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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 124 Increment 32

27/07/2012 407 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #124 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 from the ISS Programme and Exploration Department.
Highlight: Three new ISS Expedition crew members were launched to the ISS from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on board Soyuz TMA05-M on 15 July with docking occurring two days later. This once again brings the ISS up to a full complement of six Expedition crew. The new crew members are Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, both of whom are Flight Engineers for ISS Expeditions 32 and 33, and NASA astronaut Sunita Williams who is a Flight Engineer for ISS Expedition 32 and will become Commander of ISS Expedition 33.
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
Space Headaches Experiment
ISS Flight Engineer Joe Acaba continued filling in weekly questionnaires (his ninth and tenth) on 19 and 27 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. Headaches can be a common complaint during space flights. This can negatively affect mental and physical capacities of astronauts/cosmonauts which can influence performance during a space mission.


Reversible Figures

ISS Flight Engineer Sunita Williams carried out the first session of ESA’s new Reversible Figures experiment on 20 July after the hardware was delivered on Soyuz 31S. Williams connected the hardware to a multipurpose laptop in the Columbus module, donned the dedicated visor and conducted the experiment protocol in a free-floating position. The experiment is investigating the adaptive nature of the human neuro-vestibular system in the processing of gravitational information related to 3D visual perception. It involves the comparisons of pre-flight, in-flight, and post-flight perceptions with regards to ambiguous perspective-reversible figures to assess the influence of weightlessness.


Vessel Imaging

On 24 July Sunita Williams completed her first measurements for the Vessel Imaging experiment (in conjunction with NASAs Integrated Cardiovascular experiment) assisted by ISS Flight Engineer Joe Acaba. The session consisted of an echography scan for both experiments using Human Research Facility 1 equipment in Columbus together with ECG and heart rate measurements 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. The Ultrasound equipment was relocated to the US laboratory the next day and a scanning session during rest and exercise was undertaken for the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment by Acaba.

Williams carried out her first ambulatory monitoring session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment from 20-22 July. This included 24-hr blood pressure measurement using ESA’s Cardiopres device, 48-hr ECG measurement with a holter device and 48-hr activity measurements using two Actiwatches. ISS Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide also carried out an ambulatory monitoring session from 24-26 July.  Relevant data for the experiment was downloaded to the Human Research Facility laptop afterwards.

ESAs Vessel Imaging experiment evaluates the changes in central and peripheral blood vessel wall properties and cross sectional areas of long-duration ISS crewmembers during and after long-term exposure to weightlessness. A Lower Body Negative Pressure programme runs in parallel to Vessel Imaging. Flow velocity changes in the aorta and the middle cerebral and femoral arteries are used to quantify the cardiovascular response to fluid shifts. Vessel Imaging aims to optimise the countermeasures used routinely during long-duration space missions. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms.


Additional Note on ISS Partner Experiments:

In addition to the European human research activities the Human Research Facilities in Columbus were used to centrifuge blood samples for NASA’s Pro-K/Nutrition /Repository experiment on 24 and 26 July respectively for Joe Acaba and Akihiko Hoshide. The samples were then placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezer units. The Human Research Facility ultrasound equipment was also used on 26 July to perform a leg muscle ultrasound scan on Sunita Williams for NASA’s SPRINT protocol which evaluates the use of high intensity, low volume exercise training to minimize loss of muscle, bone, and cardiovascular function in ISS crewmembers during long-duration missions.

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. 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 has been 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. On 19 July one of the three radiation detectors went offline though this was brought back online the next day. A few days later the reference radiation detector without any shielding materials attached (used for comparative purposes) went offline. The other two detectors are covered with two shielding tiles made of polyethylene with a different thickness of tile on each detector. Until that point around 42 days of cumulative days of science acquisition had been taken which meets the minimum requirements (40 days) for this part of the experiment. The detector was brought back online by 27 July.
The shielding part of the ALTEA -Shield experiment is testing two different types of radiation shielding materials (and different thicknesses of each material) against cosmic rays. The materials are polyethylene and Kevlar. The experiment will be undertaken in two sessions scheduled to last a minimum of 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 12 July closed on 25 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 thrusters events in the two-week period until 27 July. This included a Progress 47P line purge, Soyuz 31S docking and an ATV reboost of the ISS. The next Sun visibility window is scheduled to open on 17 August.
The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range currently for more than 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.
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 Recovery
    A Mass Memory Unit which failed in the Columbus laboratory on 7 July was recovered by initiating a software patch by ground commanding on 24 July. Once this was achieved the content of both Mass Memory Units in Columbus was aligned. This has brought redundancy back into the system.

