ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 95, Increment 27/28
This is ISS status report #95 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: Two ESA astronauts returned to Earth after completion of successful missions to the International Space Station in the two-week reporting period until 3 June. Paolo Nespoli completed his duty lasting just over five months as a Flight Engineer of ISS Expeditions 26 and 27 and also undertaking the European MagISStra mission which included an extensive research package on behalf of ESA and the ISS partners. Roberto Vittori completed his mission as a Mission Specialist on Shuttle mission STS-134 which installed the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (and EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 3) on the outside of the ISS for which he was one of the robotic arm operators. Vittori also undertook an ASI science complement and additional activities under the heading of the DaMa (Dark Matter) mission.
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 laboratory. The current status of the European science package on the ISS is as follows:
European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Biolab and associated experiments
Biolab’s microscope and photospectrometer instruments were returned to Earth for refurbishment on Shuttle Flight STS-134/ULF-6, which landed on 1 June. 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 due to the Biolab microscope failure which will be repaired on ground and then returned to the ISS to continue the utilisation of Biolab. 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 and associated payloads
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli replaced a hard disk in the Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 (ERB-2), which utilises the European Drawer rack for downlink capabilities. The old hard disk with data was returned on Shuttle Flight STS-134/ULF-6, which landed on 1 June. The ERB-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.
The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which will host the Facility for Adsorption and Surface Tension (FASTER) and the Electro-Magnetic Levitator payload from 2012 onwards. FASTER is a Capillarity Pressure Tensiometer developed for the study of the links between emulsion stability and physico-chemical characteristics of droplet interfaces. The Electro-Magnetic Levitator (EML) will investigate thermophysical properties of metal alloys under weightlessness, supporting both basic and namely industrial research and development needs. The European Drawer Rack may also tentatively process NASA’s NIH Ageing experiment which is currently planned for the second half of 2012. This would be carried out in a Kubik Incubator located in the European Drawer Rack.
Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow-2 / FASES experiments
The Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) has been active in the two week period until 20 May to undertake activities related to the Geoflow-2 experiment, which has been undergoing experiment processing in the Fluid Science Laboratory since 21 March. The main experiment parameters of GeoFlow-2 are the core rotation speed, electrical field, temperature gradients and liquid viscosity variation. Due to a telemetry problem, laser check troubleshooting steps were undertaken from 23 – 25 May which led to an upload of new application software by 31 May. Geoflow 2 run 6 (which is a non-rotation run)was started on 31 May and completed the following day. Run i189a (which is a medium-high rotation run) was started and completed on 3 June. Data was received for all set points except for one set point on run 6. Good quality images were received in real time and associated data from the experiment and structural dynamics data from the Microgravity Measurement Apparatus has been downlinked.
Geoflow-2 (which follows on from the Geoflow experiment with new scientific objectives and a different experiment configuration) is 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 is Nonanol which 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 Geoflow-2 science runs form part of an exhaustive scientific programme of experiment processing which will last a couple of months.
The subsequently planned Fluid Science Laboratory experiment “Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability” (FASES) has been thoroughly prepared via a full scientific verification programme of the emulsions’ composition and the optical diagnostics’ adjustment. The execution of the FASES experiment will require the upgrade of the FSL Video Management Unit which will be tentatively returned to Earth by the SpaceX demo flight #3 before the end of 2011 for the pending upgrade implementation, after the execution of the full GeoFlow-2 experiment. The flight of the FASES Experiment Container will be rescheduled to a later 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 (EPM) facility and associated experiments
The European Physiology Modules facility was again activated on 31 May for data downlink for the DOSIS experiment (see below). The European Physiology Modules facility is equipped with different Science Modules to investigate the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. Experiment results from the investigations using the European Physiology Modules will contribute to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle atrophy.
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 facility. The failed DOSTEL-1 detector was returned to Earth with Soyuz 25S which landed in Kazakhstan on 24 May. The passive detectors for DOSIS were already deinstalled earlier and returned to Earth on STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis in May 2010, after which they were 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.
Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System facility in the two weeks until 3 June. 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 in October 2008. The Pulmonary Function System is an ESA/NASA collaboration in 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 (EMCS)
No activities were carried out using the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks until 3 June. The next ESA experiment to take place in the facility is the Gravi-2 experiment which is currently scheduled in the late 2011 timeframe. Gravi-2 builds on the initial Gravi experiment in determining the gravity threshold response in plant (lentil) roots. The tentative next NASA experiment in the European Modular Cultivation System is SeedGrowth.
