ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report
14 November 2008
This is ISS status report No. 15 from the European Space Agency outlining ESA’s science related activities that have taken place on the ISS during the past week for different European experiments and experiment facilities, and additional information about European ISS systems and key ISS events for the time period. The report is compiled by ESA’s Human Spaceflight Coordination Office 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 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 in the US Destiny laboratory and the Russian Segment of the ISS. 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 WAICO experiment
Following the successful testing of Biolab’s centrifuge B on 5 September, ground crews are still assessing in further detail the results of the rotor A on-orbit test from 22 August.
Further testing of Biolab’s two centrifuges, the automatic chemical fixation system and the atmosphere control system will be carried out in Increment 18 well before the actual execution of the second run of the Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots (WAICO) experiment. These final end-to-end performance verification tests will be carried out using the still empty WAICO-2 experiment containers, which will replace the remaining 4 WAICO-1 experiment containers removed by US astronaut Greg Chamitoff from centrifuge B on 29 October, and the Reference Containers on centrifuge A.
The second science run of the experiment WAICO is scheduled to start in Biolab during Increment 19 in spring 2009. The Experiment Containers have already been delivered for a launch on Progress flight 31P which is scheduled for 26 November 2008 and the science part with plant seeds will follow in conditioned state tentatively on Shuttle flight 2J/A in spring 2009.
Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow experiment
On 13 November the Fluid Science Laboratory was activated and a functional test successfully performed. The test showed that the Geoflow Experiment Container is correctly installed inside the Fluid Science Laboratory and as such is ready to resume the Geoflow science runs in December after Shuttle undocking. The Fluid Science Laboratory’s Video Management Unit hard disk was also cleared and used to store measurements from FSL internal accelerometers of the microgravity levels in the facility during the undocking of the Progress 30P spacecraft on 14 November. It will take similar measurements for the docking/undocking events of Shuttle STS-126.
The large Geoflow science programme of more than 100 runs of the experiment will continue throughout Increments 18, 19 into Increment 20, up to the tentative return of the experiment unit on the Shuttle flight 17A in August 2009.
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.
European Drawer Rack including the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility
The European Drawer Rack houses the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility, which is an advanced ISS research payload for the investigation of problems of protein crystallisation in space. Its very sophisticated in-situ optical experiment diagnostics equipment will allow for precise in-situ monitoring of the organic protein crystals’ growth conditions.
After successful completion of the exhaustive science preparation programme on ground, the Processing Unit of the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostics Facility with a variety of different protein solutions will be flown in active mode (for continuous thermal conditioning of samples) to the ISS in the Shuttle middeck on flight 15A, which is due for launch in February 2009. The Protein experiment series will last 3-4 months comprising 3 crystallisation cycles. The final set of protein molecules will return to Earth for detailed lab analysis.
European Physiology Modules and NeuroSpat experiment
Final calibration of the Multi-Electrode Electroencephalogram Measurement Module (MEEMM) is scheduled to be carried out during Increment 18. 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. De Winne will be a subject in the NeuroSpat experiment as will Canadian Space Agency astronaut and fellow Expedition crew member Bob Thirsk. The two astronauts will assist each other with experiment procedures. NeuroSpat will investigate the ways in which crew members’ three-dimensional perception is affected by long-duration stays in weightlessness.
All samples for the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment, which is already complete for Greg Chamitoff as the first test subject, are in the European-developed MELFI freezer awaiting download on the ULF-2 Shuttle flight in November. The SOLO experiment is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects. The experiment also used capabilities of the European Physiology Modules Facility.
NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff has already successfully performed three experiment sessions of 3D-Space during Increment 17, the latest session being completed on 30 July. He is due to undertake a 4th session on 23 November before his return on Shuttle flight STS-126 (ULF-2).
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.
Flywheel Exercise Device
The Flywheel Exercise Device will be removed from its on-orbit storage location in the European Transport Carrier of the Columbus Laboratory for deployment and first functional checkout after Shuttle flight 15A in early 2009. It was launched to the ISS in order to become an advanced exercise device for ISS astronauts and serving human physiology investigations in the area of countermeasures.
Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2
The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA Human Research Facility number 2, which was relocated from the US Destiny laboratory to the Columbus laboratory on 1 October. 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
This space biology 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 for two years under a bilateral barter agreement with NASA. The on-orbit maintenance of the European Modular Cultivation System will be performed during Increment 18 in anticipation of the Genara experiment during Expedition 19/20. Genara is the next ESA experiment that will study plant (Arabidopsis) growth activity at a molecular level in weightlessness. This will help to find plant systems that compensate for the negative impact on plant growth in space.
