This is ISS status report #138 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:
Highlight: ESA’s Columbus Laboratory was launched to the ISS five years ago on 7 February 2008. Columbus was launched on the STS-122 mission aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis which included ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Léopold Eyharts who undertook the first steps in commissioning Europe’s permanent ISS Laboratory following its attachment to the European-built Node 2.
Space Headaches Experiment
Weekly questionnaires were filled in by ISS Commander Kevin Ford (his 14th and 15th) and ISS Flight Engineers Chris Hadfield and Tom Marshburn (their 6th and 7th) on 1 and 8 February 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 (for Ford) and Soyuz 33S on 19 December (for Hadfield and Marshburn).
Headaches can be a common astronaut complaint during space flights. This can negatively affect mental and physical capacities of astronauts/cosmonauts which can influence performance during a space mission.
Following partial equipment setup on 6 February, the following day ISS Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield performed his second and final session of the Neurospat experiment in the free-floating position. Hadfield was assisted by Tom Marshburn in donning and setting up the Electroencephalograph (EEG) cap and carrying out the session of the experiment. This was the final orbit session for the Neurospat experiment concluding the sessions for all 5 human test subjects.
NeuroSpat, which was the first experiment to make full use of the European Physiology Modules facility in June 2009, is investigating the ways in which crew members’ three-dimensional perception is affected by long-duration stays in weightlessness. For this, the electrical activity in the brain is measured using the EEG technique, while the subject executes specific tasks through a computer. The tasks allow the study of five cognitive processes: Perception, Attention, Memorization, Decision and Action. NeuroSpat also incorporates an experiment (Prespat) from the European Commission within the SURE project.
The European Physiology Modules facility is equipped with different Science Modules to investigate the cardio- and neurophysiological effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. Experiment results from the European Physiology Modules will contribute to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle atrophy.
ISS Partner Research
In addition to the European human research activities, NASA’s Human Research Facilities in Columbus were used for undertaking an ultrasound body scan for ISS Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn on 26 January. Ultrasound data and data for a recent Ambulatory Monitoring session of NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment for Marshburn were downlinked on 29 January. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms.
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 around Columbus on 26 October 2012. 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 communication problem between the DOSIS hardware and the European Physiology Modules facility was experienced during the two-week period though this is under analysis by by the relevant engineering team.
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. Up until 8 February a cumulative total of 48 days of data has been gathered using its active cosmic radiation detector hardware and passive detectors located inside the Columbus laboratory. The active detector hardware 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 active detector hardware has been active since 6 November 2012. The accompanying set of passive detectors (which were launched on Soyuz 33S) have been installed in the Columbus laboratory since 22 December 2012.
The latest Sun Visibility Window (the 61st) for the Solar facility to acquire data closed on 29 January (following its start on 17 January). 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. Following completion of the latest Sun visibility window the SolACES instrument from SOLAR was placed in warm-up configuration as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation. The next observation window is scheduled to start on 11 February.
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, including the solar max in 2013, with unprecedented accuracy.
Geoflow-2b and FASES Experiments in the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL)
Science runs and additional activities for the Geoflow-2b experiment inside the Fluid Science Laboratory continued in the two-week period until 8 February. Four no-rotation runs were carried out between 28 January and 7 February all of which completed data acquisition for all the required scientific set points.
Two of these runs (on 28-29 January and 4-5 February) were actually two parts of a long no-rotation run for which the high voltage was set to the highest possible value with each run completeing eight out of eight set points.The other two runs were also no-rotation runs that are investigating lower central Rayleigh numbers (dimensionless number associated with buoyancy driven flow indicating the presence and strength of convection within a fluid body). The experiment set up called for a high voltage difference across the two spheres within the experiment container.
All science images and Microgravity Measurement Apparatus data acquired during the scientific runs have been successfully downlinked for analysis.
Geoflow-2 and -2b (which follow on from the initial Geoflow experiment with new scientific objectives and a different experiment configuration) are 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 -2b the incompressible fluid is nonanol which varies in viscosity with temperature (unlike silicon oil as in the first Geoflow experiment) 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 still the same experiment set up as Geoflow-2, only with a different set of scientific boundary variables.
Current testing and functional 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 and immediately following execution.
Materials Science Laboratory
Research activities continued for the Batch 2a experiments (MICAST-2, CETSOL-2, SETA-2) in the two weeks until 8 February. On 5 February ISS Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield exchanged the MICAST-2 sample (which had been processed inside the Materials Science Laboratory from 23-24 January) for a CETSOL-2 sample. The CETSOL-2 sample was successfully processed inside the Solidification and Quenching Furnace of the Materials Science Laboratory from 6-7 February.
