ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report
15 August 2008
This is the second status report from the European Space Agency outlining the European science activities that have taken place on the ISS in the past week for different European experiments and experiment facilities.
ISS Utilisation Programme
The principal focus of the European utilisation of the ISS is the Columbus laboratory, which was launched and 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 ongoing research taking place in the US Destiny laboratory and the Russian Segment of the ISS. Due to an update in Columbus software, the internal and external experiment facilities are currently going through a checkout period to verify that they are all compatible with this new software. The current status of the European science package is as follows:
European science inside the Columbus Laboratory
Biolab and WAICO experiment
Following a successful 5-hour test on 4 August confirming the full functionality of a Biolab smoke detector, all systems should now be in correct working order and as of 11 August Biolab is again in ready mode for operations. This status now allows re-testing the two centrifuges to confirm full functionality of the Biolab facility. Centrifuge A will be tested first in the near future followed by centrifuge B once the experiment containers currently on centrifuge B are removed. To carry out the testing, the set of Reference Experiment Containers will be placed into each centrifuge as during the initial on-orbit commissioning tests. The Biolab facility will be functionally checked out in the near future to make sure it is compatible with the updated Columbus software.
The second run of the Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots experiment (WAICO) is scheduled to start in Biolab at the end of 2008.
Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow experiment
The first science operations of the Geoflow experiment in the Fluid Science Laboratory were successfully started and completed on 7 August. The Geoflow experiment investigates the flow of a viscous incompressible fluid between two concentric spheres rotating around a common axis under the influence of a simulated central force field. 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.
Live interferometric images received during the first science run of Geoflow were very good and experiment data stored on the hard disk of the Fluid Science Laboratory’s Video Management Unit was also of good quality. An initial problem downlinking the scientific video data at a rate of 8 Mbit/sec was resolved by lowering the bandwidth to less than 5 Mbit/sec and all data from the first experiment run was downlinked to the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany on 8 August and forwarded to the responsible User Support Operation Centres MARS/Naples, E-USOC/Madrid and the science team. Runs of the Geoflow experiment will continue into Increment 18 up until the return of STS-126 Shuttle Endeavour on ISS assembly flight ULF-2 in November. The next run of the Geoflow experiment is scheduled for 19 August.
On Wednesday 13 August the Fluid Science Laboratory was activated and used internal accelerometers to take measurements of the change in microgravity levels in the facility during a reboost of the Station to a higher orbital altitude. This reboost was carried out by the European Automated Transfer Vehicle. The accelerometer data will provide an overview of the vibration levels that the facility’s internal payloads experience during such activity.
The Fluid Science Laboratory will be functionally checked out in the near future to make sure it is compatible with the updated Columbus software. Then the next science runs of the Geoflow experiments will follow.
European Drawer Rack including the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility
The Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility is a multi-user facility, which will investigate problems of protein crystallisation in space. Its very sophisticated in-situ optical experiment diagnostics equipment will allow for precise monitoring of the protein crystals’ growth conditions. Its Processing Unit with various protein solutions will be flown in active mode (for continuous conditioning of samples) to the ISS on Shuttle flight ULF-2, which is due for launch in November. The European Drawer Rack will be functionally checked out in the near future to make sure it is compatible with the updated Columbus software.
European Physiology Modules
Final calibration of the Multi-Electrode Electroencephalogram Measurement Module (MEEMM) will be scheduled towards the end of September. This science module is a subsection of the European Physiology Modules facility and will be used for different types of non-invasive brain function investigations. It can also easily be reconfigured to support research in the field of muscle physiology. NeuroSpat, the first experiment to use the European Physiology Modules facility will take place when the next European astronaut arrives on the Station. This will be Belgian ESA astronaut Frank De Winne. NeuroSpat will investigate the ways in which crew members’ three-dimensional perception is affected by long-duration stays in weightlessness. The European Physiology Modules facility will be functionally checked out in the near future to make sure it is compatible with the updated Columbus software.
The SOLO experiment is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects. Consumables for the experiment will be launched to the ISS on Progress flight 30P in September, with the experiment planned to be carried out at the end of Increment 17 by the NASA crew member and also use the European Physiology Modules rack capabilities.
NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff has already successfully performed 3 experiment sessions of 3D-Space during Increment 17, the last session being completed on 30 July. He is due to undertake a fourth session later in the October timeframe about two weeks before his return on Shuttle flight STS-126. This 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 experiment also uses the European Physiology Modules laptop capabilities for data handling.
Flywheel Exercise Device
The Flywheel Exercise Device was launched to the ISS in order to become an advanced exercise device for European astronauts. It will be removed from its storage location in the European Transport Carrier of the Columbus Laboratory for deployment and first functional checkout after Shuttle flight 15A in early 2009.
European science outside the Columbus Laboratory in open space
European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF)
EuTEF is a fully automated, multi-user payload facility mounted on the outside of the Columbus laboratory carrying a suite of experiments that require exposure to the open space environment. The experiments cover a variety of disciplines including material science, physics, astrobiology and astronomy. It continues to operate well with a majority of the experiments actively collecting science and technology data and one experiment powered down having completed its science objectives. On 14 August EuTEF was successfully checked out to make sure it was compatible with the updated Columbus software.
