ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 88, Increment 26
This is ISS status report #88 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’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2) called Johannes Kepler was launched on 16 February by an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. This was the 200th launch of an Ariane since 1979. ATV-2, Europe’s ISS logistics spacecraft docked with the Space Station on 24 February.
Point of historic interest: On 12 February three years ago Europe’s Columbus laboratory was entered for the first time on the International Space Station. This was undertaken by ESA astronaut Léopold Eyharts who was assisted hereafter with the activation of Europe’s ISS Laboratory by ESA astronaut Hans Schlegel and NASA’s ISS Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson.
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 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
After Kapton tape was removed from the working volume of Biolab’s Handling Mechanism on 12 February by ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman, she successfully removed the Handling Mechanism’s gripper prior to stowing it.
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 on ULF-6 / STS-134 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
No activities were undertaken with the European Drawer Rack in the two weeks until 25 February. 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 thermophysical properties of metal alloys under weightlessness, supporting basic and industrial research.
Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow-2 / FASES experiments
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli installed a sensor enclosure of the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS), used for taking structural dynamics data, on the front side of the Fluid Science Laboratory on 16 February. On 24 February the rack was activated for taking structural dynamics data using the Fluid Science Laboratory’s Microgravity Measurement Apparatus (and SAMS, see European Modular Cultivation System below) during the docking of ATV-2. Following Central Experiment Module and Optical Diagnostics Module automatic tests the Microgravity Measurement Apparatus was configured and started taking data. The facility was deactivated after data acquisition during ATV docking.
ATV-2 has transported the GeoFlow-2 experiment to the ISS in its Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC). Geoflow-2 is the next experiment to be undertaken in the Fluid Science Laboratory undergoing processing of an exhaustive scientific programme lasting a couple of months. Final science and experiment operations preparation activities are currently taking place at the involved USOCs (MARS and E-USOC).
Geoflow-2 (which follows on from the Geoflow experiment) will be investigating the flow of an incompressible viscous fluid held between two concentric spheres rotating about a common axis as a representation of a planet. This is of importance for astrophysical and geophysical problems such as global scale flow in the atmosphere, the oceans, and in the liquid nucleus of planets. For Geoflow-2 the incompressible fluid will be nonanol and not silicon oil as in the first Geoflow experiment. Nonanol varies in viscosity with temperature (unlike silicon oil) to provide a different aspect of research with more of a simulation to Earth’s geophysical conditions.
The subsequently planned Fluid Science Laboratory experiment “Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability” (FASES) is still 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. The execution of the FASES experiment will require the upgrade of the Video Management Unit which 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 facility and related experiments
Equipment for the PASSAGES experiment (including the Neurospat headset and laptop) was set up in front of the European Physiology Modules by ISS Commander Scott Kelly on 14 February. The following day he performed his first session of the experiment. On 16 February ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli carried out activities for downlink of associated data. He activated the European Physiology Modules facility and laptop, inserted the PASSAGES memory card into the laptop, and hereafter downlinked the via the European Physiology Modules.
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 Science Modules to investigate the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. Experiment results from the European Physiology Modules will contribute to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle atrophy.
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 12 February. 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.
DOSIS 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. The passive detectors for DOSIS, which were deinstalled and returned to earth on STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis, and sent to the research team to undergo 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.
ESA Astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli continued his first session of the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment, from 11-16 February. During this first six-day session Nespoli consumed a higher salt level diet and logged what he had eaten and drunk on a daily basis. During this period body mass measurement was taken on 14 and 16 February and blood sampling was undertaken on 15 February. Blood samples were spun in the Refrigerated Centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 and put into the MELFI-3 freezer (see below) for return to ground for further analysis. Blood was also analysed on orbit using a Portable Clinical Blood Analyser. Nespoli also started 24 hr urine collection on 15 February, which finished the following day. Samples were again stored in MELFI.
Nespoli repeated these procedures for the second six-day session from 17-22 February but this time on a low-salt diet. Body mass measurements were again taken on diet days 4 and 6. Blood samples were taken, spun and analysed on day 5 and 24 hr urine collection was concluded on the final day. All samples were again stored in one of the MELFI units.
SOLO is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects during long-duration space flight.
Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 25 February. 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
The European Modular Cultivation System was activated on 22 February. Servicing of all 12 water pumps was successfully performed, image acquisition was carried out to determine camera integrity, and Mass Memory Unit integrity checks were undertaken.
On 23 February EXPRESS Rack 3 (in which the European Modular Cultivation System is located) was activated to support testing. With respect to the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS) in EXPRESS Rack 3 the SAMS sensor enclosure was moved to the Fluid Science Laboratory on 16 February and took structural dynamics measurements (along with the Microgravity Measurement Apparatus in the Fluid Science Laboratory) on 24 February during ATV-2 docking.
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.
The cell culture chambers for the Genara-A experiment (which already took place in the European Modular Cultivation System in mid 2010) are currently still in a General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER) until their return on Shuttle mission ULF5, which was launched on 24 February and due to dock to the ISS on 26 February. 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 25 February. 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 human muscle groups around joints to provide a better understanding of the effects of weightlessness on the muscular system of ISS astronauts.
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 tentatively followed up by functional testing of MARES in two parts: the first part (so far planned during Expedition 26 but most likely to be deferred to utilisation crew time shortage) without a crew member using the system, the second functional testing (during Expedition 27/28 or maybe deferred to Expedition 29/30) with a crew member in the loop 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.
Greenhouse in Space experiment
Paolo Nespoli installed the ‘Greenhouse in Space’ experiment in the Columbus laboratory on 16 February. This included two plant growth chambers, one containing lettuce seeds, one containing Arabidopsis (thale cress) seeds. Nespoli activated the lettuce seed chamber on 16 December, which included hydration of the seeds and thereafter placed the chamber in a suitable location so that the chamber temperature and the distance of the chamber to the lighting source were within the acceptable range. The chamber was at a temperature of 23 deg C and at a distance of approximately 30 cm from the light source. The following day Nespoli carried out similar activation activities for the Arabidopsis seed chamber during a live link. Public Affairs event. On 23 February Nespoli hydrated both growth chambers as scheduled.
‘Greenhouse in Space’ is an education activity which consists of a greenhouse used to grow plants and observe the life cycle of a flowering plant in orbit, while schoolchildren use a similar greenhouse and observe the same species of plant on the ground.
European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space
For a majority of the two week period the SOLAR facility was in a safe configuration prior to the start of a new Sun visibility window for the facility to gather scientific data and also during docking of the second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), Johannes Kepler. The new Sun visibility window opened on 24 February following ATV-2 docking. The facility was also taken out of Sun Pointing Mode for a short period on 25 February in order to carry out an ATV reboost thruster test. 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 around 3 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.
Vessel Identification System (Vessel ID)
Successful data acquisition is ongoing for the Vessel Identification System (commonly known as the Automatic Identification System, AIS), using its Norwegian receiver, 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 were scheduled to be 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.
European science inside the US Destiny Laboratory
Material Science Laboratory in the Material Science Research Rack
No activities were carried out in the Material Science Laboratory in the two weeks until 25 February. The first batch of samples for the ESA/NASA CETSOL/MICAST experiments completed processing on 18 January. The final sample is currently awaiting return to ground. An additional twelve CETSOL/MICAST experiment samples have already been processed to date in the Low Gradient Furnace (replaced with the Solidification and Quenching Furnace in the Material Science Laboratory earlier in January) with analyses undertaken by the relevant science teams on ground. The second batch of CETSOL/MICAST samples will be the next to be processed in the Material Science Laboratory followed by 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 (Columnar-to-Equiaxed Transition in Solidification Processing) and MICAST (Microstructure Formation in Casting of Technical Alloys under Diffusive and Magnetically Controlled Convective Conditions) are two complementary material science projects. 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
From 14-18 February the Microgravity Science Glovebox was powered on in connection with DLR’s Capillary Channel Flow (CCF) experiment located inside, which is performed in bilateral cooperation with NASA. CCF 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.
The CCF 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 2010. 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 and further experiment runs may be resumed later during 2011. 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 2010.
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 batches of 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
On 14 February Paolo Nespoli carried out periodic maintenance on the NASA Pulmonary Function in Flight (PuFF) experiment by regreasing its calibration syringe. Each session includes a number of lung function tests, which involve breathing cabin air. The test measures changes in the evenness of gas exchange in the lungs, and attempts to detect changes in respiratory muscle strength.
