This is ISS status report #147 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 fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-4) called “Albert Einstein” was launched to the ISS on 5 June by an Ariane 5 from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Europe's ISS logistics spacecraft will dock with the Space Station after a ten day journey in orbit.
Space Headaches Experiment
ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano continued filling in his daily questionnaires as part of the Space Headaches experiment following his launch in Soyuz 35S on 28 May. He completed his seventh and final daily questionnaire on 4 June. From this point weekly questionnaires will be completed for the experiment. Luca completed his first two weekly questionnaires on 7 and 14 June.
The Space Headaches experiment is determining the incidence and characteristics of headaches occurring within astronauts in orbit. 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.
Circadian Rhythms Experiment
Luca Parmitano successfully carried out his first session of the Circadian Rhythms experiment from 8 - 10 June. During the session Parmitano donned the Thermolab temperature sensors, on the forehead and chest, and the Thermolab unit along with an Actilight Watch to monitor his activity. Hereafter measurements were taken for 36 hours. The watch data has been downlinked to ground. The temperature sensor data will be downlinked at the end of his next session scheduled on 23 June.
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.
Luca Parmitano undertook the very first session of ESA’s new Skin-B experiment on 7 June. The session consisted of three different non-invasive measurements taken on the inside part of the forearm. This included skin moisture measurement with a corneometer; trans epidermal water loss measurement to determine barrier function of the skin with a tewameter; and surface evaluation of the living skin with a UVA-light camera (visioscan). All data was downlinked after the session.
The Skin-B experiment will help to develop a mathematical model of aging skin and improve understanding of skin-aging mechanisms, which are accelerated in weightlessness. It will also provide a model for the adaptive processes for other tissues in the body.
ISS Partner Research
In addition to the European human research activities, NASA’s Human Research Facility 2 in Columbus was used in the two weeks until 14 June for centrifuging blood samples for different NASA protocols for ISS Expedition 36 Flight Engineers Chris Cassidy, Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano. This included NASA’s Pro K protocol which is testing the hypothesis that a diet with a decreased ration of animal protein to potassium leads to a decreased loss of bone mineral.
NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 in Columbus was used on 6 and 7 June for undertaking ultrasound scans on Nyberg and Parmitano in connection with NASA’s Ocular Health protocol. On 6 June this included an ultrasound eye scan. The following day a cardiac ultrasound with blood pressure. This followed up activities on 5 June with Parmitano undergoing a visual test, a tonometry eye exam which measures introcular eye pressure, and a fundoscope eye exam (together with Nyberg). The Ocular Health protocol is gathering physiological data in order to characterise the risk of microgravity-induced visual impairment/intracranial pressure on crewmembers assigned to long-duration ISS missions. Human Research Facility 1 in Columbus was also used for undertaking body mass measurements for the three non-Russian crew members on 11 June.
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. A monthly downlink of data from the active detectors was undertaken via the European Physiology Modules facility (in which the active detectors are located) on 4 June. This included data from an Energetic Solar Particle Event which was monitored by DOSIS-3D active detectors with a higher data acquisition rate (around 2.5MB/day instead of ~150KB/day) from 24 – 29 May. 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.
No data acquisition has been undertaken with the Solar facility in the two week period until 14 June, awaiting the next Sun Visibility window to open. 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 latest Sun Visibility Window (the 65th) for the Solar facility to acquire data with its two active instruments (SOLSPEC and SolACES) closed on 24 May.
The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range for more than 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.
FASES Experiment in the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL)
The FASES (Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability) experiment container, with the 44 different sample cells, was launched to the ISS aboard ESA’s ATV-4 on 5 June with docking scheduled on 15 June. FASES will be the next experiment to take place in the Fluid Science Laboratory with experiment installation, commissioning and first run currently planned for 18/19 June. The overall experiment duration is estimated with minimum 9 months.
The FASES experiment 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.
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. An engineering assessment is still on-going to resolve the loss of a certain amount of data when transitioning in the communication range from Loss-of-Signal to Acquisition-of-Signal.
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 14 June include:
Columbus Data Management System and Local Area Network (LAN)
Following a downlink test on 1 June, ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg successfully performed Joint Station LAN connection checkout activities using the backup line on 3 June, performing Columbus Video Recorder activation/deactivation from the Portable Work Station 2 laptop in Columbus (This had been unsuccessful with Portable Work Station 1). Following additional steps undertaken by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer to reboot Portable Work Station 1 it has been determined that the laptop hard drive has failed, though this does not create any operational impacts with Portable Work Station 2 working.
