This is ISS status report #121 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 within international scientific collaboration agreements.
The current status of the European science package on the ISS is as follows:
Human Research Activities
Space Headaches Experiment
ISS Flight Engineers André Kuipers (ESA) and Joe Acaba (NASA) continued filling in weekly questionnaires (on 7 and 14 June) 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 for Kuipers and on Soyuz 30S on 15 May for Acaba.
Thermolab and EKE Experiments
NASA astronaut Don Pettit and ESA astronaut André carried out their final sessions of ESA’s Thermolab and EKE experiments in conjunction with NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment on 4 and 5 June respectively. 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.
SODI-Colloid 2 and SODI-DSC Experiments
The two flash disks containing the data for the SODI-Colloid 2 and the SODI DSC (Diffusion and Soret Coefficient Measurements for Improvement of Oil Recovery) experiments have left Russia (following landing of Soyuz 28S on 27 April) and are now on their way to the related science teams for analysis. The two experiments were two of the three undertaken in the ESA-developed Microgravity Science Glovebox in the US laboratory using the Selectable Optical Diagnostic Instrument (SODI).
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.
Fluid Science Laboratory in Columbus
On 15 June the Fluid Science Laboratory was activated and a checkout of an optical mode on its Facility Core Element was undertaken in advance of the “Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability” (FASES) in the facility. Following the test Optical Reference Target 2 which was installed inside the Core Element on 22 May will need to be remounted before continuing. The FASES experiment container is currently scheduled for launch on SpaceX in 2013 and 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..
Good science data has been confirmed by the science team of the Dose Distribution inside the ISS 3D (DOSIS-3D) experiment following installation of the passive dosimeters and active detectors on 21 May. The passive dosimeters are located at different locations around the Columbus laboratory in order to undertake 'area dosimetry' i.e. to measure the spatial radiation gradients inside the Columbus module while two active DOSTEL detectors are located inside the European Physiology Modules facility to undertake time-dependent radiation measurements. The first set of data from the DOSTEL detectors was downlinked via the European Physiology Modules facility on 6 June.
The aim of the DOSIS-3D experiment is to determine the nature and distribution of the radiation field inside the ISS and follows on from the DOSIS experiment previously undertaken in the Columbus laboratory. The DOSIS-3D experiment will build on the data gathered from the DOSIS experiment by combing data gathered in Columbus with ISS International Partner data gathered in other modules of the ISS.
After removing lockers in EXPRESS rack 3 in the Columbus laboratory on 4 June, André Kuipers relocated the ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts) hardware to Columbus from the US laboratory on 8 June and reconfigured the hardware to the so-called “shielding” configuration and installed it in the EXPRESS rack where it started immediate data acquisition. Seven cumulative days of science acquisition had been taken until 15 June. The shielding part of the ALTEA-Shield experiment is 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. This follows the ALTEA-Survey part of the ALTEA-Shield experiment series which finished on 4 December with 112 cumulative days of science acquisition in its most recent location. The Survey part of the experiment had been undertaking a 3-dimensional survey of the radiation environment in the US laboratory.
The SOLAR facility on the external surface of Columbus was not in a Sun visibility window in the two weeks until 15 June, though the next window is due to open on 19 June. 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) during the two-week period.
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 two years since its installation in Columbus.
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.
ISS International Partner Research in Columbus
Human Research Facilities 1 and 2 (HRF-1 / -2)
During the two-week period until 15 June activities were carried out using NASAs Human Research Facilities 1 and 2 with the support of ESAs Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Joe Acaba and André Kuipers carried ambulatory monitoring sessions of NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment from 6 – 8 June and 11 – 13 June respectively. This included 48-hr ECG and activity measurements. Acaba carried out the related ultrasound scan for the experiment on 11 June combined with ECG and heart rate measurements. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms. Kuipers also acted as Crew Medical Officer in using the facility ultrasound equipment to carry out an eye scan on Acaba and Pettit on 7 June. Hereafter Kuipers underwent a similar scan with Pettit as Crew Medical Officer
Blood samples were spun in the Refrigerated Centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 on 8 and 15 June for Joe Acaba and Don Pettit respectively for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol. ESA astronaut André Kuipers acted as Crew Medical Officer in taking the blood draws. The spun samples were placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers (see below) for return to ground for further analysis.
