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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 118 Increment 30/31

04/05/2012 447 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #118 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
Biolab is a multi-user facility designed to support biological experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates. The new gripper for the sample fixation syringes of Biolab’s handling mechanism was retrieved from stowage in ATV-3 on 23 April and transferred to Columbus by ISS Commander Dan Burbank. One week later ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit replaced Life Support Module 3 of the Biolab incubator, and installed the new gripper and a cold spot sponge. Maintenance activities continued on 4 May as ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers replaced the gloves of Biolab’s glovebox.

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 to resume the utilisation of a fully operational Biolab facility after repair and full functional checkout with a dedicated commissioning experiment. 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 incubators
The European Drawer Rack facility was activated on 4 May as part of power check activities for two ESA Kubik Incubators and checkout of the facility’s Video Management Unit. A high rate data flow test was performed from the Video Management Unit to the ground. A first test showed a low data rate, while a second test showed an expected data rate. Results from the first test are being analysed. A downlink test was also successfully performed. With respect to the incubator power checks, one of the incubators (Kubik 6) is located inside a special drawer inside the European Drawer Rack. The second incubator (Kubik 3) was set up in front of the European Drawer rack by André Kuipers and connected to the European Drawer Rack for power. Power status checks on both incubators confirmed their readiness for upcoming experiments. The KUBIK incubator inside the European Drawer Rack will also be used to process NASA’s NIH Ageing experiment which is currently planned for the end of 2012.

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.

ROALD-2 Experiment (processed in the KUBIK-3 incubator)
The processed experiment containers for the ROALD-2 (ROle of Apoptosis in Lymphocyte Depression 2) experiment were retrieved from the MELFI-1 freezer, packed and returned to earth on Soyuz 28S which landed on 27 April. The experiment containers have now been 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
No activities were carried out using the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) in the two week period until 4 May.   The re-planning of the remaining no-rotation runs for the Geoflow-2 experiment in the Fluid Science Laboratory is currently under discussion. 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
No activities were carried out using the European Physiology Modules facility in the two week period until 4 May. 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 week period until 4 May. The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA’s Human Research Facility 2, which was relocated from the US Destiny laboratory to the Columbus laboratory in October 2008. The Pulmonary Function System is an ESA/NASA collaboration in respiratory physiology instrumentation, which analyses exhaled gas from astronauts' lungs to provide near-instant data on the state of crew health.

European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS)
No activities were carried out using the European Modular Cultivation System in the two week period until 4 May. 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 (tentative upload on SpaceX-3).

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.

Space Headaches
ESA astronaut André Kuipers continued filling in weekly questionnaires (on 27 April and 4 May) 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 2011.

Vessel Imaging Experiment
On 3 May ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers completed measurements for his second session of the Vessel Imaging experiment (in conjunction with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment) assisted be ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit. 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.

CARD Experiment
Samples (blood and urine) for André Kuipers for the CARD experiment were retrieved from the MELFI-1 freezer, packed and returned to earth on Soyuz 28S which landed on 27 April. 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.

Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment
Samples (blood and urine) for André Kuipers,   Ron Garan and Dan Burbank for the SOLO experiment were retrieved from the MELFI-1 freezer, packed and returned to earth on Soyuz 28S which landed on 27 April. SOLO is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related human physiology effects during long-duration space flight.

Education: Spaceship Earth
A very successful livelink was held on 24 April as part of the Spaceship Earth education project. Over 1600 children participated in the events throughout Europe (Nemo in Netherlands, Speyer TM in Germany, Parque de las Ciencias of Granada in Spain and the National Space Centre in the UK). Each site had scientific demonstrations and hands-on activities including education kits which were accompanied by videos. The children were exposed to many different physics principles with the highlight of the day being a livelink with André Kuipers on the ISS. The following day Kuipers downlinked video of the event filmed on the ISS.


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 which opened on 19 April, closed on 2 May. 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 Progress 47P docking (22 April), ATV-3 reboost activities (25 April and 4 May) and Soyuz TMA-22/28S undocking (27 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 for almost two years 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 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 2 May 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 three 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.

Two flash disks, one each for the SODI-DSC and SODO-Colloid-2 experiments, were returned to earth on Soyuz 28S which landed on 27 April. 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
ESA astronaut André Kuipers completed equipment set up and carried out another session of ESA’s Thermolab and EKE experiments in conjunction with NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment on 26 April. ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit carried out another session of the joint experiments on 4 May. 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) experiment 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 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 been active to a great degree 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.


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.

Immuno Experiment
Samples (blood, saliva) for ISS Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov for the Immuno experiment were retrieved from the MELFI-1 freezer, packed and returned to earth on Soyuz 28S which landed on 27 April. The aim of the IMMUNO experiment is to determine changes in stress and immune responses, during and after a stay on the ISS. Samples will be checked for hormones associated with stress response as well as carrying out white blood cell analysis.


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. André Kuipers carried out his 4th ambulatory monitoring session of NASAs Integrated Cardiovascular experiment from 30 April – 2 May, 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 on 4 May.

