ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 78, Increment 24
This is ISS status report #78 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 ISS Utilisation Department in cooperation with ESA’s Columbus and Payload Operations Management and Mission Science teams from the ISS Utilisation Department.
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 and Japanese Kibo 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, WAICO and other near-term experiments
Ground-commanded functional testing on Biolab continued in the past two weeks, undertaken by the engineering team via the MUSC User Support and Operations Centre in Cologne and the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany: Health checks were carried out successfully on Temperature Controlled Units 1 and 2 between 1 and 2 October with the units set to 4 deg C for the activity. This was followed up on 5, 6 October with start and completion of Experiment Container temperature testing.
Biolab is a multi-user facility designed to support biological experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates. The Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots (WAICO) experiment was the very first experiment to take place in Biolab following the Columbus launch and part 2 of the experiment has been concluded recently. WAICO deals with the effect that gravity has on the spiralling motion (circumnutation) that occurs in Arabidopsis plant roots. It is suspected that this spiralling mechanism is an internal mechanism in the plant, independent of the influence of gravity. The four WAICO-2 experiment containers returned to earth on 26 May with STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis and the biological plant samples are still undergoing detailed analysis at the science team’s laboratory.
Due to the still ongoing functional recovery activities for the Biolab facility the TripleLux experiments’ planning has been revised and TripleLux-A has been de-manifested from the ULF-6 / STS-134 flight due to the microscope failure. The objective of this experiment is to further understand the cellular mechanisms underlying the aggravation of radiation responses, and the impairment of the immune function under spaceflight conditions.
European Drawer Rack and Kubik Incubators
The PADIAC (PAthway DIfferent Activators) experiment was launched on Soyuz flight 24S on 8 October. PADIAC requires both the Kubik-6 incubator inside the European Drawer Rack as well as the Kubik-3 incubator which will be located in the Columbus centre aisle and connected to the European Drawer Rack. The Kubik incubators are transportable incubators with centrifuge accommodations which were designed in the frame of the ISS Soyuz missions for biology experiments processing. The scientific objective of the PADIAC experiment is to determine the different pathways used for activation of T cells, which play an important role in the immune system.
The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which will also host the Facility for Absorption and Surface Tension (FASTER) in 2011 and the Electro-Magnetic Levitator payload from 2012 onwards. FASTER is a Capillarity Pressure Tensiometer developed for the study of the links between emulsion stability and physico-chemical characteristics of droplet interfaces. The Electro-Magnetic Levitator will investigate properties of metal alloys under weightlessness, supporting basic and industrial research.
Fluid Science Laboratory and FASES/Geoflow-2 experiments
The Fluid Science laboratory was put in Command and Control Mode on 4 October for activation of the Microgravity Vibration Isolation Subsystem (MVIS) and MVIS file transfer to the Video Management Unit. Following successful file transfer and MVIS downlink to ground, the rack was deactivated.
The Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) experiment is undergoing extensive science testing using the flight sample cells in the Engineering Model of the Fluid Science Laboratory at the MARS User Support and Operations Centre (USOC) in Naples, Italy. This replanning follows the demanifesting of FASES from the 39P Progress launch in September (due to the upgrade constraints of the Video Management Unit of the Fluid Science Laboratory). The flight of the Experiment Container will now be rescheduled to a later Progress launch in 2011. This experiment will be studying emulsion properties with advanced optical diagnostics. Results of the FASES experiment hold significance for oil extraction processes, and in the chemical and food industries.
The GeoFlow-2 experiment has been handed over to ATV team for stowage for the launch on ATV-2 in February 2011 and subsequent processing of an exhaustive scientific programme for a couple of months in the Fluid Science Laboratory. Currently the final operations preparation takes place at the MARS USOC.
European Physiology Modules and Experiments
The European Physiology Modules facility was activated on 30 September for download of accumulated data from the DOSIS experiment. The European Physiology Modules facility is equipped with different science modules to investigate the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body, with experiment results contributing to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle wastage.
Batteries were inserted into the Arterial Blood Pressure Holter used for the CARD experiment and troubleshooting activities on the holter device were undertaken thereafter. Additional steps to overcome the functionality issues with the holter device are still being compiled by ground experts.
The Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment is progressing well during its time on orbit, with the instrument still acquiring data using one of the active DOSTEL detectors in the European Physiology Modules. The other DOSTEL detector appears to still be operational and the problem has been isolated to a power supply problem in the Data and Power Unit for the detector. Troubleshooting steps have been identified to be undertaken in the future. Accumulated data from the experiment was downlinked via the European Physiology Modules on 30 September. The passive detectors for DOSIS, which were deinstalled and returned to earth on STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis, are currently undergoing scientific analyses. The DOSIS experiment determines 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' has been undertaken on Columbus to measure the spatial radiation gradients inside the module.
The ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects on Astronauts) Shield experiment is ongoing and acquiring data following its recent activation. Following discovery that two of the six silicon detectors were not receiving data from 25 September, the system was deactivated and reactivated on 1 October and all six detectors are now functioning and acquiring data. The experiment aims at obtaining a better understanding of the light flash phenomenon, and more generally the interaction between cosmic rays and brain function, as well as testing the effectiveness of different types of shielding material. The experiment is currently undertaking a 3-dimensional survey of the radiation environment in the US laboratory.
Vessel Identification System (VIS)
The Vessel Identification System (commonly known as Automatic Identification System, AIS) has been working extremely well and has already acquired an extensive amount of data. On 27 September the system’s NORAIS receiver was exchanged for the LuxAIS receiver by ISS Commander Doug Wheelock. Communication has not yet been established with the new receiver, so while following steps for LuxAIS are being determined by experts on ground, the initial plan for the Vessel Identification System will be to swap back to the NORAIS receiver in the near future. The data telemetry for Vessel Identification System, for both receivers, is received by the Norwegian User Support and Operation Centre (N-USOC) in Trondheim via ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Germany.
The system consists of two different receivers (NORAIS and LuxAIS), which are alternated every three months or so, and the ERNO-Box, which is used as a data relay for the Vessel Identification System, whose antenna was installed on the outside of Columbus during an EVA on 21 November 2009. The Vessel Identification System is testing the means to track global maritime traffic from space by picking up signals from standard AIS transponders carried by all international ships over 300 tonnes, cargo vessels over 500 tonnes and all types of passenger carriers. More than 90,000 messages were received from ships during the first 14 hours of operation.
Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 8 October. 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.
European Modular Cultivation System
No activities have taken place in the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks until 8 October. The culture chambers for the Genara-A experiment (which took place in the European Modular Cultivation System) are currently in a General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER) until their return by Shuttle on ULF-5. Genara-A is studying 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. ESA’s Gravi-2 experiment is planned to follow in April 2011 before a further NASA experiment, SeedGrowth.
The European Modular Cultivation System, 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 is being operated jointly with NASA under a bilateral barter agreement which has been renewed after the initial 2 years time frame.
Microgravity Science Glovebox and SODI experiments
ESA’s SODI–Colloid experiment, which was delivered to the ISS on Progress 39P in September has been continuing in the Microgravity Science Glovebox and has so far undertaken an extensive number of successful experiment runs. On 27 September accumulated science data was downlinked for analysis. The facility was powered down for the weekend on 1 October and Colloid was restarted on 4 October. Following a debris inspection on 6 October, the SODI-Colloid hardware was dismantled and stowed.
The Colloid experiment covers the study on growth and properties of advanced photonic materials within colloidal solutions. The focus is on materials that have a special interest in photonics, with emphasis on nano-structured, periodic dielectric materials, known as photonic crystals, which possess appealing properties and make them promising candidates for new types of optical components. Colloid is the second in the series of three SODI experiments. The first SODI experiment performed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox was IVIDIL (Influence of Vibrations on Diffusion in Liquids), which was successfully completed on 20 January.
The subsequent DSC experiment (‘Diffusion and Soret Coefficient Measurements for Improvement of Oil Recovery’) will now be the third and final SODI experiment processed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox which is now tentatively foreseen around mid 2011. The DSC cells, which originally arrived at the ISS on Progress 36P on 5 February, were returned on STS-131 Shuttle Discovery for re-filling due to SODI avionics failure and rescheduling of the experiment series.
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.
Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES)
No activities were carried out using the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES) in the two weeks until 8 October. Once the facility is fully commissioned it will be used for undertaking neuromuscular and exercise research on the International Space Station. MARES is capable of assessing the strength of isolated muscle groups around joints to provide a better understanding of the effects of weightlessness on the muscular system.