Soyuz TMA-05M/31S, Expedition 32 Crew: Launch and Docking

  • Soyuz TMA-05M Launch and Docking
    The remaining three members of the ISS Expedition 32 Crew were successfully launched in the Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft on flight 31S to the ISS on 15 July at 04:40 CEST (08:40 local time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz crew consisted of Soyuz Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, both of whom will be Flight Engineers for ISS Expeditions 32 and 33, and NASA astronaut Sunita Williams who will be a Flight Engineer for ISS Expedition 32 and Commander of ISS Expedition 33. Following orbital insertion, Soyuz TMA antennas and solar arrays were deployed and various orbital burns were carried out over the following two days to bring the Soyuz in the vicinity of the ISS to begin docking procedures. Prior to Soyuz TMA-05M docking the ISS crew configured relevant communications and video equipment. The Soyuz spacecraft docked successfully with the Russian “Rassvet” Mini Research Module 1 on 17 July at 06:51 (CEST) bringing the crew of the ISS once again up to a total of six.
  • Soyuz TMA-05M/31S Post-docking Activities
    ISS attitude control was handed back from Russian to US systems after docking. The standard leak check between the Soyuz and the ISS was carried out followed by hatch opening and the usual crew greeting. Quick disconnect clamps were installed by Malenchenko and Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Commander Gennady Padalka at the interface between the Soyuz and the ISS to further stabilise the connection and the standard crew safety briefing followed. Malenchenko and Williams set up the three Sokol spacesuits (worn in Soyuz) and their gloves for drying out, and the Soyuz spacecraft was deactivated. The new crew members then settled into their crew quarters on the ISS. Cargo transfers from Soyuz 31S started hereafter and continued over the next days along with general ISS orientation and handover activities for the new crew members. On 18 July Malenchenko installed local temperature sensor equipment in the newly arrived Soyuz spacecraft and removed television cameras from the Soyuz the following day (for reuse).

Activities in the European-built Node 3

  • Exercise Equipment
    The exercise rope of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) in the European-built Node 3 was replaced by Akihiko Hoshide and Sunita Williams on 23 July as the old rope has exceeded its certified life. This activity was carried out in addition to the regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and T2/COLBERT treadmill in Node 3.
  • 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 27 July include: 
    • Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
      NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Joe Acaba used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks on 24 July.
    • Water Recovery System racks: Processing
       The Urine Processor Assembly in Water Recovery System 2 suffered a failure on 20 July leading ground crews to switch the Waste and Hygiene Compartment from processing through the assembly to urine storage in its internal container. Indications were that the failure was due to the slippage of a centrifuge belt. The assembly was restarted and is again operating nominally.
    • Waste and Hygiene Compartment
      On 19 and 23 July standard maintenance activities were undertaken by Acaba and Hoshide on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, replacing its pre-treat tank and hose, Urine Receptacle hose, Insert Filter, and Liquid Indicator and associated air hoses.  

ATV-3 Reboost of the ISS
Orbit Correction System thrusters of ESA’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) were used to carry out a reboost of the ISS just after 05:00 (CEST) on 18 July in order to set up phasing for Progress 48P rendezvous at the beginning of August. The 19 min 25 sec thruster burn increased the altitude of the ISS by almost 5 km giving the ISS a mean altitude of around 403 km. ATV-3 has been docked with the ISS since 29 March 2012.

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 weeks until 27 July blood and urine samples have been placed in the MELFI units for NASA's Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol for ISS Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Akihiko Hoshide.


