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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 109 Increment 30

30/12/2011 364 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #109 from the European Space Agency outlining ESA’s science-related activities that have taken place on the ISS during the past four 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:

Highlight: ESA astronaut André Kuipers was successfully launched on Soyuz TMA-03M/29S on a long-duration mission to the ISS on 21 December at 14:16 CET (19:16 local time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Following the launch together with Roscosmos cosmonaut and Soyuz commander Oleg Kononenko, and NASA astronaut Don Pettit the Soyuz TMA-03M docked with the ISS two days later, once again increasing the crew of the ISS to six and enabling increased scientific return from the Space Station. Kuipers is a Flight Engineer for ISS Expeditions 30 and 31 as well as undertaking the European PromISSe mission, which includes a full research programme in life and physical sciences along with an additional complement of educational and public relations activities. Pettit is also a Flight Engineer for ISS Expeditions 30 and 31 while Kononenko is a Flight Engineer for ISS Expedition 30 and will become ISS Commander for Expedition 31.

European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory

Biolab and associated experiments


No activities were carried out using the Biolab facility in the four week period until 30 December. 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 Autumn 2012 to resume the utilisation of a fully functional Biolab facility after repair. The objective of the TripleLux A+B 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

On 9 December the European Drawer Rack facility was activated to enable data transfer of video footage from the Erasmus Recording Binocular-2 (see below). Once this was complete data was successfully downlinked to ground for analysis. The facility was again activated on 22 December in connection with processing of the ROALD-2 experiment (see below) which started on 24 December. Temperature and centrifuge data files for ROALD-2 were downlinked to ground via the European Drawer Rack on 26 December on conclusion of experiment processing activities.

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.

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.

ROALD-2 (in KUBIK-6 + KUBIK-3)

The experiment containers for the ROALD-2 (ROle of Apoptosis in Lymphocyte Depression 2) experiment were launched to the ISS on Soyuz 29S on 21 December, arriving two days later. On 22 December Dan Burbank set up the KUBIK-3 incubator in front of the European Drawer Rack for experiment processing. He then successfully tested the temperature and centrifuge settings of the KUBIK-3 incubator and the KUBIK-6 incubator located inside the European Drawer Rack (and acting as a backup for KUBIK-3). Both incubators were set to 37 deg C. The ROALD-2 experiment will expand on the initial ROALD experiment from 2008 and will determine the role of a certain lipid (Anandamide) in the regulation of immune processes in human lymphocytes and in the cell cycle under weightless conditions. This could help in the development of additional countermeasures to the effects of weightlessness on the human body in the future..

The ROALD-2 experiment was started following installation of the eight experiment containers (and a dummy experiment container) by André Kuipers and Dan Burbank inside the KUBIK-3 incubator on 24 December. A few hours later four 0g and 1g centrifuge experiment containers with samples were removed from KUBIK 3 and placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers at -95 deg C. Two 0g and 1g centrifuge experiment containers with samples were removed by Kuipers 24 hours later and again placed in MELFI. This process was repeated by Kuipers for the remaining two 0g and 1g centrifuge experiment containers with samples 48 hours after start of the experiment, concluding processing with the KUBIK-3 incubator. Temperature and centrifuge data files were hereafter downlinked to ground. The samples within the experiment containers will be downloaded with Soyuz 28S in March and handed over to the science team.

Erasmus Recording Binocular-2 (ERB-2)

On 9 December ISS Commander Dan Burbank powered on the ERB-2 camera to enable the data transfer of remaining video footage to the European Drawer Rack facility. This included four video files that were recorded by ISS Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum on 14 September 2011 during “free use” of the camera and 10 video files recorded during a Russian Segment fly-through. ESA’s ERB-2 is a new high definition ISS 3D video camera which had previously taken the first live 3D video 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

