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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 113 Increment 30

24/02/2012 516 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #113 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.

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 European Columbus laboratory was attached to the ISS four years ago on 11 February 2008 following its launch on ISS assembly flight 1E with STS-122 Shuttle Atlantis which included two ESA astronauts as a member of its crew (Hans Schlegel and Léopold Eyharts). During the Columbus assembly mission which landed on 20 February 2008 ESA’s Columbus’ rack facilities and two external payloads were installed on the outside of Columbus (EuTEF and Solar, the latter of which is still on orbit) and the first steps were taken in commissioning of Columbus and its host of research racks.

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 24 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

No activities were carried out using the European Drawer Rack facility in the two week period until 24 February. 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 expands 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) restarted on 13 February following review of a science team report based on analysed data. A few non-rotation runs were carried out from 13 – 17 February and were mostly completed with only a few set points skipped. Additional science data and data from the Microgravity Vibration Isolation System was downlinked on 20, 21 February for analyses by the science team. Activities were put on temporary hold to undertake the Columbus ventilation maintenance activities on 22, 23 February.

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

The European Physiology Modules facility and its Multi-Electrode Electroencephalogram Measurement Module (MEEMM) were activated on 14, 15 January for undertaking the Neurospat experiment (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. 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 13 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. Kuipers also filled in a questionnaire which will provide additional valuable data for the science team. Data downlink was completed by 15 February. Questionnaire data will be downlinked at a later date.

NeuroSpat, which was the first experiment to make full use of 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 Microgravity (SOLO) experiment

Missing Portable Clinical Blood Analyser experiment parameters were found for the Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment following experiment sessions undertaken by ESA Astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers and NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Dan Burbank from 29 January - 3 February and 4 - 9 February. Six parameters were missing (all those based on haemoglobin) from both crew for both SOLO sessions though the crew have confirmed that the Portable Clinical Blood Analyser data is still available on orbit and has been made available for downlink.

During the experiment the two astronauts carried out two six-day diet sessions consuming both a lower salt level diet and a higher salt level diet whilst logging what they had eaten and drunk on a daily basis. Body mass measurements were taken on diet days 4 and 6. Blood samples were taken, centrifuged and stored for return to earth as well as analysed on orbit on day 5, and 24 hr urine collection was concluded on the final day of each diet session. All samples were 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)

No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 24 February. 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)

The water pump servicing activity for the European Modular Cultivation System was successfully performed on 24 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 year 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)

On 16 February André Kuipers started commissioning activities for the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES) assisted by Don Pettit. MARES was deployed from its stowed configuration and its laptop was installed. Kuipers tested the rigidity of the MARES Vibration Isolation Frame (VIF) using a mechanical dynamometer. Higher friction values were generated than expected (thought to require a realignment of the Vibration Isolation Frame) and a communication problem was also experienced between MARES and the laptop which is being investigated. Following realignment of the Vibration Isolation Frame and additional testing the following day further steps are in the planning to resolve the higher friction values. Functional testing will resume hereafter. MARES was hereafter stowed inside its rack.


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.

Once MARES completes functional testing without a crew member using the system, it will then undergo a 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.

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 17 and 24 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.


CARD Experiment

André Kuipers undertook a consolidation of blood and urine collection kits for the Card experiment during the weekend of 18/19 February. The CARD experiment examines increased cardiac output and lowered blood pressure (caused by dilated arteries) in the face of increased activity in the sympathetic nervous system (which normally constricts arteries) in weightlessness.


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



A new Sun visibility window (the 50th) for the SOLAR facility to acquire scientific data had started by 15 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) for a significant degree of the reporting period. It was placed in a normal configuration from 19 – 21 February.

The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range currently for around 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. There was a period on 22, 23 February when the system was not actively collecting data in connection with cleaning activities on the Columbus ventilation system. 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.

Additional European science inside the US ISS segment

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 Structure and Liftoff In Combustion Experiment (SLICE), which was installed inside the Glovebox on 20 January. ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit configured the experiment’s pyrometry hardware on different days between 13 – 24 February and undertook pyrometry calibration tests to get reference images of glowing ceramic fibres heated by the flames followed by completion of flame tests. The tests covered different conditions. The goal of the experiment is to gain unique data which will help improve numerical modelling, and hence improve design tools and practical combustion on Earth by increasing combustion efficiency and reducing pollutant emission for practical combustion devices.

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

No activities were carried out using the Portable Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 24 February. 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 deactivated on 15 February following two weeks of data acquisition under NASA responsibility. Data acquisition for the previous ALTEA-Survey part of the latest ESA 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.



