ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 83, Increment 26
This is ISS status report #83 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.
Highlight: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli was successfully launched on Soyuz TMA-20/25S on a long-duration mission to the ISS on 15 December at 20:09 CET (01:09 local time on 16 December) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Following the launch together with Roscosmos cosmonaut and Soyuz commander Dmitry Kondratyev, and NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, the Soyuz TMA-20 docked with the ISS two days later. Nespoli is a Flight Engineer for ISS Expeditions 26 and 27 as well as undertaking the European MagISStra mission, which includes a full research programme in life and physical science along with an additional complement of educational and public relations activities. Coleman is also a Flight Engineer for ISS Expeditions 26 and 27 while Kondratyev is a Flight Engineer for ISS Expedition 26 and will become ISS Commander for Expedition 27.
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 and Japanese Kibo laboratories. 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
Following a period of extensive functional testing no activities were undertaken using the Biolab facility in the two weeks until 17 December due to shortage of crew time during the temporary 3-crew period. 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 was revised and TripleLux-A was de-manifested from the ULF-6 / STS-134 flight mainly due to the Biolab microscope failure which will be returned from the ISS and repaired on ground. The objective of the TripleLux experiments 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
The samples from the SPaceflight of Huvec: an Integrated Xperiment’ (SPHINX) and the PADIAC (PAthway DIfferent Activators) experiment are now undergoing analysis at the respective research team laboratories following the successful conclusion of the experiments on orbit and return of the samples to ground on Soyuz 23S on 26 November. Both experiments utilised the Kubik-6 incubator located inside the European Drawer Rack (PADIAC also utilised a second Kubik incubator outside of the European Drawer Rack)
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 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 human immune system. Samples for SPHINX and PADIAC were returned to the relevant science teams on 29 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 European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which will also host in the future 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 undertaken with the Fluid Science Laboratory in the two weeks until 17 December. 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 the Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) of ATV-2 Johannes Kepler 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 science and experiment operations preparation activities are currently taking place at the involved USOCs.
European Physiology Modules and Experiments
The European Physiology Modules facility was activated on 15 December for downlink of data from the DOSIS experiment (see below). The facility is equipped with Science Modules to investigate the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. The experiment results will also contribute 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. A ground-commanded downlink was successfully performed on 15 December. 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 Identification System (VIS)
Using the Norwegian receiver for the Vessel Identification System (commonly known as the Automatic Identification System, AIS) on 27 October, data acquisition is ongoing and telemetry is still being successfully received by the Norwegian User Support and Operation Centre (N-USOC) in Trondheim via ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Germany. The Vessel Identification System has acquired an extensive amount of data in the past months since its installation in Columbus.
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 17 December. 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
EXPRESS Rack 3 in which the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) is located was activated on 16 December for taking vibration measurement during Soyuz 25S docking the following day.
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 Shuttle mission ULF5. 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 fall 2011 after the execution of a further NASA experiment, called 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 was 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 17 December. 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 latest Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility to gather scientific data which opened on 3 December has been ongoing in the two weeks until 17 December. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR are open when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun. A couple of minor issues such as a short-term communications error did occur during the period those these were recovered without any significant implications. The payload facility was placed in a ‘safe’ configuration on 16 December in connection with the docking of Soyuz 25S the following day. The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range currently for more than 2 ½ 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
No activities were carried out using ESA’s Material Science Laboratory in the two weeks until 17 December. 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 17 December.
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
No activities were carried out using the Portable Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 17 December. 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.
No activities were carried out on the ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects on Astronauts) Shield experiment in the two weeks until 17 December. 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 was recently undertaking a 3-dimensional survey of the radiation environment in the US laboratory.
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 was foreseen for November 2010 which allowed for a scientifically beneficial extension of the open space exposure period to more than 1.5 years, though a recent request from Roscosmos will lead to a mission extension until spring 2011 when the sample trays are retrieved via an EVA and returned to Earth either by Shuttle or the next Soyuz in March.