Microgravity Science Glovebox
ISS Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff removed a video tape of the NASA Shear History Extensional Rheology Experiment from The Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) on 13 November. The MSG rack was developed by ESA within a barter agreement with 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. The Microgravity Science Glovebox will play an important role for ESA science during 2009 for the execution of the triple SODI experiment series.
European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space
European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF)
The EuTEF platform has been operated continuously with one experiment powered down having completed the first part of its science objectives. Following a period of intermittent science acquisition, and the safety-imposed disabling of PLEGPAY experiment 1 on 30 October, the facility has again been permanently activated since 5 November and resumed full science operations.
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, astronomy and space technology.
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 has successfully performed 24-hour experiment runs during the week. A software update is being prepared to increase the duration of the experiments.
- DOSTEL: The DOSimetric radiation TELescope is a small radiation telescope. After reactivation on 5 November it has been continuously gathering 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 due to completion of the first part of its science objectives.
- EVC: The Earth Viewing Camera is a fixed-pointed Earth-observation camera. It is switched off as the temperature is currently too low for activation.
- EXPOSE: This series of exobiology experiments is again continuing without interruption to acquire scientific data following reactivation on 5 November.
- FIPEX: This sensor is helping to build up a picture of the atmospheric environment in low-Earth orbit by measuring atomic oxygen. Science acquisition stopped as scheduled on 8 November. A new science run was started on 12 November following completion of the latest 24-hour runs of the DEBIE-2 experiment.
- MEDET: The Materials Exposure and Degradation ExperimenT (MEDET) is continuing to acquire continuous scientific data following reactivation on 5 November. Data from this experiment 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. PLEGPAY was activated and Experiment 1 was deleted on 30 October in resolution of the latest ISS safety concerns. Ground teams are now analysing the outcome of the full memory dump of the PLEGPAY instrument that was performed. PLEGPAY is currently shut down.
- 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. The Ball Bearing experiment number 4 is ongoing following reactivation on 6 November.
The latest science acquisition cycle for the SOLAR facility finished on 9 November following the end of the latest Sun observation window and so the facility is currently in idle mode. Of its individual instruments (SOVIM, SOLSPEC, SOLACES) the SOLACES instrument is currently awaiting the resolution of a mechanical issue with a spectrometer. This is being assessed by the science team. The SOVIM instrument is awaiting resolution a power/telemetry issue. Engineering teams are also finalising a software enhancement, which will allow for the acquisition of science data during shorter sun visibility cycles.
The SOLAR payload facility studies the Sun with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range during a 2-year timeframe on-orbit.
MISSE-6A and -6B
The US materials exposure experiment is receiving power from Columbus and the experiments are continuing as planned. The Materials on the ISS Experiment (MISSE) is a US multi-investigator experiment provided by NASA but located on the outside of the Columbus laboratory. The two large MISSE-6 trays will be returned to Earth in the frame of the 17A Shuttle flight in August 2009. 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) is deactivated and already packed for return to Earth on Shuttle flight ULF-2 in November 2008. Back on Earth ANITA will undergo a thorough inspection and post-flight calibration.
This instrument 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 served as an ISS operational device after its initial science commissioning/test phase in autumn 2007.
European science inside the Russian ISS Segment
This long-term experiment is continuing to monitor radiation measurements in different locations on the ISS.
No activities for the Nitric Oxide Analyser (NOA) experiments were carried out in the past weeks.
The NOA-1 experiment tests the levels of expired nitric oxide in ISS crew members. 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.
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 facility is located in the Russian Pirs Docking Module. Matroshka-2B continues to measure the cumulative radiation dose experienced by crew members inside the ISS with a subsequent return of the passive dosimeters on Shuttle flight STS-126 (ULF-2) for detailed evaluation on Earth. The phantom will be tentatively re-located during Increment 18 to the Japanese Kibo laboratory (pending some technical feasibility assessments conclusion and agreements with JAXA) and equipped with a set of new passive dosimeters. In the long-term Matroshka may be accommodated again on an external ISS platform to measure cosmic radiation levels which are of relevance for EVA activities.
The Matroshka experiments consist of a simulated human body (head and torso) called the Phantom equipped with several active and passive radiation dosimeters.
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.
BIO-4 Experiment Package
This was the fourth in a series of small short-duration space biology experiments that started in 2005. Four new biology experiments were launched on Soyuz 17S from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on 12 October took place in three KUBIK incubators from ESA in the Russian Segment of the ISS. The experiments were processed between 3 and 8 days in space. Telemetry data from KUBIK Flight Models 1 and 3, which was received on ground on 29 October and is now under analysis from the payload development team.
