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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 112 Increment 30

10/02/2012 471 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #112 from the European Space Agency outlining ESA’s science-related activities that have taken place on the ISS during the past two weeks for different European experiments and experiment facilities.

The report is compiled by ESA’s ISS Utilisation and Astronaut Support 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.

Point of Interest: The extension of Andre Kuipers’ PromISSe mission by about 6 weeks due to the Soyuz launch delays will not have a major impact on the planned experiment programme but probably facilitate some further parameter runs or biomedical experiment sessions as well as anticipation of facility maintenance activities. However the overall available crew time will basically not increase due to the longer 3-crew periods during the indirect crew exchange between the return of the Expedition 29/30 crew and the launch of the following Expedition 31/32 crew.

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 10 February. 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 and installed/tested subsequently in Biolab. 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

The European Drawer Rack was activated on 3 February in order to downlink data from its Video Management Unit that was recorded on the Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 (ERB-2). Approximately 10 Gb of video footage was downlinked which is now with the ERB-2 team for analysis. 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.

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 (manifested on ATV-4). FASTER is a Capillary 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.

In addition 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)

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) were on-going in the two-week period until 10 February continuing with experiment runs with a lower temperature set-point of 20 deg C. This is the most demanding temperature control environment (i.e. cold side of the experiment cell at +20 deg C, the coldest temperature).  Two non-rotation runs were complete though a Video Management Unit error has been experienced that have put a temporary hold on additional science runs.

Following a science team report based on analysed data a proposal for the way forward has been outlined and is under review for a restart of experiment runs on 13 February. Additional science data and data from the Microgravity Vibration Isolation System was downlinked on 7/8 February. This is also being analysed by the science team.

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 science team have confirmed that the first session of the Neurospat experiment undertaken by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers on 3 January is scientifically valid, despite the loss of some valuable data. During the session, there were some problems on the EEG signals check due to a ground segment issue at the CADMOS User Support and Operations Centre. Kuipers has also indicated his willingness to fill in an additional questionnaire for his next session of the experiment which will provide additional valuable data for the science team.

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

ESA Astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers and NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Dan Burbank carried out their first sessions of the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment, from 29 January - 3 February. During the first six-day session Kuipers consumed a lower salt level diet and logged what he had eaten and drunk on a daily basis and Burbank consumed a higher salt level diet and logged what he had eaten and drunk on a daily basis. During this period body mass measurement was taken on 1 and 3 February and blood sampling was undertaken on 2 February. Blood samples were spun in the Refrigerated Centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 and put into one of the MELFI freezers (see below) for return to ground for further analysis. Blood was also analysed on orbit using a Portable Clinical Blood Analyser. Kuipers and Burbank also started 24 hr urine collection on 2 February, which finished the following day. Samples were again stored in MELFI.

Kuipers and Burbank repeated these procedures for the second six-day session from 4-9 February but this time with Kuipers on a higher salt level diet and Burbank on a low-salt diet. Body mass measurements were again taken on diet days 4 and 6. Blood samples were taken, spun and analysed on day 5 and 24 hr urine collection was concluded on the final day. All samples were again stored in one of the MELFI units.

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)

On 31 January ESA astronaut André Kuipers gathered the necessary equipment and replaced the failed Photoacoustic Analyzer Module (PAM) of the Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2. PAM determines the concentration of seven respired gas components that also may contain significant concentrations of nitrogen and water vapour utilising two photoacoustic analyzers and the oxygen analyzer mixture. On 7 February Kuipers set up the Pulmonary Function Module/Photoacoustic Analyzer Module and the Gas Delivery System of the Pulmonary Function System and activated the hardware for a thorough health check, with the ground monitoring via real-time telemetry.   

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 10 February. 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 10 February. 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 3 and 10 February), 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.


Foam Stability experiment

ISS Commander Dan Burbank carried out a playback of video footage from the Foam Stability experiment which André Kuipers supported several runs of on 11 January. Hereafter data was downlinked to ground. The experiment serves both education and science with footage covering experiment runs plus additional imagery of Kuipers 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.

Education: Mission X – Train Like An Astronaut

On 2 February André Kuipers took part in a very successful public affairs event to start the six-week “Mission-X: train like an astronaut” campaign in cooperation with NASA. The event involved a very high attendance by young students in many European countries (Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, and The Netherlands). The objective of this educational programme is to use the example of astronauts to promote regular exercise and healthy nutrition among young people worldwide.