Following completion of an electrical checkout of the system (i.e. with no functional testing), MARES will be placed in its on-orbit stowage configuration. In the future this will be followed up by functional testing of MARES in two parts: the first part (during Expedition 26) without a crew member using the system, the second functional testing (during Expedition 27/28) with a crew member using the system. These two commissioning parts will include testing of hardware and software as well as testing downlink capabilities.
MARES consists of an adjustable chair with a system of pads and levers that fit to each astronaut and cover different movements, a main box containing the facility motor and control electronics to which the chair is connected by an articulated arm, as well as dedicated experiment software. The system is considerably more advanced than equivalent ground-based devices and a vast improvement on current muscle research facilities on the ISS.
European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space
A new Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility to gather scientific data opened on 4 October. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR are open when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun. The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range currently for more than two years on-orbit. The SOLAR facility has so far produced excellent scientific data during a series of Sun observation cycles. Following the conclusion of the detailed technical feasibility study for on-orbit lifetime extension the science team will be able to continue gathering further science data in a period of increasing solar activity up to 2013 and possibly beyond.
European science inside the US Destiny Laboratory
Material Science Laboratory in the Material Science Research Rack
ESA’s Material Science Laboratory is the primary research facility located in NASA’s Materials Science Research Rack-1, which was launched together with a total of six sample 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. Seven more sample cartridges were launched on 16 November 2009 with STS-129/ULF-3. Twelve of the CETSOL/MICAST experiment samples have been processed to date with the processed samples currently being analysed by the relevant science teams on ground.
Together with NASA a joint Material Science Laboratory/Materials Science Research Rack operations technical interface meeting has been performed at the Microgravity User Support Centre (MUSC), ESA’s Facility Responsible Centre for the Materials Science Laboratory. This meeting comprised operations, engineering, science, and agency representatives. The smooth and highly successful Material Science Laboratory experimentation has been highlighted and the scientists presented very promising preliminary scientific results stemming from analysis of the first samples. This constitutes an excellent basis for further materials research with international collaboration.
CETSOL and MICAST are two complementary material science projects, which 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.
Portable Pulmonary Function System
On 4 October the fourth session of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with the NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) was carried out by ISS Expedition 256 Commander Doug Wheelock. 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. The Portable Pulmonary Function System is an autonomous multi-user facility supporting a broad range of human physiological research experiments under weightless conditions in the areas of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic physiology.
European science inside the Japanese Kibo Laboratory
ESA’s Matroshka payload, which has been located in the Japanese Kibo laboratory since 4 May, is continuously acquiring data about the radiation environment inside the ISS. The accumulated radiation levels are being measured using the passive radiation dosimeters (including PADLES type from JAXA) which were installed inside the Matroshka Phantom, which simulates a human body (head and torso). Following agreements with JAXA and Roscosmos, the joint long-duration experiment run will be performed until HTV-2 arrives in 2011. 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.
European science inside the Russian ISS Segment
GTS-2 (Global Transmission Service)
The Global Transmission Service was deactivated on 31 May 2009 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 in the future. 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
The Expose-R facility, which was installed outside the Zvezda Service Module during the Russian- based spacewalk on 10 March 2009, is functioning well and continuously acquiring scientific data. A tentative return of the sample trays is foreseen for November 2010 which allows for a scientifically beneficial extension of the open space exposure period to more than 1.5 years.
Expose-R hosts 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. Based on a recent request from Roscosmos the mission could be potentially extended until spring 2011. A detailed impact assessment by the Expose-R science team is in progress.
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 2009.
Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Human Research Facility 1
During the two-week period until 8 October activities were carried out using NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. ISS Commander Doug Wheelock and ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker both completed another week-long session of NASA’s Sleep experiment on 3 October during which data was transferred to a Human Research Facility 1 laptop from the Actiwatches they were wearing to monitor sleep patterns and light exposure levels. On 30 September Doug Wheelock also undertook an ultrasound eye scan using Human Research Facility 1 with the assistance of Shannon Walker.
Human Research Facility 2
On 27 September Actiwatch data was downloaded to Human Research Facility 2 laptop for downlinking. Blood draw activities in connection with NASA’s NUTRITION/Repository/Pro K protocol were carried out on Shannon Walker and Doug Wheelock on 4 and 5 October respectively. A blood draw on Shannon Walker was also carried out on 8 October in connection with the Canadian Space Agency’s Vascular Blood Collection protocol. Samples were spun in the Refrigerated Centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 before being placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers. Activities were supported by the Columbus Control Centre.