Microgravity Science Glovebox activities

The Microgravity Science Glovebox has been active on 18, 19 and 23 July to undertake NASA research activities first for the InSPACE-3 (Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions) experiment and thereafter for the Burning and Suppression of Solids (BASS) experiment, which makes use of NASAs Smoke Point In Coflow Experiment (SPICE) hardware inside the Glovebox. InSPACE-3 studies the fundamental behaviour of magnetic colloidal fluids under the influence of various magnetic fields. For the BASS experiment, ISS Flight Engineer Sunita Williams 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 Undocking Preparations
In preparation for undocking of Progress 47P a number of activities have taken place in the two weeks until 27 July. This has included:

  • Cargo Transfer Activities
    On 18 July ISS Commander Gennady Padalka configured pumping equipment and transferred urine from two separate containers back into one of the Progress 47P Rodnik tanks for disposal after undocking. Nitrogen from Progress 47P tanks was also used for repressurising the ISS atmosphere. In addition The Russian crew members finished loading trash and excess equipment into the Progress spacecraft for disposal by 20 July.
  • Undocking Preparations
    On 19 July Padalka and Malenchenko prepared the Progress 47P spacecraft for its first undocking. The Progress docking mechanism was again installed, light fittings were removed from and an ISS-to-Progress test was carried out with the Russian TORU manual docking system. The TORU system allows ISS crew control of the Progress spacecraft from the Russian Service Module should the automatic KURS systems on Progress fail. Progress 47P will undock twice. It will redock with the ISS after the first undocking as it is outfitted with a new Kurs antenna that, if successfully tested, will allow for removal of four different antennas in the future. The new system also has updated electronics resulting in reduced power requirements and improved safety. The following day Progress electronics were activated; ventilation ducting was removed along with temperature sensor equipment; quick disconnect clamps which stabilize the connection between Progress 47P 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.
  • Undocking/Redocking
    Progress 47P undocked from the Pirs Docking Compartment on 22 July at 22:26 (CEST) in preparation for a test of its new Kurs-NA antenna, culminating in redocking of Progress on 23 July. This would be in advance of its actual planned undocking and deorbit on 30 July. The docking was however delayed as the new system failed a self-test. After ground analysis and discussions it was decided to reattempt the docking on 28 July (as HTV-3 would be docking the day before)

HTV-3 Launch and Docking

  • Launch and Rendezvous
    The third Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-3) was launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan at 11:06 local time on 21 July (04:06 CEST) with activation and checkout completed successfully once in orbit. Over the course of the next few days orbital manoeuvres were carried out to adjust the rendezvous phasing and bring the HTV in the vicinity of the ISS.
  • Docking Preparations: Robotics
    In preparation for arrival of the third Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-3), Joe Acaba, Akihiko Hoshide and Sunita Williams carried out robotics training sessions between 16 – 23 July for the robotic capture and berthing of HTV-3. This involved use of the Station’s robotic arm and ROBoT trainer, and was supported by ground specialists. The day before docking Joe Acaba enabled power for the robotic workstation in the European-built Cupola Observation Module and installed and checked out the Centreline Berthing Camera System at the Earth-facing port in Node 2. Acaba also carried out a self-check on the HTV Control panel in the Japanese laboratory.
  • HTV Berthing
    Prior to berthing, HTV-3 undertook different planned burns to bring it within proximity of the ISS. After setting up and activating the Robotic Workstation in the European-built Cupola Observation Module, NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide (supported by Sunita Williams) successfully grappled the Japanese HTV-3 using the Station’s principal robotic arm. The Passive Common Berthing Mechanism of the HTV was inspected for any foreign objects, and the Centerline Berthing Camera System was activated at the Node 2 Earth-facing port. With this in place the HTV-3 was berthed to the same port at 16:41 CEST on 27 July. The robotic arm operators then ungrappled the HTV and grappled the HTV’s Exposed Pallet. The vestibule between the HTV and Node 2 hatches was pressurised and, following a successful leak check, the Node 2 hatch was opened. The vestibule was outfitted with power and data lines from Node 2 to the HTV and the HTV was transitioned from internal battery power to ISS power. The HTV delivered 3.5 tons of pressurised cargo to the ISS and 1.1 tons of unpressurised cargo.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 27 July include: replacing light fixtures in different parts of the ISS; taking photography to obtain additional data on contamination and degree of natural destruction caused by catastrophic flooding in Krymsk area in the Russian Kuban region; a ham radio session to ESA’s Space Camp in Dublin, Ireland with ISS Crew member Joe Acaba; a check out of components of the Japanese Diagnostic Kit which is being tested to evaluate the equipment to be used as a medical diagnostic system on the ISS in the future; and a fit check of Kazbek couches in Soyuz TMA-04M by Gennady Padalka, Joe Acaba and Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Sergei Revin.

(*)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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