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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 110 Increment 30

13/01/2012 334 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #110 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 with international scientific collaboration agreements. The current status of the European science package on the ISS is as follows:

European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory

Biolab and associated experiments


No activities were carried out using the Biolab facility in the two week period until 13 January. 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 on the first launch of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to resume the utilisation of a fully functional Biolab facility after repair. The modified gripper for the fixation syringes of the handling mechanism will be launched on ATV-3 in March. 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

No activities were carried out using the European Drawer Rack facility in the two week period until 13 January. 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 end of 2012.

ROALD-2 (in the KUBIK-3 incubator) experiment

The experiment containers for the ROALD-2 (ROle of Apoptosis in Lymphocyte Depression 2) experiment are located in one of the MELFI freezers following processing in the KUBIK-3 Incubator which finished successfully on 26 December. The samples within the experiment containers will return to Earth together with the Expedition 29/30 crew on the next Soyuz (28S) and handed over to the science team.

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.


Fluid Science Laboratory and Geoflow-2 / FASES experiments

On 9 January science activities for the Geoflow-2 experiment inside the Fluid Science Laboratory resumed. A no-rotation run was undertaken consisting of different set-points which were skipped during previous runs performed at the end of last year. An electronics board trip stopped this no-rotation run though a new experiment run was started on 10 January. This was completed by the following day. Additional experiment activities were temporarily curtailed for the User Support and Operations Centre for the Fluids Science Laboratory to undertake activities for the FOAM-Stability experiment (see below)

Science runs of the Geoflow-2 experiment are currently taking place with the so-called hot working environment for which the lower temperature set-point is at +30.5 deg C. This followed an engineering assessment towards the end of 2011 related to unexpected temperature fluctuations experienced during science runs that were suspected to be caused by high current consumption by the Geoflow fluid loop pump unit.

These activities follow on from extensive Geoflow-2 experiment runs, which started processing in the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) on 21 March 2011. 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 early 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

The European Physiology Modules facility and its Multi-Electrode Electroencephalogram Measurement Module (MEEMM) were activated on 3 January for undertaking the Neurospat experiment (see below). The following day the facility laptop was connected to the network and software for the Portable Clinical Blood Analysers used within the SOLO experiment (see below) was updated. A  MARES Guided Crew Procedure update was also undertaken (see below).

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.  MEEMM is used for different types of non-invasive brain function investigations and can also easily be reconfigured to support research in the field of muscle physiology. Experiment results from the European Physiology Modules will contribute to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle atrophy.


Neurospat experiment                                                      
On 2 January ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers set up the hardware for the Neurospat experiment. The following day Kuipers was assisted by ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit in donning and setting up the Electroencephalograph (EEG) cap and carrying out a session of the experiment. The CADMOS User Support and Operations Centre could not pick up telemetry during the experiment session, but the experiment data will be assessed once it is downlinked from orbit.  

NeuroSpat, which was the first experiment to make full use the European Physiology Modules facility in June 2009, is investigating the ways in which crew members’ three-dimensional perception is affected by long-duration stays in weightlessness. NeuroSpat also incorporates an experiment (Prespat) from the European Commission within the SURE project.

Sodium Loading in Migrogravity (SOLO) experiment

ESA astronaut André Kuipers and NASA astronaut Dan performed a food check on 2 January in preparation for participation in the SOLO experiment. On 4 January a software upgrade (See European Physiology Modules above) for the Portable Clinical Blood Analysers used within the experiment was undertaken. Astronaut subjects undertake two six-day dietary sessions, one of the sessions following a low-salt diet, the other following a higher-salt diet together with associated body mass measurements and blood/urine sampling. SOLO is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects during long-duration space flight. 

Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)

No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 13 January. 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 active in the two-week period until 13 January along with its Space Acceleration Measurement System in order to take acceleration/vibration measurements during runs of the SODI-DSC experiment (see the Microgravity Science Glovebox below).

