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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 106 Increment 29

04/11/2011 359 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #106 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 Astronaut and ISS Utilisation Department in cooperation with ESA’s Columbus Operations 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 inside 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:

Human Spaceflight Highlight: Within ESA human spaceflight activities and as a step to future human exploration missions, the Mars 500 isolation period came to a successful conclusion at the IBMP facility in Moscow on 4 November. Six international participants including two from ESA carried out a simulated full Mars mission, being isolated in a specially-developed chamber for 520 days and simulating a trip to Mars and back including transfer to the Mars surface, simulated spacewalks, and a full experiment programme.

NB: ISS research activities are still at a reduced level in the current two-week reporting period awaiting the launch of the next Soyuz on 14 November. This will temporarily restore the ISS to the full crew complement of six for a few days with the arrival of three ISS Expedition 29/30 crew members on 16 November as following a few days of handover the three Expedition 28/29 crew members will return to Earth. However on 21 December the Expedition 30/31 crew with ESA astronaut A. Kujpers will also be launched which will finally again re-establish a permanent six-member crew on the ISS.

European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory

Biolab and associated experiments
The Biolab facility was activated on 3 November and an alignment test of rotors A and B was carried out successfully. Biolab is a multi-user facility designed to support biological experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates.

Due to the still ongoing functional recovery activities for the Biolab facility the TripleLux experiments’ execution has been deferred due to the Biolab microscope failure. The microscope which is needed for the TripleLux experiments was returned to ground with STS-134 and will be returned to the ISS tentatively in fall 2012 to resume the utilisation of a fully functional Biolab after repair. The objective of the TripleLux experiments is to further understand the cellular mechanisms underlying the aggravation of radiation responses, and the impairment of immune function under spaceflight conditions.

European Drawer Rack and associated payloads
The European Drawer Rack was activated on 26 October to support transfer of data from the Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 (see below).

The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which will host the Facility for Adsorption and Surface Tension (FASTER) in 2012 and the Electro-Magnetic Levitator payload from 2013 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 (EML) will investigate thermophysical properties of metal alloys under weightlessness, supporting both basic and namely industrial research and development needs.

A KUBIK incubator is currently scheduled to process ESA’s ROALD-2 (Reslem) experiment before the end of 2011 with launch of the samples on Soyuz 29S (André Kujpers’ flight). This will expand on the initial ROALD experiment from 2008 and will determine the role of a certain lipid in the regulation of immune processes and in the cell cycle under weightless conditions. Subsequently the KUBIK incubator in the European Drawer Rack will also be used to process NASA’s NIH Ageing experiment which is currently planned for the second half of 2012.

Erasmus Recording Binocular 2
Following activation of the Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 (ERB-2) by ISS Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa on 26 October an index file was successfully downlinked via the European Drawer Rack. Following confirmation from the Erasmus Control Centre at ESA’s ESTEC facility in the Netherlands that the correct file was received, 8 of 14 video data files were transferred from the ERB-2 to the European Drawer Rack before ERB-2 automatic deactivation. The remaining files will be transferred in the near future. ESA’s ERB-2 is a new high definition ISS 3D video camera which had recently taken the first live 3D images in the history of human spaceflight. The ERB-2 was conceived by the Erasmus Centre of ESA’s Human Spaceflight Directorate and takes advantage of high-definition optics and advanced electronics to provide a vastly improved 3D video effect for mapping the Station.

Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow-2 / FASES experiments
Science runs for the Geoflow-2 experiment in the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) are currently on hold due to ground preparations at the USOC for other ISS experiments, though further runs are due to start in the next reporting period. On 24 October the Fluid Science laboratory was activated to downlink vibration data for the last three non-rotation runs of the Geoflow experiment and checkout number 1 for NASA’s Robonaut payload. This vibration data came from the facility’s Canadian-developed Microgravity Vibration Isolation System which is used to characterise any vibrations that occur during activities. On 4 November the Fluid Science Laboratory was again active in order to take measurements from the Microgravity Vibration Isolation System during additional checkout procedures for the Robonaut hardware (see ISS general system information and activities). Data was downlinked afterwards.

