ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 85, Increment 26
This is ISS status report #85 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 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
No operations were carried out with the Biolab facility in the two weeks until 14 January. 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 tentatively on ULF-7 / STS-135 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 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
Part 2 of commissioning activities for the Canadian Microgravity Vibration Isolation Subsystem (MVIS) started on 10 January and continued until the end of the reporting period. The Microgravity Vibration Isolation Subsystem is incorporated within the Fluid Science Laboratory. It is equipped with an extremely sensitive accelerometer that can monitor movements or vibration aboard the Station and it has been designed to isolate the core element of the Fluid Science Laboratory from vibrations of the ISS, and from disturbances generated within the rack itself. Part 2 commissioning activities included various system checkouts, a System and Stiffness identification, and acquisition and downlinking of data. The Facility Core Element of the Fluid Science Laboratory was locked down on 12 January by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli in connection with a reboost of the ISS the following day. Following the reboost manoeuvre the Facility Core Element was again unlocked.
The GeoFlow-2 experiment is stowed in the Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) of ATV-2 Johannes Kepler for launch on 15 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 (MARS and E-USOC).
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 Progress 39P launch in September (due to the upgrade constraints of the Video Management Unit of the Fluid Science Laboratory). The Video Management Unit will be tentatively returned to Earth by ULF-7 / STS-135 for the upgrade implementation, after the execution of the GeoFlow-2 experiment. The flight of the FASES Experiment Container will now be rescheduled to a later Progress launch in 2012. 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.
European Physiology Modules and related experiments
On 5 January the European Physiology Modules facility was activated and data was downlinked from the PASSAGES experiment (see below). Data for the DOSIS experiment (see below) was downlinked on 11 January. On the same day ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli activated the facility laptop and updated the Portable Clinical Blood Analyser software for the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment, which is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related physiological effects.
The European Physiology Modules 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.
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, both ISS Flight Engineers carried out their first sessions of the PASSAGES experiment on 3 January following installation of the Neurospat light shield and trackball (also used as part of the Neurospat experiment) on the facility laptop on the front of the European Physiology Modules facility. Data for the experiment was downlinked on 5 January.
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.
After experiment hardware was set up by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli, sessions of the 3D Space experiment were performed by Nespoli and NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman on 4 January. Coleman took documentary photographs of Nespoli during his session of 3D Space.
This human physiology study investigates the effects of weightlessness on the mental representation of visual information during and after spaceflight. Accurate perception is a prerequisite for spatial orientation and reliable performance of tasks in space. The experiment has different elements including investigations of perception of depth and distance carried out using a virtual reality headset and standard psychophysics tests.
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 11 January. 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 the Vessel Identification System (commonly known as the Automatic Identification System, AIS), 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 14 January. The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA’s 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
On 13 January Paolo Nespoli removed all the cabling from the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) in preparation for troubleshooting activities. The following day Nespoli tilted EXPRESS Rack 3 (in which the EMCS is located) forward and worked on Water On-Off Valve 8 to try to free the stuck valve. After completion of the task the rack was tilted back into position and all the relevant cables reconnected. 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.
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 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. The tentative next EMCS experiment is a NASA experiment, SeedGrowth.
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 14 January. 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.
Erasmus Recording Binocular 2
After configuring settings on the Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 on 8 January, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli undertook a recording session with the device, which covered scripts relating to a fly through of ISS modules and work on the ISS. The Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 is a high definition 3D video camera conceived by the Erasmus Centre of ESA’s Human Spaceflight Directorate and takes advantage of high-definition optics and advanced electronics to provide a vastly improved 3D video effect for mapping the Station.
