This is ISS status report #143 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 Chris Hadfield and ISS Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn filled in weekly questionnaires (their 16th and 17th) on 12 and 19 April for 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 in Soyuz 33S on 19 December 2012. 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.
The Energy experiment, which aims at determining the energy requirements of astronauts during long-term spaceflight, started on 8 April with ISS Commander Chris Hadfield as the fourth test subject (following on from ESA astronaut André Kuipers, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn). On the first day a baseline drinking water sample was taken from the Potable Water Dispenser (from which Hadfield drank for the duration of the experiment). On the second day water samples were taken and a baseline urine sample was provided by Hadfield prior to imbibing a Double Labelled Water isotope. Oxygen Uptake Measurements were also undertaken on Hadfield at rest using the ESA/NASA Pulmonary Function System in order to measure Resting Metabolic Rate. After consuming a dedicated breakfast Hadfield 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. For the remainder of the 11-day period, Chris Hadfield logged his dietary intake (daily) and provided urine samples every other day and water samples were taken. For the last couple of days of the experiment Hadfield was also undertaking NASA’s Pro-K exoperiment which involves a dedicated diet and, as such, diet logging from Hadfield was not necessary. On the last day of the experiment (18 April) Hadfield transferred the activity data from the Energy Armband he had been wearing through the experiment to the laptop of the European Physiology Modules Facility for downlink and all dietary data logs were transferred to ground.
The data gathered will allow for the determination of Chris Hadfield’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 which will allow for optimal planning when considering upload of food supplies to be sufficient but not excessive. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano is scheduled to be the next test subject for the experiment.
Circadian Rhythms Experiment
ISS Commander Chris Hadfield successfully carried out his fourth session of the Circadian Rhythms experiment from 6 - 8 April. During the session Hadfield donned the Thermolab sensors, on the forehead and chest, and the Thermolab unit. Hereafter measurements were taken for 36 hours. ISS Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn successfully completed his fourth 36-hour session of the experiment from 13 - 15 April.
The main objective of the 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.
ISS Partner Research
In addition to the European human research activities, the Cardiolab Leg-Arm Cuff System (LACS) of ESA’s European Physiology Modules facility and the ESA/NASA Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2 were used in the two weeks until 19 April for performing the Canadian Space Agency’s new Blood Pressure Regulation (BP Reg) experiment. ISS Commander Chris Hadfield undertook the very first session of the experiment as a test subject on 17 April with ISS Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn following as a test subject two days later. This investigation will help to enhance methods for health monitoring during future long-term space flights with relation to cardiovascular adaptation and helping to identify the astronauts who could benefit from countermeasures before returning to Earth. This will also have implications for testing of individuals on Earth, especially the elderly who are at risk for fainting.
NASA’s Human Research Facilities in Columbus were also used for centrifuging blood samples for NASA’s Pro-K experiment for ISS Commander Chris Hadfield and ISS Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy. Pro-K is testing the hypothesis that a diet with a decreased ratio of animal protein to potassium leads to decreased loss of bone mineral during flight. Tom Marshburn also had a generic blood sample centrifuged on 18 April. All centrifuged samples were placed in one of the European built MELFI freezer units afterwards. Human Research Facility 1 was also used for undertaking body mass measurements on 8 April for the non-Russian crew members for NASA’s Nutrition experiment.
Data acquisition has been on-going for the Dose Distribution inside the ISS 3D (DOSIS-3D) experiment using the two active detectors and the new set of passive detectors which were deployed at various locations around the Columbus laboratory on 3 April. The science team have confirmed the correct deployment of the passive detectors and the good quality of data from the active detectors which underwent a monthly downlink on 5 April. The active detectors undertake time-dependent cosmic radiation measurements for the experiment, while 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 TriTel (Tri-Axis Telescope) experiment. Up until 19 April a cumulative total of 118 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 64th) for the Solar facility to acquire data opened on 17 April. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR, which is located on the external platform 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 taken out of a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation) the previous day in order to begin science acquisition. In addition to science acquisition, the Solar facilty underwent the first part of a software upgrade on 12 April.
