ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report
Increment 20

23 October 2009

This is ISS status report No 53 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 Human Spaceflight Coordination Office in cooperation with ESA’s Columbus and Payload Operations Management and Mission Science teams from the ISS Utilisation Department.

Highlight: ESA astronaut Frank De Winne became the Commander of the International Space Station on 11 October following undocking of Expedition 20 Commander Gennady Padalka, Expedition 20 Flight Engineer Michael Barratt and Spaceflight participant Guy Laliberté in Soyuz TMA-14/18S. The ISS crew now consists of ISS Expedition 21 Commander Frank De Winne and ISS Flight Engineers Maxim Suraev (Roscosmos), Nicole Stott (NASA), Roman Romanenko (Roscosmos), Robert Thirsk (CSA), and Jeff Williams (NASA).

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 and outside 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 near-term experiments
The Yeast Experiment Containers were returned to Earth with Soyuz 18S on 11 October and have been handed over to the science team. On 12 October ESA Astronaut and ISS Commander Frank De Winne exchanged the Biolab incubator filters and installed the Biolab Reference Experiment Containers on the centrifuges. The rack was then activated for flushing the Life Support Module with nitrogen.

The Yeast-B experiment studies the influence of weightlessness on so-called Flo proteins which regulate flocculation (clumping together) and adhesion of cells. The overall goal is to obtain a detailed insight into the importance of weightlessness on the formation of organised cell structures, and on flo processes, which are of considerable interest for fundamental science, industry and the medical field.

The ArtEMISS-A experiment will tentatively be one of the next experiments to take place in the Biolab facility. This will be brought to the ISS on a similar ISS sortie flight scenario, which is envisaged in spring 2010. The purpose of this experiment is to determine the effect of spaceflight conditions, including weightlessness and radiation on the algae Arthrospira sp. The form, structure and physiology of the algae will be examined along with a genetic study of the organism. This data is important for determining the reliability of using Arthrospira sp. in spacecraft biological life support systems in such projects as MELISSA (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative).

The next run of the Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots (WAICO) experiment, which was the first experiment to take place in Biolab, has been deferred until spring 2010. This will take place after the science samples of the experiment are launched in conditioned state on Shuttle flight 19A. The necessary Experiment Containers for WAICO were removed from Biolab by Frank De Winne on 1 October, in preparation for the Yeast experiment. WAICO deals with the effect that gravity has on the spiralling motion (circumnutation) that occurs in plant (Arabidopsis) roots. It is suspected that this spiralling mechanism is an internal mechanism in the plant, independent of the influence of gravity.

European Drawer Rack
No activities were carried out with the European Drawer Rack in the two weeks up until 23 October. The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which had been continuously active and providing power, data and temperature control to the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostic Facility before the conclusion of 3 ½ months of successful experiment runs in July. The Processing Unit of the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostic Facility was returned to Earth on Shuttle Endeavour (STS-127, 2J/A) on 31 July.

European Physiology Modules

The following experiments have recently used functions of the European Physiology Modules rack in the Columbus laboratory:

  • 3D Space
    On 15 October ISS Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk performed his fourth session of the 3D Space experiment. 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.

  • Integrated Cardiovascular
    Frank De Winne assisted NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Nicole Stott as Crew Medical Officer in undertaking her first session of NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment starting on 6 October. Flight Engineer Bob Thirsk concluded his fourth session of the Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment on 16 October, while Flight Engineer Jeff Williams undertook his first session of the experiment between 19 and 23 October. The NASA Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment consists of a Resting Echo session and of an Ambulatory Monitoring session, which includes 24-hr blood pressure measurement using ESA’s Cardiopres device, 48-hr ECG measurement with a holter device and 48-hr activity measurements using an Actiwatch. On 23 October Cardiopres data was downloaded to the European Physiology Modules rack. Other data was downloaded directly to the Human Research Facility laptop.

Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow experiment
No activities were carried out with the Fluid Science Laboratory in the two weeks up until 23 October. The Flight Acceptance Review for the Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) experiment has started and the launch is foreseen on a Progress flight mid 2010. This experiment will be studying emulsion properties. The hardware modifications for the implementation of the GeoFlow-2 experiment have been started in order to launch it still on a future Shuttle flight.