Unexpected temperature fluctuations experienced during recent science runs of the Geoflow-2 experiment are suspected to be caused by high current consumption by the Geoflow fluid loop pump unit. Following engineering assessment experiment runs were carried out with the so-called hot working environment for which the lower temperature set-point is at +30.5 deg C. Following three successful no rotation runs between 22-29 November a fourth no-rotation run on 30 November generated an anomaly in the Optical Diagnostic Module of the Fluid Science Laboratory. This was resolved by reloading the Optical Diagnostic Module software on 5 December. From 5 - 7 December data files were transferred to the Video Management Unit of the Fluid Science Laboratory and downlinked to ground for analysis. One no-rotation run and two low-rotation runs were successfully completed between 12 – 14 December with only one missed set point (out of 25) for the no rotation run and all relevant data was downlinked for analysis by 21 December.

These activities follow on from extensive Geoflow-2 experiment runs, which started processing in the Fluid Science Laboratory (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 2013. 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 four weeks until 30 December. 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 four weeks until 30 December. 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)

EXPRESS Rack 3 (in which the European Modular Cultivation System is located) was activated on 9 December along with its Space Acceleration Measurement System in order to take acceleration/vibration measurements due to a failure experienced by EXPRESS Rack 4. The water pump servicing activity for the European Modular Cultivation System was successfully performed on 19 December.

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. 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.

Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES)

No activities were carried out using the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES) in the four week period until 30 December. 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.

Space Headaches

Following launch in Soyuz 29S on 21 December, ESA astronaut André Kuipers started filling in his daily questionnaires as part of the Space Headaches experiment, which is determining the incidence and characteristics of headaches occurring within astronauts in orbit. This continued until 27 December from which point the regularity with which he would fill in the questionnaires were reduced to weekly. Kuipers filled in his first weekly questionnaire on 30 December.

Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) Experiment
New Portable Clinical Blood Analyser cartridges for the SOLO experiment, delivered on Soyuz 29S, were inserted into the European-built MELFI 1 freezer on 23 December. SOLO is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects during long-duration space flight.

Vessel Imaging Experiment
Following an experiment familiarisation session on 28 December, ESA astronaut André Kuipers undertook his first session of ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment in conjunction with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment on 29 December. This consisted of an echography scan (see Human Research Facility 1 below) with ECG and heart rate measurements also being taken. On the ESA side support came from DAMEC and CADMOS, two of the User Support and Operations Centres for ESA, via the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany.

ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment evaluates the changes in central and peripheral blood vessel wall properties and cross sectional areas of long-duration ISS crewmembers during and after long-term exposure to weightlessness. A Lower Body Negative Pressure programme runs in parallel to Vessel Imaging. Flow velocity changes in the aorta and the middle cerebral and femoral arteries are used to quantify the cardiovascular response to fluid shifts. Vessel Imaging aims to optimise the countermeasures used routinely during long-duration space missions.

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



The Sun visibility window which opened on 23 November for the SOLAR facility to acquire scientific data, ended on 6 December. 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 new Sun visibility window opened on 15 December and continued until 28 December.

At different points during the period the SolACES instrument from SOLAR was in a warm-up configuration as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation. This occurred from 29 November – 4 December (due to the ISS reboost on 30 November) from 7 – 13 December (due to the ISS reboost on 9 December) and from 22 December to the end of the reporting period (due to thrusters firings/docking of Soyuz 29S on 23 December).

The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range currently for almost four 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)

From 11 December science telemetry and housekeeping data for the Vessel Identification System (commonly known as the Automatic Identification System, AIS) was arriving with several hours delay and a loss of data of about 20%. However a troubleshooting plan was successfully executed on 22 December. Successful data acquisition is once more ongoing for the Vessel Identification System, using its Norwegian receiver (NORAIS), and telemetry is again 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. 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 MSL 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. Following a ground-commanded furnace characterisation test on 15 November, engineering teams have defined the next steps to be taken to help bring the Material Science Laboratory back to full functionality. During the 30 September power down some graphite foil detached from an element of the Sample Cartridge Assembly of the SETA experiment sample. This sample was being processed inside the Materials Science Laboratory at the time.