The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range for 5 years. 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.
Geoflow-2b and FASES Experiments in the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL)
The Fluid Science Laboratory has been active in the two weeks until 19 April in connection with research and test activities for the Geoflow-2b and FASES experiments. Science runs for the Geoflow-2b experiment inside the Fluid Science Laboratory continued with data being directly transferred to ground rather than being recorded on orbit while an FSL Video Management Unit error is being resolved. A long-duration no-rotation run, for which the high voltage is set to highest possible value, was started on 8 April though this was stopped due to a Thermal Environment Control board trip. Following intervening activities for the FASES experiment and a successful engineering assessment Geoflow-2b continued from 16-18 April with normal and long-duration experiment runs.
For the FASES (Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability) experiment high rate data downlink test activities were undertaken on 15-16 April.
The Geoflow-2 and -2b experiments (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 the Geoflow-2 and -2b experiments 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. The Geoflow-2 investigation 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.
The FASES experiment which will be the next experiment to take place in the Fluid Science Laboratory investigates the effect of surface tension on the stability of emulsions. Thin emulsions of different compositions will be stored inside 44 individual sample cells through which the emulsions will be optically and thermally characterised. Results of the FASES experiment hold significance for oil extraction processes, and the chemical and food industries. The FASES Experiment Container is due for upload on ATV-4 in June 2013 with immediate execution in FSL following docking.
Materials Science Laboratory
On 12 April a seal inspection of the Materials Science Laboratory vacuum chamber was performed by ISS Commander Chris Hadfield. This followed a failed leak test after the last cartridge exchange in March. Apart from some minor grey dust reported on the wipes used, everything looking clean. As such another chamber leak test will be planned in the near future. ESA’s Material Science Laboratory is the primary research facility located in NASA’s Materials Science Research Rack-1 in the US Laboratory.
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 nearly three 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 19 April include:
Ham Radio Sessions
ISS Commander and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield used the amateur radio equipment in Columbus for undertaking ham radio sessions with different locations in Canada on 6, 7, 9 and 12 April.
Columbus Video Equipment
Columbus video camera equipment was used during the start of the Energy experiment on 9 April. A high definition test was also undertaken on Video Camera Assembly 1 in Columbus on 10 April. This included a lip synch test for embedded audio and a survey of the Columbus laboratory for stowage status. This showed very good results for video quality and stability.
Columbus Air Loop
Testing was undertaken from 16 April to assess impacts of an increased Thermal Control Valve kick amplitude on the Columbus Air Loop during normal operations. For the tests the Thermal Control Valve kick amplitude was set to 98% and the speed of Cabin Fan Assembly 1 was set to 9500 rpm and then 10500 rpm. The Columbus air loop performed normally.
In addition to the above activities some standard weekly activities have taken place in Columbus including cycling of Interface Heat Exchanger valves, the passive Water Pump Assembly checkout, Water On/Off Valve cycling, 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 22 March include:
Water Recovery System racks: Urine Processor Assembly
Functionality of the Urine Processor Assembly in Water Recovery System rack 2 has now been recovered. A process cycle of the Urine Processor Assembly was aborted on 5 April when the Fluids Control and Pump Assembly did not spin up to the required speed. It was suspected that the hose between the purge pump and the Distillation Assembly was clear of water, but that there was still water in the Distillation Assembly condenser which intermittently was clogging the flow path. It was hoped that continued process runs followed by periods of cool down would help to remove excess water from the system. Three process runs were undertaken. The first attempt resulted in a shut down after about 2 hours of processing. The second and third attempts were both completed successfully.
Water Recovery System racks:Water Processor Assembly
ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn upgraded the software of the Water Processor Assembly in the Water Recovery System racks on 9 April. The new software makes various improvements to the system including providing implementation of an Iodinated flush to mitigate biomass growth and protecting the system’s Mostly Liquid Separator against over pressurisation.
Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
Chris Hadfield used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) on 8 and 17 April to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks in Node 3. Water samples were also taken for return to Earth on Soyuz 33S.
- Water Recovery System racks: Urine Processor Assembly
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 joint Nutrition/Repository/Pro-K protocol (blood, urine). In addition ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy inserted six -32 deg C ice bricks into the MELFI-3 freezer unit for future storage requirements.
Microgravity Science Glovebox
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was active in the two-week reporting period until 19 April to undertake research activities for NASA’s Burning and Suppression of Solids (BASS) experiment, which makes use of NASAs Smoke Point In Coflow Experiment (SPICE) hardware inside the Glovebox. Three sessions were undertaken on 9, 12 and 16 April with processing of four different samples. On-orbit activities were undertaken by NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy.
BASS is testing combustion characteristics of solid fuel samples in order to gain unique data which will help improve numerical modelling, and hence improve design tools and practical combustion on Earth by increasing combustion efficiency and reducing pollutant emission for practical combustion devices.
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was developed by ESA within a barter agreement with NASA. The Glovebox provides the ability to perform a wide range of experiments in the fields of material science, biotechnology, fluid science, combustion science and crystal growth research, in a fully sealed and controlled environment.
Progress M-17M/49P Undocking Preparations
Prior to its scheduled departure the Russian crew members (ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov, Roman Romanenko and Alexander Misurkin), prepared the Progress 49P 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 49P and the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module were removed; and the Progress/Zvezda hatches were closed, followed by the standard one-hour leak check of the interhatch area and the interface between the fuel/oxidizer transfer line.
Progress M-17M/49P Undocking/Deorbit
On 15 April Progress M-17M/49P successfully undocked from the aft port of the Russian Zvezda Service Module at 14:02 (CEST). Three minutes later Progress 48P performed its first separation burn to move to a safe distance from the ISS. About three hours after undocking the Progress spacecraft undertook a retrograde thruster burn. The Progress spacecraft will not deorbit until 21 April. It will be staying in orbit in order to perform several days of thruster firings to help calibrate Russian radar systems on the ground.
Ku-Band Communications Unit Installation
In the two weeks until 19 April activities continued for upgrading Ku-band communications on the ISS. Ku-Band Communications Unit 2 was powered down before the second unit, Ku-Band Communications Unit 1, was installed by ISS Commander Chris Hadfield and ISS Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn into Avionics Rack 3 in the US laboratory on 11 April. Following the installation, a software patch was loaded from the ground into the newly installed unit. Following the installation Ku-Band Communications Unit 2 was brought back online. The new equipment forms part of the High Rate Communications System hardware which will increase the number of station downlink video channels from four to six, the number of space-to-ground audio channels from two to four, increase up and downlink bandwidth as well as additional improved functionality. The Ku-band is a frequency used primarily for satellite communications, and specifically for ISS communications. A week later activities were completed by Hadfield and Marshburn, connecting Ku-Band Communications Unit 1 coaxial cables prior to successful ground activation and testing. The upgrades have greatly enhanced the ability of researchers on Earth to get data to and from their experiments aboard the station.
Test activities continued for NASA’s Robonaut humanoid robot technology demonstration on 8, 9 April. ISS Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn set up the hardware and conducted the first use of Robonaut TeleOps hardware and software. Marshburn donned telerobotics gear that included a special helmet and gloves that allowed him to successfully command the robot by having it copy his movements. Activities also included voice commanding. This was demonstrating the ability to effectively control Robonaut from the ISS as all previous Robonaut commanding has been from the ground. This capability will allow the astronauts to make real-time decisions and control Robonaut’s actions from inside the station. Robonaut was designed with the intention of eventually supporting future operations in the EVA environment as well as certain Intravehicular Activity situations
The Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2) was used on the evening of 15-16 April to undertake a video survey of Pressurised Mating Adaptor 2 (attached to the forward facing port of Node 2). This was undertaken to inspect the surface of the adaptor for contamination or possible micrometeoroid damage before installing a special cover during a future US spacewalk.
