Esperia Mission

ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli prior to the start of a post insertion/de-orbit training session at the Johnson Space Center on 7 February 2007

October 2007 will be an important landmark in European space history. European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli from Italy is scheduled to be launched to the ISS on 23 October 2007 on the European Esperia mission aboard STS-120 Space Shuttle Discovery, which will be transporting Node 2 as the first European-built module to become permanently attached to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Esperia mission will be undertaken as an Italian Space Agency (ASI) flight opportunity, stemming from their agreement with NASA for the provision of 3 MPLMs. The cooperation with ESA led to the assignment of Paolo Nespoli to this flight opportunity and an additional agreement between ESA and ASI was signed to this effect.

A majority of Nespoli’s tasks on the Esperia mission will be tasks as part of the ISS 10A assembly mission. Nespoli will play a key role as the intravehicular activity or IVA astronaut for four of the five spacewalks including the installation of Node 2. The IVA astronaut is the key astronaut inside the ISS during spacewalks, in direct contact with the spacewalking astronauts, coordinating their activities, as well as being involved in the preparations for the spacewalks including configuring and testing EVA spacesuits and tools, helping spacewalking astronauts with suiting up, and airlock depressurisation and repressurisation.

The 14-day mission will also be used to relocate the ISS P6 truss section and deploy its solar arrays and heat dispersal radiator; to deploy the heat dispersal radiators on the S1 truss; to bring important supplies to the ISS; rotate one of the ISS Expedition crewmembers, and test a new method of repairing damage to the Shuttle’s thermal protection system. As part of the Esperia mission Nespoli will also be undertaking some important experiments for the European scientific community as well as a number of educational activities.

Node 2 in SSPF
Node 2 moving towards a payload canister in the Space Station Processing Facility in February 2005

Node 2 installation

Nodes are interconnecting elements between the various pressurised modules on the International Space Station, allowing the passage of astronauts and equipment and providing important resources to the other modules attached such as distribution of electrical power and thermal and environmental control.

Node 2 or ‘Harmony’ as it has now been named was developed for NASA under an ASI contract with European industry, with Thales Alenia Space as the prime contractor. Responsibility for Node 2 development was assigned to the Italian Space Agency, ASI. The structural design is based on that of the European-built Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules (MPLMs) and the European Columbus laboratory.

The launch of Node 2 heralds the cornerstone of European involvement in the ISS with the launch of the Columbus laboratory following in December. Node 2 will be attached to the American laboratory ‘Destiny’. It will also act as the attachment point of Columbus and the Japanese ‘Kibo’ laboratory. MPLMs will be attached to Node 2, and the Shuttle and the Japanese HTV will also be able to dock to Node 2.

The P6 solar arrays (top of ISS) are shown fully extended
ISS pictured after undocking of STS-121 Shuttle Discovery on 15 July 2006. The P6 solar arrays (top of ISS) are shown fully extended. The P6 truss and solar arrays will be relocated during the Esperia mission

P6 truss relocation

The ISS truss, which is made up of 11 sections in its complete configuration is used primarily to support the ISS solar arrays for power generation. The P6 truss (and solar arrays) was the first truss section launched to the Station for generation of electricity in the Station’s early configuration. This truss section will be moved from its current (temporary) location to the end of the main truss on the left-hand or port side, being attached to the P5 truss section, which was attached to the ISS on the STS-116 mission in December during an EVA involving ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang.

Solar arrays on the main truss can rotate in more directions. Moving P6 onto the main truss will have the effect of providing a more stable and improved weightless environment on the ISS, which is helpful for experimentation purposes.

Central heat dispersal radiator on the back of the S1 truss
Central heat dispersal radiator on the back of the S1 truss

S1 radiator deployment

With the capacity and power demands of the ISS set to increase over the next few months with the arrival of Node 2, the Columbus laboratory and the Japanese Kibo laboratory, the requirements for removing excess heat from systems and equipment on the ISS has also increased.

Heat dispersal radiators will be deployed on the back of the S1 truss section. Currently only the central one of the three radiators is deployed. Similar radiators on the P1 (left-hand or port side) truss will be deployed after the Shuttle has undocked. Preparations for deployment of the radiators on the back of the P1 truss will also take place during the mission.

Nespoli during TCDT press Q&A
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli

Thermal Protection Repair Test

On Flight Day 10 a spacewalk will take place to test out a new method of repairing damage to the Shuttle’s thermal protection system whilst on orbit. The spacewalking astronauts will test a new tile filling material and a new dispenser of this filling material.

Undertake a European experiment programme

During his mission, Paolo Nespoli will be undertaking a number of European experiments for the European scientific community in the area of human physiology and biology.

Some experiments will be carried out on behalf of the European Space Agency and some will be sponsored by the Italian Space Agency, ASI. Nespoli will also carry out a number of educational activities during the mission.

Exchange one member of the ISS permanent crew

NASA astronaut Dan Tani will fly to the ISS on the Discovery STS-120 flight. He will remain on the ISS becoming an Expedition 16 Flight Engineer. He will replace Expedition 15/16 Flight Engineer Clayton Anderson who arrived at the ISS on 10 June 2007 on board the STS-117 Shuttle Atlantis. Anderson will come back with the STS-120 crew on the return flight.

STS-120 crew portrait
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli (far right) together with the other members of the STS-120 flight to the ISS

Delivery of supplies/equipment

As well as bringing some standard logistics supplies for the Shuttle and ISS Expedition Crews, the mission will also bring equipment to the ISS, which will be used, for example, to outfit Node 2 (inside and outside) as well as additional equipment that will be installed during spacewalks.

The crew

Including the Expedition crewmember Dan Tani, ESA astronaut and Mission Specialist Paolo Nespoli from Italy forms part of a seven-member Shuttle crew along with NASA astronauts Pamela Melroy (Shuttle commander), George Zamka (pilot) and mission specialists Scott Parazynski, Douglas Wheelock, and Stephanie Wilson.

Last update: 29 October 2007

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