This is ISS status report #128 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.
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 concluded by ISS Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide on 8 September (following a 6 September start). During the session Hoshide donned the Thermolab sensors on his forehead and chest along with the Thermolab unit. Hereafter measurements were taken for 36 hours. Data downlink from the Thermolab Unit was undertaken via the Portable Pulmonary Function System following the latest session of the joint Thermolab/VO2 Max experiments (see below) on 11 September.
After experiment set up the previous day, ISS Flight Engineer Sunita Williams undertook her second session of ESA’s Thermolab and EKE experiments in conjunction with NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment on 11 September. Data was downlinked to ground after the session. 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.
Space Headaches Experiment
ISS Flight Engineer Joe Acaba filled in his final weekly questionnaire (his 17th) on 13 September (prior to his return to earth) 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.
Vessel Imaging/Integrated Cardiovascular Experiments
ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment is carried out in conjunction with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment. During the two weeks until 21 September no scans were undertaken for the joint experiments though the associated ambulatory monitoring session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment was undertaken by Joe Acaba from 10-12 September (his last session before returning to earth), with a similar session started by Sunita Williams on 21 September.
The ambulatory monitoring sessions include 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 after the sessions.
ESA's 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 the Vessel Imaging experiment. 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.
Reversible Figures Experiment
ISS Flight Engineer Sunita Williams carried out her third session of ESA’s new Reversible Figures experiment in the Columbus laboratory on 18 September. 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.
On 11 September Russian ISS Expedition 32 Flight Engineer Sergey Revin conducted his second session as a subject of the Immuno experiment, providing blood and saliva samples in addition to filling in a Stress Test Questionnaire. A similar session of the experiment was undertaken by ISS Expedition 32 Commander Gennady Padalka the following day. The cosmonauts assisted each other with the venous blood draw. After both sessions the blood samples were centrifuged in the Russian Plazma-03 Centrifuge before being inserted into the MELFI-1 freezer unit by ISS Expedition 32 Flight Engineer Sunita Williams. The Immuno experiment is performed under a cooperation agreement with Roscosmos.
The aim of the IMMUNO experiment is to determine changes in stress and immune responses, during and after a stay on the ISS. This will include the sampling of saliva, blood and urine to check for hormones associated with stress response and for carrying out white blood cell analysis, as well as filling out periodic stress level questionnaires. The results will help in developing pharmacological tools to counter unwanted immunological side-effects during long-duration missions in space.
ISS Partner Research
In addition to the European human research activities, the Human Research Facilities in Columbus were used for centrifuging blood samples for NASA’s Pro-K/Nutrition /Repository experiment on 10 September for Sunita Williams, on 13 September for Joe Acaba and on 14 September for Akihiko Hoshide. The samples were then placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezer units.
The Human Research Facilities in Columbus were used to undertake ultrasound scans for NASA’s joint Sprint and VO2 Max experiments for Akihiko Hoshide on 13 September and for Sunita Williams for the Sprint protocol on 14 September. The joint Sprint and VO2 Max protocol includes a special exercise regime which diverts from the regular regime for the rest of the crew and uses an abbreviated VO2 Max protocol using the Portable Pulmonary Function System and the CEVIS cycle exercise device. Sprint VO2 max 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.
SODI-Colloid 2 Experiment
The remaining four flash disks containing the data for the SODI Colloid-2 experiment were returned to Earth with Soyuz 30S which landed on 17 September. Colloid-2 was one of the three experiments undertaken in the ESA-developed Microgravity Science Glovebox in the US laboratory using the Selectable Optical Diagnostic Instrument (SODI).
The Colloid experiment covers the study on growth and properties of advanced photonic materials within colloidal solutions. The focus is on materials that have a special interest in photonics, with emphasis on nano-structured, periodic dielectric materials, known as photonic crystals, which possess appealing properties and make them promising candidates for new types of optical components.
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.
Data acquisition has been on-going 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 active detectors are continuing with data acquisition and a monthly data downlink was undertaken via the European Physiology Modules Facility on 19 September. The set of passive detectors (10 Passive Detector Packages and 1 Triple Detector Package) were uninstalled by Sunita Williams on 11 September and returned to earth with Soyuz 30S on 17 September. 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.
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 21 September 43 cumulative days of science acquisition had been taken with the Kevlar tiles. This surpasses the minimum requirement of 40 days and should be approaching the preferred 60 day target in the next few weeks. This follows on from a session including 54 cumulative days of science acquisition using polyethylene tiles.