These activities follow on from extensive Geoflow-2 experiment runs, which started processing in the FSL on 21 March. All mandatory experiment runs have now been completed for Geoflow-2 except for the high-rotation runs. Additional experiment parameter runs using a different optical diagnostic mode have also been carried out on top of the mandatory runs. The main experiment parameters of the GeoFlow-2 experiment are the core rotation speed, electrical field, temperature gradients and liquid viscosity variation of the spherical experiment cell with the experiment fluid.

Geoflow-2 (which follows on from the initial Geoflow experiment with new scientific objectives and a different experiment configuration) is investigating the flow of an incompressible viscous fluid held between two concentric spheres rotating about a common axis as a representation of a planet. 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. For Geoflow-2 the incompressible fluid is nonanol which varies in viscosity with temperature (unlike silicon oil) to provide a different aspect of research with more of a simulation to Earth’s geophysical conditions.

The subsequently planned Fluid Science Laboratory experiment “Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability” (FASES) has been thoroughly prepared via a full scientific verification programme of the emulsions’ composition and the optical diagnostics’ adjustment. The execution of the FASES experiment will depend on the functionality of the recently upgraded FSL Video Management Unit which still needs to be proven during current activities on orbit. The flight of the FASES Experiment Container will be rescheduled to a launch in 2012. 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.

European Physiology Modules (EPM) facility and associated experiments
No activities were carried out using the European Physiology Modules facility in the two weeks until 4 November. The European Physiology Modules facility is equipped with different Science Modules to investigate the cardio- and neurophysiological effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. Experiment results from the investigations using the European Physiology Modules will contribute to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle atrophy.

Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 4 November. The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA’s Human Research Facility 2, which was relocated from the US Destiny laboratory to the Columbus laboratory in October 2008. The Pulmonary Function System is an ESA/NASA collaboration in 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 (EMCS)
No activities were carried out using the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks until 4 November. The next ESA experiment to take place in the facility is the Gravi-2 experiment which builds on the initial Gravi experiment in determining the gravity threshold response in plant (lentil) roots.

The European Modular Cultivation System, which was launched 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 was renewed after the initial 2 years time frame.

Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES)
No activities were carried out using the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES) in the two week period until 4 November. MARES is capable of assessing the strength of isolated human muscle groups around joints to provide a better understanding of the effects of weightlessness on the muscular system of ISS astronauts.

In the future MARES will undergo functional testing in two parts: the first part without a crew member using the system, the second functional testing with a crew member in the loop using the system. These two commissioning parts will include testing of hardware and software as well as testing downlink capabilities. The first part will take place in the near future.

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

The latest Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility to acquire scientific data closed on 31 October following the start of the window on 20 October. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR are open for the facility to acquire scientific data when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun. A Sun tracking anomaly occurred 25 October and following a number recovery activities, science acquisition resumed with the facility on 28 October. During the reporting period the Solar facility was placed in a safe configuration during the ISS reboost of 26 October and Progress 42P undocking on 29 October (See ISS general system information and activities below). The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range currently for around 3 ½ years on-orbit. This 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.

Vessel Identification System (Vessel ID)
Successful data acquisition is ongoing for the Vessel Identification System (commonly known as the Automatic Identification System, AIS), using its Norwegian receiver, and telemetry is still being successfully received by the Norwegian User Support and Operation Centre (N-USOC) in Trondheim via ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Germany. The Vessel Identification System has acquired an extensive amount of data since its installation in Columbus.

The Vessel Identification System consists of two different on-board receivers (NORAIS and LuxAIS), which were originally scheduled to be alternated every three months or so, and the so-called 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. A new LuxAIS receiver is currently scheduled to be transported to the ISS on Soyuz 29S towards the end of 2011. 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. Meanwhile various service entities have been asking to get access to the VIS data which is continuously acquired on Columbus.

