This is ISS status report #117 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.
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 20 April. 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
No activities were carried out using the European Drawer Rack facility in the two week period until 20 April. 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 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 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 11, 12 April to undertake activities for the Geoflow-2 experiment. Two non-rotation runs for the experiment were undertaken. One completed all seven set points, the other run still has two set points to complete and a replanning of the run is undergoing discussion. Science data and data from the Microgravity Vibration Isolation System was downlinked and is undergoing analysis by the science team. 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 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 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 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 active in the two-week reporting period until 20 April to support activities for the CARD 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.
Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)
Following the broken connector of the System Bag Filling Assembly towards the end of March, ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers modified a Differential Pressure Flowmeter to function as a Bag Filling Assembly on 12 April. This is a temporary measure until a new Bag Filling Assembly is launched though this has enabled the continuation of the CARD experiment (see below). Five rebreathing sessions for the experiment were carried out on 18 and 19 April using the Pulmonary Function System.
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.
After preparing equipment the previous day, André Kuipers started a new session of the CARD experiment on 18 April. Kuipers donned the Cardiolab Holter Arterial Blood Pressure device of the European Physiology Modules facility to collect blood pressure and heart rate data over a 24-hour period and undertook three rebreathing protocols using the Pulmonary Function System to measure cardiac output. 24-hour urine collection was also started on day 1 and completed the following day. On 19 April Kuipers continued the experiment undertaking an additional two rebreathing protocols and providing a blood sample which was spun in the centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 before being
placed in one of the MELFI freezer units. On 20 April Kuipers downloaded the Arterial Blood Pressure device data to a memory card for return to earth with the experiment samples. Unfortunately, due to an anomaly on the Holter Arterial Blood Pressure device the data collection for the blood pressure measurements did stop before André went to sleep on the first day of experiment activities. This 24-hr blood pressure measurement will need to be re-planned.
The CARD experiment examines increased cardiac output and lowers blood pressure (caused by dilated arteries) in the face of increased activity in the sympathetic nervous system (which normally constricts arteries) in weightlessness.
European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS)
No activities were carried out using the European Modular Cultivation System in the two week period until 20 April. 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 new 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, the 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.
ESA astronaut André Kuipers continued filling in weekly questionnaires (on 12 and 19 April) as part of the Space Headaches experiment, 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. Weekly questionnaire files for three previous sessions were downlinked on 11 April.
Vessel Imaging Experiment
On 20 April ISS Commander Dan Burbank completed measurements for his final session of the Vessel Imaging experiment (in conjunction with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment) assisted be ESA astronaut André Kuipers. The session consisted of an echography scan (see Human Research Facility 1 below) with ECG and heart rate measurements also being taken. On the ESA side support came from DAMEC and CADMOS, two of the User Support and Operations Centres for ESA, via the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany.
ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment evaluates the changes in central and peripheral blood vessel wall properties and cross sectional areas of long-duration ISS crewmembers during and after long-term exposure to weightlessness. A Lower Body Negative Pressure programme runs in parallel to Vessel Imaging. Flow velocity changes in the aorta and the middle cerebral and femoral arteries are used to quantify the cardiovascular response to fluid shifts. Vessel Imaging aims to optimise the countermeasures used routinely during long-duration space missions.
Mission X - Train Like An Astronaut
On 9 April André Kuipers closed out the Mission X: train like an astronaut education programme by recording a video announcing the winners of the participating teams and providing an encouraging message to all those who participated. Mission X is a worldwide educational initiative supported by ESA and national space agencies to encourage healthy and active lifestyles among children aged 8-12 years. As a focus of the programme, astronauts inspire children to eat healthily and exercise regularly. This activity was originally scheduled to take place on 23 March.
European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space
The 52nd Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility to acquire scientific data opened on 19 April. 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 majority of the reporting period in connection with being out of a Sun Visibility window and in connection with Progress 46P undocking and related activities. SolACES was taken out of the warm-up configuration on 20 April.
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. The Vessel Identification System has acquired an extensive amount of data in the past 20 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 Materials Science Research Rack was activated on 18 April and a ground-commanded cooling zone characterization and chamber leak check were carried out on the Materials Science Laboratory. 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 2011, 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 was activated on 9 April to undertake research activities for NASA’s Burning and Suppression of Solids (BASS) experiment, which make use of NASA’s Smoke Point In Coflow Experiment (SPICE) hardware inside the Glovebox. ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit performed two flame tests on different solid fuel samples. BASS is testing solid fuel samples in order 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.
