This is ISS status report #134 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:
Space Headaches Experiment
ISS Commander Kevin Ford continued filling in weekly questionnaires (his 6th and 7th) on 7 and 14 December 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 32S on 23 October. 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.
European Modular Cultivation System Maintenance
The water pump servicing activity for the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) was successfully performed on 12 December. The European Modular Cultivation System, which was launched to the ISS in July 2006, is located in EXPRESS Rack 3 in Columbus and is dedicated to biological experiments such as the effects of gravity on cells, roots and physiology of plants and simple animals. It was developed by ESA and is being operated jointly with NASA under a bilateral barter agreement which was renewed again in Autumn 2012 after the initial 2 year time frame (within ISS Early Utilisation) and a subsequent International Space Life Sciences Working Group cooperation agreement). The next ESA experiment to take place in the facility is the Gravi-2 experiment which builds on the initial Gravi experiment in determining the gravity threshold response in plant (lentil) roots. The Gravi-2 experiment is tentatively scheduled for transportation to the ISS on the SpaceX-3 spacecraft in the second half of 2013.
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 cosmic radiation measurements, and a second set of passive detectors (delivered on Soyuz 32S) which were installed in different locations within Columbus by Sunita Williams on 26 October. This followed up from the first set of passive detectors which gathered data in the Columbus laboratory from May to September 2012 before being returned to earth 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. A monthly downlink of data from the active detectors was undertaken via the European Physiology Modules facility on 12 December.
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 TriTel (Tri-Axis Telescope) experiment using its active cosmic radiation detector hardware located inside the Columbus laboratory. The active detector includes three different detector types which are able to provide a 3-dimensional mapping of radiation entering Columbus i.e determining the time-dependent level of radiation and direction with which it travels into/through Columbus. The hardware has been active since 6 November. An accompanying set of passive detectors for the TriTel experiment will be launched to the ISS on Soyuz 33S in mid December.
The latest Sun Visibility Window (60th) for the Solar facility to acquire data has been ongoing since 12 December following completion of the Sun Visibility Window bridging event which took place from 30 November – 12 December. 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. Sun Visibility Window 60 is scheduled to end on 24 December.
As the Sun visibility windows last for around 12 days there has not been the chance to undertake solar measurements during a full Sun rotation cycle which lasts around 27 days. The bridging event remedied this by taking measurements outside of the standard Sun visibility windows (hence joining Sun Visibility Windows 59 and 60 together) through a slight rotation of the ISS in the bridging period to put the Solar facility in the correct profile in relation to the Sun. Sun Visibility Window 59 was undertaken from 18 – 30 November. The bridging period was the first time that the attitude of the whole Space Station had been changed for science reasons. Following completion of the bridging event the ISS was rotated back to its standard orbital profile. The SolACES instrument from SOLAR was placed in a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation) from 12 December in connection with ISS reboost activities i.e. (thruster firings), though it was placed back into cooling mode the following day due to cancellation of the activity.
The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range currently for nearly five 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.
Fluid Science Laboratory Testing
Activities have been ongoing on the ISS for resumption of the Geoflow-2 experiment (as Geoflow 2b). ISS Commander Kevin Ford exchanged the reference Optical Target inside the Fluid Science Laboratory facility with the Geoflow-2 Experiment Container on 4 December. He also relocated a measurement sensor from the Space Acceleration Measurement System II (SAMS-II) from EXPRESS Rack 3 to the front panel of the Fluid Science Laboratory. The following day Ford released the Core Element of the facility (which hosts the Fluid Science Laboratory experiments) putting it in free-floating mode in order to support the simultaneous acquisition of micro-g measurements with the Microgravity Measurement Apparatus and Microgravity Vibration Isolation System built into the Fluid Science Laboratory and the SAMS-II equipment. These cross-calibration measurements were successfully performed from ground during the remaining part of that day. Finally, a checkout run of the Geoflow-2 experiment was executed which confirmed the proper performance of the equipment with all telemetry data confirmed as nominal. On 6 December a software upgrade of the Fluid Science Laboratory Rack Interface Controller was successfully performed. Five days later Ford relocated the SAMS measurement sensor back to EXPRESS Rack 3. The following day the Fluid Science Laboratory was again active in order to undertake additional data from the Microgravity Measurement Apparatus and Microgravity Vibration Isolation System for engineering purposes. On 14 December the Fluid Science Laboratory was activated in order to perform a Geoflow system test in preparation for next weeks experiment runs. The Geoflow-2 science programme is scheduled to start in the week of 17 December.
Geoflow-2 (which follows on from the initial Geoflow experiment with new scientific objectives and a different experiment configuration) is investigating the flow of an incompressible viscous fluid held between two concentric spheres rotating about a common axis as a representation of a planet. This is of importance for astrophysical and geophysical problems such as global scale flow in the atmosphere, the oceans, and in the liquid nucleus of planets. For Geoflow-2 (and Geoflow 2b) the incompressible fluid is nonanol which varies in viscosity with temperature (unlike silicon oil) to provide a different aspect of research with more of a simulation to Earth’s geophysical conditions. Geoflow-2 has already undertaken about 14 months of research from March 2011 – May 2012. Geoflow 2b is physically the same experiment set up as Geodlow-2, only with a different set of scientific boundary variables.