DOSIS
The Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment is progressing well and the monthly data downlink is working perfectly. The DOSIS experiment will determine 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' is being undertaken on Columbus to measure the spatial radiation gradients inside the module. DOSIS will continue to record the radiation environment in the Columbus laboratory for at least one year.

Kubik Incubator
The Kubik-6 incubator, brought to the ISS by the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, which arrived at the ISS on 17 September, is currently stowed in Columbus.

Flywheel Exercise Device
The Flywheel Exercise Device will be removed within the next few weeks from its on-orbit storage location in the European Transport Carrier rack of the Columbus Laboratory for deployment and first activation and functional checkout by Frank De Winne, during Increment 21 (tentatively on 26 October), after the series of STS-128, HTV-1 and Soyuz 20S and 18S flights. The Flywheel Exercise Device was launched to the ISS with Columbus in order to become an advanced exercise device for ISS astronauts and serving human physiology investigations in the area of advanced crew countermeasures.

Foam Stability
After an exhaustive series of runs no further run of the Foam Stability experiment was performed in the two weeks up until 23 October. If time allows another 2 runs will be done to conclude the experiment fully. The experiment hardware for the Foam Stability experiment was delivered to the ISS on the first H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), which arrived at the ISS on 17 September. The project aims at the study of aqueous and non-aqueous foams in a weightless environment. The behaviour of aquaeous foams in weightlessness and on Earth are very different, because the process of drainage is absent under weightless conditions. The effect/enhancement of the foamability of liquid solutions without this drainage effect of gravity is investigated. Other fundamental questions addressed are: how long can those foams be stable? What is the role of solid particles in the liquid in water foam stabilization? Is it possible to create very “wet” foams in weightlessness?

Portable Pulmonary Function System
The Portable Pulmonary Function System is an autonomous multi-user facility supporting a broad range of human physiological research experiments under weightless condition in the areas of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic physiology.

On 14 October NASA Astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Jeff Williams, assisted by Nicole Stott, successfully performed his first session of the ESA Thermolab experiment, in conjunction with the NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment. The Thermolab experiment uses the ESA-developed Portable Pulmonary Function System to investigate thermoregulatory and cardiovascular adaptations during rest and exercise in the course of long-term exposure to weightlessness. The Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) is aimed at measuring oxygen uptake and cardiac output in particular, during various degrees of exercise.

Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2 and the CARD Experiment
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function system in the two weeks up until 23 October. However it is in use for the ongoing CARD experiment. The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA Human Research Facility 2, which was relocated from the US Destiny laboratory to the Columbus laboratory on 1 October 2008. The Pulmonary Function System is an ESA/NASA collaboration in the field of respiratory physiology instrumentation, which analyses exhaled gas from astronauts' lungs to provide near-instant data on the state of crew health.

Wearable Augmented Reality (WEAR)
On 14 October ISS Commander Frank De Winne conducted hardware testing activities in preparation for the next session with the Wearable Augmented Reality (WEAR) experiment. WEAR is demonstrating the usability of augmented reality technology on the ISS. The system will be worn by astronauts and will assist them when performing onboard tasks. When carrying out these tasks WEAR will allow the astronaut to consult procedures and manuals hands-free, with relevant information for the assigned task being displayed on a partially see-through screen before the astronaut’s eyes. The astronaut will control the system via voice commands. The main objective of this experiment involves assessing the maturity, suitability and overall usefulness of the technologies used in WEAR: object recognition, speech recognition, barcode reading, augmented reality and integration of multiple data sources such as the ISS Inventory Management System. The assessment will be based in the improvement observed using WEAR on a standard Columbus maintenance procedure.

European Modular Cultivation System
No activities were carried out with the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks up until 23 October. 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 cells, roots and physiology of plants and simple animals. It was developed by ESA and has been operated for two years under a bilateral barter agreement with NASA which is expected to be continued. Currently an option is under detailed elaboration to perform a full functional on-orbit EMCS re-verification using the remaining Experiment Containers from JAXA’s Cell Wall / Resist Wall experiment. This approach would simultaneously serve as a comprehensive checkout of European Modular Cultivation System functionality for the following experiments. Genara is tentatively the next ESA experiment to take place in the European Modular Cultivation System and will study plant (Arabidopsis) growth at molecular level in weightlessness. This will help to better understand gravitropism and to find plant systems that compensate for the negative impact on plant growth in space. Tentatively still prior to Genara, the execution of the next NASA experiment TROPI-2 is planned with ESA’s Gravi-2 experiment following after the first part of Genara.

