This is ISS status report #127 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 third session of the new ESA experiment, Circadian Rhythms, was started by ISS Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide on 6 September (scheduled to run until 8 September). Hoshide donned the Thermolab sensors on the forehead and chest along with the Thermolab unit. Hereafter measurements will be taken for 36 hours. Data downlink from the Thermolab Unit will be undertaken via the Portable Pulmonary Function System in conjunction with the next session of the VO2 Max experiment (which uses the Portable Pulmonary Function System).
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 15th and 17th) on 31 August and 6 September 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.
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 Cardiovascular Experiments
Human Research Facility 1 in Columbus was used to undertake ultrasound scans for ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment in conjunction with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment on 7 September. The sessions consisted of echography scans for ISS Flight Engineer Joe Acaba together with ECG and heart rate measurements being taken. This was the final scanning session for Acaba for Vessel Imaging. Relevant data for the experiment was downlinked afterwards and the Vessel Imaging science team have confirmed that good images were generated.
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.
The Biolab facility was activated on 7 September in order to perform a ground-commanded alignment test on both centrifuges and to verify the functionality of the video tape that was recently inserted into the facility’s video tape recorder. The latter was supported by compressed video downlink.
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.
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 7 September 29 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.
The latest Sun Visibility Window for the Solar facility to acquire data closed on 29 August following a data acquisition period which had been on-going since 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. At the end of the Sun Visibility Window the SolACES instrument from SOLAR was placed in a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation). The next Sun Visibility Window is scheduled to open on 15 September.
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. An extension to the payload’s time in orbit could see its research activities extend up to early 2017 to monitor the whole solar cycle with unprecedented accuracy.
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.
The Delay Tolerant Network (DTN) laptop was set up in the Columbus laboratory and configured for operations and checkout activities by ISS Flight Engineer Sunita Williams on 28 August. The checkout activities were however put on hold pending a software update on the related EXPRESS rack 2. Once the update takes place the checkout activities will establish the initial communications network for ESA’s Meteron experiment.
Delay/disruption-tolerant networking is an approach to computer network architecture where instantaneous end-to-end paths for communications are difficult or impossible to establish. Hence, a "store and forward" approach is employed to incrementally move and store data throughout the network in hopes that it will eventually reach its destination. Upon completion of the DTN checkout, the hardware will be handed over to ESA for the Meteron experiment, which will use delay/disruption-tolerant networking to conduct advanced robotics operations as part of future Exploration preparations.
The Meteron experiment will begin with a week’s ground commanding from the Belgian User Support and Operations Centre (B-USOC) and thereafter the start of crew activities in orbit. The overall goal of Meteron is to set up a simulation environment to allow ground controllers in a control centre or astronauts on the ISS to be able to simulate robotic exploration scenarios, tele-operating a robot located on the ground through the ISS environment.
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 7 September include:
- Body Mass Measurements On 27 August ISS Flight Engineers Sunita Williams (NASA), Joe Acaba (NASA) and Akihiko Hoshide (JAXA) used the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device of Human Research Facility 1 to undertake standard body mass measurement on themselves.
On 7 September NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Joe Acaba undertook periodic microbial/fungal surface sample collection in the Columbus laboratory (as well as the US and Japanese laboratories and three ISS Nodes)
Activities in the European-built Node 3
No activities were carried using the exercise equipment in the European-built Node 3 in addition to the regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and the T2/COLBERT treadmill. Furthermore the T2/COLBERT treadmill was powered down from 31 August until 5 September in connection with the Main Bus Switching Unit failure (see US spacewalks below) since the treadmill draws a lot of power on its related power channel. Scheduled exercise sessions were instead undertaken using either the CEVIS or TVIS devices.
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 7 September include:
Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
Sunita Williams used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks on 28 August.
Water Recovery System racks: Processing
Joe Acaba replaced the full Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly in Water Recovery System rack 2 on 3 September. The assemblies filter pre-treated urine for processing into water.
- Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
EVA 1 Preparations
Numerous preparatory activities were carried out in the US Airlock by ISS Flight Engineers Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide in the few days running up to the 30 August spacewalk. This included installing batteries in the US EVA suits configuring and preparing EVA tools, tethers and systems; and checking out the Simplified Aid For EVA Rescue (SAFER) units: propulsive units for use during EVAs in the unlikely event that an astronaut becomes untethered from the ISS. On the day of the EVA the EVA astronauts (Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide) carried out standard pre-EVA procedures to remove nitrogen from their bodies prior to a spacewalk. Joe Acaba configured relevant EVA computer equipment in the European-built Cupola module attached to Node 3 and the US laboratory for supporting/monitoring robotic operations during the spacewalk. He also tested EVA cameras.
The EVA started at 14:16 CEST on 30 August from the US Airlock and lasted 8 hours 17 min making it the longest ISS EVA and the 3rd longest EVA in history. The astronauts connected and routed one of two power cables from the Russian Zarya module to the US segment of the ISS in preparation for the future arrival of the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module; removed a failed Main Bus Switching Unit and stowed it on one of the External Stowage Platforms on the US laboratory; and reconfigured an EVA Worksite Interface Fixture Extender as a get-ahead task. The scheduled replacement of the failed switching unit with an on-orbit spare could not be completed as a securing bolt could not be engaged. During the spacewalk Acaba operated the principal ISS robotic arm (assisted by ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko), to move Hoshide with the Main Bus Switching Units. There are four Main Bus Switching Units located on the S0 truss section which distribute 160 volts of power from the eight solar array wings to transformers which convert the current to 124 volts. Without the new switching unit installed power coming from the main solar arrays was reduced by 25% as each switching unit is associated with two of the solar array wings. Power management steps were undertaken, powering down less important payloads like the T2 treadmill, until the situation was resolved.
Post EVA procedures
Standard procedures were undertaken after the EVA including EVA suit and tether inspection, recharging batteries for the EVA suits, helmet lights, and tools; refilling the water lines of one of the EVA; installing new metal oxide canisters in the EVA suits for removing carbon dioxide during spacewalks; and reconfiguring the related EVA computer equipment in the Cupola and US laboratories.
EVA 2 Preparations
Further to the standard preparations that were also carried out prior to the first EVA, additional preparatory activities took place in the run up to the second EVA on 5 September. The two spacewalking astronauts resized a third EVA suit to be used as a replacement on the next spacewalk due to lost cooling functionality of Hoshide’s EVA suit during EVA 1. Acaba, Williams and Hoshide also built new hand tools such as a bolt interface tool, a lubricating tool (using a toothbrush) and a “chimney-sweep” debris cleaning tool (using a wire brush). The interface tool was used to scavenge a bolt (identical to the non-engaging securing bolt from EVA 1) from a spare computer bracket on board the ISS. The bolt will help to tell if the threads on the truss are damaged during EVA 2, and help remove debris present.
EVA 2 started at 13:06 CEST on 5 September from the US Airlock and lasted 6 hours 28 min. During the EVA the spacewalking astronauts (Williams and Hoshide) completed installation of the new Main Bus Switching Unit which is now up and running; and replaced a failed Camera, Light, Pan/Tilt Assembly on the Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2). As part of the installation of the Main Bus Switching Unit, the EVA astronauts: temporarily removed the new unit from its stowage location on the S0 truss and tethered it with Hoshide on Canadarm 2; inspected and cleaned the bolts and receptacles with a magnet and other assembled tools, followed by lubrication/greasing; checking the thread quality of the switching unit bolt using the scavenged bolt; and finally installing the new Main Bus Switching Unit using different techniques than were used during the previous EVA. During the spacewalk Acaba operated the principal ISS robotic arm (assisted by Malenchenko), to move Hoshide with the Main Bus Switching Unit. Sunita Williams has now surpassed NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson as the female with the most cumulative EVA time of 44h 2m across six EVAs.
