This is ISS status report #129 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 on-going 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:
The Energy experiment, which aims at determining the energy requirements of astronauts during long-term spaceflights, started on 5 October with Akihiko Hoshide as the second test subject (following on from André Kuipers). Hoshide consumed dedicated food on the first day of the experiment and a baseline drinking water sample was taken from the Potable Water Dispenser (from which Hoshide will drink for the duration of the experiment).
This will be followed with a baseline urine sample being taken on day two of the 11-day experiment prior to Hoshide imbibing a Double Labelled Water isotope. Oxygen Uptake Measurements will be undertaken on Hoshide at rest using the Pulmonary Function System in order to measure Resting Metabolic Rate. After consuming a dedicated breakfast Hoshide will carry out additional Oxygen Uptake Measurements and provide additional urine samples to determine what level of Double Labelled Water is directly excreted from his body. For the remainder of the 11-day period, Hoshide will log his dietary intake (daily) and provide urine samples every other day and water samples will be taken. At the end of the experiment period the data gathered will allow for the determination of Hoshide’s Total Energy Expenditure which will in turn allow for the calculation of the Activity Energy Expenditure. These results will help with deriving an equation for the energy requirements of astronauts.
Thermolab / EKE Experiments
ISS Flight Engineer Sunita Williams undertook her third session of ESA’s Thermolab and EKE experiments in conjunction with NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment on 27 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. A flow meter insert (which is needed to determine correct ventilation) broke during the session unfortunately aborting the EKE part of the VO2 Max protocol. An assessment of the impact on data measurement is underway.
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) protocol 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.
Vessel Imaging / Integrated Cardiovascular Experiments
The ultrasound equipment from Human Research Facility 1 in Columbus was used to undertake resting and exercise 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 25 September) and Akihiko Hoshide (on 2 October) together with ECG and heart rate measurements being taken. The ultrasound equipment was relocated to the US laboratory for the sessions
The experiment also included undertaking ambulatory monitoring sessions from 21-23 September for Williams and from 3-5 October 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 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.
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 30 September for Sunita Williams. The samples were then placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezer units.
Akihiko Hoshide also carried out NASA’s joint Sprint VO2 Max experiment on 26 September. The joint Sprint 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.
Data acquisition has been on-going for the Dose Distribution inside the ISS 3D (DOSIS-3D) experiment using the two active DOSTEL detectors located inside the European Physiology Modules facility to undertake time-dependent radiation measurements. This follows a data acquisition period from May – September which used the active detectors in addition to passive dosimeters which had been located at different locations around the Columbus laboratory prior to their return to earth on 17 September for analysis. The passive detectors are used in order to undertake 'area dosimetry' i.e. to measure the spatial radiation gradients inside the Columbus module.
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 5 October 55 cumulative days of science acquisition had been taken with the Kevlar tiles. This surpasses the minimum requirement of 40 days and is close to the preferred 60 day target. 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 the two different types of shielding materials (and different thicknesses of each material) against cosmic rays. This follows the ALTEA-Survey part of the ALTEA-Shield experiment series which finished in December 2011 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 27 September following almost two weeks of data acquisition. This was the 57th data acquisition period for the facility. 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) in the days running up to (and just after) ATV-3 undocking on 28 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 on-going 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 4 October and all remaining files were transferred to the Video Management Unit of the European Drawer Rack. All files have now been downlinked to ground. The files 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.
A software update on EXPRESS rack 2 was successfully performed by Sunita Williams on 5 October to support Delay Tolerant Networking (DTN) for ESA’s Meteron experiment and allow future software updates to be performed by ground commanding. Later in the day Williams booted up the DTN laptop which is now communicating with EXPRESS rack 2 and Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus 5 (inside the EXPRESS rack). The following checkout activities will establish the initial communications network for the 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 5 October include:
Body Mass Measurements
Body mass measurements were carried out in Columbus on Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide on 2 October using the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device in Human Research Facility 1.
Water Pump Assemblies
A 2.3 litre water transfer from Columbus Water Pump Assembly 2 to Water Pump Assembly 1 was performed on 2 October to compensate for water loss over the time due to a very small leak. This will keep Water Pump Assembly 1 operational for another two and half years.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
The aluminium cylinder flywheels of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) in the European-built Node 3 were swapped with stainless steel replacements by Akihiko Hoshide on 27 September. This was in addition to the regular use, inspection and servicing of 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 5 October include:
Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
Sunita Williams and Akihhiko Hoshide used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks on 25 September and 1 October respectively.
Water Recovery System racks: Processing
Sunita Williams successfully replaced the Recycle Filter Tank Assembly in Water Recovery System rack 2 on 25 September.
Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack
Three Air Selector Valves of the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly in Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack were replaced on 24 September. The unit was activated and operates as expected, therefore the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly in the US laboratory was switched off and the Node 3 unit has been made the prime equipment for CO2 removal in the US Orbital Segment of the ISS.
Waste and Hygiene Compartment
The Commander replaced the pre-treat tank of the Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node 3 on 1 October. However the compartment was found not working following the replacement. The ground team determined that the problem was related to a water pump which was replaced by the crew the following day and restored the Compartment to full functionality.
- Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
ATV-3 Preparations and Undocking
The Re-Entry Breakup Recorder was installed inside ESA’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) by Akihiko Hoshide on 24 September. This spacecraft black box provides important data during re-entry and breakup. ISS Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Akihiko Hoshide also removed smoke detectors, light fixtures, a fire extinguisher, air ducts, a fan unit and other useful equipment from the ATV for reuse, as well as removing the clamps which additionally secured the ATV with the ISS. Hereafter the ISS Flight Engineers closed the Zvezda/ATV hatches and carried out a leak check on the area between the hatches. The planned undocking the following day was delayed for three days due to a communications problem between the ATV Proximity Communications Equipment and the ATV avionics as well as activities related to orbital debris.
ATV-3 Undocking and Destructive Re-entry
After the ATV Control equipment was activated in the Russian Service Module, Edoardo Amaldi, Europe’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle, undocked from the International Space Station on 28 September at 23:44 CEST following 185 days of docked operations at the ISS. A spring mechanism located on the Service Module aft docking port, slowly pushed the ATV away from the Station. After drifting unpowered for one minute to a distance of three metres away from the Station, the ATV deployed its smaller attitude control thrusters to start its departure boost and distance itself further.
The undocking was monitored from the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, and the Mission Control Centres in Moscow and Houston. The ISS crew also monitored the undocking. A Nikon D2X camera was used to take photographs of the ATV front cone from the Zvezda Service Module window especially of the telegoniometer and videometer sensor boxes. The ISS crew also monitored the undocking from a video monitor in the Service Module. In the night of 2-3 October the unmanned ATV-3 went through its planned destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. The data collected by the Re-Entry Breakup Recorder, which was installed in the ATV prior to hatch closure, is now being analyzed.
ATV Post-undocking Activities
On 1 and 2 October Malenchenko uninstalled and stowed the ATV Proximity Communications Equipment (used for close proximity communications between the ISS and the ATV) which had been set up in the Russian Service Module.
SpaceX Dragon Launch and Docking Preparations
Following the successful demo flight of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft in May 2012, preparations for the launch and arrival of the first official commercial flight of the Dragon on 7 October have been on-going. This included Williams and Hoshide undertaking on-board training sessions related to robotic capture and berthing of the logistics spacecraft which also included off-nominal scenarios, and pre-packing cargo for return to earth with Dragon. In addition Williams undertook inflight maintenance activities for replacement of a Remote Power Controller Module (needed within backup systems for Dragon berthing) at the end of September/beginning of October. Attempts to replace the failed unit had been unsuccessful though following re-installation of the failed unit the ground was able to confirm communication with this unit. Troubleshooting is on-going. Williams also activated the Control Panel and associated equipment for the Dragon spacecraft in the European Cupola module on 4 October.
Japanese Satellite Deployment
The airlock in the Japanese laboratory was depressurised by Akihiko Hoshide on 26 September and the airlock was depressurised. After the outer airlock hatch was opened, a number of small satellites that had been placed in the airlock were deployed on the Japanese Exposed Facility by ground commanding as part of testing satellite deployment demonstration capabilities. This used the Small Satellite Orbital Deployer which is a new device installed in the airlock, which was grappled by the Japanese robotic arm and positioned for a safe deploy of four single unit and one double unit small satellites. On 4 October Hoshide retracted the airlock slide table and closed the outer hatch.
Crew Return Preparations
A standard Soyuz descent drill was carried out by the three ISS crew members (Williams, Hoshide and Malenchenko) on 28 September. The descent drill, which took place in the Descent Module of the Soyuz 31S 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.
Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG)
Sunita Williams completed set up of the hardware for NASA’s InSPACE-3 (Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions 3) experiment inside the ESA-developed Microgravity Science Glovebox on 1 October. Williams conducted runs of the experiment a few days later. The InSPACE-3 experiment studies the fundamental behaviour of magnetic colloidal fluids under the influence of various magnetic fields. On Earth, these materials are used for vibration damping systems. This investigation is aimed to improve the design of structures, such as bridges and buildings, to better withstand earthquake forces.
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 JAXA’s MICROBE-3 experiment (air) and NASA's Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol (blood, urine) for Sunita Williams.
(*)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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