ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report
22 August 2008
This is the third 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. In addition to the science activities this report will now include some concise information about European ISS systems and key ISS events for the time period. The report is compiled in cooperation with ESA’s Columbus and Payload Operations Management and Mission Science teams.
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. The current status of the European science package is as follows:
European science inside the Columbus Laboratory
Biolab and WAICO experiment
The Biolab facility was functionally checked out on Friday 15 August to make sure it is compatible with updated Columbus software. All the interfaces between Biolab and the Columbus Data Management System were tested. This task was completed though the Incubator Thermal Control System of Biolab could not be activated in support of the test as it was discovered that switches on a replaced power supply module needed to be reconfigured. This took place on Thursday 21 August.
After this task is complete Biolab’s two centrifuges can be re-tested to confirm full functionality of the Biolab facility. Centrifuge A will be tested first 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. A ground test for the centrifuge A bellow is scheduled for 22 August.
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 Fluid Science Laboratory was successfully checked out on Monday 18 August to make sure it is functionally compatible with the updated Columbus software.
The second science operations of the Geoflow experiment in the Fluid Science Laboratory were successfully started and completed on 19 August. Once again experiment data stored on the hard disk of the Fluid Science Laboratory’s Video Management Unit is of good quality. 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.
An initial problem downlinking the scientific video data to the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany from the 19 August experiment run was again resolved by lowering the bandwidth at which it was sent. This is currently in progress. 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.
European Drawer Rack including the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility
The European Drawer Rack houses the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility, which is a multi-user facility that will investigate problems of protein crystallisation in space. 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.
Check out activities to make sure that the European Drawer Rack is functionally compatible with updated Columbus software were started on the weekend of 16/17 August, though this has now been rescheduled to take place in the week 25-31 August. This should allow time to look into an issue running new configuration script for the European Drawer Rack’s Video Management Unit.
European Physiology Modules
The European Physiology Modules facility was successfully checked out on Monday 18 August to make sure it is functionally compatible with the updated Columbus software.
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 and Human Research Facility 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 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. 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.
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. It continues to successfully perform multiple 24 hour experiment runs.
- 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 is currently switched off awaiting a new data acquisition run.
- 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. Last science acquisition was carried out from 15 to 18 August when the experiment run was finished as planned.
- 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.
- 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 tribiology, i.e. the research of friction in mechanisms and lubrication thereof under long-term open space conditions. After Tribolab was set to Thermal Stabilisation Mode, the Ball Bearing experiment number 4 was started on 18 August.
The SOLAR payload facility studies the Sun with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range. As the individual instruments (SOVIM, SOLSPEC, SOLACES) of SOLAR cannot currently carry out Sun observations due to the current orbital profile of the ISS, the facility is in idle mode awaiting the next Sun observation window, which opens on 25 August. Check out of SOLAR to make sure it is compatible with updated Columbus software did take place on 14 August. Following the check out there was an initial problem bringing SOLAR back to the idle mode between observation periods but reconfiguration of the facility resolved this problem the following day.
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) has been deactivated and was packed away on 18 August for return to Earth on Shuttle flight ULF-2 in November 2008. This device 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 from its initial commissioning/test phase in the autumn of 2007.
Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2
The Pulmonary Function System is an ESA/NASA collaboration in the field of respiratory physiology instrumentation. The device analyses exhaled gas from astronauts' lungs to provide near-instant data on the state of crew health. A session of the Oxygen Uptake Measurement evaluation, which utilises the Pulmonary Function System is scheduled to take place on 21 August.
The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA Human Research Facility number 2 in the US Destiny Laboratory on the ISS. The two Human Research Facilities in Destiny are scheduled to be relocated to the Columbus laboratory at the end of August/beginning of September.
European science inside the Russian ISS Segment
This long-term experiment is continuing to monitor radiation measurements in the Russian Zarya module.
ISS Commander Sergei Volkov and Flight Engineer 1 Oleg Kononenko carried out a successful inhalation/exhalation session for the Nitric Oxide Analyser 1 (NOA-1) experiment on 19 August. 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. 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 continues 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.
European-developed NASA payloads in the Columbus Laboratory
Microgravity Science Glovebox
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was activated on 16 and 18 August by NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff to carry out another session of the SHERE (Shear History Extensional Rheology Experiment) in the past week. This facility, developed by ESA for NASA, 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.
European Modular Cultivation System
All activities for the Expedition 17 crew related to the European Modular Cultivation System have now finished. The facility, which was flown to the ISS in July 2006, is dedicated to biological experiments such as the effects of gravity on plant cells, roots and physiology. It was developed by ESA and has been operated under a bilateral barter agreement with NASA. EMCS maintenance will be performed in anticipation of the Genara experiment during Expedition 19/20.
Columbus Systems (additional information)
In addition to the Columbus experiment facilities mentioned above, the Columbus systems continue to work extremely well in orbit and the ISS crew carried out a successful telemetry telecommand checkout on 16 August. The only minor issues include the need to upload a new part for the intermodule ventilation system, which is forseen to be uploaded to the ISS in November on Shuttle flight ULF-2, and the exchange of a Condensate Water Separator Assembly Desiccant Module, which needs to be manifested on one of the next flights.
ISS general system information
Japanese Experiment Module Robotic Arm
ISS Flight Engineer 2 Greg Chamitoff worked with ground team on 15 August to conduct check out Number 3 of JAXA’s Japanese Experiment Module Remote Manipulator System which included the first movement of the 10 m long main arm in space. The additional 2m long fine arm will be delivered on a later mission. This procedure included checking out the main arm’s end effector. Each arm has six independent joints providing it with a great degree of dexterity.
Japanese Experiment Module
ISS Flight Engineer 2 Greg Chamitoff carried out facility configuration in the Japanese Experiment Module ‘Kibo’ on 19 August in order to start science activities, which includes the Fluid Physics Experiment Facility, Cell Biology Experiment Facility and the Solution Crystallization Observation Facility. He also activated the Microgravity Measurement Apparatus in Kibo.
Russian Thermal Control System
Maintenance performed by ISS Commander Sergey Volkov on 15 August on the Russian Thermal Control System loop 1 in the Zvezda Service Module, using a manual pump, hose adapters and a pressure gauge to drain coolant and check pressures at various valve settings. The intended pressure check at various valve settings could not be performed and is being looked into.
Node 2 Smoke Detector
Smoke Detector 1 in Node 2 is working normally but Smoke Detector 2 is not working as of 15 August.
Harmful Impurities Removal System
ISS Commander Sergey Volkov performed the periodic service of the active Russian Harmful Impurities Removal System over the course of two days, regenerating the two cartridges, which help amongst other things to remove harmful elements from the cabin atmosphere such as Freon-218.
Greg Chamitoff carried out EVA batteries maintenance on 18 August. The batteries, which provide power to the US Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs) or EVA spacesuits need to be periodically fully discharged (and later recharged) to prolong their useful life.
Automated External Defibrillator
NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff carried out inspection of the new Automated External Defibrillator in the Crew Health Care Systems rack. This is a portable device that automatically diagnoses the potentially life threatening cardiac arrhythmias.
Chamitoff also carried out ATV cargo transfers, i.e., moving consumables to the ISS through Zvezda and loading excess and unwanted equipment in the ATV.
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