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



The new Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility to acquire scientific data which opened on 22 January (and which allowed collection of data during a large Solar storm) closed on 2 February. A new Sun visibility window is scheduled to start on 14 February. 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.

The SolACES instrument from SOLAR was in a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation) after the debris avoidance manoeuvre on 29 January. It was placed back in a normal configuration and resumed science acquisition on 31 January. SolACES was placed back in warm-up configuration when the Sun visibility window closed on 2 February.

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. 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 Vessel ID 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 2011 (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

With experiment activities for the SODI-DSC experiment complete on 16 January activities have been ongoing inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for NASA’s upcoming Structure and Liftoff In Combustion Experiment (SLICE), which was installed inside the Glovebox on 20 January. ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit configured the experiment hardware on 6 February and performed troubleshooting on the Smoke Point In Coflow Experiment (SPICE) Power/Video Unit used for the SLICE experiment. Pettit configured the experiment hardware again on 9 February and performed the first test operations in advance of scheduled experiment runs.

The SODI-DSC experiment was the third Selectable Optical Diagnostic Instrument (SODI) experiment processed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox. 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 3 February another session of ESA’s Thermolab and EKE experiments in conjunction with NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment was performed by ISS Commander Dan Burbank. On 7 February ESA astronaut André Kuipers undertook his first session of the joint experiments. He was followed on 8 February by Don Pettit who undertook his 2nd session of the experiments. Data was downlinked to ground after the sessions. 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 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-Shield Experiments

The ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts) hardware was again activated on 2 February by ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit. Data acquisition for the previous ALTEA-Survey part of the latest ALTEA-Shield experiment series had finished on 4 December with 112 cumulative days of science acquisition in its most recent location. The Survey part of the experiment has been undertaking a 3-dimensional survey of the radiation environment in the US laboratory.

The ALTEA 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.

Immuno Experiment

On 31 January ISS Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov was the subject of the Immuno experiment, providing blood and saliva samples in addition to filling in a Stress Test Questionnaire. A similar session of the experiment was undertaken by ISS Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin the following day. After both sessions processed blood samples were inserted in one of the MELFI freezers by ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit.

The aim of the IMMUNO experiment is to determine changes in stress and immune responses, during and after a stay on the ISS. This will include the sampling of saliva, blood and urine to check for hormones associated with stress response and for carrying out white blood cell analysis, as well as filling out periodic stress level questionnaires.

Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory

Human Research Facility 1


During the two-week period until 10 February 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 concluded his second ambulatory monitoring session of NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment on 28 January. ISS Commander Dan Burbank carried out his second ambulatory monitoring session from 31 January – 2 February assisted by ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers as Crew Medical Officer. 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.

NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 was additionally activated again on 1, 3, 7 and 9 February for undertaking Body Mass Measurements for Kuipers and Burbank in connection with ESA’s SOLO experiment (see above).

Human Research Facility 2

Repair and test activities on the Pulmonary Function System (see Pulmonary Function System above) in Human Research Facility 2 were undertaken on 31 January and 7 February. The facility was activated on 2 and 8 February in connection with blood draws for ESA astronaut André Kuipers and NASA astronaut Dan Burbank for the SOLO experiment. 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 31 January by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers using two Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen instruments.


Activities of ESA astronaut André Kuipers

  • System and payload activities
    During the two weeks until 10 February in addition to what is stated in the rest of the report, ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers: supported NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Dan Burbank in installing/routing video cabling for the High Rate Communication System in the US laboratory, reloaded two Station Support Computer laptops, and supported a failure investigation on EXPRESS Rack 4 in the Japanese laboratory by running Rack Interface Computer debug software. The computer had gone into a continuous reboot state rendering the rack unusable.
  • 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: setting up and activating NASA’s Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students (EarthKAM) payload at a window in the US laboratory and servicing the payload (swapping batteries and changing lenses) over the course of a few days; being a subject for NASA’s ‘Reaction Self Test’ experiment which looks into how planned sleep shift for ISS crews affects performance; inspection and maintenance of Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus 4 and 5 in the US Laboratory; activating the Video Compression and Recording Unit and additional hardware of the Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack in the JAXA laboratory to support video downlink activities for JAXA’s Marangoni experiment; performing LEGO bricks education activities in the Japanese laboratory; and undertaking sensor calibration for NASA’s NanoRacks Smartphone Module-17 experiment, which is checking 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 10 February André Kuipers has also undertaken: an acoustic measurement protocol for which he donned acoustic dosimeters for 24 hours; a Russian body mass measurement protocol; 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 also undertook regular Crew Health Care Systems (CHeCS) emergency medical operations training on 28 January.
  • Other activities
    During the two weeks until 10 February 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 Kuipers also: deployed (and later retrieved) four Formaldehyde Monitoring Kits in the US laboratory and Russian Service Module to catch any atmospheric formaldehyde; initiated three runs of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere; collected air samples in the Service Module and US and Japanese laboratories; took part in a Crew Emergency Roles and Responsibilities Review with the rest of the crew; and carried out an inventory of the Contingency Water Containers on board.


