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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 123 Increment 31/32

13/07/2012 414 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #123 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 below.

Highlight: Following a mission lasting 193 days ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer André Kuipers and his fellow Expedition 31 crew members (ISS Commander Oleg Kononenko representing Roscosmos and ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit representing NASA) undocked from the ISS in Soyuz 29S and landed in central Kazakhstan on 1 July. During his mission to the ISS Kuipers had undertaken an extensive programme of research activities as part of the European PromISSe mission.

Human Research

Space Headaches Experiment
ISS Flight Engineer Joe Acaba continued filling in weekly questionnaires (on 5 and 12 July) 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 30S on 15 May. All questionnaires up to 25 June for Acaba and for ESA astronaut André Kuipers (who concluded his activities for the experiment prior to landing on 1 July) have now been downlinked to ground.

Immuno Experiment
On 11 July the Russian ISS Expedition 32 Commander Gennady Padalka was the subject of the Immuno experiment, providing blood and saliva samples in addition to filling in a Stress Test Questionnaire. A similar session of the experiment was undertaken by ISS Expedition 32 Flight Engineer Sergei Revin the following day. The cosmonauts assisted each other with the venous blood draw. After both sessions the blood samples were centrifuged in the Russian Plazma-03 Centrifuge before being inserted into the MELFI-1 freezer unit by ISS Flight Engineer Joe Acaba.

The aim of the IMMUNO experiment is to determine changes in stress and immune responses, during and after a stay on the ISS. This will include the sampling of saliva, blood and urine to check for hormones associated with stress response and for carrying out white blood cell analysis, as well as filling out periodic stress level questionnaires. The results will help in developing pharmacological tools to counter unwanted immunological side-effects during long-duration missions in space.

Additional Note on an ISS Partner Experiment:
In addition to the European human research activities ESA astronaut André Kuipers concluded activities as a subject for NASA’s ‘Reaction Self Test’ experiment which looks into how planned sleep shift for ISS crews affects performance;

Fluids Research

A ground-commanded software update for the Central Experiment Module of the Fluid Science Laboratory was undertaken on 12 July. This was in preparation for taking vibration measurements using the Microgravity Vibration Isolation System of the Fluid Science Laboratory during ATV reboost activities the following week. Following the activities a test was performed to verify the success of the software upgrade.

Radiation Research

DOSIS-3D experiment
Data acquisition is ongoing for the Dose Distribution inside the ISS 3D (DOSIS-3D) experiment using passive dosimeters located at different locations around the Columbus laboratory and two active DOSTEL detectors located inside the European Physiology Modules facility. A second monthly downlink of data through the European Physiology Modules facility was carried out on 4 July and the science team have again confirmed good data. The passive detectors are used in order to undertake 'area dosimetry' i.e. to measure the spatial radiation gradients inside the Columbus module while the active detectors are used to undertake time-dependent radiation measurements.

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. Comparison of the dose rates for the DOSIS-3D and the DOSIS experiments shows a difference in dose level which can be explained due to the different altitude of the Station during the measurements. 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.

ALTEA-Shield Experiments
Data acquisition is on-going for the ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts)-Shield experiment in the so-called “shielding” configuration since its relocation to EXPRESS Rack 3 in Columbus on 8 June. As of 13 July 35 days of cumulative days of science acquisition had been taken. 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.

Solar Research

Solar Facility
The Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility to acquire scientific data, which opened on 20 June, closed on 3 July. A new Sun visibility window opened on 12 July. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR, located on the external surface of Columbus, are open for the facility to acquire scientific data when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun.

The SOLSPEC instrument from SOLAR carried out data acquisition throughout the Sun visibility windows whereas the SolACES instrument was in a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation) in connection with Soyuz 29S undocking on 1 July, and ATV manoeuvres.

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.

Technology Research

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. Hours of data were initially lost at the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany on 2, 3 July due to a control centre outage though this was recovered on 4 July.

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 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 13 July include:

  • Mass Memory Unit Failure
    A Mass Memory Unit failed in the Columbus laboratory last week though a second Mass Memory Unit has taken over required activities of the failed unit. A recovery plan is underway to bring the failed unit back online and bring redundancy back into the system. The likely cause is a faulty memory board. There is a spare memory board on orbit which will be installed as soon as the required procedure has been certified.


