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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 111 Increment 30

27/01/2012 337 views 1 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #111 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 27 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

Data from the Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 (see below) has been transferred to the European Drawer Rack Video Management Unit for downlinking in the two weeks until 27 January. The European Drawer Rack also underwent a successful software upgrade for the Rack interface Computer, Video Management Unit and laptop on 25 January with on-orbit activities performed by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers.

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.

Erasmus Recording Binocular-2 (ERB-2)

ESA astronaut André Kuipers made extensive use of the ERB-2 3D camera between 14 - 27 January as part of his voluntary science activities, shooting video of on-board activities in all ISS locations. He also replaced the ERB-2 hard disk with a new disk (180Gb) in this period. Data has been transferred from the ERB-2 to the European Drawer Rack Video Management Unit but not all data has been downlinked yet.

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.

ROALD-2 (in the KUBIK-3 incubator)

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 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

Science activities for the Geoflow-2 experiment inside the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) continued in the two-week period until 27 January continuing with experiment runs with the so-called hot working environment for which the lower temperature set-point is at +30.5 deg C. All of the non-rotation runs are now finalised with completion of the skipped set points from previous runs. Seven additional low/medium/high rotation runs were completed by 27 January. Scientific images and data from the FSL Microgravity Vibration Isolation Subsystem has now been downlinked.

Geoflow-2 activities are continuing in the hot working environment following an engineering assessment towards the end of 2011 related to unexpected temperature fluctuations experienced during science runs. These are 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 in 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 was activated on 16, 26 and 27 January to support troubleshooting steps related to data transfer problems for André Kuipers session of Neurospat which took place on 3 January. Kuipers inserted the Neurospat hard disk into the European Physiology Modules laptop which was then activated. A software flag which indicated a “warning” was cleared from ground which allowed ground teams to access the crippled Neurospat hard disk and downlink a subset of data. On 26 January the Neurospat hard disk was again reinserted into European Physiology Modules laptop and files could hereafter be transferred to the facility’s Multi-Electrode Electroencephalogram Measurement Module (MEEMM) for downlinking which occurred the following day meaning the troubleshooting was successful.  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.

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.

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 European Physiology Modules will contribute to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle atrophy.

Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment

Initial activities have been undertaken on orbit prior to the start of the SOLO experiment for ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers and NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Dan Burbank on 29 January. Both astronauts reviewed and approved their food menus for the experiment on 17/18 January. The two astronauts will undertake two six-day dietary sessions, one of the sessions with each the astronaut following a low-salt diet, the other session following a higher-salt diet. On the fourth and sixth days of each dietary session, the astronauts will undertake Body Mass Measurements using Human Research Facility 1. On the fifth day of each dietary session blood draws will be taken and centrifuged in Human Research facility 2 and 24-hour urine collection will be started.

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 27 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)

No activities were carried out using the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks until 27 January. 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. The feasibility of the Gravi-2 experiment execution is linked to transportation on the SpaceX carriers.

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 27 January. 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

ESA astronaut André Kuipers continued filling in weekly questionnaires as part of the Space Headaches experiment (on 20 and 27 January), which is determining the incidence and characteristics of headaches occurring within astronauts in orbit. The weekly questionnaires follow on from one week of filling in daily questionnaires during the first week after launch on Soyuz 29S on 21 December.


Vessel Imaging Experiment
On 18 January ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit completed measurements for his first session of the Vessel Imaging experiment (in conjunction with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment) which had initially taken place on 4 January. Only about 60% of the full scanning objectives could be complete on 4 January due to delays earlier in the timeline.

The session 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.

Education: Convection Experiment

André Kuipers conducted the Convection education experiment on 17 January. The activities were downlinked live and also recorded on orbit for later downlinking for use within educational materials. This included demonstration of the convection process in weightlessness with a small convection loop and then moving to Node-3/Cupola to link the demonstration with the large convective processes on Earth as seen from space.

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



A new Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility to acquire scientific data opened on 22 January which allowed collection of data during a large Solar storm. 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.

For the majority of the reporting 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 warm-up configuration was used in relation to an ISS reboost manoeuvre that occurred on 13 January, a period of non-science acquisition thereafter, the undocking of Progress 45P on 24 January and the docking of Progress 46P on 28 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 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. On 20 January a Vessel ID software upgrade took place. This upgrade has already shown significant improvements in the instrument’s performance especially in the high traffic zones. First results show a 1.4 improvement factor for the Mediterranean region and a factor of 2.0 for the region off the coast of China. 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 completed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox on 16 January with six additional science runs completed between 14-16 January. ESA astronaut André Kuipers (assisted by Dan Burbank) removed the DSC and SODI hardware from the Glovebox and stowed it. Following a number of initial experiment processing problems including image quality, from the number of science runs that were undertaken it has been confirmed that 37 of the 52 runs (55 initially scheduled)  have produced significant data for analysis thanks to a post-processing algorithm developed by the science team which lead to improved image quality.