In the two weeks until 19 April preparations were underway for a Russian EVA on 19 April. The spacewalking cosmonauts, Pavel Vinogradov and Roman Romanenko: prepared EVA tools; closed the hatch to the ISS Progress 50P cargo craft docked to Pirs Docking Compartment to prepare Pirs as an airlock; and numerous activities related to their Orlan EVA suits. This included recharging the EVA batteries; carrying out telemetry and communications checks; resizing their EVA suits and conducting leak checks; and installing EVA lights and tool belts.
A suited dry run was also undertaken inside the Pirs Airlock. Air ducts between the Service Module Transfer Compartment and the Pirs Docking Compartment and airlock were removed in order to clear space for a suited dry run and communications equipment was configured in Pirs. Hereafter the two cosmonauts carried out functionality and leak checks on the Russian Orlan EVA suits and related equipment. Once the cosmonauts were sealed into their respective suits additional functionality checks were carried out and successful testing was completed to check on suited mobility inside the Pirs Docking Compartment. Once this suited dry run was over communications and air ducting was restored to its pre-test configuration.
On completion of the standard pre-EVA procedures, the spacewalk was carried out by ISS Flight Engineers Pavel Vinogradov and Roman Romanenko on 19 April. The main tasks that were achieved during the 6 hr 38 min EVA, which started at 16:03 (CEST) were: installation of the Obstanovka plasma waves experiment on the station's Zvezda service module and deploying a pair of sensor booms for the experiment; replacement of a faulty retro-reflector device on Zvezda, which will assist ESA’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (called Albert Einstein) with docking in June; retrieval of the Biorisk experiment (studying the effect of microbes on spacecraft structures) from the exterior of Pirs; and retrieval of a Vinoslivost materials sample experiment panel from the Poisk module. Unfortunately this slipped from Vinogradov’s grasp during removal and is irretrievable.
Once the EVA was complete the Service Module Transfer Compartment was repressurised, communications, ventilation and other systems were reconfigured back to the pre-EVA conditions and the cosmonauts carried out post-EVA medical procedures. During the Russian-based EVA Flight Engineers Alexander Misurkin and Chris Cassidy were isolated in the Russian Poisk Mini Research Module 2 with access to Soyuz 34S in case of a depressurisation contingency while Chris Hadfield and Tom Marshburn were in the US segment of the ISS with access to Soyuz 33S docked at the Russian Rassvet Module for similar reasons.
Antares Launch Preparations
On 6 April Orbital Sciences Corporation’s new Antares launcher was roll-out to its launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility for its first test flight. Testing will enable the rocket to eventually carry experiments and supplies to the International Space Station aboard a Cygnus cargo spacecraft which will become another of NASA’s commercial resupply spacecraft to the ISS. The first scheduled launch was scrubbed on 17 March due to a premature separation of the launch pad umbilical that mates to Antares. The next scheduled launch will be during the weekend of 20, 21 April.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 19 April include: installation of Node 1 power cables in advance of US EVA activities in July to assist in power failure recovery procedures; replacement of a fuel reservoir (which enables safe performance of experiments studying combustion in space) in the Combustion Integrated Rack in the US Laboratory; replacement of a failed printer in the Russian Service Module with a US printer and deployment of a new printer in the US segment of the ISS; deployment and retrieval of radiation detectors around the ISS; exchanging two hard drives in a laptop that is part of the Space Acceleration Measurement System-II. which measures forces (vibrations/accelerations) on the space station; a successful software update for the Amine Swingbed hardware which is testing a more efficient way of removing carbon dioxide from the ISS cabin atmosphere; replacement of the Fuel Oxidizer Management Assembly (FOMA) Calibration Unit in the Combustion Integrated Rack (and related testing) in order to renew the Flight Safety Certification of the rack which expires in June; updating software on the EXPRESS Rack 6 laptop; and successful recovery of a failed Command and Control Multiplexer/Demultiplexer mass storage device.
(*)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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