On 24 February ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman performed her third session of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with the NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment. 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. 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. Some successful troubleshooting on the system’s turbine flowmeter was carried out which thereafter allowed successful gain calibration to be performed.
European science inside the Japanese Kibo Laboratory
ESA’s Matroshka payload, which has been located in the Japanese Kibo laboratory since 4 May 2010, 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). 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 following negotiations with Russian representatives, the instrument will be tentatively reactivated in March 2011 for continuation of the so-called test mode as a cooperative European-Russian experiment on the ISS. 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 deintegrated sample trays for the Expose-R facility are stowed in the Service Module awaiting return to Earth on STS-133/ULF-5 Shuttle Discovery early in March. The Expose-R payload was retrieved in the frame of a Russian EVA on 21 January. It was installed outside the Zvezda Service Module during the Russian- based spacewalk on 10 March 2009, and concluded science acquisition following almost 2 years of exposure to the harsh open space environment (Solar UV, cosmic radiation, vacuum). The facility had been functioning extremely well and continuously acquiring scientific data during this time.
Expose-R hosted 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.
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 first 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 exobiology experiment complement (three European and one Russian) for the tentative Expose-R2 mission has been identified and the joint implementation discussions for a collaborative undertaking 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 25 February 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 from 14 - 20 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. On 25 February Human Research Facility 1 was activated for Sleep experiment data downlink.
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli set up of the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) in Human Research Facility 1 on 13 February for upcoming activities. The following day ISS Commander Scott Kelly finished set up activities and Nespoli (for the SOLO experiment, see above), Kelly and ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman undertook body mass measurement with the device. Nespoli carried out additional body mass measurements on 20 and 22 February.
Human Research Facility 2
Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 15 and 21 February for blood processing. Blood samples for Paolo Nespoli from the SOLO experiment were centrifuged in the facility’s Refrigerated Centrifuge. All 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.
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, ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli: installed (and days later removed) alignment guides on the Combustion Integrated Rack, due to rack activity, to protect its Passive Rack Isolation System (PARIS) against any disturbance; replaced the battery in, and zero calibrated, the prime unit of the Compound Specific Analyzer-Combustion Products devices (which monitor cabin atmosphere to provide quick response during a fire); retightened the crank handle on the CEVIS cycle ergometer; and carried out weekly inspection and maintenance on Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus 4 and 5, which provide a temperature-controlled environment for processing a wide variety of biotechnology experiments.
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 and JAXA’s Biorhythms experiment, for which he also downloaded data.
Health status activities
The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the past two weeks Paolo Nespoli was the subject of: a Russian body mass measurement protocol; a Russian crew health monitoring program medical assessment; and a US Periodic Fitness Evaluation which checks blood pressure and ECG during programmed exercise. In addition Nespoli filled in Food Frequency Questionnaires used to estimate nutritional intake for the astronauts and give recommendations to ground specialists that help maintain optimal crew health; and acted as Crew Medical Officer in assisting Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri in undertaking the Russian Study of Bioelectric Activity of the Heart at Rest.
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: initiated a run of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere; relocated stowage in Node 2 to make space in connection with STS-133/ULF-5 Shuttle docking; and degassed water reserves in the US airlock by manual centrifugation. In addition Nespoli used the Service Module amateur radio equipment on 17 and 19 February to conduct live radio sessions with students respectively at the Istituto di Istruzione Superiore “Claudio Varalli”, in Milano, Italy and at “Imparare Sperimentando” (Experiencing Learning ) in San Quirino, Italy. Nespoli was further involved in a US public affairs event on 15 February and a live address to the NASA hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology together with NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Scott Kelly and NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
No activities were carried out on the exercise equipment in Node 3 in the two weeks until 25 February in addition to regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (for which Nespoli was one of the participating astronauts) and T2/COLBERT treadmill.
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:
Waste and Hygiene Compartment
ISS Commander Scott Kelly replaced the pre-treat tank and the pre-treat tank hose in the Waste and Hygiene Compartment
Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter Relocation
The Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter radiation measurement device was relocated from Node 3 to the US laboratory on 24 February by NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman.