ESA’s new NightPod system was set up by André Kuipers in the European-built Cupola Module attached to Node 3 on 24 February. Hereafter Kuipers calibrated it with uplinked target information and then performed manual and automatic shooting before disassembling and stowing the hardware. The ‘tracking device’ will support a Nikon 3DS camera in taking high-definition pictures of the Earth, especially at night. In a global outreach effort, the footage will be available for the public on the internet. The payload will also be used for education purposes in order to teach children and students about geography and demographic distribution on Earth.


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 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 24 February activities were carried out using NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. On 21 February ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit used facility hardware to perform a leg muscle ultrasound scan on himself for NASA’s SPRINT protocol with remote guidance from ground teams. SPRINT evaluates the use of high intensity, low volume exercise training to minimize loss of muscle, bone, and cardiovascular function in ISS crewmembers during long-duration missions.

Human Research Facility 2

The facility was activated on 24 February in connection with blood draw activities for NASA astronaut Don Pettit for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol. Following the 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 14 February by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers using two Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen instruments.
  • Water Pump Assembly
    A checkout on one of the Water Pump Assemblies in Columbus was successfully carried out on 19 February.
  • Columbus Ventilation Maintenance
    On 22, 23 February ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers and NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Dan Burbank carried out maintenance activities on the ventilation systems in Columbus due to a degradation in air flow through the Cabin Fan Assemblies. After setting up the Portable Fan Assembly to allow air flow from Node 2 into Columbus, the astronauts spent two days removing, inspecting and cleaning related elements of the ventilation system (check valves, ventilation ducts, grids, and the Cabin Fan Assembly rotors). The D1 Rack was rotated up by the crew to permit access to the worksite. Once activities were completed the Portable Fan Assembly was deactivated and removed. Airloop performance has now significantly improved.
  • K-BAR Replacement
    On 22 February Burbank replaced the D1 rack’s knee braces with spare Knee Brace Assembly Replacements (K-BARs).
  • Columbus LAN
    Dan Burbank spent several hours on 24 February routing cabling through Node 2 to connect the Columbus Local Area Network (LAN) to the Joint Station LAN.


Activities of ESA astronaut André Kuipers

  • System and payload activities
    During the two weeks until 24 February in addition to what is stated in the rest of the report, ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers: installed new hard disks into US Laboratory laptops to improve performance; cleaned inter-module ventilation systems in Node 1; inspected food warmers in the Service Module and US Laboratory; replaced batteries and zero calibrated the Compound Specific Analyzer-Combustion Products units (which monitor cabin atmosphere to provide quick response during a fire); and performed regular maintenance on two Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen instruments.
  • Experiment Activities
    In addition to the European science programme detailed above ESA astronaut André Kuipers has carried out science activities in support of the science programmes of ESA’s ISS partners. This included: being a subject for NASA’s ‘Reaction Self Test’ experiment which looks into how planned sleep shift for ISS crews affects performance; diet logging and pH spot tests as part of NASA’s Pro K protocol; and servicing NASA’s VIABLE (eValuatIon And monitoring of microBiofiLms insidE the ISS) experiment, by touching and blowing on the top of each bag to collect environmental samples for the evaluation of microbial biofilm development on space materials.
  • Health status activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the two weeks until 24 February André Kuipers has undertaken: an On-Orbit Hearing Assessment; 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.
  • Other activities
    During the two weeks until 24 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: initiated another two runs of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere; helped in clearing up the endcone of the European-built Permanent Multipurpose Module; relocating critical hardware back to the Japanese laboratory; and carried out inventories of the Contingency Water Containers on board. Kuipers also supported an ESA public affairs event with German television channel ZDF and supported a NASA education event with ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit to demonstrate how the ISS orbits the Earth.

Activities in the European-built Node 3

  • Exercise Equipment
    ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers and NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit replaced the frayed exercise rope of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) in the European-built Node 3 with a new Vectran rope on 20 February. These activities were carried out in addition to the regular use, inspection and servicing of ARED and the T2/COLBERT treadmill in which Kuipers was also involved.
  • 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 24 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 13 and 15 February. Microbiology analysis of the samples was also undertaken by Kuipers on 17 February. On 21 February Kuipers carried out TOCA analysis on additional samples.



