ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 80, Increment 25
This is ISS status report #80 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
On 28 October the Biolab facility incubator rotors were switched on by ground commanding for further recovery activities and the Experiment Reference Container was removed from rotor position B6. A photography session was hereafter undertaken of the upper and lower Quick Disconnects at the rotor position before the Experiment Container was reinstalled. From 2-5 November ground-commanded functional testing of the facility continued with a Combined System Temperature Test undertaken by the engineering team via the MUSC User Support and Operations Centre in Cologne and the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany. In preparation for the test ISS Commander Doug Wheelock installed medium cartridges into Biolab’s Thermal Control Unit 2 and the insert/insulation into Biolab’s Automatic Temperature Controlled Stowage 2. The following day the tests continued with the two Thermal Control Units set to -20 deg C and the Incubator set to +40 deg C. On 4 November the tests continued with additional items switched on for testing including the two Automatic Temperature Controlled Stowage units set to +10 deg C and Biolab’s Glovebox set at +38 deg C. The tests were completed on 5 November.
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/SPHINX Experiments
Following the successful completion of the PADIAC experiment in the previous two-week reporting period, the European Drawer Rack and the Kubik 6 incubator inside have again been active for processing of the ‘SPaceflight of Huvec: an Integrated Xperiment’ (SPHINX) which arrived at the ISS on Progress 40P on 30 October.
All samples for the PADIAC experiment are currently in one of the European-built MELFI freezers (at -95 deg C) awaiting return to Earth. 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.
On 31 October the Kubik 6 Incubator was turned on for preheating to the processing temperature of 36.5 deg C. After reaching the set temperature the SPHINX experiment containers were installed in the incubator some time afterwards. After seven days of processing in the incubator, the crew will lower the incubator temperature to 6 deg C to keep the samples in a refrigerated state until their return on Soyuz 23S at the end of November. The Kubik incubators are portable incubators with microgravity and centrifuge accommodations which were designed in the frame of the ISS Soyuz missions for biology experiments processing.
The objective of the SPHINX experiment is to determine how HUVEC (Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells) modify their behaviour when exposed to real weightlessness. This could provide better knowledge of endothelial function, which could be useful for clinical application. Endothelial cells, which line the interior of the heart and blood vessels, are important in many aspects of vascular function.
The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which will also host the Facility for Adsorption and Surface Tension (FASTER) 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 5 November. 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. 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 stowed in ATV-2 for launch in mid February 2011 and subsequent processing of an exhaustive scientific programme for a couple of months in the Fluid Science Laboratory. Final experiment operations preparation activities are currently taking place at the involved USOCs.
European Physiology Modules and Experiments
No activities were carried out using the European Physiology Modules facility in the two weeks until 5 November following conclusion of sessions of the PASSAGES experiment in the previous two-week reporting period. 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 (DOSTEL 2) in the European Physiology Modules. Following an LED check the crew, the DOSTEL 2 unit was swapped with DOSTEL 1 on 2 November and another LED check took place. This confirmed that the problem is with the DOSTEL 1 unit itself and not as previously suspected with the Data and Power Unit for the detector. The DOSTEL 2 unit was then reinstalled and data acquisition is again continuing. 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.
Vessel Imaging Experiment
A new session of ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment was carried out in conjunction with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment on 25 October. This session of both joint experiments was carried out by ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker (assisted by Doug Wheelock). This consisted of an echography scan (see Human Research Facility 1 below) with ECG and heart rate measurements also being taken. On the ESA side support came from DAMEC and CADMOS, two of the User Support and Operations Centres for ESA, via the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany.
ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment evaluates the changes in central and peripheral blood vessel wall properties and cross sectional areas of long-duration ISS crewmembers during and after long-term exposure to weightlessness. A Lower Body Negative Pressure programme runs in parallel to Vessel Imaging. Flow velocity changes in the aorta and the middle cerebral and femoral arteries are used to quantify the cardiovascular response to fluid shifts. Vessel Imaging aims to optimise the countermeasures used routinely during long-duration space missions.
The ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects on Astronauts) Shield experiment is ongoing and acquiring data. The measurement threshold of the equipment was switched from 10 to 15 MIP (Minimum Ionising Particle) on 25 October though this led to an equipment failure. The threshold was reset to 10 MIP on 31 October and the hardware is again acquiring data via its silicon detector units. 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)
On 27 October ISS Commander Doug Wheelock swapped the LuxAIS receiver of the Vessel Identification System (commonly known as Automatic Identification System, AIS) back to the NORAIS receiver. This was due to a communications issue with the LuxAIS receiver. Following the swap out data telemetry from NORAIS was immediately received by the Norwegian User Support and Operation Centre (N-USOC) in Trondheim via ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Germany and data acquisition is ongoing. The Vessel Identification System had been working extremely well for several months with the NORAIS receiver and had already acquired an extensive amount of data prior to its swap to the LuxAIS receiver in September.
The Vessel Identification System consists of the 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 5 November. 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
No activities were carried out using the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks until 5 November. 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.
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 5 November. 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 started at 00:01 (CEST) on 30 October and data acquisition is ongoing. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR are open when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun. The facility was also placed in a safe configuration for four hours on 30 October for Progress 40P docking. It was placed back in Sun Pointing Mode thereafter.
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 was activated on 29 October in order to carry out a pump spin-up, which was successfully performed by ground commanding. The 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.
Microgravity Science Glovebox and SODI experiments
Following the successful conclusion of the SODI-Colloid experiment and the relocation of the European-built Microgravity Science Glovebox rack from Columbus back to the US Laboratory on 21 October, no activities were carried out using the Microgravity Science Glovebox in the two weeks until 5 November.
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 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.
Portable Pulmonary Function System
On 27/28 October sessions of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with the NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) were carried out by ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker and ISS Expedition 25 Commander Doug Wheelock. The Thermolab experiment uses the ESA-developed Portable Pulmonary Function System 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) is aimed at measuring oxygen uptake and cardiac output in particular, during various degrees of exercise. Data for Walker has already been downlinked while data for Wheelock will be downlinked after the next session. 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.
Taste in Space
ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker supported the Taste in Space education activity, which took place in the Russian Service Module on 2 November with the support of Doug Wheelock. The activity is aiming to demonstrate to primary students the differences in the way in which the sense of taste is affected under weightless conditions and on Earth by comparing the results of a blind tasting of 6 different food items on the ground and in space. Video files of the demonstration accounting for almost an hour of material were downlinked to ground. The material will be used to produce ESA educational web based material for upper primary school teachers and their students aged 10-12 years old.
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.
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.
In addition a new experiment complement for the tentative Expose-R2 mission has been identified and the implementation in collaboration with the Russian partners is commencing.
Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Human Research Facility 1
During the two-week period until 5 November activities were carried out using NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Walker continued her ambulatory monitoring session (which started on 22 October) of NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment. This 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 25 October Human Research Facility 1 was used in connection with ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment (see above) and NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment with ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker as test subject. This consisted of ultrasound scans for both experiments using the facility as well ECG and heart rate measurements being taken. The facility was activated for downlinking Integrated Cardiovascular experiment data on 28 October. 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 1 was again activated on 1 November for undertaking an ultrasound eye examination scan for Doug Wheelock as part of scheduled medical procedures.
ISS Commander Doug Wheelock and ISS Flight Engineers Scott Kelly and Shannon Walker all started week-long sessions of NASA’s Sleep experiment on 1 November 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.
Human Research Facility 2
Blood draw activities on ISS Flight Engineer Scott Kelly in connection with NASA’s generic Human Research Facility protocol, and on Shannon Walker for the Canadian Space Agency’s Vascular Blood Collection protocol were carried out on 29 October and 1 November respectively. Samples were spun in the Refrigerated Centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 before being placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers. On 4 November ISS Commander Doug Wheelock carried out an audit/inventory of Human Research Facility hardware in the rack drawers.
