This is ISS status report #125 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.
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:
Circadian Rhythms Experiment
The very first session of a new ESA experiment, Circadian Rhythms, started on 30 July with ISS Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide as the first test subject. Hoshide donned the Thermolab sensors on the forehead and chest and the Thermolab unit. Hereafter measurements were taken for 36 hours. Data downlink from the Thermolab Unit was undertaken via the Portable Pulmonary Function System. This was carried out on 8 August after a session of the VO2 Max experiment (which uses the Portable Pulmonary Function System). The Circadian Rhythms science team have confirmed that the data looks good for analysis.
The main objective of the experiment is to get a better basic understanding of any alterations in circadian rhythms in humans during long-duration spaceflight. This will provide insights into the adaptation of the human autonomic nervous system in space over time, and will help to improve physical exercise, rest and work shifts, as well as fostering adequate workplace illumination in the sense of occupational healthcare in future space missions.
Vessel Imaging Experiment
On 1 August Akihiko Hoshide completed his 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.
ISS Flight Engineer Joe Acaba carried out his third ambulatory monitoring session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment from 1-3 August. 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 Sunita Williams started an ambulatory monitoring session on 10 August. 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.
Space Headaches Experiment
ISS Flight Engineer Joe Acaba continued filling in weekly questionnaires (his 11th and 12th) on 2 and 9 August 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 Experiment
ISS Flight Engineer Sunita Williams carried out her second session of ESA’s new Reversible Figures experiment in the Columbus laboratory on 6 August. 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.
ISS Flight Engineer Sunita Williams completed equipment set up and carried out her first session of ESA’s Thermolab and EKE experiments in conjunction with NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment on 8 August. A calibration issue was experienced during the session which could not be resolved which may impact the EKE experiment though this is currently being assessed by the science team. Data was downlinked to ground after the sessions. This included data from the Thermolab Unit for the Circadian Rhythms Experiment. 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.
Cardiolab Leg Arm Cuff System Checkout
A successful checkout of the Leg Arm Cuff System of the Cardiolab Module of ESA’s European Physiology Module facility was carried out on 8 August by JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. Shoulder supports were set up on the European Physiology Module facility and the Leg Cuffs were installed on supports prior to testing. All subsequent ground activities to downlink the data were performed successfully and the CADMOS User Support and Operations Centre confirmed that the downlinked data was good and that the checkout was a success. These activities were to ensure proper hardware performance in advance of future research protocols.
ISS International Partner Research:
In addition to the European human research activities, the Human Research Facilities in Columbus were used to undertake an ultrasound scan for NASA’s Sprint protocol for Akihiko Hoshide, and centrifuging blood samples for NASA’s Pro-K/Nutrition /Repository experiment on for Sunita Williams. The samples were then placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezer units. 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.
Hoshide was also the first subject of NASA’s Sprint VO2Max experiment by using an abbreviated VO2Max protocol, with the experiment utilising the Portable Pulmonary Function System and the CEVIS cycle exercise device. Sprint VO2max is a test that measures oxygen uptake, ventilatory threshold, and other physiological parameters for evaluation of Sprint exercise prescription. This experiment takes over from the separate Sprint and VO2 Max protocols.
Biolab Facility Maintenance
Joe Acaba successfully completed the BIOLAB Handling Mechanism Arm Gripper P-Axis loosening activity on 8 August. This activity was undertaken as Biolab’s Handling Mechanism Gripper was discovered stuck in the p-axis direction after upload to the ISS. Subsequent testing confirmed successful loosening in the p-axis direction though the x-axis was discovered blocked and the cause is under investigation by the engineering team on ground.
Fluid Science Laboratory Maintenance
Sunita Williams installed Electro-Magnetic Interference Filters for the Video Management Unit in the Fluid Science Laboratory facility in Columbus on 7 August. Soon after the Fluid Science Laboratory was activated a checkout of the Video Management Unit was performed successfully. This activity was done to prevent some recurrent Video Management Unit Hard Disk Drive access errors. Further functional long-term checkout is planned to safeguard the execution of the next Fluid Science Laboratory experiment (FASES).
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. Monthly downlink of data was carried out via the European Physiology Modules Facility on 2 August. 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.
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. The experiment set up consisted of three silicon radiation detectors: a reference detector without any shielding materials attached (used for comparative purposes) and two additional detectors covered with two shielding tiles made of polyethylene with a different thickness of tile on each detector. Up until 9 August, 54 cumulative days of science acquisition had been taken which meets the minimum requirements (40 days) for this part of the experiment. At that point Hoshide exchanged the polyethylene tiles for tiles made of Kevlar.