On 4 June software patch 5 for the Columbus Data Management System was installed in order to improve Columbus high-rate multiplexer (HRM) monitoring and the recovery Flight Automated Procedure (FLAP) functionality. Some unexpected behaviour was experienced over the next couple of days including Portable Work Station 2 transitioning to a ‘NOT_ALIVE’ status, and causing certain reconfiguration to be undertaken, though on 10 June the laptop automatically connected to the Data Management System. Two days later the software patch was re-enabled in order to improve the HRM monitoring and the recovery FLAP functionality. On 13 June the recovery FLAP was triggered to re-establish the Ku-band connection.
Mission Control Centre Switch
The annual switch from the Mission Control Center in Houston (MCC-H) to White Sands in New Mexico was undertaken on 4 June with the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany supporting testing of the MCC-H web tools access.
Columbus Heat Exchanger
On 5 June a Columbus Heat Exchanger Dryout was initiated on Core 1 at 7°C. Following verification of dryout completion, the activity was terminated. Correspondingly, the Heat Exchanger is now operating on Core 2. Due to the impact of the current high beta angle (where the ISS is in an orbit with a greater degree of Sun exposure, and on one side of the vehicle) the Columbus Control Centre activated Heater Control Unit 2 to maintain thermal balance within the necessary limits.
In addition to the above activities some standard weekly activities have taken place in Columbus including cycling of Interface Heat Exchanger Water On/Off Valves, Water Pump Assembly checkout and smoke detector tests.
Activities of ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano
In the two weeks until 14 June, in addition to what is discussed in the rest of the report ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano capped all connectors on the European Physiology Modules facility in Columbus.
In addition to the European and ISS Partner science programme detailed above ESA astronaut Luca Parmitanio has carried out other research activities in support of the science programmes of ESA’s ISS partners. This included: being a subject for NASA’s Microbiome experiment, providing bodily samples and filling in questionnaires in order to investigate the impact of space travel on the human immune system and the microbes that live in and on the human body; the ‘Reaction Self Test’ experiment which looks into how planned sleep shift for ISS crews affects performance; and initiated a sample run for NASA’s Binary Colloidal Alloy Test (BCAT) 4 experiment which is studying the way microscopic spheres of different diameters, suspended in a liquid, crystallize in weightlessness.
Health status activities
The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the two weeks until 14 June Luca Parmitano has undertaken: a monthly Periodic Fitness Evaluation to monitor his overall fitness levels to ensure cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health; a Periodic Health Status check logging vitals and documenting general physical status; and donned a crew-worn acoustic dosimeter to measure acoustic levels he is exposed to.
During the two weeks until 14 June Parmitano and the other ISS crew members have had their regular Planning Conferences with ESA’s Columbus Control Centre as well as Mission Control in Houston and Moscow, and the Japanese Flight Control Team at the Tsukuba Space Centre. In addition Parmitano also: undertook an emergency drill with the other ISS crew members, in order to practice emergency response based on a simulated rapid depressurisation event; cleared stowage in Node 1 (with Nyberg) and removed items needed for an upcoming US-based spacewalk in July, and to be trashed or returned; as well as taking part in public affairs events with Italian media during an ESA news conference on 7 June and with public school students from Douglas, Massachusetts together with ISS Flight Engineers and NASA astronauts Karen Nyberg and Chris Cassidy.
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 14 June include:
Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
Parmitano and Nyberg replaced the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) from the rack face of Water Recovery System (WRS) 1 with a new unit. Hereafter the new unit was used to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks
Recycle Tank Replacement
A Water Recovery System recycle tank was replaced by ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy on 7 June.
- Water Recovery System racks: Sampling activities
ISS Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg performed an inspection of the T2/COLBERT treadmill in the European-built Node 3 on 13 June as an ‘ISS as Testbed for Analog Research (ISTAR)’ activity. The ISTAR objectives are to explore how mission operations can be optimised in the presence of communication delays of several minutes, similar to what would be experienced on exploration missions to Mars, near-Earth asteroids, or other targets in deep space.
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 the NASA’s joint Nutrition/Pro-K/Repository protocol (blood, urine); for NASA’s Microbiome experiment (different bodily samples) for Nyberg and Parmitano; and generic blood, saliva and urine samples.