European science inside the US Destiny Laboratory

Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) in the First Materials Science Research Rack (MSRR)
The science programme for the Batch 2a experiments (MICAST-2, CETSOL-2, SETA-2) is currently on hold pending the assessment of the power down of the Materials Science Research Rack and the Materials Science Laboratory that occurred on 30 September due to the crash of the primary Payload Multiplexer/Demultiplexer (MDM) computer in the US laboratory. This occurred during processing of a SETA experiment cartridge and affected power and cooling to the Materials Science Laboratory which is the primary payload in the Material Science Research Rack. As part of on-going procedures a Sample Cartridge Assembly data cable was replaced with a termination plug on 28 October. This plug simulates the Sample Cartridge Assembly electrically and allows for activation of the furnace heater from the ground. Once correct temperature sensor readings are hereafter established a cleaning procedure can be developed for the furnace.

Some graphite foil had come detached from an element of the Sample Cartridge Assembly of the SETA experiment sample inside the Materials Science Laboratory on 30 September. Photo and video images of the furnace insert are being assessed by the industrial team in order to determine the appropriate steps to remove the detached graphite foil from inside the furnace insert and restart experiment processing. Science teams are also assessing the impact on the SETA sample processed. The first six Batch 2 samples were delivered to the ISS on STS-135/ULF-7 Shuttle Atlantis in July (two each for the CETSOL, MICAST and SETA experiments). In addition to the one SETA sample one CETSOL and one MICAST sample have been processed from the Batch 2 samples.

The first twelve CETSOL/MICAST experiment samples that were processed in the Low Gradient Furnace (which was replaced with the Solidification and Quenching Furnace earlier in January) have already undergone analysis by the relevant science teams on ground. The science team has already presented very promising preliminary scientific results stemming from analysis of this initial set of material samples. This constitutes an excellent basis for further materials research with international collaboration. The final MICAST sample from the first batch (belonging to NASA) which completed processing in the Solidification and Quenching Furnace of the Materials Science Laboratory in January is currently undergoing post-flight analysis. ESA’s Material Science Laboratory is the primary research facility located in NASA’s Materials Science Research Rack-1, which was launched on STS-128/17A in August 2009 and is installed in the US Laboratory on the ISS.

CETSOL (Columnar-to-Equiaxed Transition in Solidification Processing) and MICAST (Microstructure Formation in Casting of Technical Alloys under Diffusive and Magnetically Controlled Convective Conditions) are two complementary material science projects. 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. The SETA (Solidification along a Eutectic path in Ternary Alloys) experiment is looking into a specific type of eutectic growth in alloys of aluminium manganese and silicon. Results of all these experiments will help to optimise industrial casting processes.

Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) and associated experiments
Activities for the SODI Colloid-2 experiment continued in the Microgravity Science Glovebox in the two weeks until 4 November. Four crystal growth detection runs were carried out from 24 – 28 October with refinements in temperature with each run. This was followed by additional “reproducibility check runs” between 28 October and 2 November to check for any potential change in aggregation temperature from the start of the experiment. From 2 – 4 November the final Colloid-2 runs, the so-called demixing runs, were carried out where temperatures above the critical point are applied to the sample cells. As of 4 November Colloid-2 had successfully completed its on-orbit science activities and the experiment flash cards will be returned to Earth for analysis. Initial downlinked data is positive. The SODI Colloid-2 hardware was removed from the Glovebox by ISS Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa following completion of the experiment runs on 4 November.

Colloid-2 follows on from the SODI-Colloid experiment which took place in the Microgravity Science Glovebox in September/October 2010 and is still undergoing detailed evaluation by the science team following return of the flash disks to Earth on STS-133 Shuttle Discovery, which landed in March. 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.