Activities in the European-built Node 3

  • Exercise Equipment
    NASA astronauts Dan Burbank (ISS Commander) and Don Pettit (ISS Flight Engineer) carried out sessions of the new Treadmill Kinematics protocol on the T2 COLBERT treadmill in the European-built Node 3 on 31 January and 10 February respectively. This protocol is making an assessment of current exercise protocols. These activities were carried out in addition to the regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and T2/COLBERT treadmill.
  • Regenerative ECLSS and Additional Environmental Control Racks
    The two Water Recovery System racks, together with the Oxygen Generation System rack, form the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) which is necessary in support of a six-person ISS Crew to help reduce upload mass. Other environmental control racks in Node 3 include an Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack and a Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Highlights of the two weeks until 10 February include:
    • Water Recovery System racks: Sampling
      Kuipers used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks on 31 January and 6 February. Burbank also (temporarily) installed a spare TOCA unit on 9 February, activated its Gas Mass Flow Controller and cycled its valve to reduce the chance of potential failure of the spare unit in the future.


    • Water Recovery System racks: Urine Processor Assembly
      Dan Burbank removed the Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly (which filters pre-treated urine for processing into water) from Water Recovery System 2 on 28 January drained it into a waste water container, and replaced it in the Water Recovery System rack with another Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly unit. On 31 January Burbank reversed the process swapping back to the original Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly. On 4 February Kuipers performed a leak check on the Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly in the Water Recovery System 2 rack.

      Two days later Burbank installed the old-style Recycle Filter Tank Assembly in place of the Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly unit. Kuipers continued activities on 9 February, hooking up the Recycle Filter Tank Assembly to the water Recovery System Rack for the periodic backfill and draining brine from the Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly removed on 6 February. The old-style Recycle Filter Tank Assemblies will be used for approximately six months, until all onboard spares are depleted.

    • Waste and Hygiene Compartment
      On 1 February Kuipers performed a manual fill of the flush water tank of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node 3. Five days later he replaced the Pretreat Tank of the Compartment with a new spare.
    • Additional Activities
      Kuipers replaced the filter unit of the Potable Water Dispenser on 2 February and built another waste water container


Progress M-14M/46P Docking/Post-docking Activities

  • Progress Docking

    The Russian Progress M-14M spacecraft on logistics flight 46P to the ISS docked at the Earth-facing port of the Pirs Docking Compartment of the ISS under automatic Kurs system control on 28 January at 01:09 (CET). After docking, ISS attitude control was returned first to Russian systems and then to US systems. Progress 46P is transporting 2.6 tonnes of cargo consisting of 930 kg propellants, 50 kg oxygen, 420 kg water and 1250 kg dry cargo.

  • Post-Docking Activities

    On 28 January following docking the standard leak check on the interhatch area and the fuel/oxidizer transfer line interface between Progress 46P and Pirs was performed followed by hatch opening by Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko. Hereafter the quick disconnect clamps were installed to stabilise the connection between Progress and the Station, Progress 46P was deactivated and ventilation ducting was installed. The Progress docking mechanism was dismantled and air sampling was carried out in the new logistics spacecraft. On 31 January temperature sensor equipment was installed in Progress 46P.

  • Cargo Transfers

    In addition to unloading of the pressurized cargo delivered on Progress, water and propellant transfers were undertaken from the tanks of Progress 46P. Fuel (unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine) was transferred from Progress to the Service Module tanks on 6 and 8 February followed on 7 and 9 February by transfer of oxidizer (nitrogen tetroxide).

    On 7 February Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin started transfer of water from Progress 46P to Service Module tanks (this followed emptying the Service Module tank of its remaining 100 litres of water on 2 February and flushing the tank with disinfectant). Transfer was completed on 8 February. The same day Kononernko started transfer of urine from waste containers back into one of Progress 46P’s now empty water tanks.