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 two weeks until 15 June include:
Water On/Off Valve Maintenance
ISS Flight Engineer and ESA astronaut André Kuipers inspected, two Water On/Off Valves of the Thermal Control System in the Columbus laboratory on 13, 14 June for any sign of corrosion or deposits, which may have formed due to condensation. As no cleaning was necessary Kuipers disinfected the valves before reinstalling in the insulation he had removed.
NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit used a Surface Sample Kit to sample surface areas in Columbus (as well as in the US and Japanese laboratories, the three ISS Nodes and the Russian Zarya module) on 15 June. Samples will be returned for analysis
Activities of ESA astronaut André Kuipers
In the two weeks until 15 June, in addition to what is discussed in the rest of the report ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers: enabled the Passive Rack Isolation System in NASA’s Combustion Integrated Rack to allow for ground-commanded operations; carried out cleaning and sample gathering activities on the Inter Module Ventilation system in the Japanese laboratory; loaded new software on the Rack Interface Controller of EXPRESS Rack 4 and configured it for operation; loaded new software onto the new laptop computer of EXPRESS Rack 2; and conducted maintenance on all of the Compound Specific Analyzer-Combustion Products units (which monitor cabin atmosphere to provide quick response during a fire) including calibrating their combustible products sensors.
In addition to the European science programme detailed above ESA astronaut André Kuipers has carried out 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; inspection and maintenance of Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus 4 and 5 in the US Laboratory; and collecting hair samples from Don Pettit for JAXA’s Hair experiment before placing them in a MELFI freezer.
Health status activities
The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the two weeks until 15 June André Kuipers has undertaken: a session of the WinSCAT (Spaceflight Cognitive Assessment Tool for Windows) experiment, which is used for testing cognitive abilities; an intraocular pressure test; an ultrasound eye scan; an On-Orbit Hearing Assessment; a PanOptic ophthalmic eye test; and filling in Food Frequency Questionnaires used to estimate nutritional intake for the astronauts and give recommendations to ground specialists that help maintain optimal crew health; as well as undertaking regular exercise routines to maintain his physical well-being while in orbit. In addition Kuipers also acted as Crew Medical Officer for NASA astronauts and ISS Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Don Pettit for intraocular pressure tests and ultrasound eye scans.
During the two weeks until 15 June 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 two runs of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere; reconfigured stowage items in the Japanese laboratory in preparation for cargo being delivered on the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle 3 (HTV-3); undertook an emergency drill with the other ISS crew members, practicing emergency response in the case of an ammonia spill and a fire emergency; and carried out an inventory of the Contingency Water Containers on board with Joe Acaba as part of crew handover activities. Kuipers also: took part in two public affairs TV events, one live event with Dutch broadcasters SBS6 and the Discovery Channel on 7 June, the second a downlinked message on 15 June for the future visit of the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at ESA/ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, accompanied by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands; and two teleconferences on 15 June with Don Pettit and Joe Acaba, one with participants of the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project to study human survival in preparation for future space exploration, the other with the future Soyuz 31S crew (Sunita Williams, Yuri Malenchenko and Akihiko Hoshide). In support of education activities André also carried out: ham radio sessions on 6 and 12 June, the first with a junior high school in Osaka, Japan and the second at the National Space Museum in Lelystad, The Netherlands to announce the winners (two schools in the Hook of Holland and Maassluis in The Netherlands) of a competition set by André Kuipers; and an education TV event together with Don Pettit and Joe Acaba with students at a school in Livermore, California, US on 6 June.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
No activities were carried out using exercise equipment in Node 3 in addition to the regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and T2/COLBERT treadmill.
Regenerative ECLSS and Additional Environmental Control Racks
The two Water Recovery System racks, together with the Oxygen Generation System rack, form the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) which is necessary in support of a six-person ISS Crew to help reduce upload mass. Other environmental control racks in Node 3 include an Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack and a Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Highlights of the two weeks until 15 June include:
Water Recovery System racks: Sampling
Joe Acaba and André Kuipers used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks on 5 and 13 June respectively.
Water Recovery System racks: Processing
Don Pettit replaced the full Recycle Filter Tank Assembly in Water Recovery System rack 2 on 14 June. The older style Recycle Filter Tank Assemblies are currently being used (instead of the Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly units) until all onboard spares are depleted.
Oxygen Generation System
A water sample from the recirculation loop of the Oxygen Generation System was taken by Joe Acaba on 6 June for return to ground.