ISS general system information and activities *
The 10th anniversary of the first ISS Expedition Crew entering the Station occurred on 2 November 2010. The crew consisting of ISS Commander Bill Shephard and Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev had been launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome two days previously in the Soyuz TMA-31 spacecraft. In that time more than 600 different experiments and technology demonstrations have taken place on the Station and almost 200 people have visited the orbital outpost.
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:
Hard Disk Drive Replacement
On 1 November ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly replaced suspect hard disk drives in laptops in the Columbus and US Laboratories with new disk drives loaded with new software.
Following the check out of the new Proximity Communications Equipment, (needed during ATV rendezvous and docking) from 12-14 October, ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmomauts Alexander Kaleri and Fyodor Yurchikhin dismantled the equipment in the Russian Service Module on 5 November, which included a proximity communications box, an antenna switching control box, the ATV control panel and hand controller, as well as associated cabling. ESA’s second European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2) called ‘Johannes Kepler’, is due for launch in February 2011 and preparations for the launch are gaining momentum on ground and in orbit.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
In addition to regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and T2 COLBERT Treadmill, a new rope was installed on ARED by ISS Flight Engineer Scott Kelly on 2 November. This was due to the rope not retracting fully due to it catching on the pulley system.
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
ISS Commander and NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock took samples from the recirculation loop of the Oxygen Generation System on 27 October in order to investigate water quality. Two days later Wheelock carried out hydrogen purging on the rack.
Water Recovery System
ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Shannon Walker drew effluent samples from the Water Processor Assembly Multifiltration bed 2 of the Water Recovery System on 28 October. These will be returned on the next Shuttle flight for analysis
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 to NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol for Scott Kelly (blood and urine), the Canadian Space Agency’s Vascular protocol for Shannon Walker (blood), as well as swab samples from the Japanese laboratory. MELFI 1 also contains blood and urine samples from ESA’s Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment while MELFI 2 contains samples from ESA’s PADIAC experiment.
ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka undertook refresher training on the Russian TORU manual docking system on 25 October. The TORU system acts as a backup to the automatic Kurs docking system. The session included, rendezvous, fly-around, final approach, docking and off-nominal situations such as video or communications loss. On 28 October communications and video tests were carried out.
Launch and Docking
The Russian Progress M-08M spacecraft on logistics flight 40P to the ISS was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Soyuz-U rocket on 27 October at 17:11 CEST (21:11 local time) with 2.4 tonnes of cargo consisting of 870 kg propellants, 50 kg oxygen, 226 kg water and 1272 kg dry cargo. On 30 October at 18:36 (CEST) Progress 40P docked at the Earth-facing port of the Pirs Docking Compartment under manual control by Alexander Kaleri using the TORU system. After docking, ISS attitude control was returned first to Russian systems and then to US systems.
On 31 October the standard leak check on the interhatch area and the fuel/oxidizer transfer line interface between Progress 40P and Pirs was performed by Alexander Kaleri followed by hatch opening. Hereafter the quick disconnect clamps were installed to stabilise the connection between Progress and the Station, Progress 40P was deactivated and ventilation ducting was installed. Yurchikhin dismantled the Progress docking mechanism while Skripochka carried out air sampling in the new logistics spacecraft. Hereafter high priority payloads were transferred to the ISS including ESA’s SPHINX Biobox. On 1 November temperature sensor equipment was installed in Progress 40P.
STS-133/ULF-5 Mission Preparations
Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre Preparations
On 27 October Yurchikhin and Walker undertook an R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre training session. This involved photographing a Shuttle diagram inside the ISS with a D2X digital still camera using 400 and 800 mm 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.