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. 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.
The SOLAR facility was not acquiring scientific data in the two weeks until 10 August, though the next Sun visibility window is expected to open on 17 August. 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 SolACES instrument from SOLAR was in a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation) until 6 August. Following three days in standard configuration SolACES was placed back in warming configuration in connection with a planned ATV reboost of the ISS on 15 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.
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 more than 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 10 August include:
Columbus Cabin Fan Assembly
One of the Columbus Cabin Fan Assemblies failed in Columbus on 4 August leaving no backup system. However, successful recovery of the failed system was undertaken on 9 August and the hardware is again performing as expected.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
Sessions of the Treadmill Kinematics protocol were carried out by ISS Flight Engineers and NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Joe Acaba on the T2 COLBERT treadmill in the European-built Node 3 from 2-4 August. This protocol is making an assessment of current exercise protocols and Williams is the last subject of the experiment. 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 10 August include:
Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
JAXA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks on 7 August.
Water Recovery System racks: Processing
After configuring Water Recovery System rack 2 Sunita Williams installed the Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly and associated equipment on 6 August. Four days later Joe Acaba reconfigured the Recycle Tank to processing mode with the Urine Processor Assembly. The Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assemblies had not been in use on the ISS since October 2011 in order to exhaust the supply of Recycle Filter Tank Assemblies on board the ISS.
- Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
Progress 47P Redocking and Undocking
In preparation for redocking and undocking of Progress 47P a number of activities have taken place in the two weeks until 10 August. This has included:
Progress 47P has been in orbit since undocking from the ISS on 22 July in order to carry out tests of a new Kurs antenna that, if successful, will allow for removal of four separate antennas from Progress in the future. The new system has updated electronics resulting in reduced power requirements and improved safety. Ground-commanded tests have been ongoing since the undocking. The first attempt at redocking on 23 July was unsuccessful but this has been traced to the fact that the system was not at the optimal operating temperature. On 28 July ISS Commander Gennady Padalka and ISS Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko (both representing Roscosmos) carried out refresher training 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. On 29 July Progress 47P successfully redocked with the ISS at the Pirs Docking Compartment at 03:01 using the upgraded Kurs-NA system. After docking, ISS attitude control was returned first to Russian systems and then to US systems.
Post-Docking, Undocking Activities
Following docking the standard leak check on the interhatch area and the fuel/oxidizer transfer line interface between Progress 47P and Pirs was performed by the Russian crew members 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. Padalka removed the Kurs-NA avionics box for return to ground for failure analysis following the first docking attempt. Later the same day Padalka and Malenchenko reconfigured the Progress spacecraft for final undocking.
On 30 July Progress M-15M/47P successfully undocked from the Russian Pirs Docking Compartment at 23:19 (CEST). A separation burn was performed three minutes later. Progress 47P will remain in orbit until 20 August in order to perform several weeks of engineering tests before re-entry.
HTV-3 Launch and Docking
The hatch into the third Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-3) was opened on 28 July. This followed docking on 27 July. Williams, Hoshide and Acaba entered the HTV and started cargo transfers while air sampling in the newly arrived logistics vehicle was undertaken by ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergei Revin. Cargo Transfers continued over the following days. This included two spider habitats as part of a NASA education project that were installed in Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus 4 in the US laboratory.
The Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2) was commanded from ground to extract the HTV Exposed Pallet from HTV-3. On 3 August Akihiko Hoshide and Joe Acaba used the Japanese robotics arm on the Kibo laboratory to grapple the HTV Exposed Pallet from Canadarm 2 and install the pallet on the External Facility of the Japanese laboratory. Canadarm 2 was hereafter used to remove a NASA payload from the Exposed Pallet and install it on the main ISS truss. On 6 August the two astronauts unberthed the Multi-Mission Consolidated Equipment platform from the Exposed Pallet and installed it at another location on the Exposed Facility. The Multi-Mission Consolidated Equipment platform consists of five small mission payloads that perform science and technological demonstrations. The same night the HTV Exposed Pallet was removed from the Exposed Facility by the Japanese Robotic Arm and handed back to Canadarm 2 by ground commanding. The following day Acaba and Williams used the robotic arm to transfer the Exposed Pallet back into HTV.
