This is ISS status report #126 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 second session of the new ESA experiment, Circadian Rhythms, was carried out by ISS Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide from 17-19 August. Hoshide donned the Thermolab sensors on the forehead and chest along with the Thermolab unit. Hereafter measurements were taken for 36 hours. Data downlink from the Thermolab Unit will be undertaken via the Portable Pulmonary Function System in conjunction with the VO2 Max experiment (which uses the Portable Pulmonary Function System) at the beginning of September.
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.
Space Headaches Experiment
ISS Flight Engineer Joe Acaba continued filling in weekly questionnaires (his 13th and 14th) on 16 and 23 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.
Vessel Imaging/Integrated CardiovascularExperiments
Human Research Facility 1 in Columbus was used to undertake ultrasound scans for NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment which is carried out in conjunction with ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment. The sessions consisted of echography scans for ISS Flight Engineer Sunita Williams (on 15 August) and Akihiko Hoshide (on 17 August) together with ECG and heart rate measurements being taken. The experiment also included undertaking ambulatory monitoring sessions from 10-12 August for Williams and from 20-22 August for Hoshide. 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. Relevant data for the experiment was downloaded to the Human Research Facility laptop afterwards. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms.
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.
ISS International Partner Research:
In addition to the European human research activities,the Human Research Facilities in Columbus were used to undertake ultrasound scans for NASA’s joint Sprint VO2Max experiment for Akihiko Hoshide, The protocol includes a special exercise regime which diverts from the regular regime for the rest of the crew (except for Sunita Williams who is also on the same protocol) and uses an abbreviated VO2Max protocol using the Portable Pulmonary Function System and the CEVIS cycle exercise device. Hoshide undertook the exercise regime while using the Portable Pulmonary Function System on 23 August. Sprint VO2max is a test that measures oxygen uptake, ventilatory threshold, and other physiological parameters for evaluation of the Sprint exercise protocol. This joint experiment takes over from the separate Sprint and VO2 Max protocols.
Human Research Facility 2 was used for centrifuging blood samples for NASA’s Pro-K/Nutrition /Repository experiment on 13 August for Sunita Williams and on 20 August for Akihiko Hoshide. The samples were then placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezer units.TheHuman Research Facilities have also been used in the two week period until 24 August for undertaking body mass measurements and eye scans on the non-Russian crew members.
ISS Flight Engineer Sunita Williams replaced an Air Interface in the Kubik Interface Drawer in the European Drawer Rack on 13 August. Following the replacement the Drawer was reinserted and the Kubik 6 incubator inside was activated and a check out confirmed good functional performance.
Data acquisition is ongoing for theDose 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.
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 consists 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 currently of Kevlar with a different thickness of tile on each detector. Up until 24 August 15 cumulative days of science acquisition had been taken with the Kevlar tiles. This follows on from a session including 54 cumulative days of science acquisition using polyethylene tiles.
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.
A new Sun Visibility Window for the Solar facility to acquire data opened on 18 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.
During the Sun Visibility Window the SolACES instrument from SOLAR was kept in a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation) from 19 – 22 August due to the Russian EVA on 20 August and ATV reboost events on 22 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.
Erasmus Recording Binocular-2
On 23 August ISS Flight Engineer Sunita Williams activated the Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 (ERB-2) and a reference video file and four additional video files were transferred to the Video Management Unit of the European Drawer Rack for downlinking to ground. ESA’s ERB-2 is a high definition ISS 3D video camera which had previously taken the first live 3D images in the history of human spaceflight and takes advantage of high-definition optics and advanced electronics to provide a vastly improved 3D video effect for mapping the Station.
ISS general system information and activities *
Columbus laboratory and Columbus Control Centre
In addition to the Columbus experiment facilities mentioned above, the Columbus systems have been working well. Some regular maintenance activities have been executed by the crew and the Flight Control Team on top of the regular conferences of the ISS Crew with the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.
Activities 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 on 23 and 24 August respectively (Williams session also combined with NASA’s SPRINT protocol). The Treadmill Kinematics protocol is making an assessment of current exercise protocols and Williams is the last subject of the experiment. These activities were 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 24 August include:
Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
Sunita Williams used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) and additional equipment to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks on 15 August with samples also taken for post-flight analysis. Two days later she carried out a visual inspection/analysis of samples taken. Joe Acaba took condensate line samples for post-flight analysis on 24 August.
