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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 116 Increment 30

06/04/2012 403 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #116 from the European Space Agency outlining ESAs 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 ESAs ISS Utilisation and Astronaut Support Department in cooperation with ESAs Columbus Operations teams.

Highlight: ESAs third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) called Edoardo Amaldi docked with the Russian Service Module of the ISS in the early morning of 29 March. Europes ISS logistics spacecraft is delivering 100 kg of oxygen, 285 kg of water, 4 tonnes of propellant, and 2.25 tonnes of dry cargo to the ISS.

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
The O2 sensor of the Biolab facilitys Life Support Module, which has been generating spurious warning signals, was disconnected on 28 March by ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit. The facility had to be rotated forward to gain access to the sensor. The facility was also activated on 5 April for a checkout following Columbus laboratory upgrade to Cycle 13 software (see ISS general system information and activities). This included checkout of internal rack commanding and uplink/downlink capabilities. 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 Summer 2012 on Progress 48P to resume the utilisation of a fully operational Biolab facility after repair and full functional checkout. The modified gripper for the fixation syringes of the handling mechanism arrived at the ISS on ATV-3 on 29 March and will be 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 Kubik incubator
NASA astronaut Don Pettit checked the configuration of Electronic Power Module (RPDA) switches on the European Drawer Rack on 30 March. As expected several switches were in the wrong configuration which Pettit thereafter reconfigured. A successful ground-commanded activation of the facility was carried out afterwards.

The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which will temporarily host the Facility for Adsorption and Surface Tension (FASTER) in 2013 and also continuously the Electro-Magnetic Levitator payload after its upload 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 NASAs 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 Soyuz 28S on 27 April and be 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
The Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) was activated on 5 April for a checkout following Columbus laboratory upgrade to Cycle 13 software (see ISS general system information and activities). This included checkout of internal rack commanding and uplink/downlink capabilities.

No activities were undertaken for the Geoflow-2 experiment inside the Fluid Science Laboratory in the two weeks until 6 April though the experiment campaign is close to completion following extensive experiment activities since March 2011. 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 in Geoflow-1) to provide a different aspect of research with more of a simulation to Earths 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 require the full functionality of the upgraded FSL Video Management Unit which still needs to be proven during current activities on orbit. The flight of the FASES Experiment Container has been rescheduled to a launch on SpaceX 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 6 April and a successful telemetry/telecommand checkout of the facility was undertaken following Columbus laboratory upgrade to Cycle 13 software (see ISS general system information and activities). 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.

Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 6 April. The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASAs 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)
Two water reservoirs in the centre of the European Modular Cultivation System centrifuges were exchanged by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers on 26 March as a close out activity to the NASA Plant Signalling experiment. Kuipers followed this by configuring EXPRESS Rack 3 (in which the EMCS is located) for a ground-commanded power up, and an EMCS dryout was then performed by the Payload Operations Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Three days later ISS Commander Dan Burbank exchanged the EMCS Fluid Module 4 sponge on the right side of the holding structure.   

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)
A troubleshooting plan is being scheduled due to high friction values and a communication problem experienced during commissioning activities for the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES). As a first step the pin alignment of an Ethernet cable will be reconfigured and previous commissioning activities will be repeated. If this proves successful functional testing will be resumed. 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 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 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 (on 30 March and 6 April) as part of the Space Headaches experiment, which is determining the incidence and characteristics of headaches occurring within astronauts in orbit. The weekly questionnaire from 23 March was delayed and actually filled in by André on 25 March though this has no implications for scientific validity. 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 26 March ISS Commander Dan Burbank completed measurements for his second session of the Vessel Imaging experiment (in conjunction with NASAs Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment). 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.