The European Modular Cultivation System, which was flown to the ISS in July 2006, is dedicated to biological experiments such as the effects of gravity on cells, roots and physiology of plants and simple animals. It was developed by ESA and is being operated jointly with NASA under a bilateral barter agreement which was renewed after the initial 2 years time frame.
Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES)
No activities were carried out using the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES) in the two weeks until 3 June. 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 without a crew member using the system, the second functional testing 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.
Coloured Fungi In Space (CFS-A)
The dry spore biocontainer for the Coloured Fungi In Space experiment remains on orbit and is scheduled to return with Soyuz 26S in September 2011. This follows the return of the three live culture biocontainers for the short-term part of the experiment with STS-133 which landed on 9 March. The Coloured Fungi In Space experiment is undertaking an examination of the survival and growth of different coloured fungi species, which can be relevant to spacecraft contamination, panspermia and planetary protection issues.
European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space
The Sun visibility window which opened on 18 May for the SOLAR facility to gather scientific data closed on 2 June. The SOLAR facility was hereafter placed in 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 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 two different on-board 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
Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) in the First Materials Science Research Rack (MSRR)
The cartridge containing the final MICAST sample from the first batch (belonging to NASA) which completed processing in the Solidification and Quenching Furnace of the Materials Science Laboratory on 20 January was disassembled on 24 May, following its return to Earth on STS-133 Shuttle Discovery which landed on 9 March. The sample material has now been handed over to the science team at the University of Arizona to undergo post-flight analysis. This sample followed an additional twelve CETSOL/MICAST experiment samples that had already been processed in the Low Gradient Furnace (which was replaced with the Solidification and Quenching Furnace earlier in January) with analysis undertaken by the relevant science teams on ground. The second batch of CETSOL/MICAST samples will be the next to be processed in the Materials Science Laboratory Solidification and Quenching Furnace along with 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. The science team has 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 (MSG) and associated experiments
No activities were carried out in the ESA-developed Microgravity Science Glovebox in the two weeks until 3 June. The experiment data for the SODI-Colloid experiment which took place in the Microgravity Science Glovebox in September/October 2010 is still undergoing detailed evaluation by the science team following return of the flash disks to Earth on STS-133 Shuttle Discovery, which landed on 9 March. 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 (Selectable Optical Diagnostic Instrument) experiments and further experiment runs may be resumed later during 2011 and early 2012.
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 in the first half of 2012 after 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 the Early Utilisation 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 (PPFS)
ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan performed his second session of the EKE and Thermolab experiments in conjunction with the VO2Max experiment of NASA on 3 June. This utilised the Portable Pulmonary Function System which 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.
Data acquisition for the ALTEA-Shield experiment has been continuing in the two week period until 3 June with the minimum 20 day acquisition period having been surpassed on 17 May (preferred duration is 30 days or more). Data acquisition continued with all six particle detectors until 26 May and thereafter with four detectors until the end of the reporting period after two of the detectors went offline. However as measurement continued in all three axes this has minimal impact on science loss. The ALTEA-Shield 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. Once active the experiment will continue undertaking a 3-dimensional survey of the radiation environment in the US laboratory which is followed soon by the corresponding measurements of different shielding materials with the ALTEA detectors on the ISS.
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 has been successfully reactivated and functionally tested for continuation as a cooperative joint 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 have been disassembled at the Microgravity User Support Centre (MUSC) located at the DLR German Aerospace Centre in Cologne, Germany and experiment samples are in the process of being returned to the science teams. The sample trays were returned to Earth on STS-133/ULF-5 Shuttle Discovery which landed on 9 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. The experiments were accommodated in three special sample trays, which were loaded with a variety of biological samples including plant seeds and spores of bacteria, fungi and ferns.
The individual Expose-R experiments have been 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 now an implementation agreement has been found with the Russian partners.
Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Human Research Facilities 1 and 2
No activities were carried out using NASA’s Human Research Facilities 1 and 2 in Columbus in the two weeks until 3 June.