Colloid-2 will be followed almost directly with processing of the SODI-DSC experiment which will be the third and final Selectable Optical Diagnostic Instrument (SODI) experiment processed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox and running for about 7 weeks. The DSC (‘Diffusion and Soret Coefficient Measurements for Improvement of Oil Recovery’) experiment followed the implementation of the partially re-defined liquid mixtures in conjunction with the new ELIPS project DCMIX. The experiment is supporting research to determine diffusion coefficients in different petroleum field samples and refine petroleum reservoir models to help lead to more efficient extraction of oil resources.

The Microgravity Science Glovebox was developed by ESA within the Early Utilisation barter agreement with NASA. The Glovebox provides the ability to perform a wide range of experiments in the fields of materials science, biotechnology, fluid science, combustion science and crystal growth research, in a fully sealed and controlled environment.

Portable Pulmonary Function System (PPFS)
On 27 October ISS Commander Mike Fossum carried out his final session of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment. Data was downlinked afterwards. 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) experiment 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. Data is shared with ESA’s EKE experiment which has specific goals to develop a diagnostic tool for the assessment of endurance capacity from oxygen uptake and heart rate in response to changes in exercise intensity and the development of a physiological model to explore the transport of oxygen from the lungs to muscle cells.

ALTEA-Shield Experiment
Data acquisition for the ALTEA-Survey experiment has been continuing in its current location in the two week period until 4 November with the minimum 20-day acquisition period having been reached on 12 August (preferred duration is 30 days or more). Data acquisition is continuing using five of the six silicon detectors with one currently offline. This is of minor significance as it is one of two detectors collecting data in a specific direction. There have been 82 cumulative days of science acquisition at this current location until 4 November. The ALTEA experiments aim at obtaining a better understanding of the light flash phenomenon, and more generally the interaction between cosmic rays and brain function. The experiment continues to undertake a 3-dimensional survey of the radiation environment in the US laboratory which is followed soon by the corresponding measurements of different shielding materials with the ALTEA detectors on the ISS.

European science inside the Russian ISS Segment

GTS-2 (Global Transmission Service)
The Global Transmission Service was deactivated on 31 May 2009 though following negotiations with Russian representatives the instrument has been successfully reactivated and functionally tested for continuation as a cooperative joint European-Russian experiment on the 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; and measurement of disturbing effects such as Doppler shifts, multi-path reflections, shadowing and elevation impacts.

Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory

Human Research Facility 1
During the two-week period until 4 November activities were carried out using NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Body Mass Measurements were taken for ISS Commander Mike Fossum and ISS Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa on 24 October using the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) in the facility.

On 26 October Fossum used facility hardware to perform a leg muscle ultrasound scan on himself for NASA’s SPRINT protocol. On 3 November the facility was again active in connection with ultrasound eye scans for Fossum and ISS Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa.

Human Research Facility 2
On 27, 28 October Fossum and Furukawa assisted each other in undertaking blood draws for NASA’s Nutrition with Repository protocol. Blood 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 carried out with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. The two NASA Human Research Facilities support different areas of physiology research.

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. Highlights of the past two weeks include:


  • Columbus Hatch Activities
    JAXA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa installed markers as part of the Emergency Egress Guidance System around the hatch of Columbus (and the port cone area) on 25 October. On 4 November NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Mike Fossum removed three latches from the Columbus hatch. These had been previously disengaged.
  • Inspection Tasks
    Inspection and cleaning of two Positive Pressure Relief Assembly Valves, the Cabin Depressurisation Assembly, and the Return Grid Sensor Housing were carried out by Furukawa on 27 and 28 October.
  • Water On/Off Valve Activities
    A conference took place on 27 October between ground specialists and Satoshi Furukawa on the ISS following maintenance on three Water On/Off Valves on 14 October. The conference was aimed at highlighting improvements that can be made for future maintenance on additional valves.
  • High-Rate Multiplexer
    A ground-commanded switchover of High-Rate Multiplexer computer was carried out on 28 October due to possible failure of a Main Bus Switching Unit.