Water Recovery System racks: Processing
Joe Acaba replaced the full Recycle Filter Tank Assembly in Water Recovery System rack 2 on 21 August. 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.
- Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
Progress M-16M/48P Activities
ISS Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Gennady Padalka transferred urine from eight ISS containers to one of Rodnik tanks of Progress 48P on 13 August for disposal.The ISS atmosphere was also refreshed with oxygen from Progress 48P gas supplies by ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Revin on 23 August.
Contingency Undocking Preparations
On 15 August Sergey Revin prepared the Progress 48P spacecraft for contingency undocking in connection with Russian EVA 31 (see below). The Progress docking mechanism was again installed; Progress electronics were activated; ventilation ducting was removed; quick disconnect clamps which stabilize the connection between Progress 48P and the Russian 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. Progress 48P was re-integrated into the ISS after the EVA.
ISS Reboost Activities
ATV Orbit Correction System thrusters were used to carry out a reboost of the ISS on 15 August in order set up phasing for Soyuz 30S landing, Progress 49P launch and as part of altitude strategy to utilize propellant delivered by ATV3. The scheduled 31 minute reboost was terminated about 9 minutes prematurely and the cause was thereafter under investigated by ATV engineers. However, on 22 August two additional reboosts were successfully carried out by ATV-3 lasting 6 min 21 sec and 34 min 15 sec respectively. The thruster burns increased the altitude of the ISS by about 6.5 km giving the ISS a mean altitude of around 416 km.
In addition to transfer of trash and excess cargo into ATV-3, the ISS cabin atmosphere was refreshed and repressurised with oxygen (on 16 August) and air (on 24 August) from ATV tanks. Activities were supported on orbit by ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko
Russian Spacewalk-related Activities
On 19 August ATV-3 was prepared for contingency undocking by Padalka and Malenchenko in connection with the Russian spacewalk the following day. This included removing screw clamps which further secured the connection between ATV and the ISS; closing the hatches between the ATV and the Russian Service Module, (as well as the Service Module Transfer Tunnel hatch) and the inter-hatch depressurisation and leak check. The day after the spacewalk the cosmonauts re-integrated ATV-3 into the ISS.
Russian Spacewalk Activities
In preparation for a Russian-based spacewalk on 20 August, the Russian Orlan EVA suits were prepared: degassing the cooling system water and installing replaceable elements such as helmet lights, batteries, carbon dioxide removal canisters, oxygen bottles, moisture collectors and radiation sensors. The suits were adjusted to fit the spacewalking cosmonauts (Gennady Padalka and Yuri Malenchenko) and leak checks were performed on the suits and equipment. The spacewalking cosmonauts also undertook pre-EVA fitness evaluations. Activities were carried out mainly by Padalka and Malenchenko with support from Sergey Revin and Sunita Williams. The Pirs Docking Compartment (EVA Airlock) and Service Module Transfer Compartment were configured for the spacewalk with medical equipment, communication and telemetry equipment, a portable oxygen bottle and additional Orlan equipment. Progress 48P and ATV-3 were also configured for the spacewalk (see related sections above)
Spacewalk Dry Run
On 17 August a suited dry run was undertaken in preparation for the Russian spacewalk carried out principally by Padalka and Malenchenko. Air ducts between the Service Module Transfer Compartment and the Pirs Docking Compartment and airlock were removed to clear space for the dry run and communications equipment was configured in Pirs. Hereafter the two cosmonauts carried out functionality and leak checks on the Russian Orlan EVA suits and related equipment. Once the cosmonauts were sealed into their respective suits additional functionality checks were carried out and successful testing was completed to check on suited mobility inside the Pirs Docking Compartment. Once this suited dry run was over communications and air ducting was restored to its pre-test configuration.