The SODI-DSC experiment has been the third Selectable Optical Diagnostic Instrument (SODI) experiment being processed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox 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.

On 16 January following conclusion of the SODI/DSC experiment Burbank performed some maintenance on the Microgravity Science Glovebox as part of its annual recertification and in preparation for NASA’s upcoming Structure and Liftoff In Combustion Experiment (SLICE). This included some hardware replacement/repair and performance of leak tests on 16 and 17 January. Two days later, also as part of recertification, a Glovebox Sensor Functional Verification Test was undertaken by Don Pettit which tested the Glovebox temperature sensors and Air Handling Unit fans and the associated negative pressure control system. With recertifaction activities complete Pettit installed the SLICE hardware in the Glovebox on 20 January.

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

No activities were carried out using the Portable Pulmonary Function System in the two week period until 27 January. 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

No activities were carried out using the ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts) hardware in the two week period until 27 January. Data acquisition for the ALTEA-Survey part of the latest experiment series ended on 4 December with 112 cumulative days of science acquisition in its most recent current location. The Survey part of the experiment has been undertaking a 3-dimensional survey of the radiation environment in the US laboratory.

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.

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 27 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 André Kuipers carried out his second ambulatory monitoring session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment from 17 - 19 January assisted by Don Pettit as Crew Medical Officer. Pettit started his second ambulatory monitoring session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment from 25 – 27 January. 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. Relevant data for the experiment was downloaded to the Human Research Facility laptop after the sessions.

On 18 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 session completed the experiment session from Vessel Imaging from 4 January and consisted of ultrasound scans for both experiments using the facility as well ECG and heart rate measurements being taken as well as again downloading experiment data to the facility laptop. Pettit was assisted by André Kuipers as Crew Medical Officer. Following on from the latest ambulatory monitoring sessions Kuipers undertook his scans for both experiments on 20 January and Pettit undertook another scanning session on 27 January. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms. Data was downlinked afterwards.

On 19 January Pettit used facility hardware to perform a leg muscle ultrasound scan on himself for NASA’s SPRINT protocol.

Human Research Facility 2

Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 23 and 27 January for blood processing. On 23 January André Kuipers provided blood for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol. On 27 January samples 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 from 14-16 January by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers using two Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen instruments.
  • Laptop reboots
    André Kuipers performed the periodic reboot of the active Portable Workstation laptops in the Columbus laboratory on 14 January, making a note of battery charge for reporting purposes.
  • ISS Fire Drill
    The Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany took part in a joint fire drill on 18 January together with the ISS control centres in Moscow, Houston, Kazakhstan and Tsukuba (Japan) and the members of the ISS crew in order to assess/maintain the ISS crew’s response to fire on the station.


Activities of ESA astronaut André Kuipers

  • System and payload activities
    During the two weeks until 27 January in addition to what is stated in the rest of the report, ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers: carried out the weekly inspection and maintenance of the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus 4 and 5 payloads in their EXPRESS Racks in the US laboratory; conducted regular maintenance on three Pistol Grip Tools to be used during a Russian spacewalk scheduled for 16 February; undertook photo documentation  of the fluid and electrical interfaces on the Umbilical Interface Assembly Connector Shelf due to an expiry date issue/return to service plan; and performed a checkout of the new Environmental Health System Sound Level Meter by conducting an acoustic survey of specific locations in the ISS.
  • 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 second 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; taking hair samples from NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit for JAXA’s Hair experiment; 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. Kuipers also performed a checkout of a microscope for NASA’s NanoRacks experiments.
  • Health status activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the two weeks until 27 January André Kuipers has also undertaken: a session of the WinSCAT (Spaceflight Cognitive Assessment Tool for Windows) experiment, which is used for testing cognitive abilities; and was a subject of the Russian Biochemical Urinalysis assessment. In addition Kuipers also undertook regular Crew Health Care Systems (CHeCS) emergency medical operations training on 20 January.
  • Other activities
    During the two weeks until 27 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: 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; carried out a T+5 day visual inspection/analysis of surface/air samples collected in different ISS modules on 13 January; and carried out an inventory of the Contingency Water Containers on board. In addition as part of an education activity André conducted a ham radio session with students from the Vrije Technische Scholen in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium.