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 24 December, closed on 6 January and the SOLAR facility has been transitioned to a safe configuration awaiting the next Sun visibility window. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR are open when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun. The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range currently for more than 2 ½ years on-orbit. This 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
On 4 and 7 January the furnace insert for the Material Science Laboratory was replaced along with and other related tasks performed. The Low Gradient Furnace was removed and the Solidification and Quench Furnace was installed in its place. Commissioning activities for the new furnace insert were carried out on 10 and 11 January. This included uploading new software, a chamber leak test, a Quench Drive test, and cold and hot furnace checkouts with associated heating/cooling profiles amongst other activities. The exchange of furnace allows for processing of the final NASA MICAST sample, which will complete processing of the first batch of ESA/NASA CETSOL/MICAST samples. Twelve of the CETSOL/MICAST experiment samples have been processed to date and analyses by the relevant science teams on ground. This will in turn be followed by the second batch of CETSOL/MICAST samples for processing and samples for the SETA experiment.
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. Project scientists have already 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
On 6 January the Microgravity Science Glovebox was powered on in connection with NASA’s Capillary Channel Flow experiment located inside. Capillary Channel Flow is a versatile experiment for studying a critical variety of inertial-capillary dominated flows important for innovations in the containment, storage, and handling of large liquid inventories (fuels, cryogens, and water) aboard spacecraft.
These activities follow the successful conclusion of the SODI-Colloid experiment and the relocation of the Microgravity Science Glovebox rack from Columbus back to the US Laboratory on 21 October. 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 towards the end of 2011 after a the implementation of the partially re-defined liquid mixtures in conjunction with the new ELIPS project DCMIX. Further DSC experiments are planned for 2012.
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 Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 14 January. 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 14 January. 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; and 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 has led to a mission extension until spring 2011 when the sample trays will be retrieved in the frame of a Russian EVA in January and returned to Earth either by Shuttle or at the latest with the next Soyuz return 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 will be exposed to the harsh space environment (Solar UV, cosmic radiation, vacuum), for about two 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 14 January 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 Scott Kelly carried out another week-long session of NASA’s Sleep experiment starting from 3 January 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 1 was used in connection with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment with ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman as test subject. Coleman started her first Ambulatory Monitoring session for Integrated Cardiovascular on 6 January with Nespoli assisting as Crew Medical Officer for the experiment. The session was completed on 8 January 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. Coleman downloaded all device data to the facility laptop on 10 January. The ultrasound scan was carried out on Coleman on 14 January along with ECG and heart rate measurements being taken, again with Nespoli assisting as Crew Medical Officer. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms.
On 12 January Paolo Nespoli set up the facility’s Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device and body mass measurements were carried out by Nespoli, Scott Kelly and Catherine Coleman.
Human Research Facility 2
Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 7 and 14 January to centrifuge blood samples for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol, drawn respectively from ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli with Scott Kelly assisting and from Catherine Coleman with Paolo Nespoli assisting. The samples were thereafter stowed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers. Activities were supported by the Columbus Control Centre.
ISS general system information and activities *
Columbus laboratory and Columbus Control Centre
In addition to the Columbus experiment facilities mentioned above, the Columbus systems have been working well. Some regular maintenance activities have been executed by the crew and the Flight Control Team on top of the regular conferences of the ISS Crew with the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Main points of interest include:
Public Affairs Event
ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli was involved in a live link ESA public affairs event from the Columbus laboratory on 5 January, answering questions from the Italian television company RAI 1 in Rome.
Thermal Control System degassing
Paolo Nespoli degassed the water loop of the Thermal Control System’s Water Pump Assembly 2 in Columbus on 7 January by installing the ‘Hydrocyclone’ device on the Water Pump Assembly.
Atmospheric Control System
Nespoli carried out a hatch seal inspection in Columbus (and other US segment modules) on 7 January using a special vacuum cleaner and other tools.
Joint Fire Drill
The Columbus Control Centre participated in the ISS Crew’s first joint fire drill on 11 January together with the Mission Control Centres in Moscow, Kazakhstan, Houston and Tsukuba. The aim is to test procedures and responsiveness in case of specific fire events on the ISS.
Nespoli carried out air sampling in Columbus on 14 January (as well as in the Russian Service Module and US laboratory) using Grab Sample Containers.