Microgravity Science Glovebox
An extended run of the SODI-IVIDIL (‘Influence of Vibrations on Diffusion in Liquids’) experiment was performed from 13 to 14 October in order to study the steady state of the concentration distribution to see if any change occurs after the duration of the standard runs. Run 9 and Run 10 continued from 14 to 16 October. Run 13 to 17 were successfully completed from 19 to 23 October. Vibration measurements were performed during all runs.

In addition to the SODI-IVIDIL experiment the triple SODI experiments also includes the ‘Diffusion and Soret Coefficient Measurements for Improvement of Oil Recovery’ (DSC) experiment and the Colloid experiment, which covers the study on growth and properties of advanced photonic materials within colloidal solutions. The DSC and Colloid experiments will be launched on future Shuttle flights in the time frame until spring 2010.

The Microgravity Science Glovebox was developed by ESA within a barter agreement with NASA. The Glovebox provides the ability to perform a wide range of experiments in the fields of material science, biotechnology, fluid science, combustion science and crystal growth research, in a fully sealed and controlled environment. The Microgravity Science Glovebox has been continuously used for NASA experiments and will again play an important role for ESA’s SODI experiment series.

European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space

SOLAR
The current Sun observation window started on 15 October and it is expected to end on 28 October. The platform was ‘safed’ on 17 October for the Materials Science Laboratory chamber leak test and venting and for the Progress 35P docking. It was put back in pointing mode on 19 October and science acquisition resumed afterwards. Outside of safe mode, a few orbits of observation data were lost due to minor issues such as a Sun tracking sensor glitch and Ku-band outage on 20 and 22 October respectively.

The SOLAR payload facility studies the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range during a 2-year timeframe on-orbit. A detailed feasibility study for on-orbit lifetime extension is ongoing on request of the science team to gather further science data in a period of higher solar activity. The SOLAR facility has so far produced excellent scientific data during a series of Sun observation cycles.

European science inside the US Destiny Laboratory

Material Science Laboratory in the Material Science Research Rack
The crew continued the commissioning of the new Materials Science Research Rack, in which ESA’s Material Science Laboratory is the principal payload. On 14 October ESA Astronaut and ISS Commander Frank De Winne successfully completed the first day of the Materials Science Laboratory commissioning: De Winne performed a functional checkout of the Materials Science Laboratory and then installed the Low Gradient Furnace. The conditioning (part of commissioning) had to be delayed for 24 hours due to an issue with the Moderate Temperature Loop in the US Lab after the MELFI quick disconnect leak. The Chamber Leak Test, the software update, the chamber venting and the furnace heatup were successfully performed from 16 to 18 October.

The Materials Science Research Rack-1 was launched together with six 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. After on-orbit commissioning the first experiment runs are planned, with the return of the first two sample cartridges scheduled on the next Shuttle flight in November for detailed scientific analysis on ground.

CETSOL and MICAST are two complementary advanced materials projects, which will carry out research into the formation of microstructures during the solidification of metallic alloys. 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. Results of these experiments will help to optimise industrial casting processes.

European science inside the Russian ISS Segment

Matroshka
In its experimental set up the Matroshka experiments consist of a simulated human body (head and torso) called the Phantom equipped with several active and passive radiation dosimeters. In October 2009 the Phantom will be relocated to the Japanese Kibo laboratory and equipped with a set of new passive dosimeters which were uploaded on the Progress 35P flight, which docked to the Station on 18 October. JAXA have already confirmed the technical accommodation feasibility assessments conclusion and now concrete implementation steps and bi-/trilateral agreements with JAXA and Russia can be envisaged for another experiment run until mid 2010. Roscosmos concurs to the proposed trilateral agreement and also JAXA’s concurrence has been received. In the long-term Matroshka may again be accommodated on an external ISS platform to measure cosmic radiation levels in Low Earth Orbit which are of relevance for EVA activities.