Russian EVA Preparations

  • Orlan EVA Suit Preparations

    On 7 February the spacewalking cosmonauts (Anton Shkaplerov and Oleg Kononenko) activated their Orlan spacesuits, checked out the Orlan Interface Unit in the Service Module Transfer Compartment and Pirs Airlock, and performed gas-liquid separation on the Orlan Interface Unit in the Service Module Transfer Compartment and on their Orlan spacesuits. The following day the spacewalking cosmonauts adjusted the heights of their Orlan suits, performed Orlan and Interface Unit leak checks. On 9 February they carried out voice, telemetry and biomedical parameter acquisition checks on the EVA suits as well as installing EVA camera assemblies and EVA helmet lights. They continued installation of Orlan add-on hardware on 10 February.

  • Progress 46P Contingency Undocking Preparations

    At the end of the reporting period until 10 February Progress 46P was being prepared for contingency undocking in relation to the Russian EVA scheduled for 16 February. Its docking mechanism was again installed; the Progress spacecraft was activated; ventilation and heating ducting was removed; the hatches were closed; quick disconnect clamps which further stabilise the connection between the Progress and the ISS were removed; followed by the standard one-hour leak check of the interhatch area and the interface between the fuel/oxidizer transfer line.

  • Additional preparations

    Additional preparations for the Russian EVA on 16 February were carried out in the two weeks until 10 February. The Orlan spacesuit support stations in the Service Module were checked out by Oleg Kononenko, and Dan Burbank took ISS Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Oleg Kononenko through generic training on the DOUG robotics software. The Russian cosmonauts spent time gathering tools and equipment needed for the Russian spacewalk, carried out a handgrip tolerance test as a standard pre-EVA medical procedure, and placed EVA equipment and conducted pressure checks on the oxygen tanks in the Pirs Airlock and Service Module Transfer Compartment.


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 ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit reorganized the contents of the MELFI-2 freezer and ISS Commander Dan Burbank carried out the periodic nitrogen pressure check on all three MELFI units. In addition samples were placed in the MELFI units for ESA’s SOLO experiment (blood, urine) for ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers and and ISS Commander Dan Burbank, and for the Immuno experiment (blood) for Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin .

Orbital Debris/ISS Reboost

At 00:50 on 29 January a debris avoidance manoeuvre was performed to avoid a series of conjunctions with debris from the Chinese Fengyun 1C satellite. This manoeuvre also set up phasing for future trajectory events and hence replaced the need to undertake an ISS reboost which was scheduled for 1 February. The manoeuvre, which used Service Module thrusters, lasted 1 min 4 sec, and increased the ISS altitude by 1.9 km. Debris from a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle with times of closest approach with the ISS on 7 February was also being monitored though this eventually proved to be of no concern.

ATV-3 Launch Preparations
In preparation for the launch of the third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) in March, on 6 February Anton Shkaplerov installed the ATV control panel in the Russian Service Module. Hereafter Kononenko and Kuipers successfully completed a pre-docking control panel command test to confirm functionality of the cameras required for ATV docking. This included checking command transfers from the ATV control panel and associated laptop to the Progress-mounted Klest television camera and the functionality of the colour monitor which also displays an overlay of rendezvous data from the onboard digital computer.


Crew Return Preparations: Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests

On 10 February Shkaplerov and Kononenko carried out their first orthostatic hemodynamic endurance training session wearing the Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit whilst undertaking an exercise protocol using the Russian VELO Ergometer. The Chibis suit, which provides stress that simulates gravity to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system, helps to evaluate how the Russian crewmembers would cope with, and prepare them for, exposure to gravity on return to Earth.


Other Activities

Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 10 February include: upgrading software on ISS multiplexer/demultiplexer computers; troubleshooting on the Electric Power System converter/stabiliser in the Russian Zarya Module by taking resistance measurements on its connectors; maintenance on the radiation protection cover on a crew quarters in the Russian Service Module; changing the hard disk in the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer laptop; replacing electro-inductive smoke detectors in the Russian Rassvet Module with newer units; repairing frayed Crew Medical Restraint System operator restraint pouches in the US laboratory; removing the Data Multiplexer from the Inter-Satellite Communication System Rack in the Japanese laboratory for return to earth; performing troubleshooting on the failed Remote Sensor Unit of the US Internal Wireless Integrated System in the Russian Service Module; and performing troubleshooting on circuitry of the Amine Swingbed hardware. 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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