ISS general system information and activities *
Columbus laboratory and Columbus Control Centre
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:
Condensate Water Separator Assembly
The periodic inspection of the Desiccant Module of the Condensate Water Separator Assembly in Columbus was carried out on 27 September by NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Doug Wheelock to check on its drying ability.
Crew Depressurisation Exercise
The Columbus Control Centre took part in a 90-min proficiency training session for the three current ISS crew members and also involving the control centres in Moscow, Houston and Tsukuba. The purpose of the training was to evaluate crew response during depressurisation.
Public Affairs Event
Former ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter was part of a Public Affairs event at the Congress Centre in Bremen on 3 October to mark the 20th anniversary of German reunification. The event which included a live link with the ISS crewmembers in the Columbus laboratory had Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s President Christian Wulff in attendance along with other distinguished guests.
With the second European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2) called ‘Johannes Kepler’, due for launch in February 2011, preparations are gaining momentum on ground and in orbit. ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin installed the new Proximity Communications Equipment, (needed during ATV rendezvous and docking) in the Russian Service Module between 27 and 30 September. This included: connecting an Antenna Switching Control Unit with the BITS2-12 onboard telemetry measurement system; checking out the feeder lines of the Antenna Feeder Unit; installing the ATV Control Panel and space-to-space radio “Monoblock”; and finally making cable connections on the Monoblock. A (Russian) checkout of the system was carried out hereafter. On 3 and 4 October additional transmission testing took place, this time also involving the ESA ground teams.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
In addition to regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED), the T2 COLBERT Treadmill underwent scheduled in-flight maintenance in the two-week period until 8 October (this was advantageous as the treadmill had to be removed in order to also undertake maintenance activities for the Water Recovery System, see below). A snubber cap was filed down to make it fit, alignment guides were installed, the Vibration Isolation System was disassembled and the T2 Treadmill was removed and stowed overnight in the European-built Node 2. While in Node 2, NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker replaced the T2 Power Avionics Unit. On 29 September the T2 Treadmill was reinstalled in Node 3. Over the following two days Wheelock and Walker checked out the new Power Avionics Unit, reassembled the Vibration Isolation System and aligned and centred the treadmill in its housing. Once the T2 Treadmill was again secure it was checked out on 1 and 2 October, first unmanned and then manned.
Regenerative ECLSS and Additional Environmental Control Racks
The two Water Recovery System racks, together with the Oxygen Generation System rack, form the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) which is necessary in support of a six-person ISS Crew to help reduce upload mass. Other environmental control racks in Node 3 include an Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack and a Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Highlights include:
Water Recovery System: Water Processor Assembly
On 28 September Shannon Walker started installation of a T-hose on the Water Processor Assembly of Water Recovery System rack 1, routing a hose to the back of the rack. This is being carried out in order to provide an alternate source of potable water. Air was purged from some sections of the ‘tee’ the following day. As the T-hose did not fit completely inside the volume of the rack, the T-hose mounting plate was wire-tied and some foam was removed. Activities were finalised on 1 October including reinstalling the cabin of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, which was removed to make space for the T-hose and T2 treadmill activities.
Oxygen Generation System
On 6 October hoses were installed on the Oxygen Generation System rack in connection with the installation of the Sabatier reactor in the Oxygen Generator System. The Sabatier reactor will combine carbon dioxide coming from Node 3’s Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly with H2 (hydrogen) from the Oxygen Generator System to form H2O (Water) and CH4 (Methane). The water will be sent to the Waste Water Bus and reprocessed through the Water Processor Assembly. The Methane will be vented overboard. On 7 October Wheelock removed two panels from the Oxygen Generation System rack volume in order to make room for the Sabatier reactor.
Minus-Eighty degree Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
Currently there are three European-built MELFI freezers on the ISS: MELFI 1 and MELFI 3 in the Japanese laboratory and MELFI 2 in the US laboratory. Samples were placed in the MELFI freezers related to NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol (blood, urine) and for the Canadian Space Agency’s Vascular Blood Collection protocol (blood).