GTS-2 (Global Transmission Service)
The Global Transmission Service was temporarily deactivated on 31 May though negotiations with Russian representatives are ongoing for reactivation of the instrument and continuation of the so-called test mode. GTS will be tentatively a cooperative European-Russian experiment on 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; measurement of disturbing effects such as Doppler shifts, multi-path reflections, shadowing and elevation impacts.

Additional European science outside the ISS in open space

Expose-R
The Expose-R facility, which was installed outside the Zvezda Service Module during the Russian-based spacewalk on 10 March 2009, is functioning well. Expose-R is a suite of nine new astrobiology experiments (eight from ESA, one from IBMP, Moscow), some of which could help understand how life originated on Earth. This suite of experiments was transported to the International Space Station on Progress flight 31P, which docked with the ISS on 30 November 2008. The experiments are accommodated in three special sample trays, which are loaded with a variety of biological samples including plant seeds and spores of bacteria, fungi and ferns, which are exposed to the harsh space environment (Solar UV, cosmic radiation, vacuum), for about one and a half years.

The individual Expose-R experiments are as follows:

  • AMINO: Photochemical processing of amino acids and other organic compounds in Earth orbit
  • ENDO: Response of endolithic organisms to space conditions
  • OSMO: Exposure of osmophilic microbes to the space environment
  • SPORES: Spores in artificial meteorites
  • PHOTO: Measurements of vacuum and solar radiation-induced DNA damages within spores
  • SUBTIL: Mutational spectra of Bacillus subtilis spores and plasmid DNA exposed to high vacuum and solar UV radiation in the space environment.
  • PUR: Responses of Phage T7, Phage DNA and polycrystalline uracil to the space environment.
  • ORGANIC: Evolution of organic matter in space.
  • IMBP: Exposure of resting stages of terrestrial organisms to space conditions.

Expose-R complements the 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.

Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus laboratory

Human Research Facility 1
De Winne, Barratt, Stott, Thirsk and Williams concluded a week-long session of the NASA SLEEP (Sleep-Wake Actigraphy and Light Exposure during Spaceflight) experiment at the beginning of the period, logging data from their Actiwatch devices to the Human Research Facility 1. This experiment monitors the crewmember’s sleep/wake patterns and light exposure.

ISS general system information and activities *

ESA astronaut Frank De Winne: ISS Commander
ESA astronaut Frank De Winne became the first ESA and European commander of the ISS on 11 October following departure of Expedition 20 commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Gennady Padalka in Soyuz TMA-14 together with NASA astronaut Mike Barratt and Spaceflight Participant Guy Laliberté. This followed the traditional Change-of-Command ceremony which took place with the combined ISS crews on 9 October. Padalka and Barratt transferred the stewardship of the International Space Station to the Expedition 21 crew, which now consists of Commander Frank De Winne, and ISS Flight Engineers Maxim Suraev (Roscosmos), Nicole Stott (NASA), Roman Romanenko (Roscosmos), Bob Thirsk (CSA) and Jeff Williams (NASA).

Columbus laboratory
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 are as follows:

  • Radiation dosimetry
    On 10 October, in addition to the ongoing ESA DOSIS experiment, ISS Flight Engineers Bob Thirsk and Roman Romanenko retrieved and took readouts from eight space bubble detectors in the Columbus laboratory.

  • Water On/Off Valves
    On 16 October Frank De Winne and Bob Thirsk set up a camcorder in Columbus to allow for monitoring of the acoustics of three Water On/Off Valves by control centre staff while switching the valves on and off. The test is to determine if one of the valves, which is currently stuck open, is moving and can be commanded from the ground.

  • Food containers
    Frank De Winne and Bob Thirsk relocated food containers to Columbus on 14 and 16 October respectively in preparation for unloading and consolidation of food containers delivered on the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) in September. Food transfer from the HTV was started by Bob Thirsk and Frank De Winne on 17 October.