Kuipers carried out an ultrasound scanning session for the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment in conjunction with ESAs Vessel Imaging experiment on 3 May. This consisted of ultrasound scans for both experiments using the facility as well as ECG and heart rate measurements being taken. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms.

On 2 May Kuipers and Pettit used the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device of Human Research Facility 1 to undertake standard body mass measurement on themselves.


Human Research Facility 2

Blood samples were spun in the Refrigerated Centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 on 23 April for the NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol for André Kuipers and on 26 April for NASA’s Integrated Immune protocol for Burbank, Kuipers and Pettit. The samples were placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers (see below) for return to ground for further analysis.

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 Activities
    The newly arrived Intravehicular Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter was assembled by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers on 23 April, installing its large and small detectors and deploying it in the Russian Service Module. Kuipers hereafter powered up the device for a functional checkout.
  • 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 Integrated Immune protocol which is validating procedures for monitoring crew member immune function (involved saliva and blood sampling); being a subject of NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol (involving diet logging, urine collection/sampling); collecting data from the NASA’s NanoRacks Modules, which he had installed on 4 April; being a subject for NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment in combination with ESA’s Vessel Imaging Experiment; and activating NASA’s ISS Agriculture Camera laptop so that ground images can be captured by ground commanding.
  • Health status activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the two weeks until 4 May André Kuipers has undertaken: an On-Orbit Hearing Assessment; 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.
  • Other activities
    During the two weeks until 4 May 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; carried out food consolidation activities with ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Don Pettit; undertook an emergency roles and responsibility review (with Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and NASA astronaut Don Pettit) due to the change in crew configuration following Soyuz 28S undocking; and carried out inventories of the Contingency Water Containers on board. Kuipers also supported three NASA/US public affairs/education activities during the two-week period.


Activities in the European-built Node 3

  • Exercise Equipment
    Sessions of the new Treadmill Kinematics protocol were carried out by ISS Commander Dan Burbank (NASA) on 25 April and ISS Flight Engineers André Kuipers (ESA) and Don Pettit (NASA) on 2 and 4 May respectively using the T2 COLBERT treadmill in the European-built Node 3. 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 4 May include:
    • Water Recovery System racks: Sampling
      Kuipers used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks on 23 and 30 April.
    • Waste and Hygiene Compartment
      Dan Burbank replaced the expired Activated Carbon/Ion Exchange filter cartridge for the Waste and Hygiene Compartment on 25 April.

Soyuz TMA-22/28S and Expedition Crew Return Preparations

  • Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
    Between 21-25 April ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin carried out their final 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 4 May, the ISS crew members have been involved in cargo transfer activities packing cargo for either return to earth in the Descent Module of Soyuz 28S or for disposal in the Soyuz Orbital Module. Return items included Russian biotechnology experiments, radiation dosimeters from different areas of the ISS, Japanese protein crystallization equipment/samples, and samples from a number of ESA experiments: Immuno, SOLO, Card, and ROALD-2.
  • Soyuz TMA-22/28S Motion Control Test
    Shkaplerov and Ivanishin, supported a ground-commanded checkout of the Soyuz TMA-22 Motion Control System on 23 April including testing the pilot’s translational hand controller and the braking thrusters.
  • Soyuz 28S Descent Drill
    A standard Soyuz descent drill was carried out by Shkaplerov, Ivanishin and Burbank on 23 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.
  • Soyuz Fan Box Replacement
    On 24 April Shkaplerov continued activities in connection with the fan box of the Cooler/Dehumidifier Assembly in the Soyuz 28S Descent Module which was replaced the previous week. Shkaplerov installed cables, hooked up telemetry and checked out mobile receiving devices on ground form the Soyuz telemetry transmitter.
  • Soyuz Couch Fit Check (follow up activities)
    Modification activities were undertaken on a Kazbek shock absorbing seat in the Descent Module of the Soyuz TMA-22/28S crew return vehicle due to fit check issue experienced by ISS Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin during a recent check. On 24 April Ivanishin and Kononenko modified the headrest and lower section of Ivanishin’s Kazbek seat liner using tape and a variety of saws and cutters. The following day Ivanishin donned his Sokol spacesuit and carried out a fit-check of the seat in preparation for his return on 27 April.
  • Change of Command Ceremony
    The official ISS change of command ceremony took place in front of all crew members on 25 April with ISS Commander Dan Burbank handing over command to Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko. However as with all Expeditions, Expedition 31 will officially begin following undocking of the departing Soyuz/Expedition crew members.
  • Undocking Preparations
    On 26 April the Russian crew members removed temperature and lighting equipment from the Soyuz Orbital module for reuse after Soyuz undocking, and checked out communications from Soyuz 28S to the ground.
  • Soyuz TMA-22/28S, Expedition 30 Undocking and Landing
    In the early morning of 27 April, following the joint crew farewell, the departing crew members (Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin) entered the Soyuz spacecraft, and clamps were removed between Soyuz TMA-22 and the “Poisk” Mini Research Module 2 to which it is docked. Following Soyuz activation the hatches between the Soyuz and the Poisk Module were closed and relevant leak checks were carried out. Undocking occurred at 10:18 (CEST). About 3 mins after undocking, the Soyuz performed its first separation burn. At 12:49 (CEST) the Soyuz spacecraft performed its deorbit thruster burn lasting 4 min 14 sec. This caused a deceleration of 115m/sec. 30 minutes later the spacecraft went through module separation, with atmospheric reentry occurring at 13:21 (CEST). The parachute was deployed at 13:31 with landing at 13:45 (CEST), 17:45 local time in central Kazakhstan. Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin had spent 165 days in space. From here the crew were flown to Kustanai in Kazakhstan. Shkaplerov and Ivanishin were flown on to Star City in Moscow. Burbank was flown to Houston. Undocking of Soyuz TMA-22 marked the end of Expedition 30 and the start of Expedition 31, which consists currently of ISS Expedition 31 Commander Oleg Kononenko (Roscosmos) and ISS Expedition 31 Flight Engineers André Kuipers (ESA) and Don Pettit (NASA) until three additional crew arrive on 17 May.