Post EVA procedures
In addition to undertaking the standard procedures after the EVA, on 6 September Acaba removed a Secondary Power Distribution Assembly jumper (installed on 29 August) which was helping with the distribution of power in connection with only having three of the four Main Bus Switching Units in service. The jumper removal activity also included replacing a failed Remote Power Controller Module in the US laboratory. The following day Acaba removed another power jumper (also installed on 29 August) in the US laboratory that was helping with power distribution.
Direct Current Switching Unit Failure
Between the two US spacewalks a Direct Current Switching Unit (DCSU) on the external surface of the ISS tripped on 1 September and stopped supplying power from the 3A solar array. There are eight DCSUs on the ISS each one receiving power from one of the eight solar array wings. The DCSUs then channel the power in pairs through to the four Main Bus Switching Units. As the failed DCSU was not one of the DCSUs associated with the failed Main Bus Switching Unit, this further reduced power resources from the main solar arrays to 62.5 % for four days until the new Main Bus Switching Unit was installed. This increased the power resources back to 87.5%. Additional power management reconfiguration was undertaken in this period and planning is underway to resolve the failed DCSU issue.
Soyuz TMA-04M/30S and Expedition Crew Return Preparations
Soyuz Couch Fit Check
On 28 August ISS Commander Gennady Padalka (Roscosmos) and ISS Flight Engineers Sergey Revin (Roscosmos) and Joe Acaba (NASA) donned their Sokol spacesuits and carried out a fit-check of the Kazbek shock absorbing seats in the Descent Module of the Soyuz TMA-04M/30S crew return vehicle in preparation for their return on 16 September.
Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
Between 28 August and 7 September ISS Flight Engineer Sergey Revin carried out three orthostatic hemodynamic endurance test sessions using the TVIS treadmill whilst wearing a Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit. ISS Commander Gennady Padalka also undertook one session together with Revin on 28 August. 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.
Padalka, Revin and Acaba performed the standard leak checks of their Sokol pressure suits, worn in the Soyuz spacecraft on 7 September.
Russian Onboard Complex Control System
Yuri Malenchenko replaced a User Adapter Relay of the Onboard Complex Control System in the Russian Zarya Module on 28 August. The system uses seven relay switches to control onboard systems and components in Zarya.
Russian Segment Electrical Power System
On 29 August ISS Commander Gennady Padalka performed a major maintenance activity on the Russian Power Supply System in the Russian Service Module of the ISS by replacing one of the eight 800A batteries along with a current converter and control unit.
The ISS cabin atmosphere was repressurised with ATV air supplies on 31 August and 6 September. In addition, brine from the Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly in Water Recovery System rack 2 was pumped into ATV tanks for disposal on 27 August by ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. Malenchenko repeated the procedure on 4 September along with the transfer of urine from eight ISS containers.
Orbital debris from the Chinese Fengyun 1C satellite was being monitored for the possibility of it coming in close proximity to the ISS (time of closest approach on 4 September). It was classified to be of high concern on 3 September, however by the following day it was determined that the debris posed no threat of a collision with the ISS so no further action was required.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 7 September include: packing and stowing excess cargo and trash for disposal in the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) and unloading cargo delivered on Progress 48P; replacing a component in the data storage unit of the Russian BITS2-12 onboard telemetry measurement system as part of troubleshooting activities; minor maintenance tasks on the Russian VB-3M cycle ergometer; replacing air ducts in the ventilation system of the Russsian Service Module; six-monthly maintenance on the Russian TVIS treadmill, by removing it from its pit and removing and lubricating components; replacing a catalytic thermal cartridge with a new unit in the BMP harmful impurities filtration system; uninstalling and removing several components from a Kurs-NA automatic docking system container; 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.
(*)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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