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

European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space
The 51st Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility to acquire scientific data closed on 29 March, following an acquisition period that had started on 19 March. 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 placed in a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instruments optics from degradation) on 27 March in preparation for ATV-3 docking (and thereafter for an ATV reboost/thruster test on 31 March). Solar and its instruments were deactivated on 4 April in connection with the Columbus Cycle 13 software upgrade activities. After reactivation the same day SolACES was again placed in a warm-up configuration in preparation for the ATV reboost of the Station on 5 April.  The next Sun visibility window is expected to start on 19 April.

The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Suns 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 ESAs Columbus Control Centre in Germany. The Vessel Identification System has acquired an extensive amount of data in the past 20 months since its installation in Columbus. The system was deactivated for about 7 hours on 4 April due to the Columbus laboratory Cycle 13 software upgrade though this has a very minor impact on data.

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. A tool has been defined to clean the inside of the furnace with an initial plan to transport the tool to the ISS on Progress 48P in the Summer.

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
The Microgravity Science Glovebox has been active in the two-week period until 6 April to undertake NASA research activities. On 26 March Don Pettit swapped out the Structure and Liftoff In Combustion Experiment (SLICE) inside the Glovebox for the Burning and Suppression of Solids (BASS) experiment, both of which make use of NASAs Smoke Point In Coflow Experiment (SPICE) hardware inside the Glovebox. Pettit performed five flame tests (three on 30 March, two on 5 April) on different solid fuel samples. BASS is testing solid fuel samples in the same way that SLICE was testing liquid fuel samples. 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.

On 3 April Pettit also swapped out the Microgravity Science Glovebox laptop, replacing its A31p laptop for an upgraded T61p laptop. Activities included loading associated software onto the new laptop.

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
ISS Commander Dan Burbank completed equipment set up and carried out his 5th session of ESAs Thermolab and EKE experiments in conjunction with NASAs Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment on 30 March. ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit carried out his 4th session of the joint experiments on 4 April and André Kuipers undertook his 4th session of the joint experiments on 6 April. Data was downlinked to ground after the sessions.

The joint experiments used the ESA-developed Portable Pulmonary Function System to record a variety of pulmonary measurements during varying degrees of exercise on the CEVIS Cycle Ergometer. Thermolab is investigating thermoregulatory and cardiovascular adaptations during rest and exercise in the course of long-term exposure to weightlessness. The EKE experiment has specific goals to develop a diagnostic tool for the assessment of endurance capacity from oxygen uptake and heart rate in response to changes in exercise intensity and the development of a physiological model to explore the transport of oxygen from the lungs to muscle cells. The Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) is aimed at measuring oxygen uptake and cardiac output in particular, during various degrees of exercise. The Portable Pulmonary Function System is an autonomous multi-user facility supporting a broad range of human physiological research experiments under weightless conditions in the areas of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic physiology.

ALTEA-Shield Experiments
Radiation shielding tiles for the continuation of ESAs ALTEA-Shield experiment were transported to the ISS on ATV-3, which docked with the ISS on 29 March. With the tiles now on orbit the continuation of the experiment is now waiting an upgrade of the EXPRESS Rack 3 laptop in Columbus, and a software patch to make the ALTEA-Shield experiment compatible with the new laptop. Once these activities are undertaken ALTEA-Shield will be relocated to EXPRESS Rack 3 to start the Shield part of the experiment, which will be 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 (Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts) hardware has currently  been active since 15 February to undertake data acquisition under NASA responsibility. Data acquisition for the previous ALTEA-Survey part of ESAs 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 experiments aim at obtaining a better understanding of the light flash phenomenon, and more generally the interaction between cosmic rays and brain function.

The confirmation that all NightPod commissioning objectives have been met is pending the retrieval and analysis of the photos acquired during the commissioning activities which took place in February.

The objective of the commissioning activity is to verify the ability of the system to collect photos of selected targets in manual and automatic mode. 

The NightPod 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 Earths 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 6 April activities were carried out using NASAs Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESAs Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. ISS Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank carried out an ultrasound scanning session for NASAs Integrated Cardiovascular experiment in conjunction with ESAs Vessel Imaging experiment on 26 March. This consisted of ultrasound scans for both experiments using the facility as well as ECG and heart rate measurements being taken.

