replacements are lower mass with reduced power consumption and allow for rapid pre-launch testing, which in turn allows for a doubling of the launch rate. The new spacecraft can also be flown by a single pilot instead of two crew members.
Soyuz TMA-01M post-docking activities
ISS attitude control was handed back from Russian to US systems after docking. Video of the docking and structural dynamics measurements were downlinked by the crew and the standard leak check between the Soyuz and the ISS was carried out. On completion the hatches were opened at 05:10 (CEST) and the usual crew greeting took place. Quick disconnect clamps were installed at the interface between the Soyuz and the ISS to further stabilise the connection. Kaleri and Skripochka set up the three Sokol spacesuits and their gloves for drying out, and the Soyuz spacecraft was deactivated. Cargo transfer activities from the Soyuz to the ISS were carried out over the following days.
STS-133/ULF-5 Mission Preparations
In the European-built Cupola Observation Module a second wireless Station Support Computer laptop was installed for robotic video operations during the ULF-5 mission.
Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre Preparations
On 13 October Yurchikhin and Walker undertook an R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre training session, taking images of the ground with digital still cameras with 400mm and 800mm lenses. This exercise is in preparation for photographing the STS-133/ULF-5 Shuttle during its pitch manoeuvre during rendezvous and docking. During the manoeuvre at a distance of about 180 m from the Station, the photographers will only have around 90 seconds to take high-resolution digital photographs of all thermal protection tile areas and door seals on Shuttle Discovery, to be downlinked for launch debris assessment.
During the two weeks until 22 October, EVA tools have been gathered together for the STS-133 spacewalks including launch restraints and rail stubs for the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (a major joint for rotating the ISS solar arrays). Other spacewalk preparations include discharging and recharging US EVA suit and EVA tool batteries and regeneration of Metal Oxide canisters used for carbon dioxide removal during spacewalks.
Robotic Arm Relocation
The Station’s principal robotic arm was relocated from the Mobile Transporter at Worksite 6 on the Station’s truss to the Power and Data Grapple Fixture on Node 2 on 21 October. Flight Engineers Walker and Kelly manoeuvred the robotic arm via the Robotics Workstation in the European-built Cupola Observation Module. The next day ground controllers moved the Mobile Transporter back to Worksite 3 on the Station’s truss. These activities are in preparation for the STS-133/ULF-5 mission.
Crew Familiarisation/Handover Activities
The three new ISS crew members have been undertaking activities to familiarise themselves with systems and procedures on the Station in the two weeks until 22 October. This has included a 2-hr safety exercise (with all six crew members) to familiarise themselves with procedures and crew responsibilities in case of an emergency; an Emergency Egress Equipment Readiness training session in case of rapid depressurisation; a joint fire drill (with all six crew members); and a medical emergency training session.
ISS Thruster Firing Test
A thruster firing test took place on the morning of 11 October to take structural dynamics measurements with the Internal Wireless Instrumentation System. After completion of the 5-minute firing of Russian thrusters, ISS attitude control was handed back to US systems.
Russian Segment Electrical Power System
On 14 October Yurchikhin performed a major maintenance activity on the Zarya Module Power Supply System in the Russian Segment of the ISS by replacing one of the six 800A batteries along with a current converter, control unit, and charge/discharge current integrator.
Fyodor Yurchikhin replaced a Signal Conversion Unit of the Russian TORU manual rendezvous and docking system on 13 October. Two days later he and Kaleri carried out an internal test of the system with the docked Progress 37P spacecraft. On 21 October a similar TORU test was carried out by Skripochka and Kaleri on the docked Progress 39P. For both tests the Progress thrusters were deactivated.
Orbital Debris from a Chinese CZ-4B rocket body was being tracked by flight controllers in the two weeks until 22 October though no debris avoidance manoeuvre was required by the ISS.
Orlan EVA Suits
On 19 and 20 October Yurchikhin upgraded software on three Orlan EVA suit computers and carried out fit checks on the suits’ helmets.
The ISS was reboosted to a higher orbiting altitude on 20 October in connection with phasing for Progress 40P and STS-133/ULF5 launches and for Soyuz 23S landing. The reboost lasting 3 min 49 sec was carried out using Progress 39P rendezvous and docking thrusters and increased ISS altitude by 890 m.
Progress 37P Undocking Preparations
On 22 October Fyodor Yurchikhin prepared the Progress 37P spacecraft for its departure three days later. The Progress docking mechanism was again installed; temperature sensor equipment and light fixtures were removed from Progress for reuse; Progress electronics were activated; ventilation ducting was removed as were the quick disconnect clamps which stabilize the connection between Progress 37P and the docking port of the Pirs Docking Module. The Progress/Pirs Module hatches were closed at 13:20 (CEST) followed by the standard one-hour leak check of the interhatch area and the interface between the fuel/oxidizer transfer line.
Service Module Computer Network
During the two weeks until 22 October several steps have been undertaken to restore the health of the Smart Switch Router of the Service Module’s Computer network. This included reconfiguring cabling, and changing power supply and network settings. Following a check of the router on 12 October, an extensive transmission test of the Russian video system over the Joint Station OpsLan was carried out on 18 and 19 October.
Other activities that have taken place in the two-week period until 22 October include: troubleshooting maintenance on the intermodule communications channel between the Russian Zarya and Rassvet modules; US crew members undertaking a computer-based training session for the new Health Maintenance System Tonometry hardware and procedures used to assess the health of the crew’s eyes; transfer of urine to Progress M-05M/37P tanks; and drying out the MERLIN (Microgravity Experiment Research Locker Incubator) galley fridge and replacing its desiccant packs that prevent moisture.
(*)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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