Russian EVA 31
On completion of the standard pre-EVA procedures, Russian EVA 31 was carried out by ISS Commander Gennady Padalka and ISS Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko on 20 August. The main tasks that were achieved during the 5 hr 51min EVA, which started at 17:37 (CEST) were: relocating the Stela 2 robotic arm from the Pirs Docking Compartment to the Russian Zarya Module (using the Strela 1 arm) and reinstalling it on Zarya; stowing Strela 1 on the Pirs Docking Compartment; deploying the Sfera satellite and installing five Service Module Debris Panels on the small diameter section of the Service Module. Two get-ahead tasks were also completed: installation of EVA ladder struts and removal of the Biorisk-MSN container. Once the EVA was complete the Service Module Transfer Compartment was repressurised, communications, ventilation and other systems were reconfigured back to the pre-EVA conditions and the cosmonauts carried out post-EVA medical procedures.During the Russian-based EVA Revin and Acaba were isolated in the Russian Poisk Mini Research Module 2 with access to Soyuz 30S in case of a depressurisation contingency while ISS Flight Engineers Sunita Williams (NASA) and Akihiko Hoshide (JAXA) were in the US segment of the ISS with access to Soyuz 31S docked at the Russian Rassvet Module for similar reasons.
Post EVA Procedures
Over the two days following the spacewalk additional activities took place to return systems back to pre-EVA configuration. This included: stowing the Orlan EVA suits and associated equipment; relocating emergency medical equipment, oxygen bottles, and EVA tools to their original locations; and reintegrating Progress 48P (closed out during the EVA) back into the ISS systems (leak checks, hatch opening, deactivating the spacecraft, installing ventilation, and dismantling the Progress 48P docking mechanism). Similar reintegration of ATV-3 took place on 21 August.
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 24 August Sunita Williams installed an Electronics Unit in MELFI-3. In addition blood and urine samples have been placed in the MELFI units for NASA's Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol for ISS Flight Engineers Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide, and hair samples for Hoshide for JAXA’s Hair experiment .
Microgravity Science Glovebox activities
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was active in the two weeks until 24 August to undertake NASA research activities for the ‘Burning and Suppression of Solids’ (BASS) experiment inside the Glovebox. ISS Flight Engineers Joe Acaba and Sunita Williams performed additional flame tests on different solid fuel samples on 16 and 21 August respectively. 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. Williams additionally removed the BASS hardware from the Glovebox and installed the ‘Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions’ (InSPACE-3) experiment hardware in the Glovebox on 24 August. This followed swapping out two InSPACE-3 Optics Assembly video cameras on 16 August.
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.
US Spacewalk Preparations
Activities were ongoing in the two-week period until 24 August in preparation of the US spacewalk on 30 August carried out by Sunita Williams with the support of Joe Acaba and Akihiki Hoshide. This included: retrieving a spare EVA camera for installation during the spacewalk; servicing and checking out the two US EVA suits being used; configuring EVA tools and equipment; charging and installing EVA batteries in the EVA suits; preparing the Airlock’s Equipment Lock; and an EVA suit fit check.
On 21 August the Japanese Robotic Arm Multi-Purpose Experiment Platform was assembled in the Japanese Laboratory by Hoshide and Acaba. The platform was then placed in the small airlock in the Japanese laboratory, attached to the Small Fine Arm Attachment Mechanism. Two days later the Station’s principal robotic arm was relocated to the external surface of the US laboratory from the Station’s truss to provide clearance for the US-based spacewalk on 30 August.
Russian Electrical Power System
Major in-flight maintenance activities were undertaken on the Electrical Power System in the Russian Service Module on 24 August. ISS Flight Engineer Sergey Revin, replacing an expired current regulator with an on-orbit spare. There are 12 such regulators which receive and regulate the current from the solar arrays, one for each solar array module. They stabilize the voltage at 28.5 volts on the main bus assembly.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 24 August include: replacing the hard disk in the Japanese Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack laptop; deploying a new T61p laptop at EXPRESS Rack 7 in the US laboratory; setting up and checking out the new Aquatic Habitat payload in the Japanese laboratory to help study small, freshwater fish on orbit; replacing a hard disk drive in the Fluid and Combustion Facility I/O Processor in the US laboratory; troubleshooting on the failed ISS Agricultural Camera laptop; troubleshooting on the Russian Laser Communication System to determine the root cause of current protection trips; and additional testing on NASA’s human-like Robonaut robotic technology which is being tested for its operability and duration in a space environment and will act as a spring-board in the evolution of robotic capabilities in space. In addition following undocking on 30 July, Progress 47P undertook its planned destructive deorbit into Earth’s atmosphere on 21 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.
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