ATV Johannes Kepler Launch and Docking
In the days prior to launch of Europe’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2) called Johannes Kepler , ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Dmitry Kondratyev (all ISS Flight Engineers) were still making preparations for the docking. This included undertaking computer simulation training sessions of ATV rendezvous, docking and undocking (encompassing off-nominal situations). Following ATV launch (see below), similar training sessions continued on the ISS, as well as gathering equipment needed for first ingress into ATV-2 such as air sample containers and filters and a vacuum cleaner. In addition video equipment was configured for downlinking streaming video packets via U.S. OpsLAN and Ku-band and Nespoli carried out a communications test with the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France.
ESA’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle, Johannes Kepler , was placed into orbit by an Ariane 5 launcher following lift off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 18:50 local time (22:50 CET) on Wednesday 16 February. Once the ATV-2/Ariane 5 upper stage was in orbit following the first eight minutes after launch, the vehicle coasted for 42 minutes before the upper stage ignited for 30 seconds to circularise the orbit at an altitude of 260km. The upper stage separated from ATV-2 about 64 minutes into flight. Hereafter ATV-2 deployed its solar wings.
Over the next few days ATV-2 carried out a series of thruster burns in order to raise its altitude and rendezvous with the ISS. This was constantly monitored from the dedicated ESA/CNES ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France, in coordination with the ISS control centres in Moscow and Houston. ATV-2 is delivering critical supplies to the ISS including 1600 kg dry cargo, 100 kg oxygen, 850 kg ISS refuel propellants, plus 4534 kg propellant for reboost and attitude control of the ISS during its almost four-month mission as well as providing means to undertake debris avoidance manoeuvres if necessary due to orbital debris.
This is the first time that ESA used a special access device to load last-minute cargo items into ATV. This launch also marks the 200th flight of an Ariane vehicle since its debut on 24 December 1979. The total includes 116 flights of Ariane 4 from 1988 to 2003 and 56 flights of Ariane 5 from 1996.
On 24 February prior to docking, video and communications equipment was configured especially Nespoli and Kaleri configuring the ATV Proximity Communications Equipment (including hand controller) in the Service Module from which the docking was monitored on the ISS. ATV-2 docked with the aft port of the Russian Service Module of the International Space Station on 24 February at 17:08 (CET), marked by closure of the hooks at the docking port signifying completion of the docking sequence. The approach and docking were achieved autonomously by ATV’s own computers, closely monitored by the ATV Control Centre and the astronauts on the Station. All ATV systems performed flawlessly during the rendezvous and docking. After the docking, The ATV Hand Controller unit was disconnected and stowed and Kaleri and Nespoli reconfigured communications equipment.
On 25 February Nespoli and Kaleri carried out ATV ingress and ISS integration steps. After carrying out a one-hour leak check on the Service Module to ATV transfer tunnel, hatches were opened quick release screw clamps were installed to stabilise the connection between the ISS and the ATV; air sampling was carried out in the ATV; and an air scrubber was installed in the new logistics spacecraft. Paolo finished off the ingress procedures with a vacuum cleaner. With the arrival of a new element to the Station, the crew carried out an emergency procedures drill to familiarise themselves with ATV equipment for use in emergencies.
ATV Orbit Correction System thrusters were used to carry out a reboost of the ISS on 25 February in order to test the ATV thrusters as well as set up phasing for Soyuz 24S landing and Soyuz 26S launch. The 3 min 18 sec thruster burn increased the altitude of the ISS by 0.86 km.
Progress M-07M/39P Undocking and Associated Activities (See also Russian EVA 28)
On 13 February Alexander Kaleri configured pumping equipment in the Russian Service Module and transferred urine from three different urine containers into one of the Rodnik tanks of Progress 39P, which is docked to the aft port of the Service Module.
On 14 February Kaleri prepared the Progress 39P spacecraft for departure (and emergency undocking in connection with Russian EVA 28 (see below). The Progress docking mechanism was again installed; temperature sensor equipment and light fixtures were removed from Progress for reuse; Progress electronics were activated; ventilation ducting was removed; quick disconnect clamps which stabilize the connection between Progress 39P and the aft docking port of the Russian Service Module were removed; and the Progress/Service Module hatches were closed, followed by the standard one-hour leak check of the interhatch area and the interface between the fuel/oxidizer transfer line.