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 already been processed from the Batch 2a samples. Very promising preliminary scientific results from the first batch of CETSOL/MICAST samples that were processed in Materials Science Laboratory in 2009/2010 have already been presented by the science teams. This constitutes an excellent basis for further materials research with international collaboration.

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

Experiment activities for the SODI-DSC experiment were on-going in the Microgravity Science Glovebox in the four weeks until 30 December. Experiment runs continued and from the downlinked images it was discovered on 12 December that an air/gas bubble was present in one of the experiment cells (the cause is being investigated though it has been determined that the cell cannot be processed any more leaving four cells to investigate). This caused a delay in experiment processing but allowed for additional engineering tests to be undertaken to improve the image quality, which had not been at an optimal level across all science runs in the previous reporting period. This delay was extended on reactivation of the Microgravity Science Glovebox on 19 December as it was discovered that a Glovebox power board needed replacing. During the planning period for this replacement the experiment science team finished programming a post-processing algorithm to recover most of the phase information leading to better image quality. This improves the science return significantly. At this point 34 science runs (out of a total of 55 runs) had been performed, two of which would need to be repeated. On 28 December Kuipers replaced the failed power board and science runs resumed with two more runs completed by 30 December.

The SODI-DSC experiment is the third and final Selectable Optical Diagnostic Instrument (SODI) experiment being 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) Experiments

On 30 December another session of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment was performed by ISS Commander Dan Burbank. Data was downlinked to ground after the session. 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.

ALTEA Experiments

Data acquisition for the ALTEA-Survey experiment was continuing in its current location at the start of the four week period until 30 December with the minimum 20-day acquisition period having been reached on 12 August (preferred duration is 30 days or more). Data acquisition was continuing using five of the six silicon detectors with one offline. This was of minor significance as it is one of two detectors collecting data in a specific direction. There were 112 cumulative days of science acquisition at this current location on 4 December when ALTEA stopped transmitting health and status data and the hardware is currently inactive awaiting resolution of the issue. 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 3-dimensional survey of the radiation environment in the US laboratory will soon be followed 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 four-week period until 30 December 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 Dan Burbank downloaded experiment data from his first ambulatory monitoring session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment to the Human Research Facility laptop on 6 December. He carried out his second ambulatory monitoring session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment from 13-15 December. This included 24-hr blood pressure measurement using ESA’s Cardiopres device, 48-hr ECG measurement with a holter device and 48-hr activity measurements using two Actiwatches. The following day Burbank carried out another ultrasound scan for the experiment with ECG and heart rate measurements as well as again downloading experiment data to the facility laptop. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms.

On 29 December ESA astronaut André Kuipers undertook his first ultrasound scans for NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment in conjunction with ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment. This consisted of ultrasound scans for both experiments using the facility as well as ECG and heart rate measurements being taken.

Human Research Facility 2

No activities were carried out using Human Research facility 2 in the four weeks until 30 December. 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 four weeks include:

Emergency Depressurisation Training
The Columbus Control Centre supported an ISS Emergency Depressurisation Training session on 6 December together with the ISS control centres in Moscow, Houston and Tsukuba, Japan. The three ISS Crew at the time: ISS Commander Dan Burbank (NASA) and Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, were taken through an emergency practice session as a familiarisation with procedures and hardware in the event of a rapid cabin depressurisation. This activity provides proficiency training for crew response during a depressurisation event.

Atmospheric Analysis
Analysis of the oxygen levels in the Columbus cabin atmosphere was undertaken on 10 and 24 December by ISS Commander and NASA astronaut Dan Burbank using two Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen instruments.

  • Emergency Communications Test
    On 26 December the Columbus Control Centre took part in an emergency communications proficiency check together with ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Don Pettit and the control centres in Houston, Huntsville Alabama, Moscow and Tsukuba, Japan. This involved the VHF site at Wallops Station, Virginia
  • ESA Crew Conference
    ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers was involved in the weekly crew conference with the Columbus Control Centre on 29 December.