Progress M-16M/48P Launch
Gennady Padalka and Yuri Malenchenko undertook an abbreviated refresher training on the Russian TORU manual docking system on 31 July in preparation for Progress 48P docking. The TORU system acts as a manually controlled backup to the automatic Kurs docking system. The session included, rendezvous, fly-around, final approach, docking and off-nominal situations such as video or communications loss. The same day communications and video tests were carried out on the ISS. Sergei Revin also set up an incubator in the Russian Service Module for receiving biotechnology experiments delivered on 48P.
Launch and Docking
The Russian Progress M-16M spacecraft on logistics flight 48P to the ISS was launched successfully from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Soyuz-U rocket on 1 August at 21:35 CEST (2 August, 01:35 local time,) with cargo consisting of 890 kg propellants, 50 kg oxygen and air, 420 kg water and 1225 kg dry cargo. ATV thrusters were used to rotate the ISS 180 deg to face in ‘reverse’ direction with the Russian Service Module at the front of the ISS and Node 2 at the back of the ISS to assist with Progress docking . The Russian Progress 48P spacecraft docked with the Station at the Earth-facing port of the Pirs Docking Compartment on 2 August at 03:19 (CEST) under automatic Kurs system control. This was the first time that a four-orbits-to-docking manoeuvre had been undertaken following launch, with the journey lasting only around six hours rather than the usual two days (or 34 orbits). The exercise is designed to test a shortened transit plan to the station for possible use on future Soyuz missions to the complex. After docking ATV manoeuvred the ISS from launch, ISS attitude control was returned first to Russian systems and then to US systems.
After docking ATV thrusters were again used to turn the ISS 180 deg so that the Service Module was facing the back of the ISS with Node 2 at the front. The standard leak check on the interhatch area and the fuel/oxidizer transfer line interface between Progress 48P 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 48P was deactivated and ventilation ducting was installed. The Progress docking mechanism was dismantled and air sampling was carried out in the new logistics spacecraft. The day after docking temperature sensor equipment was installed in Progress 48P and cargo unloading activities got underway. Hereafter high priority payloads were transferred to the ISS. Cargo transfer activities continue over the next days including water transfer from progress water tanks to the Russian Service Module.
ESA’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3), docked to the Russian Service Module, was used to manoeuvre the ISS in connection with Progress 48P docking on 1, 2 August (see above). These new manoeuvres save propellant and decrease the loads imparted on the ISS. Total propellant consumption was ~18 kg instead of ~160 kg, which would be required with the standard manoeuvre. ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko carried out a bladder leak check on an empty water tank of ESA’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) on 6 August. The following day he configured pumping equipment and transferred the contents of six urine containers back into the tank for disposal.
Microgravity Science Glovebox activities
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was active on 9 August 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 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.
Russian Spacewalk Preparations
In preparation for a Russian-based spacewalk on 20 August, Roscosmos cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Yuri Malenchenko collected and configured related equipment in the Pirs Docking Compartment/Airlock and Service Module Transfer Compartment on 9 August. The two cosmonauts who will also be undertaking the spacewalk additionally carried out a handgrip/arm tolerance test as a spacewalk preparatory assessment. The following day preparations continued with readying hardware for deployment during the spacewalk including a mini satellite, which will be used to update atmospheric parameters of Earth, and the BIO-2 Biorisk-MSN hardware kit
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 10 August Hoshide inserted two JAXA biology experiments into the MELFI units: one using the model Medaka fish to study loss of bone density in weightlessness, the other employing Microbial Detection Sheets to undertake a study of the microbial environment on the ISS. In addition blood and urine samples have been placed in the MELFI units for NASA's Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol for ISS Flight Engineer Sunita Williams.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 10 August include: replacing five hard disks of the Marangoni Inside payload inside the Japanese Fluid Physics Experiment Facility; an Emergency Procedures Review related to the HTV; replacing an Internal Thermal Control System pump in the Japanese laboratory; installing a manual antenna switch for the Kurs-P autopilot system in the Service Module; replacing a light fixture in the Service Module; taking brainwave measurements as a test 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; a Toxic Emergency training exercise; initial preparations in the Quest Airlock for a US-based spacewalk on 30 August.
(*)These activities are highlights of the past two weeks and do not include the majority of standard periodic operational/maintenance activities on the ISS or additional research activities not mentioned previously. Information compiled with the assistance of NASA sources.
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer
Weekly reports compiled by ESA's ISS Utilisation Department.
Fill in your name and email address below to receive a notification when the latest status report is made available online.