    • Water Recovery System racks: Urine Processor Assembly
      Don Pettit drained the Recycle Filter Tank Assembly (which filters pre-treated urine for processing into water in Water Recovery System 2) into a waste water container on 14, 15 February. The Recycle Filter Tank Assembly was changed out for a new unit by André Kuipers on 24 February. Afterwards Kuipers reconfigured the Waste and Hygiene Compartment to integrate with the Urine Processor Assembly and not use its internal waste water container.

      The old-style Recycle Filter Tank Assemblies are being used for approximately six months, instead of the newer Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly units, until all on-board spares of the older units are depleted.



    • Waste and Hygiene Compartment
      On 11 February Don Pettit carried out troubleshooting on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment’s Pretreat Tank from which a ‘Pretreat Bad Quality’ message was being generated. On 15 February Kuipers replaced the compartment’s Liquid Indicator with a new spare. The following day he performed a manual fill of the flush water tank of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment.


  • Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter
    On 17 February the Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter, one of the principal radiation measurement devices on the ISS, was relocated to Node 3 from the Russian Service Module.
  • Node 3 Ventilation Maintenance
    ESA astronaut André Kuipers cleaned intermodule ventilation systems in Node 3 on 21 February following recent degraded flow measurements most likely due to the presence of debris at the fan inlet.
  • NightPod Set Up
    Kuipers set up the NightPod system in the European-built Cupola module on 24 February (see above)

Progress M-14M/46P Activities
Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov repressurised the ISS cabin atmosphere on 19 February using nitrogen from the tanks of the Russian Progress M-14M spacecraft docked at the Earth-facing port of the Pirs Docking Compartment. Four days later he transferred urine from three separate containers into one of the Rodnik tanks of the Progress spacecraft.


Russian EVA Preparations

  • Spacewalk Preparations and Dry Run
    Preparations for the 16 February Russian spacewalk were carried out principally by Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Oleg Kononenko, the EVA cosmonauts, assisted by Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin. The Orlan EVA suits were relocated to the Service Module Transfer Compartment on 13 February which was configured for a subsequent training run. Hereafter the two cosmonauts carried out a pressurized suit translation training, rehearsing the emergency Transfer Compartment ingress. EVA equipment was also consolidated in the Pirs Docking Compartment.

    The following day air ducts between the Service Module Transfer Compartment and the Pirs Docking Compartment and airlock were removed in order to clear space for a suited dry run and communications equipment was configured in Pirs. Hereafter the two cosmonauts carried out functionality and leak checks on the Russian Orlan EVA suits and related equipment. Once the cosmonauts were sealed into their respective suits additional functionality checks were carried out and about 1.5 hours of successful testing was completed to check on suited mobility inside the Pirs Docking Compartment. Once this suited dry run was over communications and air ducting was restored to its pre-test configuration.

  • The following day the EVA cosmonauts continued preparations for the EVA: collecting EVA tools and equipment, preparing the EVA suits with drinks bags and radiation sensors etc.
  • Russian EVA 30
    On completion of the standard pre-EVA procedures, Russian EVA 30 was carried out by ISS Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Oleg Kononenko on 16 February. The main tasks that were achieved during the 6 hr 15min EVA, which started at 15:31 (CET) were: relocation of the Strela 1 robotic arm from the Russian Pirs Docking Compartment to the Poisk Module using the Strela 2 robotic arm; jettison of a Multi-Layer Insulation cover; installing the Strela 1 robotic arm onto the Poisk Module; stowing the Strela 2 robotic arm on the Pirs Docking Compartment; installing the Vinoslivost Materials Sample Experiment on Pirs; Taking a sample from the Multi-Layer Insulation of the Russian Service Module to look for any signs of living organisms; and collecting a sample from the ‘Test’ experiment. Once the EVA was complete the Service Module Transfer Compartment was repressurised, communications, ventilation and other systems were reconfigured back to the pre-EVA conditions and the cosmonauts carried out post-EVA medical procedures. During the Russian-based EVA Ivanishin and Burbank were isolated in the Russian Poisk Mini Research Module 2 with access to Soyuz 28S in case of a depressurisation contingency while ISS Flight Engineers André Kuipers (ESA) and Don Pettit (NASA) were in the US segment of the ISS with access to Soyuz 29S docked at the Russian Rassvet Module for similar reasons.
  • Post EVA Procedures
    Over the few days following the spacewalk additional activities took place to return systems back to pre-EVA configuration. This included: stowing the Orlan EVA suits and associated equipment; relocating emergency medical equipment, an air repressurisation bottle, and EVA tools to their original locations; and reintegrating Progress 46P (closed out during the EVA) back into the ISS systems (leak checks, hatch opening, deactivating the spacecraft, installing ventilation and quick disconnect clamps, and dismantling the Progress 46P docking mechanism).

