This is ISS status report #130 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 spaceflight, started on 5 October with ISS Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide (JAXA) 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 drank for the duration of the experiment).
On the second day a baseline urine sample was provided by Hoshide prior to imbibing a Double Labelled Water isotope. Oxygen Uptake Measurements were also undertaken on Hoshide at rest using the Pulmonary Function System in order to measure Resting Metabolic Rate. After consuming a dedicated breakfast Hoshide carried out additional Oxygen Uptake Measurements and provided additional urine samples to determine what level of Double Labelled Water is directly excreted from the body. Two of the seven Oxygen Uptake Measurements were skipped due to a software anomaly and the final two Oxygen Uptake Measurements were undertaken without real time telemetry though the data was located on the Pulmonary Function System for later downlink. The third urine sampling was delayed and the Energy experiment armband could not be located so a NASA Actilight watch (which allows for acquiring accelerometer data) was used in its place and an assessment is underway to determine if there is any scientific impact of these points. For the remainder of the 11-day period, Akihiko Hoshide logged his dietary intake (daily) and provided urine samples every other day and water samples were taken.
At the end of the experiment period the data gathered will allow for the determination of Akihiko 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.
Circadian Rhythms Experiment
The fourth session of the new ESA experiment, Circadian Rhythms, was undertaken by ISS Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide from 16 – 18 October. 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 will take place via the Portable Pulmonary Function System (PPFS).
The main objective of the Circadian Rhythms 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.
Portable Pulmonary Function System Maintenance
ISS Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams removed an insert spacer from the Turbine Flow Meter of the Portable Pulmonary Function System in order to resolve the problems that occurred during the last VO2Max/EKE session.
ISS Partner Research
In addition to the European human research activities, Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide used the ultrasound equipment from NASA’s Human Research Facilities in Columbus to undertake ultrasound scans for NASA’s Sprint experiment protocol on 8 and 12 October respectively.
The protocol evaluates the use of high intensity, low volume exercise training to minimize loss of muscle, bone, and cardiovascular function in ISS crewmembers during long-duration missions. It includes a special exercise regime which diverts from the regular exercise regime and uses an abbreviated VO2Max protocol.
European Modular Cultivation System Maintenance
A maintenance activity has been nominally performed to fix the Volume Compensation System of the European Modular Cultivation System on 16 October. After the facility was powered up by the Payload Operations and Integration Center in Huntsville Alabama, Sunita Willaims opened (and later closed) gas valves on the facility for maintenance to take place.
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. A monthly data downlink was also undertaken via the European Physiology Modules Facility on 18 October.
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 19 October 69 cumulative days of science acquisition had been taken with the Kevlar tiles. This surpasses the minimum requirement of 40 days and preferred target of 60 days. This follows on from a session including 54 cumulative days of science acquisition using polyethylene tiles. It is planned to continue the current measurement period until the ALTEA SHIELD hardware is put into storage and in support of statistical analyses.
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.
Fluid Science Laboratory Testing
A second long-duration “stress” test for the Video Management Unit of the Fluid Science Laboratory was carried out from 15 – 19 October. A successful functional verification is of key importance for the execution of the upcoming Fases experiment (upload planned on ATV-4).
Materials Science Laboratory Maintenance
Routine maintenance of the Materials Science Laboratory turbine pumps was successfully performed on 19 October. A six-month Chamber Leak Check and Pump Spinup were successfully undertaken.
The latest Sun Visibility Window (the 58th) for the Solar facility to acquire data opened on 15 October. 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) prior to the Sun Visibility Window opening until 14 October and after 16 October in connection with a reboost of the ISS on 17 October (due to thruster firings) and Materials Science Laboratory maintenance activities (due to external venting) on 19 October. New scripts for SOLACES were also tested to prepare the Sun Visibility Window bridging event in December 2012
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
Following recent downlink of data, the full hard disk drive of the Erasmus Recording Binocular 2 (ERB-2) was replaced with a new, empty disk drive by Hoshide on 19 October. 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 19 October include:
Centralised Cabin Filter
ISS Commander and NASA astronaut Sunita Williams successfully replaced the Centralised Cabin Filter in Columbus on 18 October as preventative maintenance.
On 19 October Sunita Williams carried out periodic microbial/fungal surface sampling in Columbus as well as in the US and Japanese laboratories, the Russian Zarya Module and the three Station Nodes. ISS Flight Engineer and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide similarly carried out atmospheric sampling in the modules using a Microbial Air Sampler.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
The T2/COLBERT treadmill was used by Sunita Williams on 7 and 19 October to conduct NASA’s Sprint protocol which diverts from the regular exercise regime and uses an abbreviated VO2Max protocol. This was in addition to the regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and the T2/COLBERT treadmill.
Regenerative ECLSS and Additional Environmental Control Racks
The two Water Recovery System racks, together with the Oxygen Generation System rack, form the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) which is necessary in support of a six-person ISS crew to help reduce upload mass. Other environmental control racks in Node 3 include an Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack and a Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Highlights of the two weeks until 19 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 9 and 16 October respectively. Williams also carried out TOCA analysis after changing out the TOCA Buffer Container on 11 October.
Water Recovery System racks: Processing
The Water Processing Assembly in Water Recovery System rack 2 failed processing on 8 October. Following two attempts to reactivate the assembly the Pump/Separator and the Waste Water Filter were replaced by ISS Commander Sunita Williams a week later. The pump replacement was first attempted with an old design spare, which failed to spin-up (which was anticipated) after its installation. Hereafter a new design pump was installed, which started up nominally and passed a successful checkout.