ATV-3 Activities


  • Cargo Transfers
    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. This has included unloading and unpacking cargo and placing it in stowage, and stowing packing material and waste into ATV-3. Activities were carried out by André Kuipers and Don Pettit. Kononenko also set up pumping equipment on 3 May and transferred water from ATV tanks into a storage container.
  • ISS Reboost
    ATV Orbit Correction System thrusters were used to carry out a reboost of the ISS on 25 April in order set up phasing for Soyuz 30S launch on 15 May. The 16 min 8 sec thruster burn increased the altitude of the ISS by 4.1 km. On 4 May ATV-3 carried out another ISS reboost in connection with the 30S launch. The 20 min 21 sec thruster burn increased the altitude of the ISS by 5.26 km giving the ISS a mean altitude of around 400 km.


Progress M-15M/47P Docking


  • Progress Docking
    The Russian Progress M-15M spacecraft on logistics flight 47P to the ISS docked with the Station at the Earth-facing port of the Pirs Docking Compartment on 22 April at 16:36 (CEST)   under automatic Kurs system control. The Progress spacecraft had been launched successfully on 20 April from the Baikonur Cosmodrome   with cargo consisting of 900 kg propellants, 50 kg oxygen and air, 420 kg water and 1225 kg dry cargo. After docking, ISS attitude control was returned first to Russian systems and then to US systems.
  • Post-Docking Activities
    On 22 April following docking the standard leak check on the interhatch area and the fuel/oxidizer transfer line interface between Progress 47P and Pirs was performed followed by hatch opening. Hereafter the quick disconnect clamps were installed to stabilise the connection between Progress and the Station, Progress 47P was deactivated and ventilation ducting was installed. The Progress docking mechanism was dismantled and air sampling was carried out in the new logistics spacecraft. Hereafter high priority payloads were transferred to the ISS. On 23 April temperature sensor equipment was installed in Progress 47P and cargo unloading activities got underway.


SpaceX Dragon Launch and Docking Preparations
Following a slight delay the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft demo flight is now scheduled for launch on 19 May.   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:


  • Robotics Activities
    On 24 April Pettit and Kuipers installed the crew restraint at the Cupola Robotic Workstation, set up a laptop and used it for undertaking a simulated training session, practicing grappling of the Dragon during a misaligned approach. On 1 May the two astronauts set up relevant equipment this time including the Dynamic Onboard Ubiquitous Graphics (DOUG) software, which provides a graphical birdseye-view image of the external station configuration and the Station’s principal robotic arm, Canadarm 2. Kuipers and Pettit then carried out their third Offset Grapple training session, practicing Canadarm 2 misaligned grapple approaches in preparation for the Dragon capture.
  • Cargo Activities
    Between 25 April and 2 May Kuipers, Burbank and Pettit spent time pre-packing equipment for return to ground on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.
  • UHF Communications Unit
    Don Pettit supported a ground-commanded check out of the Dragon UHF Communications Unit on 4 April, activating the unit, and plugging in the Crew Command Panel.


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 Kuipers, Burbank, and Pettit for NASA’s Integrated Immune protocol (blood and saliva), and for André Kuipers for NASA’s NUTRITION/Repository/Pro K protocols (blood and urine). Samples were also retrieved from the MELFI units for return to earth on Soyuz 28S. This included: samples for ESA’s SOLO and CARD experiments (blood and urine), ESA’s Immuno experiment (blood and saliva) and ESA’s ROALD-2 experiment (biological) as well as for JAXA’s 2D Nano Template experiment.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 4 May include: ground-commanded testing of the head and vision system and arm/finger motions of NASA’s Robonaut hardware; a functionality and performance investigation on the Russian   POTOK Air Purification System which could have been responsible for loss of power feed from the Service Module to ATV-3 at the end of March; and major periodic maintenance on the Russian toilet facility swapping out replaceable parts with new components.

(*)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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