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 verified the proper Ice Brick configuration in MELFI-2 and inserted desiccant packs in its dewars in an attempt to bring it back into operation. ISS Commander Dan Burbank also carried out a periodic nitrogen pressure check on MELFI-3. In addition samples were placed in the MELFI units for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol (blood, urine) for ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit.

Orbital Debris

Orbital debris from a Russian communications satellite was being monitored for the possibility of it coming in close proximity to the ISS (time of closest approach on 13 February). However it was subsequently determined that the debris posed no threat of a collision with the ISS so no further action was required. Additional debris from a Chinese CZ-4B launcher was also being monitored (time of closest approach with the ISS on 19 February) though this also eventually posed no threat of a collision with the ISS so no further action was required.

ATV-3 Launch Preparations
In preparation for the launch of the third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) in March, Oleg Kononenko installed a new ATV Simulation Application onto a Russian laptop on 22 February. The Stage Operations Readiness Review for ATV-3 was also successfully conducted with no issues identified for the flight operations.

ISS Power Disruption

On 11 February the ISS experienced a critical power loss with loss of power from essentially one solar array (3B). This was caused by an unforeseen ‘Power-On Reset’ on a major Direct Current Switching Unit which caused trips in different systems. This caused a loss of power to Control Momentum Gyro 3, Ku-band communication prime antenna, and several Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computers. The crew ended their sleep shift early to support ground crews through the night to restore on-board systems. With the extent of parallel/back-up systems on the ISS the situation posed no danger to the station or its crew.


Russian Smoke Detectors

In the two week period until 24 January numerous smoke detectors have been removed from the Russian Service Module, Pirs Docking Compartment and Poisk Module and replaced with upgraded units. Activities were undertaken by Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Anatoly Ivanishin.

US Combustion Integrated Rack

In the two weeks until 24 February maintenance activities were carried out in the US Laboratory on NASA’s Combustion Integrated Rack which failed to communicate with its Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus avionics package on 19 January. This appeared to be due to the Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus boot parameters being corrupted.

ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit installed a new connector (called “boot selector”) inside the combustion chamber of the Combustion Integrated Rack on 13 February to allow loading new firmware onto the Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus avionics package. The firmware is designed to self-check for corrupt boot parameters and reload them as necessary. Following the installation, the Combustion Integrated Rack was powered on and a successful communication test was performed.

A week later ISS Commander Dan Burbank updated the Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus firmware before removing the “boot selector”. The Combustion Integrated Rack has now been successfully reactivated and prepared for science operation.


Dan Burbank assembled and powered up the Robonaut hardware and carried out additional testing/check out procedures on 14, 15 February. This included testing all joints and checking out the force sensors by pushing on each arm in multiple directions and manipulating its fingers while data was evaluated on ground. Robonaut is a human-like robotic technology which is being tested for its operability and duration in a space environment and will act as a spring-board in the evolution of robotic capabilities in space which could assist astronauts in such areas as spacewalk activities.


TVIS Treadmill Maintenance

Maintenance was carried out on the Russian Treadmill with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization (TVIS) treadmill from 21-24 February by ISS Flight Engineers Antom Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin. After assembling new components (Flywheel Case, Transfer Case and Motor Box on the chassis) the cosmonauts removed the treadmill from its pit in the Service Module. The cosmonauts then swapped out the assembled components before installing the treadmill back in its pit. Speed characterization tests were carried out on 23 February. TVIS is now cleared for use.

Other Activities

Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 24 February include: replacing a calibration Gas Supply Unit in the Vehicle Cabin Atmosphere Module which identifies gases that are present in minute quantities in the ISS breathing air that could be harmful to crew health; troubleshooting on a pump panel of the Russian internal thermal control system by removing a pump unit and replacing it with spares; troubleshooting on the Electric Power System in the Service Module, using a new test procedure for continuity checks which now focuses on the four Russian power converter boxes under the TVIS treadmill; checking out communications between the two Soyuz spacecraft (Soyuz 28S and 29S) and the ISS; inspection of the O-rings of 10 quick disconnects of the Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack combustion chamber in the Japanese Laboratory as part of troubleshooting measures; replacing the air duct in the Service Module Transfer Compartment; replacing parts of the air duct between the Service Module Working Compartment and the Service Module Transfer Tunnel; replacing eight light units with new units in the Russian Service Module; and troubleshooting on a failed food warmer in the US laboratory.


(*)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.

(*)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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