The latest Sun visibility window for the Solar facility to acquire data opened on 15/16 September. 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 19 September in connection with vehicle traffic and ISS manoeuvres such as HTV-3 unberthing, ATV-3 reboost, and Soyuz 30S undocking events. SolACES was cooled again and undertook data acquisition on 19 and 20 September but was again placed in heated configuration with respect to an upcoming Solar Array Efficiency Test
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
The Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 (ERB-2) was activated on 13 and 18 September and numerous files were downlinked via the European Drawer rack that were produced by André Kuipers in January/February during the PromISSe mission. The extensive amounts of data cover different activities ranging from generic life on board, maintenance and research activities as well as training on exercise equipment such as the T2 treadmill and Advanced Resistive Exercise Device in Node 3. ESA’s ERB-2 is a high definition ISS 3D video camera which takes advantage of high-definition optics and advanced electronics to provide a vastly improved 3D video effect for filming on 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. Highlights of the two weeks until 21 September include:
- Acoustic Measurements
On 11 September ISS Flight Engineer and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide set up acoustic dosimeters in Columbus (as well as the European-built Node 3 and Russian Service Module) for undertaking acoustic measurements for 24 hours.
- Surface Sampling
On 12 September NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Sunita Williams undertook a visual inspection of microbial/fungal surface samples taken in Columbus (as well as the US and Japanese laboratories and three ISS Nodes) on 7 September.
- Emergency Training
The Columbus Control Centre took part in an emergency training session with all other control centres and the ISS crew on 20 September.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
- Exercise Equipment
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.
- 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 21 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 12 September. Williams also took water samples from Node 3 (and the Russian Service Module) for return to earth on Soyuz 30S for analysis. Akihiko Hoshide carried out additional TOCA sampling on 18 September.
- Water Recovery System racks: Processing
ISS Expedition 32 Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba successfully replaced the failed Fluids Control and Pump Assembly in Water Recovery System rack 2 on 14 September. The failed unit had caused the rack’s Urine Processor Assembly to unexpectedly shut down. With the new unit installed urine processing has resumed.
- Oxygen Generation System rack
Sunita Williams replaced a hydrogen sensor unit in the Oxygen Generator System rack on 13 September and purged the old sensor for return to Earth.
- Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
Soyuz TMA-04M/30S and Expedition 32 Crew Return Preparations, Undocking and Landing
- Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
On 11, 14 and 15 September ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Revin carried out his final two (the second in two parts) orthostatic hemodynamic endurance sessions using the TVIS treadmill whilst wearing a Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit. The Chibis suit, which provides stress that simulates gravity to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system, helps to evaluate how the Soyuz crewmember would cope with exposure to gravity on return to Earth.
- Suit Checks
ISS Expedition 32 Commander Gennady Padalka (Roscosmos), and ISS Expedition 32 Flight Engineers Sergey Revin (Roscosmos) and Joe Acaba (NASA) carried out fit checks of their protective Kentavr anti-g suits on 10 September. These suits are worn under their Sokol suits during return and landing to help the long-duration crewmembers with the return into Earth’s gravity.
- Soyuz 30S Descent Drill
A standard Soyuz descent drill was carried out by Padalka and Revin on 10 September. The descent drill, which took place in the Descent Module of the Soyuz 30S spacecraft is for the review of Soyuz descent procedures including emergency procedures and manual undocking. The training sessions used a descent simulator application on a Russian laptop together with a descent hand controller. Padalka and Revin undertook another descent drill together with Joe Acaba on 13 September.
- Cargo Transfers
In the two-week period until 21 September, the ISS crew members have been involved in cargo transfer activities packing cargo for either return to earth in the Descent Module of Soyuz 30S or for disposal in the Soyuz Orbital Module. Return items included Russian biotechnology experiments, four flash disks from the SODI-Colloid 2 experiment, and passive radiation dosimeters for ESA’s DOSIS 3D experiment.
- Soyuz TMA-04M/30S Motion Control Test
Padalka and Revin, supported a ground-commanded checkout of the Soyuz TMA-22 Motion Control System on 13 September including testing the pilot’s translational hand controller and the braking thrusters.
- Change of Command Ceremony
The official ISS change of command ceremony took place in front of all crew members on 15 September with ISS Commander Gennady Padalka handing over command to NASA astronaut Sunita Williams. However as with all Expeditions, Expedition 33 will officially begin following undocking of the departing Soyuz/Expedition crew members.
- Undocking Preparations
On 15 September the Russian crew members removed temperature and lighting equipment from the Soyuz Orbital module for reuse after Soyuz undocking, and checked out communications from Soyuz 30S to the ground.