Activities in the European-built Node 3

  • Exercise Equipment
    NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Dan Burbank undertook maintenance on the failed Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) on 18 and 20 January. The device has been in a state of No Go for use due to a load jump issue. The steps undertaken by Burbank included inserting a deep socket into a jumping ratchet, and reassembling and locking a crank handle. On 27 January  Don Pettit replaced the main arm and exercise ropes on ARED. 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 27 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 16 January. Kuipers carried out additional sampling of the drinking water from the Water Recovery System on 18 January using the TOCA as well as a Water Microbiology Kit, and a Coliform Detection Bag for detection of bacterial levels. Microbiology analysis of the samples was also undertaken by Kuipers two days later.



    •       Water Recovery System racks: Urine Processor Assembly
      André Kuipers removed the Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly (which filters pre-treated urine for processing into water) from Water Recovery System 2 on 18 January drained it into a waste water container, cleaned the assembly and replaced it back into the Water Recovery System rack. On 24 January Kuipers performed test validation of the Urine Monitoring System using two drink bags of 100 ml of water each.




Progress M-13M/45P Undocking


  • Cargo / Waste Transfers
    In preparation for undocking the Progress 45P logistics spacecraft was loaded with trash and excess equipment no longer needed on the Station prior to its undocking. In addition Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin started the transfer of urine from urine containers into the Progress 45P BV1 Rodnik tank.
  • Undocking Preparations
    On 16 January a vehicle-to-vehicle test was carried out on the Russian TORU manual docking system on the ISS in preparation for undocking of Progress. The TORU system allows ISS crew control of the Progress spacecraft from the Russian Service Module should the automatic KURS systems on Progress fail. Fuel and oxidizer lines of Progress 45P were purged to prevent any further propellant transfer to the ISS. Over the next few days the Russian crew members continued preparing the Progress 45P 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 45P and the Russian Pirs Docking Compartment were removed; and the Progress/Service Module hatches were closed, followed by the standard one-hour leak check of the interhatch area and the interface between the fuel/oxidizer transfer line.
  • Undocking
    On 24 January Progress M-13M/45P successfully undocked from the Russian Pirs Docking Compartment at 23:09 (CET). Just over an hour after undocking a Russian payload (GFI-28 MIKROSPUTNIK Chibis-M) was scheduled to be deployed from the Progress’ open cargo compartment.  

Progress M-14M/46P Launch and Docking

  • Docking Preparations
    Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Oleg Kononenko undertook refresher training on the Russian TORU manual docking system on 24 January in preparation for Progress 46P 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.
  • Launch and Docking
    The Russian Progress M-14M spacecraft on logistics flight 46P to the ISS was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Soyuz-U rocket on 26 January at 12:06 CET (17:06 local time) with 2.6 tonnes of cargo consisting of 930 kg propellants, 50 kg oxygen, 420 kg water and 1250 kg dry cargo. On 28 January at 01:09 (CET) Progress 46P 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.


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. In the two-week reporting period samples have been placed in the MELFI units for: Don Pettit for JAXA’s Hair experiment (hair); and for André Kuipers and Don Pettit for NASA’s NUTRITION/Repository/Pro K protocols (blood, urine).

SpaceX Dragon Demo Flight Preparations

In preparation for the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft demo flight early in 2012, ISS Commander Dan Burbank updated the spare UHF Communications Unit which he had installed in EXPRESS Rack 6 on 11 January.     


Robotics Activities

On 19 January ground controllers manoeuvred the Mobile Transporter on the ISS Truss from Worksite 2 to Worksite 7 and the Station’s principal robotic arm (on the Mobile Transporter) was used to retrieve the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator ‘Dextre’. The Station’s robotic arm with Dextre was hereafter used to undertake an inspection of the Space Test Program – Houston 3 payload before Dextre was returned to the same Power and Data Grapple Fixture to which it had been attached, and the Mobile Transporter was manoeuvred to Worksite 4. On 22 January the Station’s principal robotic arm was relocated from the Mobile Transporter to a Power and Data Grapple Fixture on Node 2 in order for Burbank to take photographs of the robotic arm’s Latch End Effector A for inspection purposes. This determined that a single strand of the arm’s snare cables was broken, though the snare is still operational. On 25 January Kuipers was involved in an On-board proficiency training with the Station’s principal robotic arm together with Burbank and Pettit in preparation for the SpaceX Dragon demo flight.


Orbital Debris/ISS Reboost

At the end of the two week reporting period a series of 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 (times of closest approach occurring on 28 and 29 January). These were of medium concern.  


Other Activities

Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 27 January include: upgrading software on seven Portable Computer System laptops; more troubleshooting on the Channel B Power Controller of the Electric Power System in the Russian Service Module which had undergone an uncommanded deactivation; installing new dessicants in a Microgravity Experiment Research Locker Incubator (MERLIN) galley fridge and drying out and another MERLIN unit; taking Internal Thermal Control System samples from the US laboratory, Node 2 and Node 3 for return to ground for analysis; and Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin undertaking a fit check of their Kazbek couches in the TMA-22/28S spacecraft.


(*)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.

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