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)

MARES Guided Crew Procedure updates were transferred to the European Physiology Modules laptop on 4 January and directly installed on the already inserted MARES hard disk. 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.

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 experiment

ESA astronaut André Kuipers continued filling in weekly questionnaires as part of the Space Headaches experiment (on 7 and 13 January), which is determining the incidence and characteristics of headaches occurring within astronauts in orbit. This follows on from one week of filling in daily questionnaires for the first week after launch on Soyuz 29S on 21 December. Data for the daily questionnaires and the first weekly questionnaire have already been received at the DAMEC User Support and Operations Centre.


Vessel Imaging experiment
ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit undertook his first session of the Vessel Imaging experiment (in conjunction with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment) on 4 January. 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. Due to delays earlier in the timeline a full scanning session could not be complete. A ground assessment concluded that about 60% of the scan objectives were complete, therefore it is being determined whether an additional reduced scan session can be scheduled to complete the objectives.

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.

Foam Stability experiment

André Kuipers set up the hardware for the Foam Stability experiment (which serves both education and science) on 11 January and supported several runs of the experiment including exchanging the cell arrays between runs. The activity was filmed for later downlink. Kuipers filmed additional imagery of himself describing the experiment and its set up. The experiment aims to demonstrate the behaviour of aqueous and non-aqueous foams in weightlessness and how gravity influences their stability i.e. the enhancement of the “foamability” of liquid solutions without gravity-induced drainage. The experiment will also include how understanding foam formation and stability can help us make cutting edge materials.

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



The SOLAR facility was not in a Sun visibility window in the two-week period until 13 January. 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.

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 included a period in connection with the ISS reboost that occurred on 13 January.

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)

Successful data acquisition is on-going 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 in the past 18 months 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 two weeks until 13 January. Between 3 - 13 January twelve additional runs of the SODI-DSC experiment had been completed. This included both standard and extended runs with a mean temperature of either 25 deg C or 40 deg C and with a temperature difference of 10 deg C between the two sides of the experimental cells. Two of the experiment runs were repeats of previous non-valid runs. On 10 January a Glovebox Air Circulation Test was carried out to assess the influence of the vibrating air circulation inside the Glovebox on image quality for SODI-DSC. For this test the fan inside the Glovebox was switched off by Don Pettit for a short period on 10 and 11 January.

The SODI-DSC experiment is the third and final Selectable Optical Diagnostic Instrument (SODI) experiment being processed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox and running since 9 November. 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

ESA astronaut André Kuipers completed equipment set up and carried out his first session of ESA’s Thermolab and EKE experiments in conjunction with NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment on 11 January. ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit carried out his first session of the joint experiments on 12 January. Data was downlinked to ground after the sessions. The joint experiments used the ESA-developed Portable Pulmonary Function System to record a variety of pulmonary measurements during varying degrees of exercise on the CEVIS Cycle Ergometer. Thermolab is investigating thermoregulatory and cardiovascular adaptations during rest and exercise in the course of long-term exposure to weightlessness. The EKE experiment 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. 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

ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit loaded the payload application for the ALTEA-Shield experiment on 3 January. This followed an extended period of the ALTEA-Survey part of the experiment, which completed 112 cumulative days of science acquisition at its most recent location in the US laboratory on 4 December. The ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts) hardware will be moved to the Columbus laboratory after ATV-3 launch and docking in March. The ALTEA hardware will hereafter be installed in EXPRESS Rack 3 to undertake the Shield part of the experiment, testing two different types of shielding materials (and different thicknesses of each material) against  cosmic rays. This will be undertaken in two sessions scheduled to last 40 days each.

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 Survey part of the experiment has been undertaking a 3-dimensional survey of the radiation environment in the US laboratory.

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 13 January activities were carried out using NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit carried out his first ambulatory monitoring session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment from 31 December – 2 January assisted by André Kuipers as Crew Medical Officer. Kuipers downloaded relevant data for the experiment run to the Human Research Facility laptop the following day. Kuipers undertook his first ambulatory monitoring session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment from 4-6 January (though without Cardiopres measurement). These sessions 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.