Activities of ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli
System and payload activities
During the last two weeks in addition to what is stated in the rest of the report, Nespoli carried out: a status check on the Microgravity Experiment Research Locker Incubator (MERLIN) in case of the presence of moisture; installation of glow-in-the-dark decals by hatches in the US modules as part of Emergency Egress Guidance System set up; periodic maintenance on the Russian BMP Harmful Impurities Removal System to regenerate an absorbent bed of the system; relocation of the Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter radiation detector to the Japanese laboratory; routine maintenance on the Compound Specific Analyzer-Combustion Products prime unit, (which provides quick response during a fire), before redeploying it in the Service Module; and calibration and taking readings from two Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen instruments.
In addition to the European science programme detailed above ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli has carried out additional science activities in support of the science programmes of ESA’s ISS partners. This included: being a subject for NASA’s ‘Reaction Self Test’ experiment which looks into how planned sleep shift for ISS crews affects performance; logging his diet (for several days) and collecting blood and urine samples as part of NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol; conducting his first session of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Biological Rhythms experiment, which included 24-hour (portable) ECG measurement (and downloading data); conducting his first session of JAXA’s Hair experiment; and assisting with photography for NASA’s Capillary Flow Experiment.
Health status activities
The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the past two weeks Paolo Nespoli has undertaken: Body Mass Measurement; a session of the WinSCAT (Spaceflight Cognitive Assessment Tool for Windows) experiment, which is used for testing cognitive abilities; completed a session of the US Visual Acuity test programme; and filled in Food Frequency Questionnaires to estimate nutritional intake for the astronauts and give recommendations to ground specialists that help maintain optimal crew health. In assisting other crew members Nespoli took the role of Crew Medical Officer, supporting ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka in the Russian PZEh MO-1 (“Study of the Bioelectric Activity of the Heart at Rest”) on exercise equipment and supporting ISS Commander Scott Kelly and ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman (both NASA) in the US PanOptic eye test. Nespoli also undertook Crew Health Care Systems (CHeCS) emergency medical operations training on 3 and 12 January. In connection with health status Paolo (and the rest of the crew) undertake regular Private Medical Conferences with the ground, and daily exercise routines on the ISS.
During the last two weeks Nespoli and the other ISS crew members have had their regular Planning Conferences with ESA’s Columbus Control Centre as well as Mission Control in Houston and Moscow, and the Japanese Flight Control Team at the Tsukuba Space Centre. Nespoli also: undertook a periodic hatch seal inspection in the Japanese pressurised modules; carried out a Local Area Network/Station Support Computer power inventory in two crew quarters; relocated food packages from Node 1 to the Rusian Zarya module; and deployed four formaldehyde kits in the US Lab and Russian Service Module, to catch any atmospheric formaldehyde. Nespoli was involved in different Education exercises during the reporting period. He used the Service Module amateur radio equipment on 8 and 12 January to conduct live radio sessions with students in Italy respectively at the Universitа degli studi di Bari “Cittadella Mediterranea della Scienza”, in Bari and the Istituto Comprensivo Marco Polo-Viani Scuola Secondaria 1° Grado, Viareggio, in Lucca. With respect to additional public affairs activities he participated in two US events on 6 and 11 January with Kelly and Coleman in live link interviews with KSAZ-TV, in Phoenix, Arizona and Central Florida Aerospace Academy in Lakeland, Florida and also participated with the whole crew with a video conference on 11 January with the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
Regular use, inspection and servicing was carried out on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device in Node 3 in which Paolo Nespoli was involved and included replacing both cable arm ropes, evacuating its cylinder flywheels to maintain proper vacuum, and greasing the Vibration Isolation System. Regular use, inspection and servicing of the T2/COLBERT treadmill, also in Node 3, also took place. In addition Scott Kelly took data points from ARED on 6 January to determine why the detents are not engaging. Coleman also carried out a special Activation and Checkout protocol on the T2 treadmill to help determine extent of bumping from misaligned snubber pins.