Progress 39P Undocking/Deorbit
On 20 February Progress M-07M/39P successfully undocked from the aft port of the Russian Service Module at 14:12 (CET). Three hours after undocking the Progress spacecraft undertook its deorbit burn to place it into a planned destructive reentry into Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
In the week prior to Russian EVA 28, Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Oleg Skripochka and Dmitry Kondratyev and ISS Commander Scott Kelly configured the Pirs Docking Compartment (and Airlock) and Service Module Transfer Compartment for the upcoming Russian spacewalk. This included preparing spacewalk hardware; configuring and checking out communications equipment; adjusting, configuring and checking out the Russian Orlan EVA suits including hardware installation and checking out communications and medical systems; leak checking relevant equipment and interfaces; installing portable oxygen tanks and medical packs; performing oxygen and air system pressure checks; and recharging EVA suit batteries. The Progress 39P spacecraft, attached to the Pirs Docking Compartment was also readied for undocking in the unlikely case of an EVA emergency (see above). During the spacewalk Kaleri and Kelly were locked out in the Russian Poisk Mosule while Nespoli and Coleman were locked out in the US segment of the ISS with access to the Russian Zarya Module.
Russian EVA 28
On completion of the standard pre-EVA procedures, Russian EVA 28 was carried out by Flight Engineers Oleg Skripochka and Dmitry Kondratyev on 16 February. The main tasks that were achieved during the 4 hr 51min EVA, which started at 14:30 (CET) were: the installation and connection of the Molniya-GAMMA monoblock on the large diameter section of the Russian Service module; installation and deployment of a high speed data transmission system (including antenna deployment), also on the Service Module large diameter; retrieval of Komplast materials exposure panels from the Zarya module for return to Earth and removal of the Yakor foot restraint from the Service Module which was hereafter jettisoned. Once the EVA was complete the Service Module Transfer Compartment was repressurised, communications, ventilation and other systems were reconfigured back to the pre-EVA conditions and the cosmonauts carried out post-EVA medical procedures.
On 17 February, following completion of the EVA, Progress M-09M/41P, docked to the Pirs Docking Compartment (which had already been closed up in case of emergency undocking for the EVA) was reintegrated back into the ISS. The standard leak check on the interhatch area and the fuel/oxidizer transfer line interface between Progress 41P and Pirs was performed followed by hatch opening. Hereafter the quick disconnect clamps were installed to stabilise the connection between Progress and the Station, Progress 41P was deactivated, ventilation ducting was installed and the Progress docking mechanism was dismantled by Kaleri. All other EVA relevant equipment was either returned to its original location or stowage.
HTV-2 and Robotic Activities
HTV Relocation Preparation
On 14 February Nespoli and Coleman undertook a training session in preparation for the relocation of the second Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-2) including familiarisation with docking port operations, equipment and procedures, as well as related robotic tasks. Three days later HTV-2 was being prepared for relocation by Coleman and Kelly including removing emergency provisions and equipment (fire extinguisher, breathing apparatus etc.), closing the HTV hatch, removing ventilation, atmosphere revitalisation and data lines at the vestibule between HTV-2 and Node 2, and partially installing a thermal cover on HTV-2’s Passive Common Berthing Mechanism.
On 18 February Kelly and Coleman finished relocation preparations, finishing thermal cover installation, disconnecting power to HTV-2, installing a centre disc cover and closing the Node 2 hatch. This was followed by vestibule depressurisation and associated leak checks and opening Node 2 Earth-facing Common Berthing Mechanism latches.
Relocation of HTV-2 took place from the European-built Cupola attached to Node 3. ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli had activated command and video systems for the activities including the robotic workstation in Cupola. HTV-2 was hereafter successfully relocated from the Earth-facing port of Node 2 to the opposite Node-2 port facing away from the Earth. This was undertaken by Nespoli and Coleman using the Station’s principal robotic arm. After reberthing HTV-2 the latches at the new location were locked and repressurisation and leak checking of the vestibule were carried out by Scott Kelly. The Node 2 hatch was hereafter opened and Kelly and Coleman started outfitting the vestibule by connecting up power to HTV-2 and removing the centre disc cover. Three days after relocation of HTV-2 outfitting of the vestibule between the HTV and Node 2 hatches was completed and the hatch into HTV-2 was again reopened. The relocation is to provide Shuttle cargo bay clearance during the STS-133/ULF-5 mission, which is due to dock on 26 February.