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:
New ISS Amateur Radio Equipment
Following installation of the new amateur radio equipment in the Columbus laboratory on 26 April, NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman conducted an amateur radio contact with students at the Escola EBI/JI de Montenegro, in Faro, Portugal on 23 May.
On 1 June the Columbus Control Centre took part in a space-to-ground communications check with the ISS Japanese laboratory. NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan was undertaking on-orbit side of activities. Garan also undertook the test with the control centres in Tsukuba, Japan and Houston.
Activities of ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli
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 configuring equipment and swapping out a Bio sample for processing on the Bio Base in NASA’s Fluids Integrated Rack in the US laboratory.
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: transferred Japanese Super Sensitive High Definition Television kits to the Japanese laboratory from Progress 42P with Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Alexander Samokutyaev on 22 May and together with ESA astronaut and Shuttle Mission Specialist Roberto Vittori, took part in a VIP call with the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano on 23 May.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
In the two weeks until 3 June, in addition to the regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and T2/COLBERT treadmill (which involved Paolo Nespoli) in Node 3, the crew are currently recording ARED exercise manually pending replacement of the ARED display which has suffered a failure.
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: Urine Processor Assembly
The Recycle Filter Tank Assembly which filters pre-treated urine for processing into water was again replaced on 26 May by Ron Garan.
Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack
ISS Flight Engineer Ron Garan started replacement of the failed dessicant sorbent bed of the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly in the Node 3 Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack on 24 May. This was continued on 28 and 29 May, together with Shuttle Mission Specialists (and former ISS crew members) Greg Chamitoff and Mike Fincke, and the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly was returned to full service.
- Water Recovery System: Urine Processor Assembly
Soyuz TMA-20/25S and Expedition Crew Return Preparations:
Soyuz TMA-20/25S Return Preparation
On 21 May ISS Flight Engineer Alexander Samokutyaev performed a check out of communication between the Russian “Istochnik-M” Telemetry Reception and Recording system with the attached Soyuz 25S. This is important especially for retrieving telemetry during Soyuz module separation prior to re-entry and landing. Over the following two days the Russian crewmembers also removed temperature and lighting equipment from the Soyuz Orbital module for reuse after Soyuz undocking, checked out Soyuz communications with the ground, and stowed cargo for return (in the Soyuz Descent Module) and disposal (in the Soyuz Orbital Module). Return cargo included a number of science payloads.
Change of Command Ceremony
The official ISS change of command ceremony took place in front of all crew members on 22 May with ISS Commander Dmitri Kondratyev handing over command to Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko. However as with all Expeditions, Expedition 28 will officially begin following undocking of the departing Soyuz/Expedition crew members.
Soyuz TMA-20/24S, Expedition 27 Undocking and Landing
On 23 May clamps were removed between the Soyuz TMA-20 and the “Rassvet” Mini Research Module 1 to which it is docked. Following Soyuz activation, and with the returning crew members (Nespoli, Kondratyev and Coleman) in the Soyuz spacecraft, the hatches between the Soyuz and the Rassvet Module were closed and relevant leak checks were carried out. Undocking occurred at 23:33 (CEST). About 24 mins after undocking, with the Soyuz at a distance of 200m, the ISS was rotated to be in a suitable position for photography and video from the departing Soyuz. ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli moved into the Soyuz Orbital Module took relevant imagery of the ISS and returned to the Descent Module for return. Hereafter Soyuz 25S performed its separation burn. At 03:35 (CEST) on 24 May the Soyuz spacecraft performed its deorbit thruster burn lasting 4 min 25 sec. This caused a deceleration of 115m/sec. 25 minutes later the spacecraft went through module separation, with atmospheric reentry occurring at 04:03 (CEST). The parachute was deployed at 04:12 with landing on 24 May at 04:27 (CEST), 08:27 local time in central Kazakhstan. Nespoli, Kondratyev and Coleman had spent 157 days in space. From here the crew were flown to Karaganda in Kazakhstan. Kondratyev was flown on to Star City in Moscow. Nespoli and Coleman were flown to Houston. Undocking of Soyuz TMA-20 marked the end of Expedition 27 and the start of Expedition 28, which consists currently of Commander Andrey Borisenko (Roscosmos) and ISS Flight Engineers Alexander Samokutyaev (Roscosmos) and Ron Garan (NASA) until three additional crew arrive in early June.