Soyuz TMA-03M/29S, Expedition 30/31 Crew Launch and Docking

  • Soyuz TMA-03M Launch and Docking
    ESA astronaut André Kuipers was successfully launched together with Roscosmos cosmonaut and Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko, and NASA astronaut Don Pettit in the Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft on flight 29S to the ISS on 21 December at 14:16 CET (19:16 local time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Kuipers and Pettit are Flight Engineers for ISS Expeditions 30 and 31. Kononenko is a Flight Engineer for ISS Expedition 30 and will become ISS Commander for Expedition 31. Following orbital insertion, Soyuz TMA 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. Prior to Soyuz TMA docking the ISS crew configured relevant communications and video equipment. The Soyuz spacecraft docked successfully with the Russian “Rassvet” Mini Research Module 1 on 23 December at 16:19 (CET) bringing the crew of the ISS once again up to a total of six.
  • Soyuz TMA-22 post-docking activities
    ISS attitude control was handed back from Russian to US systems after docking. Video of the docking and structural dynamics measurements were downlinked by the crew and the standard leak check between the Soyuz and the ISS was carried out. On completion the hatches were opened and the usual crew greeting took place. Quick disconnect clamps were installed at the interface between the Soyuz and the ISS to further stabilise the connection. The standard crew safety briefing followed. Kuipers set up the three Sokol spacesuits and their gloves for drying out, and the Soyuz spacecraft was deactivated. Kuipers and Pettit set up their Crew Quarters. The Russian crew members then started transfer of high priority cargo to the ISS. This included Portable Clinical Blood Analyser kits for ESA’s SOLO experiment. On 26 December Kononenko installed local temperature sensor equipment in the newly arrived Soyuz spacecraft and removed television cameras from the Soyuz TMA-03M (for reuse) on 30 December.

Activities of ESA astronaut André Kuipers

  • System and payload activities
    During the four weeks until 30 December in addition to what is stated in the rest of the report, ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers: calibrated two Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen instruments (oxygen sensors); and zero calibrated new Compound Specific Analyzer-Combustion Products devices (which monitor cabin atmosphere to provide quick response during a fire) delivered on Progress 45P.
  • Experiment activities
    In addition to the European science programme detailed above ESA astronaut André Kuipers has carried out additional science activities in support of the science programmes of ESA’s ISS partners. This included: starting his first session of NASA’s Pro K medical protocol (Dietary Intake Can Predict and Protect against Changes in Bone Metabolism during Spaceflight and Recovery) on 29 December for which he would log his diet after a urine pH spot test for five days culminating in 24-hour urine sampling and blood samples on the final day; being a subject for NASA’s ‘Reaction Self Test’ experiment which looks into how planned sleep shift for ISS crews affects performance; and servicing NASA’s VIABLE (eValuatIon And monitoring of microBiofiLms insidE the ISS) experiment, by touching and blowing on the top of each bag to collect environmental samples for the evaluation of microbial biofilm development on space materials.
  • Health status activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the four weeks until 30 December André Kuipers was the subject of: a session of the Russian "Hematokrit" test which measures the red blood cell count as well as undertaking regular exercise routines to maintain his physical well-being while in orbit. Kuipers also unpacked the Health Maintenance System ISS Medical Accessory Kit delivered on Soyuz 29S.
  • Other activities
    During the four weeks until 30 December Kuipers and the other ISS crew members have had their regular Planning Conferences with ESA’s Columbus Control Centre as well as Mission Control in Houston and Moscow, and the Japanese Flight Control Team at the Tsukuba Space Centre. In addition to general orientation and familiarisation activities since arriving at the ISS Kuipers also: undertook a one hour emergency roles and responsibilities review with the rest of the crew; initiated one run of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere; and made entries in his electronic journal on his personal Station laptop.