- Water Recovery System racks: Sampling
Crew Return Preparations
Soyuz Couch Fit Check
On 13 June, members of the ISS Expedition 31 Crew (Kuipers, Kononenko and Pettit) donned their Sokol spacesuits and carried out a fit-check of the Kazbek shock absorbing seats in the Descent Module of the Soyuz TMA-03M/29S crew return vehicle in preparation for their return on 1 July.
In the two-week period until 15 June, ISS Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko packed cargo for either return to earth in the Descent Module of Soyuz 29S or for disposal in the Soyuz Orbital Module.
Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
On 15 June Oleg Kononenko carried out a preliminary orthostatic hemodynamic endurance test session using the TVIS treadmill whilst wearing a Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit. 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.
Europe’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) docked with the ISS on 29 March 2012. In the two weeks until 15 June cargo operations were undertaken by different ISS crew members. Kuipers and Acaba transferred cargo from ATV-3 to the ISS. ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Gennady Padalka also set up pumping equipment and water was transferred from an ATV-3 tank to an ISS water container.
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 Joe Acaba and Don Pettit for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K joint protocols (blood, urine) and for Don Pettit for JAXA’s Hair experiment (hair).
Japanese Ryutai Rack
ESA astronaut André Kuipers undertook troubleshooting activities on the Japanese Ryutai Rack from 4 – 7 June to help confirm the cause of a trip in an Image Processing Unit which occurred in January. This included removing the Image Processing drawer from the rack for inspection, replacing a failed power supply, and reinserting the drawer back into the rack. A successful functional checkout of the video downlink via the Image Processing Unit was undertaken and the facility is ready to start fluids research activities.
Russian BITS2-12 Telemetry System
In preparation for maintenance activities on the Russian BITS2-12 Telemetry Measurement System in the Russian Service Module, Gennady Padalka took voltage measurements on certain power lines on 4 and 5 June. On 8 June Padalka completed the work of replacing a monoblock unit of the data storage unit of the BITS2-12 system’s Central Processor Subsystem.
Progress 47P Activities
The ISS atmosphere was refreshed and repressurised with air from Progress 47P gas supplies on 5 June. The same day Kononenko started a bladder compression and leak check on one of the Rodnik tanks to prepare it for urine transfers back into the tank for disposal after Progress undocking. On 14 June ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Revin carried out similar activities on the second Rodnik tank of Progress 47P after pumping the remaining water from the tank into ISS water containers. Urine transfer back into the tanks was also undertaken.
On 7 June Don Pettit soldered a new electrical fuse in the Power Handler Unit of the new prototype Amine Swingbed payload which is testing a more efficient way of removing carbon dioxide from the ISS cabin atmosphere. Later he also replaced the valve motor with a spare unit. A week later Joe Acaba retrieved the partially assembled Amine Swingbed hardware and connected it outside EXPRESS Rack 8, connected the jumper of the Vacuum Exhaust System / Vacuum Resource System and undertook testing activities before disassembling the hardware.
On 14, 15 June ISS Flight Engineer Gennady Padalka set up, tested and configured experiment hardware for the Russian/German KTP-21 Plasma Crystal-3 Plus (PK-3+) experiment in the Russian “Poisk” Mini Research Module 2. This included leak checking the hardware’s electronics box vacuum chamber and loading new software. The main objective of this experiment is to obtain a homogeneous plasma dust cloud at various pressures and particle quantities with or without superimposition of a low frequency harmonic electrical field. The PK-3+ experiment was also undertaken during the Astrolab mission with ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 15 June include: replacing a current control unit of an 800A battery charge/discharge unit and a command commutator of the Russian Electrical Power System; photographs being taken from the ISS of the transfer of Venus across the Sun; a medical emergency training session for Padalka, Acaba and Revin; replacing components of the Russian SUBA equipment control system including a switch box, control unit, and frequency and time synchronization unit; measuring voltage behaviour of the Gradient Heating Furnace Control Equipment in the Japanese laboratory as a troubleshooting step; troubleshooting on faulty Light Housing Assemblies in the Columbus, US and Japanese laboratories, and Node-2; replacing the laptop on EXPRESS Rack 2 with a newer Lenovo T61p; maintenance activities to bypass faulty sensors in the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly in the US laboratory; and outfitting the Russian “Rassvet” Mini Research Module 1 with structural enclosures/containers for crew cargo items.
(*)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.
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