Activities of ESA astronaut Frank De Winne

  • System and payload activities
    In addition to what is stated in the remainder of the report, Frank De Winne worked on the Water Processor Assembly in the US laboratory, disconnecting it from the laboratory’s waste water line on 14 October due to a small leak and connecting it to the condensate tank. Afterwards De Winne deactivated the Waste and Hygiene closet and its rack. The process was reversed later. De Winne also: calibrated and checked two Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen units on 14 October; configured a hydrogen sensor for use in the Oxygen Generator System on 15 October; hooked up cabling on 16 October for robotic arm video coverage of the Progress rendezvous and docking; supported the ground in swapping out a US laboratory air conditioner on 20 October; performed regular servicing on the Treadmill with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization, also on 20 October; inspected and configured cables on the new Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter as a troubleshooting measure for the radiation dosimetry equipment; and undertook a periodic check out of the Crew Medical Restraint System, with Jeff Williams on 22 October, which helps strap a crew member securely for administering medical assistance if necessary.

  • Health status activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the last two weeks De Winne undertook: the Russian Body Mass Evaluation and biomedical urinalysis, along with the rest of the crew; a Russian Physical Fitness Evaluation; the Russian "Hematokrit" test, which measures red cell blood count; and an On-Orbit Hearing Assessment. De Winne also filled in the weekly Food Frequency Questionnaires to estimate nutritional intake for the astronauts and give recommendations to ground specialists that help maintain optimal crew health.

In connection with health status De Winne (and the rest of the crew) undertake regular Private Medical Conferences with the ground, and daily exercise routines on the ISS. De Winne was involved on numerous occasions in the last two weeks with downloading exercise data for the crew for downlinking to the ground.

  • Public affairs events
    Frank De Winne was involved in different public affairs events in the past two weeks. This included: a televised in-flight call with the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany on 13 October, to commemorate De Winne becoming the first European ISS Commander; an ESA/DLR TV event at the Charité Clinic in Berlin, Germany on 15 October, moderated by ESA’s first expedition crew member Thomas Reiter and attended by ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director of Human Spaceflight Simonetta Di Pippo, Germany’s Minister of Economics and Technology Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the CEO of the Charité Karl Max Einhäupl, and the President of the University of Paris-Descartes Axel Kahn; and a televised in-flight call with participants from the First EU-ESA International Conference on Human Space Exploration at Stirin Castle in Prague, Czech Republic on 23 October.

On the education side De Winne undertook amateur radio sessions with: students at the catholic school in Gao, Mali in connection with the UNICEF Hands Washing Day on 15 October; students at the Istituto Comprensivo Romualdo Trifone in Montecorvino Rovella, Salerno, Italy on 20 October; and students at C. E. M. IV school in Mbour, Senegal followed by students at VTI Ieper school in, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium on 23 October. On 22 October De Winne was also involved in a televised event with guests, teachers, parents and 1500 students at the Powell River School in British Columbia, Canada.

  • Other activities
    During the last two weeks Frank De Winne and the rest of the crew had their regular planning conferences/tag ups with the Mission Control Centres in Moscow and Houston, which included the first Increment 21 stowage conference with De Winne, Thirsk, Williams and Stott. In addition De Winne: carried out an emergency equipment readiness drill with Suraev and Williams and a fire drill with the whole crew on 13 and 15 October respectively; video recorded the current stowage situation in Node 1 on 21 October in connection with the upcoming STS-129 mission; and carried out maintenance on his temporary sleep station in the US laboratory by replacing enclosure blankets.

Soyuz TMA-14/18S undocking and landing

  • Final undocking preparations
    After entering the Descent Module of the Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft on 10 October, Padalka performed the standard pre-undocking communications check, as Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko configured the communications systems in Zvezda for undocking. After removing the quick-disconnect clamps that further stabilise the connection between Soyuz and the ISS, the Soyuz was activated and the traditional crew farewell took place. With the returning crewmembers (Padalka, Barratt and spaceflight participant Guy Laliberté) inside the Soyuz, the Soyuz-to-ISS hatches were closed, and the departing crew carried out the standard one-hour leak check on the interhatch area.