In the European-built Cupola Observation Module Doug Wheelock made preparations on 1 November in advance of robotics operations for the STS-133/ULF-5 mission. He relocated a Station Support laptop into the Cupola to act as an additional laptop for robotics video and configured another laptop in the Cupola for wired connectivity. Steps for configuring the laptops for robotic video operations were completed the following day.
During the two weeks until 5 November, The Simplified Aid For EVA Rescue (SAFER) units were checked out. These are propulsion units worn by the EVA astronauts in the unlikely case they become untethered from the ISS. In addition water reserves used for the US EVA suits’ water tanks were degassed, the water loops of the EVA suits and Airlock were scrubbed for particulate matter, EVA support items were gathered together, and EVA battery maintenance and regeneration of Metal Oxide canisters used for carbon dioxide removal during spacewalks took place.
In addition to pre-packing items for return on STS-133 Shuttle Discovery, items in Node 2 were cleared out in preparation for Centreline Berthing Camera installation needed for attachment of the Permanent Multipurpose Module during the STS-133 mission.
Progress 37P Undocking
At 16:22 (CEST) on 25 October the Progress 37P spacecraft successfully undocked from the Pirs Docking Compartment of the International Space Station. It will remain in orbit for about three weeks before undertaking a planned destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Orbital Debris/Debris Avoidance Manoeuvre
Orbital Debris was being tracked by flight controllers which had ‘Time of Closest Approach’ on 26 October. Due to the proximity of the object a debris avoidance manoeuvre was undertaken by the ISS on 26 October at 12:25 (CEST).
Russian Air Conditioner
Skripochka and Yurchikhin drained Freon-218 coolant from the Russian SKV2 air conditioner on 26 October in preparation for replacement of the air conditioner’s BTA heat exchanger/evaporator, which occurred the following day.
In the two weeks until 5 November preparations have been ongoing for the 6-hour Russian EVA-26, which will be undertaken by Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Skripochka on 15 November. In addition to various reviews of materials and procedures for the spacewalk, tools and items have been gathered together and prepared for the spacewalk including an EVA tool carrier, hammer, pry bar, screwdriver, patch panels, gap spanner, wire ties and braces.
On 3 and 4 November the cosmonauts gathered together replaceable Orlan spacesuit elements and equipment in preparation for an EVA dry run on 12 November. The Orlan suits were serviced and personal gear was made ready as well as preparing the Pirs Docking Compartment and Service Module Transfer Compartment for the spacewalk (and dry run) by relocating science equipment to the Poisk Module.
Soyuz TMA-01M/24S Analogue/Digital Converter
ISS Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri undertook detailed troubleshooting on a failed analogue/digital converter in the Soyuz 24S Descent Module on 2 November using a new diagnostic CD delivered on Progress 40P. The problem now looks as though it is hardware related.
On 2 November the remaining water in Progress 39P’s Rodnik BV1 tank was transferred to the ISS after pumping equipment was set up in the Service Module by Fyodor Yurchikhin. Thereafter Yurchikhin started the bladder compression and leak check on the Progress BV1 tank prior to transfer of urine back into the tank in the future.
Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
On 3 November Yurchikhin carried out his first orthostatic hemodynamic endurance test session using the TVIS treadmill whilst wearing the Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit. The Chibis suit, which provides stress that simulates gravity to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system, helps to evaluate how the Russian crewmember would cope with exposure to gravity on return to Earth.
Other activities that have taken place in the two-week period until 5 November include: replacing a failed laptop on EXPRESS Rack 6; replacing one of the four ZU memory/recording devices in the BITS-12 telemetry system in the Russian Service Module; replacing noise dampers at ventilation fans associated with air conditioners of the Russian Thermal Control System in the Service Module; a PanOptic eye test by ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker; replacing the empty gas supply in the Vehicle Cabin Atmosphere Module; repairing Multi-Layer Insulation in the US Airlock; and taking special photos with a D2X digital camera for translating into 3D panoramic views using a Microsoft process called Photosynth.
(*)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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