Activities in the European-built Node 3

  • Exercise Equipment
    ISS Commander and NASA astronaut Dan Burbank carried out his 2nd session of the new Treadmill Kinematics protocol on the T2 COLBERT treadmill in the European-built Node 3 on 19 December. This protocol is making an assessment of current exercise protocols. Burbank and Kuipers also performed the regular evacuation of the cylinder flywheels of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) to maintain proper vacuum conditions and sensor calibration. 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 four weeks until 30 December include:
    • Water Recovery System racks: Sampling
      Burbank used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks on 5, 9 and 12 December. ESA astronaut André Kuipers carried out TOCA sampling on 28 December.


    • Water Recovery System racks: Filtration
      Dan Burbank removed the new Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly (which filters pre-treated urine for processing into water) from Water Recovery System 2 on 6 and 22 December, drained it into a waste water container, cleaned the assembly and replaced it back into the Water Recovery System rack.
    • Waste and Hygiene Compartment
      André Kuipers performed the manual fill of the flush water tank of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node 3 on 28 December. Two days later Kuipers and Burbank replaced the compartments urine container in support of processing in the Urine Processor Assembly in Water Recovery System Rack 2.


Kobairo Rack: Gradient Heating Furnace

From 1 – 14 December the JAXA’s Space Station Integration and Promotion Centre in Tsukuba, Japan carried out a successful ground-commanded check out of the Kobairo rack’s Gradient Heating Furnace in the Japanese Kibo Laboratory. Unfortunately the following day the furnace controller unexpectedly powered off leading to troubleshooting steps carried out by Don Pettit on orbit on 28 December by checking out a software error switch.

Japanese Robotic Arm Activities

On 6, 20 and 21 December ground-commanded demos of the Japanese robotic arm on the ISS Kibo Laboratory were undertaken from Japanese Control Centre in Tsukuba. The demos on 6 December included a wrist-roll exercise and a movement of the whole arm. On 20 and 21 December there was an unloaded non-proximity manoeuvre undertaken and an unloaded proximity manoeuvre which included grappling and ungrappling. These demos were testing unloaded manoeuvring by ground control.

Progress 45P Cargo Transfer Activities

On 9 December Shkaplerov configured pumping equipment and transferred the remaining water from the BV2 Rodnik tank of Progress 45P into a container he assembled. Hereafter he started a bladder compression and leak check on the same tank to prepare it for urine transfers back into the tank for disposal after Progress undocking in the future. Shkaplerov started urine transfer from four separate containers back into the Rodnik tank on 16 December. He continued the transfer with an additional two containers on 29 December. Transfer of pressurised cargo from the unmanned Progress 45P spacecraft to the ISS also continued during the four-week period until 30 December undertaken by ISS Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin and ISS Commander Dan Burbank.

ISS Reboost

On 9 December at 20:50 (CET) a reboost of the ISS was undertaken using the Service Module Propulsion System. The manoeuvre lasted 1 min 22 sec, and increased the ISS altitude by 2.36 km placing it at a mean altitude of 393.1 km. The reboost places the ISS in an optimal flight profile for launch, rendezvous and docking of Soyuz 29S.

SpaceX Dragon Demo Flight Preparations

In preparation for the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft demo flight early in 2012, ground-commanded testing of its ISS on-board avionics unit was undertaken on 9, 13 and 14 December. The S-band tests on 9 December were undertaken to determine functionality of the unit over ISS antennas and whether issues experienced recently were based on internal issues of the avionics unit or due to something else in the communication chain. Tests with the Dryden radio frequency were carried out on 13, 14 December. The avionics unit is used for communications with the Dragon spacecraft during rendezvous with the ISS. Dragon is an unmanned spacecraft that will be used to deliver cargo to the ISS and return samples and cargo from orbit. Its launch is currently planned for early February.