Burbank carried out his 4th ambulatory monitoring session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment from 27 29 March, assisted by André Kuipers with set up. This included 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. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms.

Human Research Facility 2
No activities were carried out using Human Research Facility 2 in the two weeks until 6 April.

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:


  • Columbus Airloop Tests
    A set of airloop tests were carried out in Columbus from 26 28 March as a follow up to ventilation maintenance undertaken on 22, 23 February as a response to degradation in air flow through the Columbus Cabin Fan Assemblies. This included assessment of hydraulic performance in various two and three fan configurations at different fan speeds.
  • Atmospheric Analysis
    Analyses of the oxygen levels in the Columbus cabin atmosphere were undertaken on 27 March by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers using two Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen instruments.
  • Columbus Software Upgrade
    Columbus has been switched from Cycle 12 software up to Cycle 13 software with André Kuipers supporting activities on orbit. On 3 April the Columbus Mass Memory Unit master was switched from Unit 2 to unit 1 in order to upgrade Unit 2 to Cycle 13 software. After uploading new software to Mass Memory Unit 2 it was deactivated. The following day numerous payloads and systems were deactivated in support of the software transition and Columbus Data Management System deactivation on Cycle 12 software was completed. The Data Management System was reactivated on Cycle 13 software following reboot of Mass Memory Unit 2 as the master unit. On 5 April Kuipers swapped Portable Work Station 1 and 2 laptops in Columbus with upgraded T61p laptops. With the transition undertaken checkouts were undertaken to ensure proper functionality including tests on various research rack facilities. Columbus was hereafter cleared for nominal operations as of 6 April having successfully filled all necessary test objectives..


Activities of ESA astronaut André Kuipers

  • System and payload activities
    During the two weeks until 6 April in addition to what is stated in the rest of the report, ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers relocated Locker 7 (with NASAs Nanorack Platform-2) in EXPRESS Rack 4 from the Japanese Laboratory to EXPRESS Rack 1 in the US Laboratory. The following day (4 April) Kuipers installed two modules into the Nanorack Platform and readied the hardware for ground-commanded experiment activities. In the reporting period Kuipers also replaced batteries in all four US Crew Quarters.
  • 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 ESAs ISS partners. This included: being a subject for NASAs Reaction Self Test experiment which looks into how planned sleep shift for ISS crews affects performance; conducting the weekly inspection and maintenance of Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus payloads 4 and 5 in the US laboratory; and collecting data from the NanoRacks Platform-2 modules.
  • Health status activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the two weeks until 6 April André Kuipers has undertaken: an acoustic measurement protocol for which he donned acoustic dosimeters for 24 hours and distributed dosimeters to ISS Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko (Roscosmos) and Don Pettit (NASA) for additional data gathering; a visual acuity test; a PanOptic ophthalmic eye test; an intraocular pressure test; and filled in Food Frequency Questionnaires used to estimate nutritional intake for the astronauts and give recommendations to ground specialists that help maintain optimal crew health; as well as undertaking regular exercise routines to maintain his physical well-being while in orbit. Kuipers also acted as Crew Medical Officer for NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Dan Burbank for a PanOptic ophthalmic eye test.
  • Other activities
    During the two weeks until 6 April Kuipers and the other ISS crew members have had their regular Planning Conferences with ESAs 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: helped in clearing up/relocating hardware from the European-built Permanent Multipurpose Module to create a trash staging area for loading Progress 46P prior to undocking; undertook an emergency steps drill following ATV-3 docking for familiarisation with ATV emergency hardware; initiated one run of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere; deployed (and later retrieved) four Formaldehyde Monitoring Kits in the US laboratory and Russian Service Module to catch any atmospheric formaldehyde; and carried out inventories of the Contingency Water Containers on board. Kuipers also supported public affairs/education activities during the two-week period. This included downlinking messages with his fellow crew members (on 24 March and 3 April)  for a variety of different Russian public affairs events, a NASA education television event with the US crew members on 3 April, and a live television event with Artis Planetarium in Amsterdam on 5 April in which he responded to questions from assembled guests.