STS-133/ULF-5 Permanent Multipurpose Module Mission
Node 1 Preparations
Node 1 was cleared out on 15 February by Paolo Nespoli and Catherine Coleman (and additionally by Coleman on 23 February) to make room due to berthing of the Permanent Multipurpose Module at the Node 1 earth-facing port during the STS-133 mission. Kelly unlatched the Earth-facing hatch mechanism on 23 February (to accept berthing of the Permanent Multipurpose Module) and installed a Centerline Berthing Camera System at the same port to assist with module alignment during berthing procedures.
Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre Preparations
On 16 February Nespoli and Coleman 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.
US EVA suits and a Power and Data Grapple Fixture were relocated from the US Airlock to the Japanese laboratory on 16 February. On 22 February Nespoli filled a Liquid Cooling Ventilation Garment (worn inside US EVA suits) as a backup while Coleman started recharging EVA batteries used during the recent Russian EVA 28. Kelly also replaced a suspect hard disk in the Airlock’s laptop.
In addition to various reviews with ground specialists during the two week period, Kelly and Coleman used simulation software on orbit for review of STS-133 robotics procedures.
STS-133 Shuttle Discovery launched successfully on its last scheduled mission from the Kennedy Space Center at 22:53 (CET), 16:53 local time on 24 February on the 12-day ISS ULF-5 mission. Discovery was transporting: the European-built Permanent Multipurpose Module which was converted from the Leonardo Multipurpose Logistics Module; the first human-like robot in space, Robonaut-2 (or R2); critical station hardware; and the EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 4, which was also transported in the Shuttle’s cargo bay along with the Permanent Multipurpose Module. Discovery has a six-person crew, which includes Shuttle Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe, and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen, Michael Barratt, and Nicole Stott, all of whom are Shuttle veterans and represent NASA.
In preparation for STS-133 Shuttle Discovery docking, ISS Commander Scott Kelly pressurised and leak checked the Pressurised Mating Adaptor 2 at the forward facing port of the European-built Node 2 where the Shuttle will dock.
Minus-Eighty degree Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
At the start of the two week reporting period there were 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 22 February ISS Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli (ESA) and Catherine Coleman (NASA) and ISS Commander Scott Kelly (NASA) swapped MELFI-2 and MELFI-3. This included demating umbilicals, moving the freezers between the different laboratories and remating all the umbilicals in the new rack locations.
During the reporting period blood and urine samples have been placed in MELFI-3 for ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli for the SOLO experiment (see above); and surface samples from the Japanese laboratory for JAXA’s Microbe-2 experiment. In addition Paolo Nespoli was assisted by Catherine Coleman in identifying and marking 13 mesh bags in MELFI-3 for easier separation after return to ground.
Soyuz TMA-01M/24S: ISS Flyaround
Kaleri and Skripochka carried out a Soyuz descent drill refresher training session in the Descent Module of Soyuz TMA-01M/24S on 21 February. This was in preparation for performing a unique manoeuvre, which is still undergoing feasibility analysis, which will involve the Soyuz undertaking a Station flyaround after undocking (a manoeuvre normally undertaking by Shuttle post-undocking) in order to take documentary footage of the ISS. This would be the only availability to take such footage of the ISS with all partner spacecraft docked (ATV, HTV, Shuttle, Progress and Soyuz). The training exercise included emergency and off-nominal situations.
Common Cabin Air Assembly
The S6 rack in the US laboratory was rotated down by Scott Kelly on 23 February and he replaced a failed water separator on the Common Cabin Air Assembly air conditioner/dehumidifier before rotating the rack back into position.
Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
On 23 February Kaleri and Skripochka carried out their first orthostatic hemodynamic endurance test sessions using the TVIS treadmill whilst wearing Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suits. 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.
Russian Condensate Water Processor
Kondratyev carried out major maintenance on the Russian SRV-K2M Condensate Water Processor in the Service Module on 24 February, replacing a sediment trap, a gas-liquid mixture filter, and a membrane separator.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 25 February include: replacing a Terminal Computing Device in the Russian Poisk Module; preparing a laptop for first USB video use; engaging an Active Rack Isolation System snubber safety pin in the US Laboratory’s Fluids Integration Rack; conducting a wiring test of the Ku-band power supply; replacing a light in the Soyuz 24S Descent Module; and repressurising the ISS with oxygen from Progress 41P as well as 41P cargo transfers.
(*)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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