Activities in the European-built Node 3


  • Exercise Equipment
    Satoshi Furukawa carried out his final session of the new Treadmill Kinematics protocol on the T2 COLBERT treadmill in the European-built Node 3 on 4 November. This protocol is making an assessment of current exercise protocols. These activities were carried out in addition to the regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and T2/COLBERT treadmill.
  • 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 of the two weeks until 4 November include:
    • Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack:
      The Major Constituents Analyser / Verification Gas Assembly was removed from the Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack in the US Laboratory and relocated to the Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack in Node 3 on 25 October by Mike Fossum. Over the following couple of days vacuum pump-out of the Major Constituents Analyser was carried out.
    • Water Recovery System, Rack 2: Urine Processor Assembly
      The new Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly, which filters pre-treated urine for processing into water, was replaced with a new unit in the Urine Processor Assembly of Water Recovery System Rack 2 on 3 November by Mike Fossum. These units are reusable though this activity was carried out in preparation for potential decrewing operations.

Minus-Eighty degree Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
There are three European-built MELFI freezers on the ISS: MELFI-1 and MELFI-2 in the Japanese laboratory and MELFI-3 in the US laboratory. During the reporting period samples for Mike Fossum and Satoshi Furukawa were placed in the MELFI units for NASA’s Nutrition with Repository protocol (blood, urine) and JAXA’s Hair experiment (hair). In addition three -32 deg C Ice Bricks were retrieved from the MELFI-1 unit to be placed in stowage, consumables kits for the ESA’s Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment were transferred to MELFI-1 for future use, and the Brayton Motor of MELFI-1 was switched off on 26 October during the ISS reboost (see below).

Progress M-10M/42P Undocking and Associated Activities


  • Cargo Transfers
    In the days running up to undocking ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergei Volkov transferred items destined for disposal to Progress 42P. Volkov also used the oxygen supplies from the Progress tanks for repressurising the ISS cabin atmosphere.
  • Undocking Preparations
    On 27, 28 October Volkov prepared the Progress 42P spacecraft for departure. The Progress docking mechanism was again installed; temperature sensor equipment and light fixtures were removed from Progress for reuse; Progress electronics were activated; ventilation ducting was removed; quick disconnect clamps which stabilize the connection between Progress 42P and the Pirs Docking Compartment were removed; and the Progress/Pirs hatches were closed, followed by the standard one-hour leak check of the interhatch area and the interface between the fuel/oxidizer transfer line.
  • Progress 42P Undocking/Deorbit
    On 29 October Progress M-10M/42P successfully undocked from the Pirs Docking Compartment at 11:04 (CEST). Three hours after undocking the Progress spacecraft undertook its deorbit burn to place it into a planned destructive reentry into Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

Progress M-13M/45P Launch and Docking


  • Docking Preparations
    ISS Flight Engineers Sergei Volkov and Satoshi Furukawa undertook refresher training on the Russian TORU manual docking system on 28 October in preparation for Progress 45P docking. The TORU system acts as a manually controlled backup to the automatic Kurs docking system. The session included, rendezvous, fly-around, final approach, docking and off-nominal situations such as video or communications loss. On 1 November communications and video tests were carried out on the ISS.
  • Launch and Docking
    The Russian Progress M-13M spacecraft on logistics flight 45P to the ISS was launched successfully from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Soyuz-U rocket on 30 October at 11:11 CET (16:11 local time) with cargo consisting of 750 kg propellants, 50 kg oxygen, 420 kg water and 1410 kg dry cargo. On 2 November at 12:41 (CET) Progress 45P docked at the Earth-facing port of the Pirs Docking Compartment under automatic Kurs system control. After docking, ISS attitude control was returned first to Russian systems and then to US systems.
  • Post-Docking Activities
    On 2 November following docking the standard leak check on the interhatch area and the fuel/oxidizer transfer line interface between Progress 45P and Pirs was performed followed by hatch opening by Volkov. Hereafter the quick disconnect clamps were installed to stabilise the connection between Progress and the Station, Progress 45P was deactivated and ventilation ducting was installed. The Progress docking mechanism was dismantled by Volkov and Furukawa and air sampling was carried out in the new logistics spacecraft. Hereafter high priority payloads were transferred to the ISS. On 3 November temperature sensor equipment was installed in Progress 45P.

