This is ISS status report #148 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.
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.
Highlight: Europe’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-4) called “Albert Einstein” automatically docked to the aft docking port of the ISS Zvezda Service Module on 15 June at 16:07 (CEST). This followed its launch on 5 June from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana and a 10-day journey to the ISS. Amongst the cargo transported by ATV-4 was the experiment container for the FASES emulsion stability experiment, items for the Energy experiment looking into astronaut nutrition requirements in orbit, and Biolab facility hardware.
The current status of the European science package on the ISS is as follows:
Space Headaches Experiment
ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano continued filling in weekly questionnaires (his third and fourth) on 21 and 28 June as part of the Space Headaches experiment. The weekly questionnaires follow on from one week of filling in daily questionnaires during the first week after launch on Soyuz 35S on 28 May.
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
A firmware upgrade of the Thermolab equipment (used for the Circadian Rhythms experiment) was successfully undertaken on 21 June to resolve a downlinking problem of partial data files. Hereafter the files of previous sessions/subjects were transferred and downlinked and checked for completeness. Only one of the downlinked sessions included partial data.
Following the upgrade activities Luca Parmitano successfully carried out his second session of the Circadian Rhythms experiment from 21 - 23 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 data has been downlinked to ground.
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 his second session of ESA’s new Skin-B experiment on 24 June which is carried out in cooperation with DLR. 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, the ultrasound equipment in NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 in Columbus was used for undertaking spinal ultrasound scans for ISS Flight Engineers Chris Cassidy and Karen Nyberg on 18 and 20 June respectively with Luca Parmitano assisting as ultrasound operator, and also for Luca Parmitano on 28 June with Chris Cassidy as ultrasound operator. The spinal ultrasound scans are part of a NASA investigation to characterise spinal changes during and after spaceflight.
The ultrasound equipment was additionally used on 27 June for undertaking ultrasound scans on Parmitano and Nyberg in connection with NASA’s Ocular Health protocol. This included an ultrasound eye scan and a cardiac ultrasound with blood pressure. This followed up activities on 24 and 26 June with Parmitano and Nyberg undergoing visual tests, a tonometry eye exam which measures introcular eye pressure, and a fundoscope eye exam as well as providing blood pressure and vital sign data. 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.
NASA’s Human Research Facility 2 in Columbus was used on 21 and 24 June in connection with blood draw activities for Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg for NASA's Pro K protocol. Following the blood draw, the samples were centrifuged in the facility's Refrigerated Centrifuge before being stowed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers. Activities were supported by the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. NASA’s Pro K protocol is testing the hypothesis that a diet with a decreased ration of animal protein to potassium leads to a decreased loss of bone mineral. The data measurements also included the two astronauts collecting urine samples, undertaking urine pH tests and logging dietary intake.
Data acquisition has been on-going for the Dose Distribution inside the ISS 3D (DOSIS-3D) experiment using the two active detectors and the set of passive detectors which were deployed at various locations around the Columbus laboratory on 3 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.
A new Sun Visibility Window (the 66th) for the Solar facility to acquire data with its two active instruments (SOLSPEC and SolACES) opened on 18 June. 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. This window is the start of the second Solar Bridging campaign which will join windows 66 and 67 together (following up the first such campaign in November/December 2012).
This campaign is an extended period of science acquisition which includes two Sun Visibility Windows and a bridging event during which the ISS will be slightly rotated in order to continue science acquisition and join the two Sun Visibility Windows together. As the Sun visibility windows last for around 12 days this bridging event will make it possible to undertake solar measurements during a full Sun rotation cycle (which lasts around 27 days). The bridging period will be the second time that the attitude of the Space Station has been changed for science reasons.
The SolACES instrument from SOLAR was in a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation) due to the ATV thruster test/reboost of the ISS on 19 June. It was commanded to cool down in order to undertake science acquisition on 21 June. The bridging event is scheduled to start on 30 June.
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 retrieved from ATV-4 and installed inside the Fluid Science Laboratory by Luca Parmitano on 19 June. Following FSL and FASES experiment container activation the same day a thermal conditioning system functionality checkout was started. During the checkout, one of the thermoelectric control elements which are necessary to ensure temperature control was not responding as expected, which put the start of science runs temporarily on hold. A solution was put in place by the engineering team which involved adjusting algorithm parameters of the FASES thermal control loop. Hereafter the first sample (water/paraffin/surfactant mixture) was processed, being moved into the observation and thermal control zone. After initial adjustment of the FASES instrument optical parameters (for camera/LED), the sample mixture was mechanically stirred in order to create an emulsion. Following further preparatory procedures to improve the emulsion quality in the sample cell the first scientific run of the FASES experiment was successfully started in the early morning of 24 June concluding successfully just under 12 hours later.