  • Emergency Training Drill
     The Columbus Control Centre took part in a successful joint emergency training drill with the other ISS control centres and the ISS crew on 5 July. It was the first time a dedicated simulator had been used to make the exercise more realistic. The simulation covered depressurisation in the Russian segment of the ISS specifically through a leak in the Pirs Docking Compartment.

Soyuz TMA-03M/29S, Expedition Crew: Undocking and Landing

  • Cargo Transfers
     Prior to undocking, ISS Expedition 31 Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergei Revin packed cargo for return to earth in the Descent Module of Soyuz 29S including three Russian bioengineering payloads.
  • Soyuz TMA-03M/29S, Expedition 31 Undocking and Landing
    Prior to undocking clamps were removed between the Soyuz TMA-03M and the Rassvet Module to which it is docked and the returning crew, ISS Expedition 31 Commander Oleg Kononenko (Roscosmos) and ISS Expedition 31 Flight Engineers André Kuipers (ESA) and Don Pettit (NASA), entered the Soyuz 29S spacecraft. Following Soyuz activation, the hatches between the Soyuz and the Rassvet Module were closed and relevant leak checks were carried out. The ISS was manoeuvred to its undocking attitude at around 06:00 (CEST). Undocking occurred at 06:48 (CEST) followed by a 10-sec separation burn three minutes later. Post-undocking tests were then undertaken. At 09:19 (CEST) the Soyuz spacecraft performed its deorbit thruster burn lasting 4 min 15sec. This caused a deceleration of 115m/sec. Approximately 30 minutes later the spacecraft went through module separation, with atmospheric reentry occurring at 09:51 (CEST). The parachute was deployed at 10:00 CEST) with landing at 10:14 (CEST), 14:14 local time in central Kazakhstan. Kuipers, Kononenko and Pettit had spent 193 days in space. From here the crew were flown to Karaganda in Kazakhstan. Kononenko was flown on to Star City in Moscow. Kuipers and Pettit were flown to Houston. Undocking of Soyuz TMA-03M marked the end of Expedition 31 and the start of Expedition 32, which consists currently of Commander Gennady Padalka (Roscosmos) and ISS Flight Engineers Sergei Revin (Roscosmos) and Joe Acaba (NASA) until three additional crew arrive in the middle of July.

Activities in the European-built Node 3

  • Exercise Equipment
     An inspection and photography session of the exercise rope of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) in the European-built Node 3 was undertaken by the remaining three ISS crew members (Acaba, Padalka and Revin) on 3 and 10 July. This is due to the fact that the rope has exceeded its certified life and on-orbit and ground analysis is necessary to assess its current condition. New ropes will arrive on Soyuz 31S in a few days.

    Wireless card settings were reconfigured in connection with the T2 COLBERT treadmill in Node 3 on 6 July to resolve a wireless issue that had been experienced. On 13 July a session of the Treadmill Kinematics protocol was carried out by ISS Flight Engineer Joe Acaba (NASA) on the T2 COLBERT treadmill. This protocol is making an assessment of current exercise protocols.


  • 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 13 July include:

    - Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
    A software update for the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA), used for undertaking analysis of water samples from the Water Recovery System, was carried out by Joe Acaba on 6 July. The update resolves a certain pressure issue with the TOCA.

    - Water Recovery System racks: Processing
    Joe Acaba replaced the Recycle Filter Tank Assembly in Water Recovery System rack 2 on 6 July. 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.

    - Waste and Hygiene Compartment
    Joe Acaba carried out maintenance on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node 3 on 3 July, replacing a wring collector and piping.

ATV-3 Activities
Europe’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) docked with the ISS on 29 March 2012. Activities that have taken place in the two weeks until 13 July include:

  • Cargo Transfers:
     ISS Expedition 32 Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Gennady Padalka set up pumping equipment on 7 July and water was transferred from an ATV-3 tank to an ISS water container. A few days later the three ISS crew members continued cargo operations to prepare ATV-3 for undocking in September. This included installation of rack adaptor plates.
  • Cabin Fan Replacement:
     ISS Commander Gennady Padalka replaced a failed cabin fan in ATV-3 on 10 July. However, following start up the system automatically shut down, which has been determined to be due to a faulty transducer that measures the pressure difference between the fan’s inlet and outlet. The transducer was disabled and the fan restarted and monitored by the ATV Control Centre for 2.5 hours. The situation is being investigated.