A week later ISS Commander Dan Burbank prepared the flash disks for the SODI-DSC and SODO-Colloid-2 experiments for return to earth on Soyuz 28S. The SODI-Colloid-2 experiment which took place towards the end of 2011 was part of the second of three Selectable Optical Diagnostic Instrument (SODI) experiments. The Colloid experiment covers the study on growth and properties of advanced photonic materials within colloidal solutions. The focus is on materials that have a special interest in photonics, with emphasis on nano-structured, periodic dielectric materials, known as photonic crystals, which possess appealing properties and make them promising candidates for new types of optical components.
The SODI-DSC experiment was the third and final SODI experiment which was processed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox between November 2011 and January 2012. 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 week period until 20 April. 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.
Radiation shielding tiles for the continuation of ESA’s 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 ESA’s 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.
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.
On 19 April ISS Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin was a subject of the Immuno experiment, providing blood and saliva samples to check for hormones associated with stress response and for carrying out white blood cell analysis, in addition to filling in a Stress Test Questionnaire. A similar session of the experiment was undertaken by ISS Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov the following day. After both sessions processed blood samples were inserted in one of the MELFI freezers by ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers. The aim of the IMMUNO experiment is to determine changes in stress and immune responses, during and after a stay on the ISS.
Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Human Research Facility 1
During the two-week period until 20 April numerous activities were carried out using NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. On 11 April Kuipers and Pettit used the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device of Human Research Facility 1 to undertake standard body mass measurement on themselves.
The facility’s ultrasound equipment was used on 12 April to undertake eye scans for Kuipers, Pettit and Burbank, with Kuipers acting as Crew Medical Officer for the scans of Burbank and Pettit and Burbank acting as Crew Medical Officer for Kuipers. The ultrasound was used again on 17 April as Don Pettit performed a leg muscle scan on himself for NASA’s SPRINT protocol.
ISS Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank carried out his final ultrasound scanning session for NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment in conjunction with ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment on 20 April. 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 5th and final ambulatory monitoring session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment from 17 – 19 April, assisted by Don Pettit 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 session. 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
Blood samples were spun in the Refrigerated Centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 on 10 April for the NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol for Don Pettit; on 19 April for the Canadian Space Agency’s Vascular Blood Collection protocol for Don Pettit; and on 19 April for ESA’s Card experiment for André Kuipers. The samples were placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers (see below) for return to ground for further analysis.
The ESA/NASA Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2 (see Pulmonary Function System and Card Experiment above) was also used on 18, 19 April for undertaking rebreathing sessions for the Card experiment for ESA astronaut André Kuipers
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.
Activities of ESA astronaut André Kuipers
· System and payload activities
During the two weeks until 20 April in addition to what is stated in the rest of the report, ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers: replaced all the fasteners on the experiment cell brackets, cover body and front cover plate of the Fluid Physics Experiment Facility in the Japanese laboratory; and cleaned the inside of the 0g and 1g incubators of the Cell Biology Experiment Facility, also in the Japanese laboratory.
· 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; being a subject of NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol; collecting data from the NASA’s NanoRacks Modules, which he had installed on 4 April; and conducting the JAXA Space Sound education experiment (with NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit) creating sounds for recording on a camcorder 3D mic and audio recorder and filling out a questionnaire in order to do a survey on how crews hear and feel the sound from a “Sound Emitting Object”.
· Health status activities
The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the two weeks until 20 April André Kuipers has undertaken: his 4th session of the WinSCAT (Spaceflight Cognitive Assessment Tool for Windows) experiment, which is used for testing cognitive abilities; a session of the Russian "Hematokrit" test which measures the red blood cell count; a session of the Russian Biochemical Urinalysis assessment; and filled in a Food Frequency Questionnaire 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 US Periodic Health Status check; and for Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko for the Russian "Hematokrit" test. In addition Kuipers also undertook regular Crew Health Care Systems (CHeCS) emergency medical operations training on 11 April.
· Other activities
During the two weeks until 20 April 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 one run of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere; 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 for the ISS Symposium in Berlin which takes place at the beginning of May, and footage for the arrival and contributions of ATV-3 “Eduardo Amaldi”, to be distributed to European TV and other media channels. Kuipers supported one NASA public affairs event (with Burbank and Pettit) for US media and downlinking for Russian events (with the entire crew) in connection with Cosmonautics Day.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
· Exercise Equipment
Sessions of the new Treadmill Kinematics protocol were carried out by ISS Flight Engineers André Kuipers (ESA) on 10 April and Don Pettit (NASA) on the T2 COLBERT treadmill in the European-built Node 3 on 14 and 16 April. This protocol is making an assessment of current exercise protocols. 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 20 April include:
- Water Recovery System racks: Sampling
Kuipers used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks on 10 and 17 April as well as taking samples for post-flight analysis on 17 April. On 19 April Kuipers undertook microbial analysis of the samples taken on 17 April.