- Soyuz TMA-04M/30S, Expedition 32 Undocking and Landing
On 16 September, following the joint crew farewell, the departing crew members (Padalka, Revin and Acaba) entered the Soyuz spacecraft, and clamps were removed between Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft and the “Poisk” Mini Research Module 2 to which it is docked. Following Soyuz activation the hatches between the Soyuz and the Poisk Module were closed and relevant leak checks were carried out. Undocking occurred at 01:09 (CEST) on 17 September. About 3 mins after undocking, the Soyuz performed its first separation burn. At 03:56 (CEST) the Soyuz spacecraft performed its deorbit thruster burn lasting 4 min 14 sec. This caused a deceleration of 115m/sec. 30 minutes later the spacecraft went through module separation, at an altitude of 140 km with atmospheric reentry occurring at 04:29 (CEST) at an altitude of 101.6 km. The parachute was deployed at 04:38 with landing at 04:53 (CEST), 08:53 local time in central Kazakhstan. Padalka, Revin and Acaba had spent 125 days in space. From here the crew were flown to Kustanai in Kazakhstan. Padalka and Revin were flown on to Star City in Moscow. Acaba was flown to Houston. Undocking of Soyuz TMA-04M marked the end of Expedition 32 and the start of Expedition 33, which consists currently of ISS Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams (NASA) and ISS Expedition 33 Flight Engineers Akihiko Hoshide (JAXA) and Yuri Malenchenko (Roscosmos) until three additional crew arrive in October.
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-week reporting period samples were placed in the MELFI units for NASA's Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol (blood, urine) for Sunita Williams, Joe Acaba and Akihiko Hoshide; for JAXA’s MICROBE-3 experiment (air); and for ESA’s Immuno experiment (blood, saliva) for Gennady Padalka and Sergey Revin.
ATV-3 Activities and Undocking Preparations
- Proximity Communications Equipment
ISS Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko installed the ATV Proximity Communications Equipment (used for close proximity communications between the ISS and the ATV) in the Russian Service Module on 11 September in preparation for undocking of ATV-3 ‘Edoardo Amaldi’. This included installing the ATV Control Panel, additional units and laying associated cabling. Two days later Malenchenko was involved in a ground-supported checkout of the equipment.
- Cargo Transfer Actvities
The ISS cabin atmosphere was repressurised/refreshed with about 600g of oxygen supplies from ATV tanks on 14 September. In addition, urine from six ISS containers was pumped into ATV tanks by ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko on 20 September for disposal. The same day Hoshide loaded and configured excess equipment and waste inside ATV, also for disposal.
- ISS Reboost
The ATV’s Orbit Correction System thrusters were used to carry out a reboost of the ISS on 14 September. This was in order to place the ATV in an optimal orbital profile for landing of Soyuz 30S and launch and docking of Soyuz 32S. The reboost lasted 8 min 56 sec and increased the altitude of the ISS by about 2.2 km to a mean altitude of 417 km.
Orbital debris from the Chinese Fengyun 1C satellite was being monitored for the possibility of it coming in close proximity to the ISS (times of closest approach on 18 and 22 September). However it was eventually determined that the debris posed no threat of a collision with the ISS so no further action was required.
- HTV-3 Undocking Preparations
On 11 September, in preparation for undocking of the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle 3 (HTV-3), Akihiko Hoshide installed and activated the Re-Entry Breakup Recorder, a kind of black box in the HTV for recording re-entry data along with the “i-Ball” Reentry Recorder which is a private sector-developed device designed to gather environmental data during re-entry. The data analysis will lead to an identification of breakup phenomenon of the vehicle and decrease in the reentry debris risks. At the same time, another purpose is to obtain design data for the future reentry vehicles. Additional tasks included the removal of HTV lights, smoke detectors, portable fire extinguishers, breathing apparatus and Restraint and Mobility Aids for reuse. Hereafter the HTV hatch was closed; control panel assemblies were installed at the Node 2 nadir (Earth-facing) hatch where HTV-2 is docked; ventilation, atmosphere revitalisation, secondary power and data lines were removed; and HTV thermal blankets were partially installed.
- HTV Undocking
After installing the crew restraint and activating the robotic workstation, in the European-built Cupola module on 12 September, Acaba and Hoshide disconnected the primary power line to HTV-3, finished installing the thermal covers and centre disk cover before closing the nadir Node 2 hatch. Hereafter the inter-hatch vestibule was depressurised, a leak check was undertaken, the docking mechanism bolts were removed and latches deployed. Acaba and Hoshide used the Station’s principal robotic arm to grapple HTV-3, which was then unberthed from the ISS at 13:50 (CEST). HTV-3 was moved by robotic arm to its release position before being released at 17:50 (CEST). After HTV-3 was undocked Acaba and Hoshide parked the Station’s robotic arm and disassembled and stowed the HTV Control Panel. HTV-3 went through its deorbit burn on 14 September and went through a planned destructive re-entry into earth’s atmosphere.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 21 September include: ground-commanded propellant transfers from the Progress 48P logistics spacecraft to the ISS; Malenchenko, Hoshide and Williams donning their Sokol spacesuits and carrying out a fit-check of the Kazbek shock absorbing seats in the Descent Module of the Soyuz TMA-05M/31S crew return vehicle; a test of the Centerline Berthing Camera System at the Node 2 nadir hatch in advance of the arrival of the SpaceX-1 Dragon spacecraft in October and updating Dragon Crew Command Panel software; and two days of Solar Array Maximum Power Output tests in order to characterise the present efficiency of the ISS Solar Arrays.
(*)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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