On 6 January Human Research Facility 1 was used in connection with ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment (see above) in conjunction with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment with Pettit as test subject. This consisted of ultrasound scans for both experiments using the facility as well ECG and heart rate measurements being taken and 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. The same day Pettit used facility hardware to perform a leg muscle ultrasound scan on himself for NASA’s SPRINT protocol.

On 11 January Kuipers, Pettit and ISS Commander Dan Burbank carried out ultrasound eye scans on each other.

On 13 January Kuipers and Pettit used the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device of Human Research Facility 1 to undertake standard body mass measurement on themselves.

Human Research Facility 2

Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 2 and 4 January for blood processing. On 2 January André Kuipers provided blood for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol. On 4 January samples for the same protocols were provided by Don Pettit. Following the respective blood draws, the samples were centrifuged in the facility’s Refrigerated Centrifuge before being stowed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers. Activities were supported by the 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:

  • Atmospheric Analysis
    Analyses of the oxygen levels in the Columbus cabin atmosphere were undertaken on 2, 4, 5 and 12 January by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers and on 6 and 9 January by ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Don Pettit using two Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen instruments.
  • Surface Sampling
    André Kuipers carried out the periodic microbial surface sample collection using the Microbiology Surface Sampling Kit at selected sites in Columbus and additional modules around the ISS on 13 January.

Activities of ESA astronaut André Kuipers

  • 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: completing his first session of NASA’s NUTRITION/Repository/ Pro K protocols during which time he logged 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 undertaking NASA’s NanoRacks Smartphone Module-17 experiment, to check out how smartphones operate in space using two iPhone 4’s with certain alterations to meet flight certification standards.
  • Health status activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the two weeks until 13 January André Kuipers was the subject of: an On-Orbit Hearing Assessment; a visual acuity test; a Russian body mass measurement protocol; a US Periodic Health Status check which uses a stethoscope, oral thermometer and Blood Pressure Cuff for measurement; an intraocular pressure test; a PanOptic ophthalmic eye test; as well undertaking regular exercise routines to maintain his physical well-being while in orbit; and filling in Food Frequency Questionnaires used to estimate nutritional intake for the astronauts and give recommendations to ground specialists that help maintain optimal crew health. In addition Kuipers acted as Crew Medical Officer for Don Pettit for the US Periodic Health Status check, the intraocular pressure test and a PanOptic ophthalmic eye test.
  • Other activities
    During the two weeks until 13 January 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: carried out inventories of the Contingency Water Containers on board; unpacked cargo delivered on Soyuz 29S; initiated one run of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere;  and used a Microbial Air Sampler kit to take periodic microbiology air samples in a number of ISS modules. In addition André was involved in public affairs events: in the Netherlands with Dutch broadcasters NOS and RTL with a live link to studios in Hilversum (5 January); in the US with, Fox News Radio and the Weather Channel (in Atlanta); and in Belgium as part of an education activity conducting a ham radio session with students from the Atheneum Borgloon, in Borgloon.



Activities in the European-built Node 3

  • Exercise Equipment
    ISS Flight Engineers André Kuipers and Don Pettit carried out their first sessions of the new Treadmill Kinematics protocol on the T2 COLBERT treadmill in the European-built Node 3 on 13 January. This protocol is making an assessment of current exercise protocols. As of 12 January the  Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) was a No Go for use due to a load jump issue which is currently being investigated. Don Pettit performed a check out for ground engineers on 13 January. 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 13 January include:
    • Water Recovery System racks: Sampling
      Kuipers used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks on 2 January. A week later this was also undertaken by Don Pettit.
    • Water Recovery System racks: Filtration
      NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Dan Burbank replaced the Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly (which filters pre-treated urine for processing into water) in Water Recovery System 2 with a new unit on 2 January. On 5 January Kuipers manually transferred urine into the Waste Storage Tank of the Urine Processor Assembly in order to check out the Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly. He reconfigured the assembly later. On 13 January Burbank removed the Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly, drained it into a waste water container, cleaned the assembly and replaced it back into the Water Recovery System rack.
    • Waste and Hygiene Compartment
      The yearly overhaul of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node 3 was performed by Dan Burbank on 11 January. This involved replacing hydraulic components, including piping. The following day André Kuipers replaced the Compartment’s urine receptacle and insert filter.