Activities in the European-built Node 3

  • Exercise Equipment
    Following an anomaly on 26 March the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) was declared a no-go for use. ISS Commander Dan Burbank carried out a replacement of the crank handle of ARED with a new spare on 27 March and it is again back in full functionality. This was in addition to the regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and the 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 6 April include: 

    • Water Recovery System racks: Sampling
      André Kuipers updated the software of the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) on 4 April. Subsequent water sampling with TOCA was deferred due to a TOCA error message generated during the sampling analysis procedure which is being looked into on ground.   


    • Water Recovery System racks: Urine Processor Assembly
      On 3 April Dan Burbank undertook troubleshooting on the Urine Monitoring System (following a power conductivity issue) by taking resistance/voltage measurements of a power connector and circuit breaker. Indications are that a DC-DC converter could be the cause. Burbank also replaced the Recycle Filter Tank Assembly in Water Recovery System Rack 2 on 5 April. The old-style Recycle Filter Tank Assemblies are currently being used for approximately six months, instead of the Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly units, until all onboard spares of the older units are depleted. After replacement Burbank configured the Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node 3 to feed into the Urine Processor Assembly instead of an internal container.  

ATV-3 Rendezvous and Docking


  • Docking preparations
    Prior to the arrival of the third of ESAs Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV-3), which launched on 23 March, ISS Flight Engineers André Kuipers (ESA) and Don Pettit (NASA) and ISS Commander Dan Burbank (NASA) took long lens photographs of ATV as it passed underneath the ISS (at a distance of 104km). This confirmed the full deployment of the ATV proximity operations antenna. The following day Kuipers and ISS Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko (Roscosmos) carried out another training session on an ATV rendezvous simulator in the Russian Service Module, which included rendezvous and docking malfunctions, and André and carried out a communications test with the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France. On 28 March Kuipers and ISS Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin (Roscosmos) tested the MPEG2 video streaming capabilities for ground monitoring of the docking.    
  • ATV-3 Docking
    Prior to docking, video and communications equipment was configured, as was the ATV Proximity Communications Equipment (including hand controller) in the Service Module from which the docking was monitored on the ISS. ESAs third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) called Edoardo Amaldi docked with the aft port of the Russian Service Module of the ISS on 29 March at 00:31 CEST. Europes ISS logistics spacecraft is delivering 100 kg of oxygen, 285 kg of water, 4 tonnes of propellant, and 2.25 tonnes of dry cargo to the ISS.
  • Post-docking Activities
    On 29 March, following docking Kononenko and Kuipers carried out ATV ingress and ISS integration steps. After carrying out a one-hour leak check on the Service Module to ATV transfer tunnel, hatches were opened; quick release screw clamps were installed to stabilise the connection between the ISS and the ATV; air and surface sampling was carried out in the ATV; and an air scrubber was installed in the new logistics spacecraft. With the arrival of a new element to the Station, the crew carried out an emergency procedures drill to familiarise themselves with ATV equipment for use in emergencies. ISS Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov (Roscosmos) also started work on disassembling and stowing the Proximity Communications Equipment for the ATV (finishing activities the following day). On 30 March Kuipers outfitted ATV-3 with emergency equipment, air ducting and additional equipment and additional air sampling was undertaken by Oleg Kononenko. The following day cargo transfers were undertaken by the crew.  On 6 April André set up the ATVs Gas Control Panel and the first ISS cabin atmosphere pressurisation from the ATV-3 Gas Delivery System was performed by ground commanding from the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France. Cargo transfers have also been on-going following docking.
  • ATV Power
    ATV-3 suffered a power loss on 30 March when a power channel failed though it was successfully integrated back into the ISS power supply the following day by switching to a different power channel. The cause of the failure is currently being analysed.
  • ISS Reboost
    ATV Orbit Correction System thrusters were used to carry out two reboosts of the ISS on 31 March and 5 April in order to test the ATV thrusters as well as set up phasing for Soyuz 28S landing and Soyuz 30S and Progress 47P launches. The first reboost lasted 6 min 51 sec increasing the altitude of the ISS by 1.73 km. The second reboost lasted 15 min 4 sec increasing the altitude of the ISS by 3.86 km.