Between 22 and 30 October Sergei Volkov serviced the experiment hardware for the on-going Russian/German KTP-21 Plasma Crystal-3 Plus (PK-3+) experiment in the Russian “Poisk” Mini Research Module 2. This included leak checking the hardware’s electronics box vacuum chamber. Volkov closed down, dismantled sand stowed the PK-3+ equipment on 30 October. The main objective of this experiment is to obtain a homogeneous plasma dust cloud at various pressures and particle quantities with or without superimposition of a low frequency harmonic electrical field. The PK-3+ experiment was also undertaken during the Astrolab mission with ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter.

Orbital Debris
At the beginning and the end of the two week reporting period two separate occurrences of orbital debris from the Chinese Fengyun 1C satellite were being monitored for the possibility of it coming in close proximity to the ISS. However it was subsequently determined that the debris posed no threat of a collision with the ISS so no further action was required.

ISS Reboost
On 26 October a reboost of the ISS was undertaken using the Service Module Propulsion System. The manoeuvre lasted 1 min 54 sec, and increased the ISS altitude by 3.2 km placing it at a mean altitude of 390 km. The reboost places the ISS in an optimal flight profile for future launch and docking of Progress 45P and Soyuz 28S and undocking and landing of Soyuz 27S.

ISS Decrewing Preparations
Preparations were carried out in the two-week reporting period in the unlikely event that the ISS needs to remained unmanned for a period of time. This would only happen in the unlikely event that the next Soyuz spacecraft either could not launch to the ISS in time or experienced problems after launch and could not dock to the ISS. Preparations included: cleaning and closing out a Crew Quarters in Node 2; measuring insulation resistances on the Japanese Gradient Heating Furnace heating units as part of troubleshooting the hardware; verifying the proper switch configuration in the US Airlock; reconfiguring the Integrated Station LAN power cable in the US laboratory to allow ground control of the power during an unmanned period; and relocating three laptop servers to the US laboratory from Node 2.

Onboard Diagnostic Kit
ISS Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa carried out three days of medical diagnostic measurements from 25 – 27 October including cardio/heart, brainwave, and oxygen data using the onboard Diagnostic Kit. These tests are evaluating the equipment to be used as a medical diagnostic system on the ISS in the future.

Crew Return Preparations: Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
On 31 October Sergei Volkov carried out his first preliminary orthostatic hemodynamic endurance test session wearing the Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit whilst undertaking an exercise protocol using the TVIS treadmill. The Chibis suit, which provides stress that simulates gravity to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system, helps to evaluate how the Russian crewmembers would cope with, and prepare them for, exposure to gravity on return to Earth.

Mike Fossum and Satoshi Furukawa assembled and powered up the Robonaut hardware and carried out additional testing on 4 November. The motion stop checkout was completed with successful first motion of all fingers and a successful joint checkout of the right arm, right wrist joints and finger joints on the right hand. Following this check out the hardware was disassembled and stowed. Robonaut is a human-like robotic technology which is being tested for its operability and duration in a space environment and will act as a spring-board in the evolution of robotic capabilities in space which could assist astronauts in such areas as spacewalk activities.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 4 November include: replacing hard disk drives in the Fluid Physics Experiment Facility in the Japanese Kibo laboratory; recovering two wireless laptops; replacing a fire detector in the Russian Service Module; and replacing the EXPRESS Rack 5 A31p laptop in the Japanese laboratory with a new T61p laptop.

(*)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.

Martin Zell
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department

Rosita Suenson
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer

Weekly reports compiled by ESA's ISS Utilisation Department.

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