Progress M-19M/51P Undocking Activities
Progress M-19M/51P Undocking Preparations
Prior to its scheduled departure the Russian crew members (Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Commander Pavel Vinogradov, and Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin), prepared the Progress 51P 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 51P 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-19M/51P Undocking
On 11 June Progress M-19M/51P successfully undocked from the aft port of the Russian Zvezda Service Module at 15:58 (CEST). Three minutes later Progress 51P performed its first separation burn to move to a safe distance from the ISS. After undocking the external cameras of Progress 51P were used to focus on navigational sensors on the Zvezda docking port to gather imagery and confirm that the sensors were not damaged by one the Progress 51P navigational antennas when it docked to the station in April. Those sensors are required for the ATV-4 to dock properly on 15 June. The Progress spacecraft will remain in a parking orbit well away from the station for several days of engineering tests to calibrate Russian ground-based radar systems before it is deorbited to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere on 19 June.
In preparation for the arrival of the fourth of ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV-4) called “Albert Einstein” at the ISS, Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano (ESA) and Alexander Misurkin (Roscosmos) carried out a television downlink test and tested the ATV's Proximity Communications Equipment, Antenna Feeder Unit, and Hand Controller on 3 June. The following day Parmitano and Nyberg carried out some cargo reconfiguration to make space for supplies that will be delivered on ATV-4.
ESA's fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-4) called “Albert Einstein” was launched on 5 June at 23:52 CEST (18:52 local time) by an Ariane 5 from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Following separation from the Ariane 5 upper stage, the solar arrays and proximity boom antenna were successfully deployed and locked, and the GPS system was activated. Europe's ISS logistics spacecraft will deliver 100 kg of oxygen and air, 570 kg of water, 2580 kg of propellants for reboosting the Station’s orbit and undertaking debris avoidance manoeuvres and 860 kg more to refill the tanks of the Zvezda Service Module, and 2.48 tonnes of dry cargo to the ISS.
On 13 June Parmitano and Misurkin carried out a training session on an ATV rendezvous simulator in the Russian Service Module, which included rendezvous and docking malfunctions. On 14 June at a distance of about 250 metres from the ISS, ATV-4 performed several check out tests to ensure its navigation sensors could communicate successfully with the docking reflectors on the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module where it will dock on 15 June. The system appears to be working, and the European logistics spacecraft is proceeding with its rendezvous procedures.
Russian Spacewalk Preparations
In preparation for a Russian spacewalk on 24 June ISS Flight Engineers Alexander Misurkin and Fyodor Yurchikhin (both representing Roscosmos) undertook procedure reviews, gathered relevant tools and hardware, and prepared their Orlan spacesuits between 6 - 13 June. The spacewalk will prepare the International Space Station for the arrival of the new “Nauka” Multipurpose Laboratory Module which will be docked to the Earth-facing port of Zvezda, following its launch atop a Russian Proton rocket at the end of this year.
Microgravity Science Glovebox
On 10 June ISS Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy discovered a video recorder LAN cable which wasn’t fully inserted so he connected it. This may fix the Microgravity Science Glovebox video recorder issues experienced recently. Two days later Cassidy removed the hardware for NASA’s Burning and Suppression of Solids (BASS) experiment from the Glovebox and stowed it following an extensive number of experiment runs carried out recently. 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.
On 13 June Cassidy rotated the Glovebox forward, cleaned and replaced the Avionics Air Assembly fan filter and took photographs of the filter condition. After photos were taken, the rack was rotated back into position.
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.
In-flight maintenance was performed on the Centerline Berthing Camera System (CBCS) in Node 2 and the system was successfully checked out in preparation for the upcoming HTV-4 berthing in August. In September 2012, the crew attempted to install and use the CBCS String 2 in Node 2 for a ground controlled Ready To Latch test but were unable to achieve a usable video image. Chris Cassidy replaced the String 2 components with String 1 hardware and replaced a bad cable.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 14 June include: parking of the port-side Solar Alpha Rotary Joint and 2B Beta Gimbal Assembly (responsible for solar array rotation) and intermittent parking of the Ku-band antenna due to high solar beta angles; dry out of the MERLIN (Microgravity Experiment Research Locker Incubator) freezer 2; preparing the Combustion Integrated Rack in the US laboratory for another round of experiments including replacing a manifold bottle; successful leak checks of the Combustion Chamber of the Multi-purpose Small Payload Rack in the Japanese laboratory; deactivation of the DECLIC facility after a successful 18 day science run; maintenance in the Fluids Integrated Rack - Light Microscopy Module to bring its microscope back to functionality, followed by a successful check out and runs of NASA’s Advanced Colloids Experiment; successful troubleshooting on the laptop of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer external payload; and further successful test runs with the Amine Swingbed hardware which is testing a more efficient way of removing carbon dioxide from the ISS cabin atmosphere.
(*)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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