- Water Recovery System racks: Urine Processor Assembly
On 9 April André Kuipers transferred urine from a storage container into the waste water tank of the Urine Processor Assembly in Water Recovery System Rack 2 for processing. Kuipers then connected the Recycle Filter Tank Assembly in the rack for the periodic tank backfill for processing.
- Water Recovery System racks: Water Processor Assembly
The Ion bed in Water Recovery System rack 1 was replaced by Dan Burbank on 12 April as a step to resolve increasing organic carbon in the Water Processor Assembly. Preliminary results of water analysis indicate the levels of organic carbon reducing as expected.
- Waste and Hygiene Compartment
Burbank replaced the pump separator of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment on 12 April due to problematic indicator lights.
- Oxygen Generator System
Burbank replaced a hydrogen sensor unit in the Oxygen Generator System rack on 18 April and purged the old sensor for return to Earth.
· Cupola laptop
ISS Flight Engineers Don Pettit swapped out a 1553 card and cable on a laptop in the European-built Cupola attached to Node 3 on 13 March in order to recover connectivity to the Command and Control Multiplexer/Demultiplexer computer.
· Cupola: Super Sensitive HDTV
André Kuipers set up the Japanese Super Sensitive HDTV in the Cupola Module on 9 April for a five-day programme of filming the North Pole aurorae and night views of Japan. The hardware was tended by Kuipers and Pettit during the course of the exercise (exchanging memory cards etc). Another session was started towards the end of the two-week reporting period.
Soyuz TMA-22/28S and Expedition Crew Return Preparations
· Soyuz Couch Fit Check
On 9 and 18 April, members of the ISS Expedition 30 Crew (Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin) donned their Sokol spacesuits and carried out a fit-check of the Kazbek shock absorbing seats in the Descent Module of the Soyuz TMA-22/28S crew return vehicle in preparation for their return on 27 April.
· Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
Between 10-18 April ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin carried out three orthostatic hemodynamic endurance test sessions using the TVIS treadmill whilst wearing Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suits. The Chibis suit, which provides stress that simulates gravity to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system, helps to evaluate how the Soyuz crewmember would cope with exposure to gravity on return to Earth.
· Cargo Transfers
In the two-week period until 20 April, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin packed cargo for either return to earth in the Descent Module of Soyuz 28S or for disposal in the Soyuz Orbital Module. Ivanishin also collected standard water samples and Kononenko collected standard bio samples from specific metallic equipment and structures in the ISS Russian segment for return and post-flight analysis
· Suit Checks
Shkaplerov, Ivanishin and Burbank performed the standard leak checks of their Sokol pressure suits, worn in the Soyuz spacecraft on 16 April. On 20 April the three crew members carried out fit checks of their protective Kentavr anti-g suits. These suits are worn under their Sokol suits during return and landing to help the long-duration crewmembers with the return into Earth’s gravity.
· Soyuz Fan Box Replacement
On 17, 18 April Shkaplerov replaced the fan box of the Cooler/Dehumidifier Assembly in the Soyuz 28S Descent Module.
· Soyuz 28S Descent Drill
A standard Soyuz descent drill was carried out by Shkaplerov and Ivanishin on 20 April. The descent drill, which took place in the Descent Module of the Soyuz 28S spacecraft is for the review of Soyuz descent procedures including emergency procedures and manual undocking. The training sessions used a descent simulator application on a Russian laptop together with a descent hand controller.
Progress 46P Undocking and Related Activities
Final activities were being undertaken in the run up to undocking of Progress 46P. These included:
· Vehicle-to-Vehicle Test
On 9 April a vehicle-to-vehicle test was carried out on the Russian TORU manual docking system on the ISS. The TORU system allows ISS crew control of the Progress spacecraft from the Russian Service Module should the automatic KURS systems on Progress fail.
· 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. Kononenko also configured pumping equipment on 16 April and transferred urine from storage containers into one of the Rodnik tanks of Progress 46P for disposal.