  • Soyuz TMA-14/18S undocking/landing
    Romanenko powered up the “Istochnik-M” telemetry system for receiving telemetry from the Soyuz spacecraft just before undocking, which occurred at 03:07 (CEST) on 11 October. After the first separation burn a few minutes after undocking and lasting 15 seconds, ISS attitude control was handed back from Russian to US systems. The first deorbit burn lasting 4 mins 21 s took place at 05:40 (CEST) with separation of the three Soyuz modules occurring 25 minutes later at an altitude of 140 km. At 06:08 the Soyuz descent module started entering the upper atmosphere at ~100 km altitude with the astronauts experiencing maximum g-loads at around 06:15 at an altitude of 38.3 km. Landing occurred in Kazakhstan at 10:32 local time, 06:32 (CEST). After landing the crew were flown to Star City near Moscow via Kustanai for the usual landing ceremony.

Progress M-03/35P launch, docking and post-docking activities

  • Launch
    The Progress M-03M spacecraft on ISS logistics flight 35P was successfully launched into orbit by a Soyuz-U rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 03:14 (CEST), 07:14 local time on 15 October. The Progress spacecraft transported about 2.2 tonnes vital supplies to the ISS including water, food, gases, propellants, consumables and scientific equipment.

  • Docking preparations
    On 14 October, in preparation for docking of the Progress M-03/35P spacecraft on 18 October (CEST), Suraev and Romanenko undertook the three-hour training session with the TORU manual docking system, which acts as a backup to the automatic Kurs docking system. The simulation session included, rendezvous, fly-around, final approach, docking and off-nominal situations such as video or communications loss. The following day De Winne and Romanenko configured and tested the Soyuz TMA-15 and Service Module TV downlink in preparation for the arrival of Progress 35P.

  • Progress docking
    The Russian Progress M-03M spacecraft docked successfully with the earth-facing port of the Russian Pirs Docking Module of the ISS on 18 October at 03:40 (CEST) under control of the spacecraft’s automatic Kurs docking system. Retraction of the docking probe and hook closure was complete soon after. After hooks closure the ISS was put back on Russian Service Module attitude control from free drift and thereafter back to US attitude control systems.

  • Post docking activities
    Following Progress 35P docking Suraev and Romanenko performed the standard leak checks before opening the hatches and installing clamps to further stabilise the connection between the Progress and the ISS. The Progress spacecraft was deactivated, ventilation ducting was installed into Progress and its docking mechanism was removed. The following day Padalka and Romanenko installed relevant temperature and communications equipment in Progress.

Minus-Eighty Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
During the past two weeks blood and urine samples have been placed in the European-built MELFI freezer from ISS Flight Engineer Jeffrey Williams in connection with NASA’s Nutrition experiment. Nicole Stott also relocated fixation tubes in MELFI, for JAXA’s Space Seed experiment, to super cold storage.

De Winne started procedures to replace an Electronics Unit in the MELFI-2 freezer with a new spare on 15 October, due to previous shutdown of its Brayton motor. A certain amount of cooling fluid from the Internal Thermal Control System was spilt during the work, due to a leaking quick disconnect, but this was isolated and the coolant wiped up. Cooling supplied by the Internal Thermal Control System was not affected. On 19 October Jeff Williams continued with the ongoing work, reconnecting four quick disconnects on the Electronics Unit. Two days later De Winne lubricated the quick disconnects and successfully finished installation of the Electronics Unit.

T2 COLBERT treadmill installation
After installation, activation and checkout of the COLBERT Treadmill was initially completed on 9 October, Gennady Padalka and Mike Barratt used the treadmill to carry out their final exercise sessions on 10 October using the treadmill’s high-speed protocol. ESA astronaut Frank De Winne undertook a similar high-speed protocol on 15 October. Troubleshooting measures were carried out from 19 -21 October by Nicole Stott to resolve a communications issue. This included performing high and low speed activation and check out tests on the treadmill together with Frank De Winne on 20 October. Jeff Williams used the treadmill as part of the NASA Integrated Cardiovascular experiment on 22 October in addition to activation and checkout runs carried out by Williams, Stott and Thirsk.

Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED)
On 10 October it was discovered that the right dashpot (a type of motion damper) on the Advance Resistive Exercise Device was broken. After Williams installed a new spare the following day, activation and checkout activities took place on 12 October. Following review of the checkout activities, the exercise device was given the all-clear for use on 13 October.

Japanese Laboratory Internal Thermal Control System
On 10 October Bob Thirsk removed the Antimicrobial Applicator in the Internal Thermal Control System of the Japanese Laboratory, which introduced an antimicrobial medium into Kibo’s cooling system. He took a coolant sample afterwards for ground analysis.