The progress of each individual experiment was as follows:
BASE B and C
The in-orbit activities for the Bacteria Adaptation to Space Environment (BASE) experiments are now complete. These experiments determine how several different bacterial species adapt to spaceflight conditions: weightlessness, cosmic radiation, electromagnetism etc., building on research from previous spaceflight experiments. Data from this study will be useful to determine if adaptation to spaceflight conditions may modify the ability of bacteria to deteriorate the spacecraft environment, act as pathogens or function in recycling systems.
Chemically fixed samples for the ROALD experiment are currently in the MELFI freezer awaiting return to earth. ROALD stands for the ROle of Apoptosis in Lymphocyte Depression and aims to determine the roll that programmed cell death (apoptosis) plays in reduced immune response in weightlessness. Apoptosis is a normal function in human and animal cells and T-lymphocytes are a class of white blood cell important in immune response. Various aspects of the apoptotic process will be assessed using human T-lymphocytes.
The in-orbit activities for the XENOPUS experiments are now complete. This experiment studies cellular modifications within the vestibulo-ocular system of a developing amphibian (Xenopus laevis) during adaptation to weightlessness. The vestibulo-ocular system is the system of the body responsible for maintaining balance. The main purpose of this project is to characterise the effect of weightlessness on development of this system in Xenopus laevis tadpoles at early and late development stages.
The processed samples for Xenopus and the BASE experiments were returned to Earth on flight 16S with the Expedition 17 Crew on 24 October and immediately transported back to the scientists. The ROALD samples will be returned on Shuttle flight STS-126 in November. The BIO missions on Soyuz sortie flights provide special short-duration mission opportunities in addition to the utilisation of ESA’s large biology facilities Biolab and EMCS in Columbus namely for complex long-duration biology experiments.
Columbus systems information
In addition to the Columbus experiment facilities mentioned above the Columbus systems continue to work extremely well. Activities in the Columbus laboratory during the week include:
ISS Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff removed and relocated the ERNObox payload to the Columbus port cone on 10 November. The ERNO (Entwicklungsring Nord) box contains various radiation devices, including the LEON-2 Central Processing Unit developed by ATMEL/France and ESA, new memory devices, large Static Random Access Memory-based Field-Programmable Gate Arrays, and Microelectromechanical Systems sensors.
Columbus ventilation system
On 10 November Chamitoff carried out inspection and cleaning activities on the Columbus ventilation system.
Zero-G Stowage Rack relocation
On 13 November ISS Expedition 18 Commander Mike Fincke installed a Pivot Pin Bracket, a Knee-Brace Assembly Replacement capture mechanism and a payload rack in Columbus. This is in preparation for relocation of a Zero-G Stowage Rack during the STS-126/ULF-2 mission.
In addition to these activities the only other minor systems issues for Columbus include the need to upload and the exchange a Condensate Water Separator Assembly Desiccant Module.
ISS general system information and activities
Space Shuttle STS-126/ULF-2 pre-launch preparations
Space Station Remote Manipulator System
The Space Station Remote Manipulator System is now in the position for activities during the STS-126/ULF-2 mission following its release of Power & Data Grapple Fixture 4 on the Mobile Base System on the Station truss and its subsequent attachment the Node 2 Power & Data Grapple Fixture on 7 November.
US Airlock EVA preparations
In preparation for the four EVA’s during the STS-126/ULF-2 mission, Chamitoff and Fincke worked in the US Quest Airlock between 10-14 November. On 10 November their activities included recharging procedures of EVA Battery Assemblies, Helmet Lights, Pistol Grip Tools, and Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) batteries. EMUs are the US suits used for carrying out spacewalks from the ISS.
The following day they checked out two Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue (SAFER) units. These propulsive units are attached to the EMUs to assist the astronaut in directing themselves back towards the Station in the unlikely event that they become detached from the ISS during EVA activities.
On 12 November they set up and checked out the two EMUs with their Service and Cooling Umbilicals. The suits cooling water loops were filtered for any particulate matter to ensure optimal operation of the suits cooling capabilities. A review of EVA tasks was also carried out between the ISS crew and STS-126 crew members on ground.
The following day the water reservoirs used for refilling the EMUs water tanks were degassed of any air bubbles by Fincke and Chamitoff. Hereafter they installed CO2 absorption canisters, batteries on two helmet light/EMU TV assemblies, and Rechargeable EVA Battery Assemblies in the two EMUs. The Pistol Grip Tools and their batteries were also checked out.
On 14 November Fincke and Chamitoff conducted a final configuration check on the two EMUs) and airlock.
STS-126 Shuttle Pitch Manoeuvre preparations
On 10 November Chamitoff and Fincke discussed imagery of the R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre skill training from 6 November with ground specialists. This exercise is in preparation for photographing the Shuttle Orbiter during its pitch manoeuvre during rendezvous and docking on 16 November. 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 Laboratory Water Distribution System
On 11 November Fincke broke down the Water Distribution System in the US Destiny laboratory to make room for the new Environment Control and Life Support Systems racks, which will be installed after their arrival on Shuttle flight STS-126/ULF-2.