Current testing and upgrade activities for the Fluid Science Laboratory are also being undertaken in advance of the FASES experiment which is due for upload on ATV-4 in April 2013 with immediate start of processing of the most age-sensitive emulsion samples).
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.
NightPod Tracking Device
ISS Commander Kevin Ford used the NightPod device during his free time on 10 December to take some night photographs of Earth from the ESA-built Cupola Observation Module. The NightPod 'tracking device' supports a Nikon 3DS camera in taking high-definition pictures of the Earth, especially at night. In a global outreach effort. The footage will be available for the public on the internet. The payload will also be used for education purposes in order to teach children and students about geography and demographic distribution on Earth.
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 14 December include:
Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter
On 12 December the Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter was relocated from Node 2 to the Columbus laboratory by ISS Commander and NASA astronaut Kevin Ford. The Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter one of the principal radiation measurement devices on the ISS.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
On 12 December Kevin Ford carried out troubleshooting on the T2/COLBERT treadmill, relaunching its recently reloaded software after rebooting the device before carrying out an exercise session with the equipment.
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 14 December include:
Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
Kevin Ford used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks on 3 and 11 December. On 11 December Ford also undertook analysis of water samples using a Water Microbiology Kit, and a Coliform Detection Bag for detection of bacterial levels. Microbiology analysis of the samples was also undertaken by Ford two days later.
Water Recovery System racks: Processing
Kevin Ford successfully replaced the full Recycle Filter Tank Assembly in Water Recovery System rack 2 on 6 December with a new unit, and temporarily stowed the old unit. He then reconfigured the Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node-3 to send urine directly to the Urine Processing Assembly, rather than to a waste container. Five days later he drained the old Recycle Filter Tank Assembly into a waste container.
- Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
Soyuz TMA-06M/32S and Expedition Crew Return Preparations
Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
On 11 December ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin carried out their first orthostatic hemodynamic endurance test session using the VELO ergometer 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.
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 Medaka Osteoclast payload (water quality strips).
Progress M-16M/48P and M-17M/49P Activities
On 7 December Novitskiy configured pumping equipment and transferred the remaining water from the BV1 Rodnik tank of Progress 48P into two containers. Hereafter he started a bladder compression and leak check on the same Progress tank to prepare it for urine transfers back into the tank for disposal after Progress undocking in the future. On 12 December Novitskiy configured pumping equipment, flushed the BV1 tank with disinfectant and initiated the transfer of urine from three waste containers into the tank. In addition the Russian cosmonauts continued with Progress cargo transfers, transferring cargo to Progress 48P for stowage or disposal, and transferring cargo from Progress 49P to the ISS.
Microgravity Science Glovebox
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was active on 3, 7 and 14 December to undertake NASA research activities for the InSPACE-3 (Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions 3) experiment. InSPACE-3 studies the fundamental behaviour of magnetic colloidal fluids under the influence of various magnetic fields. On-orbit activities for the experiment were undertaken by Kevin Ford.
Russian Segment Electrical Power System
On 7 December Russian cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin performed a major maintenance activity on the Service Module Power Supply System in the Russian Segment of the ISS, replacing one of the eight 800A batteries.
Debris Avoidance Manoeuvre Planning
A new Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Manoeuvre was being planned to take place on 13 December, though was cancelled due to a delay in locking one of the major ISS solar array joints (Beta Gimbal Assembly 3A). The activity has been rescheduled for 16 December. This new reboost capability will be used if there is not enough time for a standard Debris Avoidance Manoeuvre to take place due to late notification of orbital debris in close proximity with the ISS. A decision for a standard Debris Avoidance Manoeuvre must occur not later than approximately 23.5 hrs before the Time of Closest Approach for the debris. For a Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Manoeuvre, the decision time can be as late as 3 hrs prior to the Time of Closest Approach for the debris. The new manoeouvre would be performed by the Progress spacecraft attached to the Pirs Docking Compartment. New software for the manoeuvre is already on-board the Russian Service Module.
At the end of the reporting period orbital debris from an Ariane 1 Rocket Body 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 15 December. However it was subsequently determined that it 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 14 December include: troubleshooting a Scopemeter power adaptor/charger and batteries; repairing an interior panel in the Russian Service Module; replacing ventilators of the Service Module Thermal Control System with new low-noise fans; different forms of environmental monitoring; preparing two EVA suits for water line scrubbing and checking the suits Audio Terminal Units for proper functioning; replacing a failed hard disk drive in a Station Support Computer before loading it with new software; installation of an antenna switching control box in the Russian Service Module; troubleshooting on NASA’s International Space Station Agricultural Camera in an attempt to recover health and status data; replacing a Video Recording Unit disk in the Image Processing Unit in the Japanese Laboratory as part of troubleshooting activities; and replacing the fibre arm (which was dirty with combustion by-products) and igniter tips of the Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus in NASA’s Combustion Integrated Rack.
(*)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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