· Undocking Preparations
On 17, 18 April the Russian crew members prepared the Progress 46P spacecraft for departure. The Progress docking mechanism was again installed; Progress electronics were activated; ventilation ducting was removed; quick disconnect clamps which stabilize the connection between Progress 46P and the Pirs Docking Compartment were removed; and the Progress/Pirs hatches were closed, followed by the standard one-hour leak check of the interhatch area and the interface between the fuel/oxidizer transfer line.
· Progress 46P Undocking/Deorbit
On 19 April Progress M-14M/46P successfully undocked from the Russian Pirs Docking Compartment at 13:04 (CET). Three to four hours after undocking the Progress spacecraft undertook its deorbit burn to place it into a planned destructive reentry into Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
SpaceX Dragon Launch and Docking Preparations
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft demo flight is scheduled for launch on 30 April. Dragon is a commercial unmanned spacecraft under NASA contract that will be used to deliver cargo to the ISS and return samples and cargo from orbit. Preparations for its launch have included:
· On-board Simulation Training
Between 11 and 16 April André Kuipers and Don Pettit used the ROBoT simulator on board the ISS to undertake three separate training sessions in preparation for the launch of the SpaceX Dragon logistics spacecraft. This session focussed on training on malfunction response during spacecraft capture and good hand controller techniques and successful captures.
André Kuipers carried out a check out of the Robotic Workstation in the US laboratory on 17 April for viewing on ground during ground-commanded operations with the Station’s principal robotic arm. (Canadarm 2). The following day Pettit installed the crew restraint at the Cupola Robotic Workstation and set up the Dynamic Onboard Ubiquitous Graphics (DOUG) software, which provides a graphical birdseye-view image of the external station configuration and Canadarm 2. Kuipers and Pettit then carried out the first Offset Grapple training session, practicing Canadarm 2 misaligned grapple approaches in preparation for the Dragon capture. The two astronauts carried out another Offset Grapple training session on 20 April One additional session is planned for 24 April.
Progress M-15M/47P Launch
· Docking Preparations
ISS Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Oleg Kononenko undertook refresher training on the Russian TORU manual docking system on 19 April in preparation for Progress 47P docking. The TORU system acts as a manually controlled backup to the automatic Kurs docking system. The session included, rendezvous, fly-around, final approach, docking and off-nominal situations such as video or communications loss. The same day communications and video tests were carried out on the ISS.
The Russian Progress M-15M spacecraft on logistics flight 47P to the ISS was launched successfully from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Soyuz-U rocket on 20 April at 14:50 CET (18:50 local time) with cargo consisting of 900 kg propellants, 50 kg oxygen and air, 420 kg water and 1225 kg dry cargo. Progress 47P is scheduled to dock at the Earth-facing port of the Pirs Docking Compartment on 22 April.
Following docking of Europe’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) on 29 March, cargo transfer activities have been on-going for Europe’s logistics supply craft for the ISS. In the two weeks until 20 April Kuipers has been a principal astronaut in undertaking these activities, transferring water from ATV tanks into storage containers; unpacking and transferring cargo from ATV-3 into its final locations with the assistance of ISS Commander Dan Burbank; and repressurising the ISS cabin atmosphere with air from ATV tanks.
Minus-Eighty degree Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
There are three European-built MELFI freezers on the ISS: MELFI-1 and MELFI-2 in the Japanese laboratory and MELFI-3 in the US laboratory. In the two-week reporting period samples have been placed in the MELFI units for Don Pettit for NASA’s NUTRITION/Repository/Pro K protocols (blood and urine) and for the Canadian Space Agency’s Vascular Blood Collection protocol (blood); for André Kuipers for ESA’s CARD experiment (blood and urine); and for Shkaplerov and Ivanishin for ESA’s Immuno experiment (blood). Pettit also inserted two ESA thermal control containers (ECCO) into MELFI-3 to ensure proper thermal conditioning for planned sampling operations.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 20 April include: replacing a Fluids and Combustion Facility / Diagnostic Control Module in the Combustion Integrated Rack in the US laboratory; troubleshooting activities by rewiring the valve motor of the Amine Swingbed hardware which is testing a more efficient way of removing carbon dioxide from the ISS cabin atmosphere; disconnecting and transferring the Device for the Study of Critical Liquids and Crystallization (DECLIC) from EXPRESS Rack 4 to EXPRESS 7; and additional check out activities with NASA’s Robonaut hardware which is a human-like robotic technology being tested for its operability and duration in a space environment.
(*)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.
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer
Weekly reports compiled by ESA's ISS Utilisation Department.
Fill in your name and email address below to receive a notification when the latest status report is made available online.