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 17 December activities were carried out using NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. On 6 December the rack was activated and ISS Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly downloaded data from the Actiwatches used by Expedition 25 Commander Doug Wheelock, and Expedition 25 Flight Engineer Shannon Walker (who returned to earth on Soyuz 23S on 26 November) and by himself for runs of the NASA Sleep experiment. The data was downlinked via the Human Research Facility. Kelly also started an additional week-long session of NASA’s Sleep experiment on 13 December during which data was transferred to a Human Research Facility 1 laptop from the Actiwatch he was wearing to monitor sleep patterns and light exposure levels.
Human Research Facility 2
No activities were carried out using Human Research Facility 2 in the two weeks until 17 December.
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 in the two weeks until 17 December include:
Laptop Battery Check and Reboot
NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Scott Kelly performed the periodic battery check and reboot of the active Portable Computer System laptops in the Columbus laboratory and other areas of the US segment of the ISS on 8 December including the European-built Node 3 and Cupola and the US laboratory.
Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter
The Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter radiation measurement device was relocated from the Columbus laboratory to the Japanese laboratory by Kelly on 9 December.
Data Management System laptop replacement
A failed Data Management System laptop in the Columbus laboratory was replaced with a new unit on 10 December by Scott Kelly. This included removing the hard disk and battery from the failed laptop, inserting the hard disk in the new laptop and placing the battery in stowage. The new laptop was then configured for use.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
In addition to regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and the T2/COLBERT treadmill in Node 3, Scott Kelly tied a knot in ARED’s exercise rope to remove slack and prevent the splice entering the exit pulleys.
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. On 9 December Kelly updated the data module of the Urine Processor Assembly in the Water Recovery System with new software in order to restore full functionality.
Expedition 26/Soyuz TMA-20 Launch and Docking
Soyuz TMA-20 launch and docking
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli was successfully launched together with Roscosmos cosmonaut and Soyuz Commander Dmitry Kondratyev, and NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman in the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft on flight 25S to the ISS on 15 December at 20:09 CET (01:09 local time on 16 December) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Nespoli and Coleman are Flight Engineers for ISS Expeditions 26 and 27. Kondratyev is a Flight Engineer for ISS Expedition 26 and will become ISS Commander for Expedition 27. Following orbital insertion, Soyuz TMA antennas and solar arrays were deployed and various orbital burns were carried out over the following two days to bring the Soyuz in the vicinity of the ISS to begin docking procedures. Prior to Soyuz TMA-19 docking the ISS crew configured relevant communications and video equipment. The Soyuz spacecraft docked successfully with the Russian “Rassvet” Mini Research Module 1 on 17 December at 21:11 (CET) bringing the crew of the ISS once again up to a total of six.
Soyuz TMA-20 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 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. Kondratyev set up the three Sokol spacesuits and their gloves for drying out, and he deactivated the Soyuz spacecraft. The standard crew safety briefing followed.
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. On 7 December Scott Kelly checked the internal nitrogen pressure on all the MELFI units and configured one of the MELFI 3 dewars with ½-box modules and ice bricks in connection with upcoming activities during the STS-133/ULF5 mission (though MELFI 3 was not ‘active’). The following day MELFI 2 malfunctioned, going into Autostop Mode. All samples inside were transferred to MELFI 1 and the MELFI 2 unit was shut down. The cause is being looked into on ground and an assessment is being made about leaving MELFI 3 active (once activated). On 10 December MELFI 2’s dewars were placed in MELFI 3 to assist in quicker cool down once it is activated. MELFI 3’s dewars were stowed. On 13 December MELFI 2 dewars were wiped internally to dry them off and prevent microbial growth and the rack was warmed up to ambient temperature. Amongst other samples MELFI 1 also contains blood and urine samples from ESA’s Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment.