Soyuz TMA-18/22S, Expedition 24 Undocking and Landing
Following Soyuz activation on the evening of 24 September, quick-release clamps were removed from between ‘Poisk’ and Soyuz 22S, the hatches were closed and relevant leak checks were carried out. Undocking of Soyuz TMA-18 with Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov (ISS Expedition 24 Commander) and Mikhail Kornienko (Expedition 24 Flight Engineer), and NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell-Dyson (Expedition 24 Flight Engineer), occurred at 04:02 (CEST) on 25 September followed by a 15 sec separation burn three minutes later. At 06:31 (CEST) the Soyuz spacecraft performed its deorbit thruster burn lasting 4 min 17sec. This caused a deceleration of 115m/sec. 20 minutes later the spacecraft went through module separation, with atmospheric reentry occurring at 06:59 (CEST). The parachute was deployed 8.5 minutes later with landing at 07:23 CEST (11:23 local time) in central Kazakhstan near the city of Arkalyk. Skvortsov, Caldwell-Dyson and Kornienko had spent just over 177 days in space. From here the crew was flown to Karaganda in Kazakhstan by helicopter. Skvortsov and Kornienko were flown on to Star City in Moscow, while Caldwell-Dyson was flown directly to Houston. Undocking of Soyuz TMA-18 marked the end of Expedition 24 and the start of Expedition 25.
Soyuz TMA-01M/24S Launch
Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka, and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly were launched successfully in the new Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on flight 24S to the ISS on 8 October at 01:11 CEST, (05:11 local time). Kaleri and Skripochka are Flight Engineers for ISS Expeditions 25 and 26 (Kaleri is also the Soyuz TMA-01M Commander). Scott Kelly is a Flight Engineer for ISS Expedition 25 and will become ISS Commander for Expedition 26
Following orbital insertion, Soyuz TMA-M antennas and solar arrays were deployed and various orbital burns were carried out over the following two days to bring the Soyuz in the vicinity of the ISS to begin docking procedures. This newer version of the Soyuz spacecraft has the older computer and analogue elements replaced with digital avionics. The replacements are lower mass with reduced power consumption and allow for rapid pre-launch testing, which in turn allows for a doubling of the launch rate. The new spacecraft can also be flown by a single pilot instead of two crew members.
Mobile Transporter/Robotic Arm Relocation
The Mobile Transporter with the Station’s principal robotic arm was moved to along the Station’s truss from work site 4 to worksite 6 on 28 September in connection with future ISS activities.
Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre Preparations
On 5 and 8 October respectively Yurchikhin and Walker each undertook an R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre training session, taking images of the ground with a digital still camera with 400mm and 800mm lenses. This exercise is in preparation for photographing the STS-133/ULF-5 Shuttle during its pitch manoeuvre during rendezvous and docking. 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.
Russian Segment Electrical Power System
On 6 October Yurchikhin performed a major maintenance activity on the Zarya Module Power Supply System in the Russian Segment of the ISS by replacing one of the six 800A batteries.
TVIS Treadmill Maintenance
Planned half-yearly maintenance activities were carried out on the Treadmill with Vibration Isolation and Stabilisation (TVIS) in the Russian Service Module on 6 October. After removing the treadmill from the pit, checkout and replacement of different components took place prior to reinstalling the treadmill back in its pit. However, a severed wire rope was found in the gyro bracket assembly. During the following speed characterisation test the TVIS gyroscope failed to spin up on activation. On 8 October after Wheelock and Yurchikhin had replaced the Vibration Isolation System Controller and powered it up, the TVIS gyroscope eventually began spinning up. Data has been downlinked for review.
Other activities that have taken place in the two-week period until 8 October include: Wheelock doing refresher training in connection with Crew Medical Officer duties; installation of a membrane filter/separator on the Russian SVO Water Supply System to prolong the life of the Condensate Separation and Pumping Unit; troubleshooting a communication failure on an Internal Wireless Instrumentation System Remote Sensor Unit; installation of the new Preliminary Advanced Colloids Experiment hardware in NASA’s Fluids and Combustion Facility; an emergency communications proficiency check over NASA’s Very High Frequency stations; scrubbing the water loops of two US EVA suits for particulate material; transfer of fluids to (urine) and from (water) Progress M-07M/39P tanks; and major maintenance on the Service Module toilet, swapping out replaceable parts.
(*)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.
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer
Weekly reports compiled by ESA's ISS Utilisation Department.
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