STS-134/ULF-6 Shuttle Endeavour Mission Activities
Shuttle Thermal Protection Inspection
On 21 May the Shuttle’s robotic arm extension was unberthed by the Station’s robotic arm and handed to the Shuttle’s robotic arm in order to carry out an inspection of the Thermal Protection areas of Shuttle Endeavour. ESA astronaut and Shuttle Mission Specialist Roberto Vittori was one of the robotic arm operators along with NASA astronauts Drew Feustel (Shuttle Mission Specialist), Gregory Johnson (Shuttle Pilot) and Ron Garan (ISS Flight Engineer). Vittori, Feustel and Johnson carried out the robotic inspection which included a detailed inspection of a damaged thermal tile close to the right hand main landing gear. Close up imagery was analysed on ground and determined that aluminium substrate below the damaged tile would remain well within thermal limits during re-entry.
Spacewalk 2 (Fincke, Feustel)
The second mission spacewalk was preceded by standard procedures. This included recharging EVA batteries and installing EVA batteries and carbon dioxide removal canisters in the US EVA spacesuits as well as overnight camp out of the EVA astronauts in the Airlock at a reduced pressure and pre-breathing pure oxygen to remove nitrogen from their bodies. Spacewalk 2 was carried out by NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Drew Feustel starting at 08:05 CEST on 22 May. During the 8 hr 7 minutes EVA the astronauts: refilled the P6 radiator with ammonia; carried out lubrication activities on the port-side Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (one of the principal joints for rotating the ISS solar arrays); installed two radiator grapple bar stowage beams on the S1 truss; and, at the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, installed a camera lens cover and lubricated its Latching End Effector. This last task was supported by robotic procedures with the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator being manoeuvred into lubrication position by robotic arm from the US laboratory by Catherine Coleman and Shuttle Pilot Gregory Johnson before moving it back to the US laboratory. The Station’s principal robotic arm was then moved to the Mobile Base System on the Station’s truss for Shuttle thermal protection inspection on Flight Day 11. The EVA was extended by more than an hour to deal with a loose bolt issue during the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (cover removal) activities.
Spacewalk 3 (Fincke, Feustel)
The third mission spacewalk was again preceded by standard procedures. However, instead of the overnight camp out of the EVA astronauts in the Airlock at a reduced pressure and pre-breathing pure oxygen to remove nitrogen from their bodies, the EVA astronauts tested a new (more efficient) procedure involving light exercise for 100 minutes while partially suited and breathing pure oxygen. Spacewalk 3 was carried out by NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Drew Feustel starting at 07:43 CEST on 25 May. During the 6 hr 54 minutes EVA the astronauts: installed (and took imagery of) a grapple fixture for the Stations principal robotics arm to allow robotics procedures on the Russian ISS segment; installed a Video Signal Conditioner; installed power cables on the Zarya Module to provide backup power to the Russian segment of the ISS; completed connections for the External Wireless Communications System equipment; took infrared imagery of a NASA technology payload; installed a thermal cover on a grapple fixture of a High Pressure Gas Tank; and secured loose insulation on the recently installed EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 3.
Spacewalk 4 (Chamitoff, Fincke)
The fourth mission spacewalk was preceded by standard procedures including the usual overnight camp out of the EVA astronauts in the Airlock at a reduced pressure and pre-breathing pure oxygen to remove nitrogen from their bodies. Spacewalk 4 was carried out by NASA astronauts Greg Chamitoff and Mike Fincke starting at 18:15 CEST on 27 May. During the 7 hr 24 minutes EVA the astronauts: permanently stowed the Shuttle robotic arm extension (and associated connectors) on the ISS S1 truss for use by the Station’s robotic arm; retrieved the Power and Data Grapple Fixture from the P6 truss and swapped the flight-releasable grapple fixture on the Shuttle’s robotic arm extension for the P6 grapple fixture; secured a Temporary Platform holding replaceable parts for the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator to the S0 truss; released restraints from the spare Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator arm on EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 3; installed a data cable on the Russian Zarya Module; and photographed a NASA experiment payload on EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 3. This spacewalk marked the last ever spacewalk to be conducted by Shuttle astronauts and also marked more than 1000 hours of EVA activities outside the ISS.