The status of each individual experiment is as follows:
- DEBIE-2: The ‘DEBris In orbit Evaluator’ is designed to be a standard in-situ space debris and micrometeoroid monitoring instrument. In addition to previous experiment runs DEBIE-2 has successfully performed multiple 24 hour experiment runs from 28 July up to the present day.
- DOSTEL: The DOSimetric radiation TELescope is a small radiation telescope, which is continuing to gather scientific data on the radiation environment outside the ISS.
- EuTEMP: This multi-input thermometer measured EuTEF temperatures during transfer to the outside of Columbus from the Shuttle Cargo Bay. It is currently inactive as planned.
- EVC: The Earth Viewing Camera is a fixed-pointed Earth-observation camera. It was activated on 7 August via a ground command and acquired and downlinked good images. The instrument was switched off afterwards.
- EXPOSE: This series of exobiology experiments is continuing to acquire scientific data.
- FIPEX: This sensor is helping to build up a picture of the atmospheric environment in low-Earth orbit by measuring atomic oxygen. Science acquistion was ongoing from 30 July until 9 August when the planned experiment run was due to finish.
- MEDET: The Materials Exposure and Degradation ExperimenT (MEDET) is continuing to acquire scientific data. This data will help to evaluate the effects of open space on materials being considered for future use on spacecraft in low earth orbit. It had a period of inactivity due to low temperatures and a data link error but was reactivated on 30 July.
- PLEGPAY: The PLasma Electron Gun PAYload is the study of the interactions between spacecraft and the space environment in low earth orbit, with reference to electrostatic charging and discharging. It is currently not acquiring scientific data but is in ready mode, awaiting additional experiment runs in early September.
- TRIBOLAB: This series of experiments covers research in tribology, i.e. the research of friction in mechanisms and lubrication thereof under long-term open space conditions. Tribolab is currently in Standby Mode since the Ball-Bearing experiment was paused on 10 July for Station activities. It is planned to restart the experiment on 18 August.
The SOLAR payload facility studies the Sun with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range. The individual instruments (SOVIM, SOLSPEC, SOLACES) of SOLAR acquired scientific data from 31 July to 8 August during the latest Sun observation window. This window closed on 12 August. As SOLAR could not carry out further observations after 8 August due to a change in the orientation of the ISS attitude, it was placed in idle mode awaiting the next Sun observation window, which opens on 25 August.
MISSE-6A and -6B
The Materials on the ISS Experiment (MISSE) is in fact a US multi-investigator experiment provided by NASA but located on the outside of the Columbus laboratory. The experiment is receiving power and the experiments are continuing as planned. The experiment will evaluate the effect of the space environment on a large variety of exposed materials.
European science inside the US Destiny Laboratory
The Analyzing Interferometer for Ambient Air (ANITA) monitors low levels of potential contaminants in the ISS cabin atmosphere with a capability of simultaneously monitoring 32 different trace gases. The experiment tests the accuracy and reliability of this technology as a trace-gas monitoring system for the ISS and future spacecraft. ANITA is a cooperative investigation with NASA and has continuously performed as an ISS operational device since its initial commissioning/test phase in the autumn of 2007.
European science inside the Russian ISS Segment
This long-term experiment is continuing to monitor radiation measurements in the Russian Zarya module.
Increased levels of expired nitric oxide are an early and accurate sign of airway inflammation especially in asthma, but also in occupational dust inhalation. This is important in weightlessness since dust does not settle. The Nitric Oxide Analyser 1 (NOA-1) experiment tests the levels of expired nitric oxide in ISS crew members. The next inhalation/exhalation session is scheduled to take place on 19 August. NOA-2 is a similar experiment but the procedures are undertaken by astronauts pre- and post-EVA, where the levels of nitric oxide are used to determine the presence, or not, of symptoms of decompression sickness as seen, for example, in scuba divers, i.e. heightened nitric oxide levels.
The Matroshka experiments consist of a simulated human body (head and torso) called the Phantom equipped with several active and passive radiation dosimeters. Matroshka-2B will continue to measure the radiation dose experienced by crew members inside the ISS.
GTS-2 (Global Transmission Service)
The Global Transmission Service (GTS) is continuously on since early 2008 and will tentatively continue until spring 2009. This experiment is intended to test the receiving conditions of a time and data signal for dedicated receivers on the ground. The time signal distributed by the GTS has special coding to allow the receiver to determine the local time anywhere on the Earth without user intervention. The main scientific objectives of the experiment are to verify under real space operation conditions: The performance and accuracy of a time signal transmitted to the Earth’s surface from low Earth orbit; the signal quality and data rates achieved on the ground; measurement of disturbing effects such as Doppler shifts, multi-path reflections, shadowing and elevation impacts.
ESA Head of Research Operations Department
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer
Weekly reports compiled by Jon Weems, ESA Human Spaceflight Coordination Office.
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Last update: 8 September 2008