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. Blood and urine samples for André Kuipers and Don Pettit for NASA’s NUTRITION/Repository/Pro K protocols were placed in the MELFI units in the two-week period until 13 January.

From 31 December – 5 January ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko serviced the Russian/German KTP-21 Plasma Crystal-3 Plus (PK-3+) experiment in the Russian “Poisk” Mini Research Module 2. 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.


Software Upgrades

Dan Burbank and Don Pettit supported additional ground-commanded upgrade of system computers on-board the ISS from 3-6 January. 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 (EPIC) 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. Guidance, Navigation and Control Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computer 2 was upgraded with a new EPIC card on 3 January, and configured as the primary Guidance, Navigation and Control computer. Guidance, Navigation and Control Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computer 1 and Command and Control Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computer 3 were upgraded with new EPIC cards on 5 January. 


SpaceX Dragon Demo Flight Preparations

In preparation for the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft demo flight early in 2012, ISS Commander Dan Burbank worked at a UHF Communications Unit in the US laboratory and updated the Dragon Crew Command Panel software on the related T61p laptop on 4 January. Hereafter he and tested the setup, supported by live video downlink. One week later Burbank installed a spare UHF Communications Unit into Express Rack 6 in support of an upcoming software update.   


Orbital Debris/ISS Reboost

At the start of 2012 orbital debris from a US Delta launcher was being closely monitored prior to its time of closest approach with the ISS on 5 January (CET) though this proved to be of no concern. Further orbital debris from the US Iridium 33 communications satellite was being monitored for the possibility of it coming in close proximity to the ISS (time of closest approach on 13 January). As the proximity risk was above the allowable threshold, on 13 January at 17:10 (CET) a reboost of the ISS was undertaken using the Service Module Propulsion System. With launch constraints also met for the Progress 46P launch later in January following the debris avoidance manoeuvre, a related reboost of the Station planned on 18 January is now no longer necessary.


Progress 45P Cargo Transfer Activities

On 11 January ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin transferred stored water from Progress 45P’s BV1 Rodnik tank into six water containers in the Pirs Docking Compartment. Two days later Ivanishin configured pumping equipment and transferred the remaining water from the BV1 Rodnik tank into three individual water containers in the Pirs Docking Compartment. 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.

In addition, in the two week period until 13 January the ISS crew members have been transferring excess equipment and trash to the Progress 45P spacecraft for disposal following its scheduled undocking on 24 January, and have refreshed/repressurised the ISS cabin atmosphere with oxygen and nitrogen from the Progress 45P tanks.

Other Activities

Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 13 January include: replacing a failed A31p laptop in EXPRESS Rack 2 in the US laboratory and loading General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER) application software onto the laptop; performing repair work on the door of the Cell Biology Experiment Facility Incubation Unit in the Japanese laboratory; reconfiguring power connections for the Integrated Station LAN Router that had been changed in connection with decrewing preparations (which were no longer necessary); replacing a memory/recording device of the BITS2-12 onboard telemetry system in the Soyuz 29S spacecraft;   scrubbing the cooling loops of two Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs) for particulate matter; troubleshooting and recovery of communications between the RSS2 laptop and the BSR-TM Regul payload telemetry channel; more troubleshooting on the Channel B Power Controller of the Electric Power System in the Russian Service Module which had undergone an uncommanded deactivation; and upgrading the lights in the Russian segment of the ISS; and setting up the new prototype Amine Swingbed payload outside of EXPRESS Rack 8 in the US laboratory. The system is testing a more efficient way of removing carbon dioxide from the ISS cabin atmosphere.

  (*)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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