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. At the start of the two-week reporting period MELFI-1 was experiencing current drops between its Motor Drive Electronics and Brayton Motor, and the GLACIER 1 and 2 freezers were activated as backups. Over the next couple of days reconfiguration of parameters was undertaken to reduce the current drops. Samples were placed in the MELFI-1 unit on 11, 12 July for ESA’s Immuno experiment (blood) for Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin.

Microgravity Science Glovebox activities
The Microgravity Science Glovebox has been active on 3 and 12 July to undertake NASA research activities for the Burning and Suppression of Solids (BASS) experiment, which makes use of NASAs Smoke Point In Coflow Experiment (SPICE) hardware inside the Glovebox. ISS Flight Engineer Joe Acaba performed additional flame tests on different solid fuel samples. BASS is testing combustion characteristics of 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.

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.

Progress 47P Activities
In preparation for undocking of Progress 47P at the end of July ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergei Revin continued loading excess equipment and trash into Progress 47P for disposal in the two weeks until 13 July. In addition Mission Control Centre in Moscow conducted final propellant transfers from tanks of Progress 47P to the fuel and oxidizer tanks of the Russian Zarya Module, and conducted a test of the automatic Kurs docking system on the ISS with Russian ground sites. Progress 47P is outfitted with a new Kurs antenna that, if successfully tested, will allow for removal of four antennas in the future. Progress 47P will undertake an undocking/docking exercise on 22, 23 July to test the new Kurs-Na System. This is prior to undocking on 30 July

Russian Payload Matching Unit Replacement
On 3 July Gennady Padalka was assisted by Sergei Revin in the major task of replacing the BSMM Payload Matching Unit in the Russian Service Module with a new Payload Interface Control Unit computer including routing and mating cabling and installing replaceable flash drives.

Crew return preparations

  • Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
    On 6 July Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin carried out a first orthostatic hemodynamic endurance training session using the Russian VELO ergometer 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.


  • Soyuz TMA-04M/30S Descent Drill
    A standard Soyuz emergency descent drill was carried out by ISS Commander Gennady Padalka and ISS Flight Engineer Sergei Revin (both representing Roscosmos) on 10 July. The descent drill, which took place in the Descent Module of the Soyuz 30S spacecraft, docked at the Russian Poisk Mini Research Module 2, is for the review of Soyuz descent procedures including emergency procedures and manual undocking. The training session used a descent simulator application on a Russian laptop together with a descent hand controller.


HTV-3 Preparations
In preparation for arrival of the third Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-3) at the end of July, Joe Acaba assembled the HTV Control Panel and related cabling on 6 July in the Japanese laboratory. The following day Acaba configured cable connections for equipment arriving on HTV-3. From 10-12 July Acaba verified the proper connection/functionality of the HTV Control Panel and the associated Proximity Communication System in the Japanese laboratory.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 13 July include: preparations in advance of launch/arrival of Soyuz TMA-05M and its crew (Sunita Williams, Yuri Malenchenko and Akihiko Hoshide) including readying and relocating equipment and provisions and communications tests; configuring and testing an iPad tablet for training purposes and using it within an ISS Emergency Drill; a test of a Smartphone for use within NASA’s SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) experiment; scrubbing the cooling loops of two Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs) for particulate matter; successful troubleshooting on the laptop for NASA’s ISS Agricultural Camera; replacing a faulty vacuum pump of the Russian Vozdukh carbon dioxide removal assembly; and ground-commanded tests of the Russian KLG2V and EKTS Unified Command and Telemetry System. In addition plans are on-going for a new mission profile for the Progress 48P logistics spacecraft, which involves only 4 catch-up orbits around the Earth instead of the usual 34 orbits. This would reduce the launch to docking time by about 45 hrs. If successful it will be used for future Progress flights.

(*)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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