External Payload Attachment System Checkout
The ground checkout of two different external ISS Payload Attachment Systems was carried out on 12 and 16 October. These will be used in the future to store equipment and supplies on the outside of the Station.

Air Quality Monitor
Jeff Williams, Frank De Winne and Bob Thirsk each completed a sampling session with the new Air Quality Monitor on 12, 14 and 19 October respectively. This device is being used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere. This new technology is being evaluated over the next few months.

HTV activities

  • Rack transfer
    On 14 October the new Resupply Stowage Rack 2, which was transported to the ISS by the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) was relocated from the HTV to the Japanese Kibo Laboratory by Nicole Stott and Jeff Williams. The following day the old Crew Health Care Systems (CHeCS) Rack was relocated from Kibo to the HTV for disposal.

  • HTV conference
    Frank De Winne, Bob Thirsk and Nicole Stott had a conference with ground specialists on 16 October to discuss the experiences and activities around HTV rendezvous and capture and Japanese Exposed Pallet relocation.

  • HTV departure preparations
    On 18 and 20 October Frank De Winne and Nicole Stott reviewed procedures for the unberthing the HTV on 30 October to familiarize them with the departure monitoring procedures. The following day De Winne and Williams transferred cargo from the HTV to the Pressurized Segment of the Japanese laboratory and transferred excess equipment and cargo back to the HTV for disposal.

Shuttle Pitch Manoeuvre preparations
Stott and Williams conducted their first and second 30 minute Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre skill training sessions on 16 and 22 October, using a digital still camera with 400 and 800mm lenses at different Zvezda Service Module windows. This involved mapping of ground features and prepares crewmembers for photographing the underside of the Shuttle Orbiter on its arrival in 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 Atlantis, to be downlinked for launch debris assessment.

Fluids Integrated Rack
From 19 to 22 October in the US Laboratory, Nicole Stott and Bob Thirsk carried out major outfitting work on the Fluids Integrated Rack including installation of the Active Rack Isolation System. The Active Rack Isolation System is designed to reduce vibrations in the rack facility. After mating rack umbilicals on 20 October, Stott installed hardware to support science activities on 22 October.

Node 2 Local Area Network (LAN) outfitting
CSA astronaut Bob Thirsk deployed the first of two new laptops in the European-built Node 2 on 22 October as part of LAN outfitting. The laptops have been configured as LAN servers.

USOS software transfer
US Guidance Navigation and Control software was updated during the past two weeks on the primary and backup Guidance Navigation and Control computers. Software for the payload computers and computers for the port and starboard thermal radiators was also updated.

Device for the Study of Critical Liquids and Crystallization (DECLIC) Payload
Nicole Stott installed, and configured the new DECLIC payload in EXPRESS Rack 4 in the Japanese laboratory on 23 October. This CNES/NASA-sponsored multi-user facility for investigating such areas as high and low temperature critical fluid behaviour has its User Support and Operations Centre at CADMOS in Toulouse, France

US Russian waste and hygiene facilities
Following installation of a Russian urine container in Destiny’s Waste and Hygiene Compartment on 4 October, regular transfer of pre-treated Russian ISS segment urine into the US laboratory’s Urine Processor Assembly has been carried out on a regular basis in the past two weeks by Jeff Williams and Nicole Stott. Replacement of major elements of the Service Module’s toilet facility was undertaken by Romanenko on 13 October. This was followed up on 18 October with replacement of a urine container of the Service Module toilet due to a leak.

Other activities
During the past two weeks a malfunctioning transducer on the instrumented harness for the TVIS Treadmill was replaced by Bob Thirsk; Romanenko installed new software on a Russian laptop concerning updates to the TORU manual docking system; a hard disk was replaced on the robotics laptop in the US laboratory; and Suraev carried out air flow and leak tests on the Russian thermal control system.

(*)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.

Contact:

Martin Zell
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department
martin.zell[@]esa.int

Markus Bauer
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer
markus.bauer[@]esa.int

Weekly reports compiled by ESA's Human Spaceflight Coordination Office.

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Last update: 27 November 2009

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