Shuttle/ISS Cargo Transfers
During the two-week reporting period transfers have been undertaken between the Shuttle and the ISS including nitrogen and oxygen. On 28 May a GLACIER (General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator) freezer loaded with samples on the ISS, was exchanged with a GLACIER unit brought up on the Shuttle.
ISS was reboosted to a higher orbiting altitude on 29 May at 07:01 (CEST). The reboost was carried out by STS-134 Shuttle Endeavour and increased ISS altitude by 1.04 km.
Undocking and Landing
On 29 May following the traditional crew farewell ceremony, air ducting into the Shuttle was removed and the ISS/Shuttle hatches were closed. After the usual leak check was performed the Shuttle undocked at 05:55 (CEST) on 30 May followed by a Station fly around by Endeavour to take documentary images. The Shuttle undertook a unique undocking sequence to gather data for use for rendezvous/docking guidance and navigation of the future Orion capsule. Following undocking Station systems were configured back to their non-Shuttle docked configurations. Landing of Shuttle Endeavour and its six-person crew (Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory Johnson, Mission Specialists Mike Fincke, Drew Feustel and Gregory Chamitoff, all Shuttle veterans and representing NASA and Mission Specialist and ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori) took place at the Kennedy Space Center on 1 June at 02:35 local time (08:35 CEST) bringing Endeavour’s 25th and last mission to conclusion.
Automated Transfer Vehicle activities
ATV Orbit Correction System thrusters were used to carry out a reboost of the ISS just after midnight on 3 June in order to set up phasing for Progress 43P launch on 22 June and docking on 24 June. The 16 min 51 sec thruster burn increased the altitude of the ISS by 4.36 km.
Minus-Eighty degree Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
There are three European-built MELFI freezers on the ISS: MELFI-1 and MELFI-2 in the Japanese laboratory and MELFI-3 in the US laboratory. Saliva and blood samples were placed in the MELFI freezers from Catherine Coleman and Ron Garan for NASA’s Integrated Immune experiment. In addition on 2 and 3 June Ron Garan inserted numerous -32 deg C ice bricks into MELFI 1 and numerous +4 deg C ice bricks into MELFI 3 in connection with upcoming conditioned storage requirements.
Papal In-flight Call
On 21 May the joint ISS and Shuttle crews received an in-flight call from Pope Benedict XVI live from the Vatican, with Thomas Reiter (ESA Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations), Enrico Saggese (President of ASI) and Giuseppe Bernardis (Italian Air Force General) in attendance.
Russian experimental Laser Communications System
On separate occasions between 26 and 31 May ISS Expedition 27 Flight Engineer and ISS Expedition 28 Commander Andrey Borisenko spent a large amount of time routing and installing cables for the new Russian experimental Laser Communications System in the Russian Service Module, mating them to the BKS Onboard Cable Network.
Progress M-10M/42P Fluid/Cargo Transfers
On 27 May ISS Flight Engineer Alexander Samokutyaev configured pumping equipment and transferred urine (for disposal) from ISS containers to one of the Rodnik tanks of Progress 42P docked to the ISS at the Pirs Docking Module.
Elektron Oxygen Generator System
Repair, recovery and activation activities for the Russian Elektron oxygen generator, the BZh Liquid Unit of which was declared failed, were finished by Alexander Samokutyaev on 31 May. Troubleshooting continues though the problem is thought to be gas bubbles which will be removed in the near future. Other ISS oxygen supplies remain good.
Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator relocation
Following a relocation of the Station’s principal robotic arm on 2 June the robotic arm grappled the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator the following day and moved it to a grapple fixture on the Mobile Base System on the Station’s truss for robotic activities during the next and last Shuttle mission.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 3 June include: constructing three solid waste containers for the Waste and Hygiene Compartment; replacing an Orlan (Russian EVA suit) interface unit in the Pirs Docking Compartment with a new spare; troubleshooting a hatch open sensor in Pirs due to unclear telemetry received; replacing a disk drive and isolators of the Device for the Study of Critical Liquids and Crystallization (DECLIC) in EXPRESS Rack 4; replacing one of the 12 current regulators of the SEP electrical power system in the Russian Service Module; checking out micro conditions of Service Module panel cladding material to assess the necessity of panel replacement; updating software on Station Support Computer laptops; and an emergency rapid depressurisation drill by the ISS Expedition 28 crew members.
(*)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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