Combustion Integrated Rack
Maintenance work was carried out on NASA’s Combustion Integrated Rack on 6/7 December by Scott Kelly in the US laboratory. The aim of the exercise was to re-align the Passive Rack Isolation System (PaRIS). PaRIS Snubber pins and cup were adjusted, the jam nuts were torqued, alignment guides and microgravity rack barrier were reinstalled and a bracket with damaged threads was removed and replaced.
Russian SKV-2 Air Conditioner
ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka continued maintenance work on the Russian SKV-2 air conditioner in the Service Module on 8 December by removing a section of pipe from the replaceable condensate line. Maintenance is being carried out in order to return functionality for condensate pumping.
PProgress Spacecraft Fluid Transfers
Pumping equipment was set up by Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri on 8 and 10 December. On each of the days he started compression of one of the soft internal bladders with associated leak check of a Rodnik water storage tank of Progress 40P and 39P respectively in preparation for transfer of urine back into the tanks for disposal after they undock. The same procedures were carried out on a second Rodnik water storage tank of Progress 40P on 13 December after emptying the tank of water. The Progress 39P tank that was checked on 10 December also underwent another leak check following inflation on 14 December. The spherical Rodnik tanks consist of a hard shell and a soft membrane. On 15 and 17 December Kaleri configured pumping equipment in the Pirs Docking compartment and transferred urine from seven different containers into one of the Rodnik tanks of Progress 40P, which is docked to Pirs. Progress 39P is docked to the aft port of the Russian Service Module.
Orbital debris from an Atlas 2A Centaur rocket body was being monitored from the ground in the two weeks until 17 December although no avoidance manoeuvre by the ISS was deemed necessary as of 11 December.
Preparations continue for the arrival of the second Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) in January 2011. The Hardware Command Panel and associated power and data cables were prepared by Scot Kelly on 10 December. From 13-15 December Kelly supported the ground-commanded checkout of HTV proximity operations equipment in the Japanese ISS laboratory with commands being sent from the Hardware Command Panel to the ground simulator at the Tanegashima Space Center Ground Station in Japan, which confirmed a successful radio frequency link to the ISS. Kelly powered down, disassembled and stowed the Hardware Command Panel and associated equipment thereafter. The HTV will be berthed to the Node 2 zenith port (as opposed to the Earth-facing nadir port) to allow for docking of STS-133 Discovery to Node 2’s forward port in February.
Skripochka carried out functionality tests on the Vozdukh CO2 removal system air pump on 13 December. This had caused Vozdukh to stop working on 11 December and again on 12 December after ground controllers attempted to restart it.
STS-133/ULF-5 Mission Preparations
A Shuttle Discovery tanking test was carried out on 17 December, filling the Shuttle external tank with liquid hydrogen and oxygen in order to verify if repairs made to two cracked external tank brackets (called stringers) were successful. In the run up to the test 39 strain gauges and 50 thermocouples, were installed on the aluminum surface of the tank to precisely measure respectively how the tank moves and temperature readings as the super-cold propellants are pumped in to the external tank. Initial data showed no further cracks though analysis of all the data could take several weeks.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 17 December include: checking out a telemetry sensor circuit in the Russian Rassvet module for Zarya module docking control; an assessment of stowage capabilities in the ISS Russian segment; replacing failed lighting assemblies in the US laboratory; troubleshooting loss of S-band communications from Zarya’s Instrumentation Cargo Compartment comm panel; downloading a log file for ground analysis due to failure of a Neptun-ME console during ascent of Soyuz 24S; upgrading the displays of two Russian laptops with new software; a periodic/long-term inspection of the Service Module Working Compartment’s pressure shell and ring, looking for any moisture, deposits, mold, corrosion etc; installing an External Wireless Instrumentation System antenna in the US laboratory; and moving the CEVIS exercise device by a couple of seat track holes to prevent interference with the Window Observation Research Facility rack.
(*)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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