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 of the past two weeks include:
Water Recovery System
On 4 January ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli undertook the periodic sampling of the Water Recovery System using the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer. Kelly repeated the procedure on 11 January. A couple of days later Kelly replaced the separator filter of the Water Recovery System’s Water Processing Assembly as it had reached the end of its service life.
Oxygen Generation System
On 13 January ISS Commander Scott Kelly carried out resistance/continuity tests on a contingency Oxygen Generator System cable which was built during the Expedition 24 Pump Module failure.
Waste and Hygiene Compartment
Two-year maintenance activities were carried out on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node 3 during the two-week reporting period. After tools and replacement units were gathered together on 3 January the overhaul started the next day with the replacement of urine lines by Scott Kelly. Activities were continued by Kelly on 5 January (assisted by Nespoli with Waste and Hygiene Compartment cabin removal/replacement). In addition to the urine lines the two-year activities include replacing pressure sensors, water lines, the Urine Valve Block and the Water Valve Block as well as the replacement of the internal Urine Monitoring System line (found to be contaminated with microbial growth during Expedition 24) with a new line arriving on the next Shuttle flight (ULF5), along with a new adapter. The piping between the Pretreat and Water Pump and the Pump Separator also needs to be changed out.
Earth-facing Video Camera
Nespoli and Coleman set up a Canon video camera at an Earth-facing window in the European-built Cupola Observation Module attached to Node 3 in support of ESA activities on 6 January and 10, 11 January respectively.
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 10 January Catherine Coleman replaced the battery of the Temperature Data Recorder in MELFI 1 (and removed a similar battery from Node 2), inserted dessicants into the MELFI 2 dewars, and verified correct configuration of the MELFI 3 dewars in preparation for accepting samples. During the reporting period samples have been placed in the MELFI freezers from ISS Flight Engineers Catherine Coleman and Paolo Nespoli for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol (blood and urine), and JAXA’s Hair experiment.
Fluids Integrated Rack
Paolo Nespoli restrained the (free floating) Fluids Integrated Rack while Scott Kelly carried out maintenance on the rack including replacing and aligning a snubber in support of Active Rack Isolation System (ARIS) pushrod operation on 3 January. A week later Nespoli supported ground-commanded hyperextension tests on the ARIS pushrod/actuators, which included removing/installing alignment guides several times, and re-adjusting the snubbers between the hyperextension tests.
US Airlock activities
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli was involved in standard maintenance activities in the US Airlock along with ISS Commander Scott Kelly from 3-5 January. Activities included filling the Extravehicular Mobility Unit’s cooling garment with water, degassing two payload water reserves, a charge-discharge-recharge battery cycle, and scrubbing the cooling loops of two Extravehicular Mobility Units for particulate matter.
HTV Arrival Preparations
Preparations continue for the arrival of the second Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) scheduled on 27 January 2011. In addition to reviews and planning conferences, on 4 January Nespoli and Kelly resized their spacesuits in case an EVA is needed for arrival/berthing of the HTV. On 10 January Nespoli assembled the HTV Hardware Command Panel and associated lines for assembling the power and data cabling. Power switches on the Proximity Communication System rack were also tested in preparation for ground-commanded activity for powering system units and setting parameters. Nespoli supported these ground-commanded checkouts on orbit and , together with Coleman, undertook computer simulated training sessions of HTV berthing on the ISS. On 13 January Kelly and Coleman assembled components and connectors into cables and jumpers for the HTV berthing. A backup power cable is needed in case the HTV2 requires a backup power feed while berthed to the zenith port of Node-2. The cabling was laid the following day and a Centerline Berthing Camera System was installed and checked out at the Node 2 nadir port.