ESA’s Material Science Laboratory is the primary research facility located in NASA’s Materials Science Research Rack-1 in the US Laboratory. CETSOL (Columnar-to-Equiaxed Transition in Solidification Processing) and MICAST (Microstructure Formation in Casting of Technical Alloys under Diffusive and Magnetically Controlled Convective Conditions) are two complementary material science projects. The goal of MICAST is to study the formation of microstructures during casting of technical alloys. In space, buoyancy convection is eliminated and the dendritic solidification of the alloys can be quantitatively studied under purely diffusive conditions. The objective of CETSOL is then to study the transition from columnar growth to equiaxed growth that occurs when crystals start to nucleate in the melt and grow independently. The SETA (Solidification along a Eutectic path in Ternary Alloys) experiment is looking into a specific type of eutectic growth in alloys of aluminium manganese and silicon. Results of all these experiments will help to optimise industrial casting processes.
Very promising preliminary scientific results have already been presented from the first batch of CETSOL/MICAST samples that were processed in Materials Science Laboratory in 2009/2010 which constitutes an excellent basis for further materials research with international collaboration.
Electro Magnetic Levitator in the European Drawer Rack
Preparations are picking up momentum for the arrival of the Electro Magnetic Levitator (EML) which will be located inside the European Drawer Rack in Columbus and will investigate properties of metal alloys under weightlessness, supporting basic and industrial research. On 30 January a Video Management Unit video routing test was successfully performed to confirm adequate downlink capabilities. On 4, 5 February the European Drawer Rack vacuum and venting system leak check was successfully performed with the support of Chris Hadfield and ISS Commander Kevin Ford on orbit who mated/demated the facility’s vacuum, waste gas and N2 cables to/from a Utility Interface Panel in Columbus during the test activities.
The Electro Magnetic Levitator will perform container-less materials processing involving melting and solidification of electrically conductive, spherical samples, under ultra-high vacuum and/or high gas purity conditions. Heating and positioning of the sample is achieved by electromagnetic fields generated by a coil system. The Electro-magnetic Levitator will support research in the field of meta-stable states and phases and in the measurement of high-accuracy thermo-physical properties of liquid metallic alloys at high temperatures up to 2000 °C. The former covers investigations of nucleation and solidification kinetics in under-cooled melts and microstructure formation for instance
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 receiver received a software upgrade on 5 February.
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.
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 8 February include:
ESA’s Columbus Laboratory was launched to the ISS five years ago on 7 February 2008. Columbus was launched on the STS-122 mission aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis which included ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Léopold Eyharts who undertook the first steps in commissioning Europe’s permanent ISS Laboratory following its attachment to the European-built Node 2 on 11 February 2008.
Columbus Video Support
Columbus video equipment was used on 26 January for filming/recording the ultrasound sessions of NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn in the Columbus laboratory; on 5 February for the Local Area Network integration activities; and on 6 February for the EXPRESS Rack 3 software upgrade activities in Columbus. Columbus video recording equipment was also used on 1 February for recording activities for testing NASA’s Robonaut robotics hardware; on 6 February for the InSpace-3 experiment inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox in the US Laboratory during KU Band Loss of Signal; and on 8 February for activities with the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) in Node 3.
Columbus Local Area Network
The Local Area Network (LAN) of the Columbus laboratory has been integrated into the Joint Station LAN. The check-out activities confirmed that both the Portable Workstations (PWS1 and PWS2) were communicating with the Joint Station LAN.
Facility Software Upgrade
ISS Commander and NASA astronaut Kevin Ford loaded new Rack Interface Computer software on EXPRESS rack 3 in Columbus on 6 February. EXPRESS Rack 3 houses the European Modular Cultivation System.
Safety Gear Inspection
ISS Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn inspected portable safety gear such as oxygen masks and fire extinguishers in Columbus and throughout the Station on 6 February.
In addition to the above activities some standard weekly activities have taken place in Columbus including cycling of the Columbus Interface Heat Exchanger valves, Water On/Off Valve cycling, reboot of laptpos and smoke detector tests.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
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 8 February include:
Oxygen Generation System
On 7 February Tom Marshburn installed a hydrogen sensor on the Oxygen Generation System rack and temporarily installed a gas mass flow controller to ensure power and nitrogen flow inside the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer to prevent its failure.
Waste and Hygiene Compartment
On 4 February ISS Commander Kevin Ford carried out successful maintenance on a blockage in the Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node 3, caused by a kink in its urine filter hose. On 8 February, Tom Marshburn replaced a pre-treat tank in the Waste and Hygiene Compartment.
- Oxygen Generation System
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. No samples were placed in the MELFI units in the two-week reporting period, though MELFI-3 was rotated down on 5 February in connection with Joint Station Local Area Network activities.
Microgravity Science Glovebox
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was active numerous times between 28 January - 8 February to undertake NASA research activities (15 experiment runs) 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 Chris Hadfield.