- Sunita Williams successfully replaced the full Recycle Filter Tank Assembly in Water Recovery System rack 2 on 18 October with a new unit. Hereafter she pumped urine into the new unit for processing and drained the brine from the full unit into a container for disposal.
- Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
SpaceX Dragon Launch, Docking, Undocking and Landing
Following the first demo flight in May, the first commercial SpaceX Dragon spacecraft (SpaceX-1) was launched successfully into orbit by the SpaceX Falcon-9 launcher from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on 8 October at 14:35 CEST (08:35 local time). Following insertion into orbit the spacecraft’s solar arrays were deployed and orbital manoeuvre/navigation testing was successfully undertaken. Dragon is a commercial unmanned spacecraft under NASA contract.
On 9 October Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide went through training simulations on the ROBoT simulator in preparation for berthing the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to the ISS. On 10 October Williams activated the communications equipment and control panel for the SpaceX Dragon and activated the Centerline Berthing Camera System at the Node-2 nadir port and Hoshide set up the robotic workstations in the US laboratory and Cupola module. With Akihiko Hoshide as the main robotic arm operator and Sunita Williams assisting, the Station’s principal robotic arm was used to capture the SpaceX Dragon at 12:57 (CEST) on 10 October. Dragon was then moved to a hold position before finally being berthed at the Node 2 nadir port at 15:03 (CEST) with Williams as the main robotic arm operator. The new ISS logistics spacecraft delivered about 400 kg of cargo considerably below its upload capabilities, and will return ~760 kg of downmass after its departure.
After docking, the Cupola Robotic Workstation and Centerline Berthing Camera System were deactivated and removed and the leak check between Node 2 and Dragon took place. After opening the Node 2 nadir hatch the vestibule between Node 2 and Dragon was fitted with necessary jumpers (power, data etc.). The hatch into Dragon was then opened and air ducting was installed. The following day the US laboratory Robotic Workstation and Control Panel for Dragon were removed and stowed. Over the next few days cargo transfer activities were undertaken by Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide transferring cargo to the ISS and transferring return cargo into Dragon. On 15 October Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko took air samples in the Russian Service Module for return on Dragon.
Japanese Laboratory Activities
In preparation for transferring the Multi-Purpose Experiment Platform to the airlock in the Japanese laboratory, Akihiko Hoshide pressurised the airlock on 12 October. In addition confirmation of good health status has been received from four out of the five cubesat satellites that were deployed from the new Small Satellite Orbital Deployer on the Japanese Exposed Facility last week. Specialists are still waiting confirmation for the fifth satellite.
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 Resist Tubule experiment (Arabidopsis seeds, pre-processing), JAXA’s MICROBE-3 experiment (Microbial Detection Sheets pre-processing, and air). In addition biomed samples were transferred from the MELFI units to GLACIER 2 (General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator 2) for return to earth on SpaceX Dragon.
At the beginning of the reporting period orbital debris from a Russian Proton launcher was being monitored for the possibility of it coming in close proximity to the ISS. The time of closest approach was calculated to occur on 8 October. However it was subsequently determined that it posed no threat of a collision with the ISS so no further action was required.
EVA Preparations and Power Channel Issues
Preparations were being made by ISS Commander Sunita Williams and ISS Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide in the two-week period until 19 October for two spacewalks at the end of October, the first related to issues on the ISS 3A power channel, the second related to power channel 2B and the P6 truss cooling loop ammonia leak. From 15 October preparations included recharging EVA batteries, configuring EVA tethers, regenerating Metal Oxide CO2 removal cartridges, configuring tools and hardware, and checking out functionality on two SAFER (Simplified Aid For EVA Rescue) units, propulsive units for use during EVAs in the unlikely event that an astronaut becomes untethered from the ISS.
Whilst preparations were on-going successful troubleshooting was undertaken on power channel 3A, one of eight ISS power channels (1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B), which was reincorporated into the ISS Electrical Power System. An overcurrent in a Direct Current Switching Unit for power channel 3A had previously occurred reducing ISS power from the 8 solar arrays by 12.5% and following troubleshooting steps and a week of monitoring a reoccurrence of this trip did not occur. As such the EVA related to power channel 3A is no longer necessary in the near future though assessment of the original cause of the trip is still on-going with the focus lying on a Sequential Shunt Unit on power channel 3A which provides a constant level of voltage to components on this channel which run off ISS primary power.
The EVA for channel 2B and the related ammonia link is now the priority to isolate the loss of ammonia in the cooling loop and determine the appropriate steps to provide cooling to channel 2B in the future. The scheduled date of the spacewalk by Williams and Hoshide is 1 November.
On 16 October the Station’s principal robotic arm was moved by ground commanding to within 3 metres of the European-built Cupola Observation Module and Sunita Williams photographed the robot arm’s Latching End Effector for downlinking.
On 17 October a reboost of the ISS was undertaken using the Service Module Propulsion System. The manoeuvre lasted 19 sec, and increased the ISS altitude by 0.6 km placing it at a mean altitude of 414.5 km. The reboost places the ISS in an optimal flight profile for launch of Soyuz 32S on 23 October and Progress 49P on 31 October.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 19 October include: transferring cargo to, and flushing a fluid line of, Progress 48P; replacing a hard disk drive in the Device for the Study of Critical Liquids and Crystallization (DECLIC); switching cabling between navigation electronics units of the Russian ASN-M Satellite Navigation System as a troubleshooting measure; leak checks carried out on pressure equalisation valves in the Russian segment of the ISS; installation of five Radiation Environment Monitors on five Station Support Computers; and replacing a pump panel on the Service Module Internal Thermal Loop 2.
(*)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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