Orbital Debris

Orbital debris from Pegasus rocket body was being closely monitored prior to its time of closest approach with the ISS on 10 December though this proved to be of no concern. Further orbital debris from the Chinese Fengyun 1C satellite was being monitored for the possibility of it coming in close proximity to the ISS (time of closest approach on 15 December). However it was subsequently determined that the debris posed no threat of a collision with the ISS so no further action was required.

Amine Swingbed: Prototype Carbon Doxide Removal System

Dan Burbank started procedures to assemble and set up the new prototype Amine Swingbed payload in the first two weeks of December. The system is testing a more efficient way of removing carbon dioxide from the ISS cabin atmosphere. However completion of the assembly and checkout has been deferred as Burbank experienced difficulties aligning and attaching the Controller unit to the Swingbed vacuum outlet. The hardware was hereafter partially dismantled and stowed until a plan to complete the activities is developed.

ATV preparations

The Proximity Communications Equipment for Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) was installed inside the Russian Service Module by ISS Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov from 19-21 December. This included installation of its proximity communications box, an antenna switching control box, control panel, hand controller as well as connecting up relevant cabling. Subsequent connection testing was successful except for a Communication Processor Deformatter inside the Proximity Communications Equipment Avionics Box, which failed a self-communication test with the Service Module Terminal Computer though forward planning is underway. The testing is taking place in preparation of ground fuelling of the tanks of ATV 3 “Edoardo Amaldi” which occurs around 2 ½ months prior to launch (in March 2012). The functionality of the on-orbit systems needs validating before tanking can occur. The ATV is Europe’s logistics spacecraft for the International Space Station.

Russian Segment Electrical Power System

On 19 December Anatoly Ivanishin performed a major maintenance activity on the Service Module Power Supply System in the Russian Segment of the ISS by replacing one of the eight 800A batteries.

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. New Portable Clinical Blood Analyser cartridges for the SOLO experiment, delivered on Soyuz 29S, were inserted into the European-built MELFI 1 freezer on 23 December. Processed experiment samples for ESA’s ROALD-2 experiment were also placed in one of the MELFI units on the three days following.

Software Upgrades

Dan Burbank and Don Pettit (after his arrival at the ISS on 23 December) supported ground-commanded upgrade of system computers on-board the ISS between 20-30 December. The three Command and Control Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computers and two Guidance, Navigation and Control Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computers are having their processor cards replaced with new Enhanced Processor and Integrated Communications processor cards which are faster and more capable than the currently installed cards. Ten new cards were delivered to the ISS, six on Progress 43P and four on Soyuz 29S. On 26 December Burbank’s work included installing a software patch on the laptops in the European-built Node 3, the European-built Cupola Module attached to Node 3 and the US Airlock. The major part of the software transition work for Burbank and Pettit started on 28 December and continued to the end of the reporting period with the two astronauts testing the new processor cards and installing them into the Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computers. This transition work is scheduled to continue for nine days including the card testing, installation and additional days to monitor the upgraded Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computers.

From 28 to 29 December Oleg Kononenko set up, tested and configured experiment hardware for the 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 and loading new software. An experiment session was started hereafter, which Kononenko continued to monitor. 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.

Other Activities

Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the four-week period until 30 December include: finalising the long-term periodic chassis inspection on the TVIS treadmill; replacing the water conditioning unit’s purification column in the Service Module’s condensate water processor system; troubleshooting on NASA’s ISS Agricultural Camera which cannot be pointed properly by ground commanding; replacing the right pedal crank and hub assembly on the Russian Velo Cycle Ergometer; scrubbing the cooling loops of two Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs) for particulate matter; upgrading the Russian on-board computer system with new software; checkout 3 of the Video Compression and Recording Unit in JAXA’s Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack; taking resistance measurements from the Russian SKV-1 air conditioner to try to determine the reason for its failure; reloading the Crew Suport LAN Server and configuring five associated laptops; taking resistance measurements in order to troubleshoot the Channel B Power Controller of the Electric Power System in the Russian Service Module which caused uncommanded deactivation of the power controller; and upgrading the lights in the Russian segment of the ISS.

(*)These activities are highlights of the past four 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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