Soyuz 28S Descent Drill
A standard Soyuz emergency descent drill was carried out by ISS Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko (Roscosmos), André Kuipers (ESA) and Don Pettit (NASA) on 27 March. The descent drill, which took place in the Descent Module of the Soyuz 29S spacecraft is for the review of Soyuz descent procedures including emergency procedures and manual undocking. The training session used a descent simulator application on a Russian laptop together with a descent hand controller.

Progress 46P Activities
Final activities are being undertaken in the run up to undocking of Progress 46P on 19 April. These have included:

  • Propellant Transfers
    On 2 April Mission Control Centre in Moscow carried out transfers of fuel (unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine) and oxidizer (nitrogen tetroxide) from Progress 46P to the Russian Zarya  Module for use in ISS attitude control.  
  • Water Transfers
    On 30 March ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin configured pumping equipment and transferred the remaining water from Progress 46Ps BV2 Rodnik tank into three water containers in the Pirs Docking Compartment. Hereafter he started a bladder compression and leak check on the same tank to prepare it for urine transfers back into the tank for disposal after Progress undocking. The urine transfers from five containers were undertaken on 4 April by Oleg Kononenko.
  • Cargo Transfers
    On numerous days during the two-week reporting period the Russian crew members have been loading excess equipment and trash into the Progress 46P logistics spacecraft. This included an extensive task undertaken by Anton Shkaplerov of dismantling cargo restraint elements in the Russian Poisk Mini Research Module 2 and loading them in Progress 46P for disposal. André Kuipers also assisted in transfer procedures, marking up US items for disposal and stowing them temporarily in the endcone of the European-built Permanent Multipurpose Module.

Orbital Conjunction
The orbital path of NASAs active Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite was being monitored for the possibility of it coming in close proximity to the ISS (time of closest approach on 30 March). However it was subsequently determined that the satellite and ISS posed no potential threat of a collision with each other so no further action was required.

Russian Air Conditioner Maintenance
Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin carried out repair activities on the SKV-1 air conditioner in the Russian Service Module on 3 and 4 April. After gathering the necessary equipment the cosmonauts replaced the failed power supply unit.

Global Positioning System Maintenance
André Kuipers and Dan Burbank replaced the failed GPS1 receiver of the Attitude Control System / Global Positioning System in the US laboratory on 4 April. Following the replacement a ground-commanded checkout determined proper functionality of the new receiver.

Russian Telemetry System Maintenance
Maintenance activities were carried out on a subsystem (Regul-OS) of the Russian Radio Control and Communications System in the two-week period until 6 April due to a failed transmitter unit. On 26 March Kononenko replaced a faulty connector. This was followed up by replacing the failed transmitter with a spare on 5 April and installing a new Integrated Command and Telemetry System monoblock. Tests of the new system were carried out afterwards by Mission Control Centre Moscow. Regul is the nominal uplink channel for all Russian commands; operating at a low data rate and equivalent to the US S-band system.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 6 April include: carrying out troubleshooting steps on the Japanese Kobairo Rack by taking resistance and voltage measurements on the insulation of the Gradient Heating Furnace heating units; and servicing the CNES/NASA Device for the Study of Critical Liquids and Crystallization (DECLIC) by replacing its Removable Hard Disk Drive with a new unit.

(*)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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