Cargo return preparations
Fincke and Chamitoff spent several hours across a number of days during the week pre-packing items, which are due to be returned to earth with the STS-126 Space Shuttle, which launched on flight ULF-2 to the ISS on 14 November.
Crew return preparations
Chamitoff had a number of hours during the week for carrying out preparations for his departure on Shuttle flight ULF-2 on 29 November.
Centerline Berthing Camera System installation
On 12 November, Chamitoff re-installed the Centreline Berthing Camera System at the Node 2 nadir hatch, in preparation for arrival of the STS-126/ULF-2 Shuttle and the attachment of the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module ‘Leonardo’ to the Node 2 nadir port by the Space Station Remote Manipulator System.
Progress M-65/30P pre-undocking activities
On 10 November a purge on the Progress fuel and oxidizer lines was performed. The following day Fincke and ISS Flight Engineer Yuri Lonchakov worked with ground specialists for testing of the main Teleoperator Control System receiver on the Progress M-65/30P spacecraft. This is for checking out the Zvezda to Progress command capabilities prior to Progress undocking.
On 12 November Lonchakov and Fincke installed the docking mechanism between the Progress spacecraft and the Zvezda Service Module. The next day Lonchakov removed reusable equipment from the Progress for use on future ISS spacecraft. Fincke and Lonchakov activated Progress 30P, disassembled the air duct in the hatchway of the Zvezda Service Module, removed the quick-disconnect screw clamps between the Progress spacecraft and Zvezda, which strengthen the connection between the two modules, closed the hatches and initiated the standard one-hour leak check of the area between the Progress spacecraft and Zvezda hatches.
During the week Fincke and Lonchakov also spent time loading items for disposal in the Progress M-65 spacecraft.
Progress M-65/30P undocking
The Progress M-65/30P logistics spacecraft undocked from the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module on 14 November at 17:20 CET. Three minutes after undocking the first separation burn took place. At 20:25 (CET) a 30-sec retrograde burn took place. Progress 30P will remain in orbit in independent flight, continuing to phase out in front of the ISS in order to support Russian geophysical experiments. The Progress spacecraft is scheduled to deorbit and undertake a destructive reentry over the Pacific Ocean on 6 December.
Soyuz TMA-13 photography
On 14 November Lonchakov took photographs of the external surface of the Soyuz TMA-13/17S spacecraft from the Pirs Docking Module EVA hatch 2 window. This is to assess the condition of its Multi-Layer Insulation blankets.
Internal Wireless Instrumentation System
On 13 November Fincke installed an accelerometer Remote Sensor Unit of the Internal Wireless Instrumentation System (IWIS) in the US Quest Airlock. The IWIS system collects structural dynamics data on the ISS structure during specific events such as thruster firings, dockings and undockings.
Onboard Radio Command and Measuring System
In the Russian Zarya module Expedition 18 Flight Engineer 1 Yuri Lonchakov closed out extensive maintenance work on the Komparus onboard radio command and measuring system on 8 November with the assistance of Mike Fincke. The Komparus system activates and deactivates Zarya’s radio telemetry system.
False fire alarm
A false fire alarm occurred in the Zvezda Service Module on 8 November associated with the Russian Onboard Telemetry Measurement System testing of the mass memory unit.
Russian Onboard Telemetry Measurement System
On 10 November Lonchakov spent a few hours uninstalling electronic components of the Central Processor Subsystem in connection with the Russian BITS2-12 onboard telemetry measurement system.
Russian Elektron electrolysis machine
The Russian Elektron electrolysis machine, used for generating oxygen, was reactivated by the ground on 13 November. This activity was supported by Yuri Lonchakov who monitored the external temperature of its secondary purification unit for the first 10 minutes of operations to ensure no overheating occurred. The Elektron machine had been inactive for a while due to the BITS2-12 onboard telemetry measurement system maintenance.
During the weekend of 8-9 November, the crew restored function to General Luminaire Assemblies in the Quest Airlock and Logistics Pressurized Segment of the Japanese Kibo laboratory.
Chamitoff carried out sampling of potable water for chemical and microbial analysis on 11 November. In flight analysis was carried out by Chamitoff. Analysis will also be carried out on ground after samples are returned on flight STS-126.
(*)These activities do not include the standard periodic operational/maintenance activities on the ISS or additional research activities not mentioned previously.
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer
Weekly reports compiled by Jon Weems, ESA Human Spaceflight Coordination Office.
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Last update: 19 November 2008