Extrensive external robotics activities were undertaken in the two week period until 8 February. Flight controllers used the Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2) and the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (Dextre) to relocate a failed Main Bus Switching Unit and a spare Direct Current Switching Unit from temporary stowage on External Stowage Platform 2 outside the Quest airlock to External Logistics Carrier-2 on the station’s starboard truss on 28 and 30 January respectively. There are eight Direct Current Switching Units on the ISS each one receiving power from one of the eight solar array wings. The Direct Current Switching Units then channel the power in pairs through to the four Main Bus Switching Units on the S0 truss. The four Main Bus Switching Units distribute 160 volts of power from the eight solar array wings to transformers which convert the current to 124 volts.
A Cargo Transport Carrier was also relocated from the External Logistics Carrier 2 to a temporary stowage location on Dextre’s equipment holder on 29 January. These relocations were necessary to make space on the External Logistics Carrier for the spare Main Bus Switching Unit, which will be launched on the HTV-4, and to reposition spare Orbital Replacement Units closer to their installation locations.
On 6 February the Japanese robotic arm attached to the Kibo laboratory was used overnight to inspect experiments on the Exposed Pallet located on the outside of the Kibo laboratory.
The Proximity Communications Equipment for Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), used for close proximity communications between the ISS and the ATV, was installed inside the Russian Service Module including installation of its proximity communications box, an antenna switching control box, control panel, hand controller as well as connecting up relevant cabling. Subsequent connection testing was successful. ATV-4 is scheduled for launch in April.
SCaN Testbed on the P3 Truss
Test activities were undertaken for NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Testbed in the two weeks until 8 February. NASA’s SCaN Programme is responsible for providing communications and navigation services to space flight missions throughout the solar system. Using a new generation of Software Defined Radio (SDR) technologies, the ISS SCaN facility located on the P3 Truss section will allow researchers to develop, test, and demonstrate new communications, networking, and navigation capabilities in the actual environment of space.
ISS Partner Logistics Spacecraft
The Russian Progress M-18M logistics spacecraft is undergoing preparations at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, ahead of its scheduled launch to the ISS on logistics flight 50P on 11 February. with cargo consisting of 800 kg propellants, 50 kg oxygen and air, 420 kg water and 1350 kg dry cargo. On 7 February ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Roman Romanenko undertook refresher training on the Russian TORU manual docking system on in preparation for Progress 50P docking. The TORU system acts as a manually controlled backup to the automatic Kurs docking system. The session included, rendezvous, fly-around, final approach, docking and off-nominal situations such as video or communications loss.
Prior to the scheduled 9 February departure ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin prepared the Progress 48P spacecraft for departure. The Progress docking mechanism was again installed; Progress electronics were activated; ventilation ducting was removed; quick disconnect clamps which stabilize the connection between Progress 48P and the Pirs Docking Compartment were removed; and the Progress/Pirs hatches were closed, followed by the standard one-hour leak check of the interhatch area and the interface between the fuel/oxidizer transfer line.
The station residents are preparing for the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft in March. On 7 February ISS Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn (NASA) and Chris Hadfield (CSA) packed items for return on Dragon.
International Space Station Test bed for Analog Research (ISTAR) Activities
Activities were carried out on the ISS, testing ISTAR procedures in the two weeks until 8 February. ISTAR is a series of investigations exploring delayed voice communication and modified flight and ground operational procedures in preparation for the future human exploration missions beyong low-Earth orbit. This will help to evaluate changes to current operational procedures, which have previously relied on significant interaction between the crew and flight controllers, to allow the crew to work more autonomously. The activities undertaken on the ISS included Tom Marshburn scrubbing the cooling loop of an Extravehicular Mobility Unit and Kevin Ford and Chris Hadfield installing Ultrasonic Background Noise Test sensors behind two racks in the US laboratory.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 8 February include: replacing the last of the old emergency lighting systems in Node 1; upgrading automated payload switches for various racks and experiments with new circuit cards and power supplies; a successful check out of the ISS SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization (ISERV) system which is an automated system designed to acquire images of the Earth's surface from the ISS; a successful test of the Electronic Control Unit of the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures experiment; remote testing of NASA’s Robonaut humanoid robot hardware; successful communication testing in preparation for the ISS crew control of a rover as part of the Surface Telerobotics project; a software upgrade on EXPRESS Rack 5; replacing bolts in the Protein Crystallization Research Facility in the Japanese Kibo Laboratory; maintenance on the Amine Swingbed device which is testing a more efficient way of removing carbon dioxide from the ISS cabin atmosphere (and for future spacecraft); replacing a centrifuge in the Cell Biology Experiment Facility in the Japanese Kibo Laboratory; repairing interior panels in the Russian Service Module; and reconfiguring cables of the Joint Station Local Area Network.
(*)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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