Robotics Activity: SSRMS and Dextre
On 4 January the Mobile Transporter with the Mobile Base System was moved from Worksite 2 to Worksite 5 on the ISS truss and the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator called “Dextre” was stowed on a Power and Data Grapple Fixture on the Mobile Base System in preparation for HTV berthing. Two days later the Cupola and US laboratory robotic workstations were checked out and ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Catherine Coleman carried out a proficiency session with the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), the Station’s principal robotic arm, also in connection with HTV berthing.
On 6 January Alexander Kaleri prepared the Russian/German Plazmennyi-Kristall-3 plus (PK-3+) payload in the Russian Poisk Module, configuring connections, installing external hard drives and leak checking the electronics box. After evacuation a leak check was then carried out on the Experiment Module’s vacuum chamber. The main objective of the experiment is to study wave propagation and dispersion ratio in a dust plasma. On 10 January similar procedures were undertaken prior to starting the experiment series. At the start of each day of the experiment Kaleri activated the turbopump of the PK-3 + hardware. This keeps the vacuum chamber evacuated. The turbopump was deactivated prior to sleep time.
Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre Preparations
On 6 January Nespoli and Coleman 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.
Soyuz TMA-01M/24S Return Preparations
On 8 January, ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka and ISS Commander and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly donned their Sokol spacesuits and carried out a fit-check of the Kazbek shock absorbing seats in the Descent Module of the Soyuz TMA-01 crew return vehicle in preparation for their return on 16 March.
Marangoni Inside Payload
Maintenance was carried out on the Marangoni Inside payload inside the Fluid Physics Experiment Facility of the Japanese laboratory between 7 and 12 January, undertaken first by Catherine Coleman and thereafter by Scott Kelly. After disconnecting the Image Processing Unit and opening up the body, the silicone filter hose was removed and five hard disks of the Video Recording Unit were replaced. The Marangoni Inside Core was removed and cleaned and Marangoni Inside O-rings and absorbent were replaced. The Marangoni convection experiment examines fluid tension flow in weightlessness.
Twice during the reporting period pumping equipment was set up by Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Dmitri Kondratyev and transferred urine to a storage tank of the Progress 40P spacecraft docked to the Pirs Docking Compartment. Cargo for disposal was loaded in the Progress spacecraft and Kaleri and ISS Flight Engineer Oleg Skripochka (Roscosmos) carried out a test of the TORU manual rendezvous and docking system. On 14 January Kaleri installed the Progress Docking mechanism in preparation for undocking of Progress 40P on 24 January.
In preparation for the Russian EVA on 21 January, the two spacewalking cosmonauts, Kaleri and Kondratyev, carried out a handgrip tolerance test on 10 January, a standard Russian pre-EVA medical Operations procedure. Skripochka tested pressure equalisation valves in the Service Module Transfer Compartment and Pirs Docking Compartment/airlock (used during the spacewalk) while Coleman gathered together US tools for use during the EVA. Over the following two days Kaleri and Kondratyev prepared equipment and configured the Service Module Transfer Compartment and Pirs Docking Compartment. On 13 January the three cosmonauts prepared the Orlan spacesuits and airlock, installing items in the Orlans such as CO2 scrubbers and moisture collectors as well as degassing the cooling loops in the Orlans and Docking Compartment. The following day the Orlan suits were sized, and leak checks and functionality tests were carried out on the Orlan suits and interface units along with pressure checks on oxygen tanks in the airlock.
Progress 39P, which is docked to the aft port of the ISS Service Module, performed an 11-minute reboost of the ISS on 13 January. The ISS gained 2.4 km in altitude during the reboost, which was carried out to help place the ISS in the correct orbital profile for the arrival of HTV-2 on 27 January and STS-133 scheduled for launch in February.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 14 January include: installing new software on the Rack Interface Controller of EXPRESS Rack 6; degassing Contingency Water Containers; Mission Control Centre in Houston transitioning four Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computers to new versions of software; drying out and installing new dessicants in the Microgravity Experiment Research Locker Incubator (MERLIN) galley fridge and upgrading software on the backup channel of the Russian BSPN Payload Server.
(*)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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