The second sample which is also a water/paraffin/surfactant mixture started processing on conclusion of the first run, though this has been stopped due to a thermal control problem related to a Peltier element not receiving power from FSL and thus not providing the thermal gradient profile required for the sample processing. Science activities will restart on resolution of this issue.
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. The overall experiment duration is estimated with minimum 9 months. 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 more than 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 28 June include:
Water Pump Assembly Replacement Preparations
In preparation for replacement of the failed Water Pump Assembly in Columbus a software patch was installed on 17 June needed for Liquid Quantity Sensor calibration. An additional software patch was uploaded and installed on 21 June which adjusts the Flight Automated Procedure associated with Water Modulating Valve 4 in order for it to be in a good position for future replacement activities. On 18 June ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano (ESA) and Karen Nyberg (NASA) transferred the spare Water Pump Assembly delivered on ATV-4 from ATV to Columbus.
Ham Radio Session
ISS Flight Engineer and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano used the amateur radio equipment in Columbus for undertaking a ham radio session with high school students in Catania, Italy on 22 June.
On 27 June a commanding test through Russian resources was undertaken. As part of the test, two commands (Real time and via command script) were sent to turn off a Standard Utility Panel. After each test the panel was commanded back to ‘on’ via Columbus Control Centre commanding.
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 addition to the European and ISS Partner science programme detailed in other parts of this report 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 of: JAXA’s Biological Rhythms experiment looking into circadian variations in cardiac autonomic function during space flight; and the ‘Reaction Self Test’ experiment which looks into how planned sleep shift for ISS crews affects performance.
Health status activities
The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the two weeks until 28 June Luca Parmitano has undertaken: a monthly Periodic Health Status Evaluation (with assistance from NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy) logging vitals and documenting general physical status; as well as undertaking Crew Medical Officer on-board computer-based training to maintain on-board medical proficiency.
During the two weeks until 28 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 acoustic survey of the Russian Zarya Module and US modules, including the Amine Swingbed in US laboratory; and transferred the new ESA toolbox and tools, items for the Energy experiment and Biolab facility hardware from ATV-4 to their agreed stowage locations. In addition Parmitano took part in a public affairs events with EuroNews in Brussels, and used the ham radio equipment in the Russian Service Module to talk with students at the Boskobic Technical School in Zagreb, Croatia
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 28 June include:
Water Recovery System racks:
Nyberg used the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA) on the rack face of Water Recovery System 1 to sample water from the Water Recovery System racks on 18 June. On 28 June Chris Cassidy removed and replaced the filter of the Potable Water Dispenser and tested the system for possible leaks.
- Water Recovery System racks:
Luca Parmitano replaced the cable arm ropes of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) in Node 3 on 17 June. However a subsequent exercise session determined that one of the rope lengths is shorter on one side and that the ropes did not remain engaged in their detents during bar exercises . The cable ropes were removed and re-installed two days later. A subsequent bar rise test also elicited the need of a cylinder evacuation (which are becoming more frequent, and being assessed on ground).
Europe’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-4) called “Albert Einstein” automatically docked to the aft docking port of the ISS Zvezda Service Module on 15 June at 16:07 (CEST). This followed its launch on 5 June from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana and a 10-day journey to the ISS. Prior to docking, video and communications equipment was configured, as was the ATV Proximity Communications Equipment (including hand controller) in the Service Module from which the docking was monitored on the ISS. Europe's ISS logistics spacecraft delivered 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. The ATV spacecraft will spend four months attached to the Station after which the vehicle filled with excess equipment and garbage will undock from the ISS and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere to burn up over the Pacific Ocean. In addition to delivering necessary supplies ATV-4 will provide extra storage space and habitable volume for the crew.
On 17 June, following docking ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano and Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Commander Pavel Vinogradov started ATV ingress and ISS integration steps by first carrying out a one-hour leak check on the Service Module to ATV transfer tunnel. The following day the two ISS Crew members, opened the hatches; quick release screw clamps were installed to stabilise the connection between the ISS and the ATV; air and surface sampling was carried out in the ATV; and an air scrubber was installed in the new logistics spacecraft. With the arrival of a new element to the Station, the crew carried out an emergency procedures drill to familiarise themselves with ATV equipment for use in emergencies. The planned hatch opening had been postponed by a day while mission managers discussed whether some cargo bags would need disinfecting by the crew for suspected microbial growth (which posed no danger to the crew). It was agreed that the bags would be cleaned as they are accessed prior to transfer to the ISS. Cargo transfer operations have been on-going since hatch opening. The ATV was closed up by Vonogradov and Parmitano on 23 June in preparation for a Russian spacewalk. It was reopened on 25 June.
ISS Reboost/Thruster test
ATV Orbit Correction System thrusters were used to carry out a reboost of the ISS on 19 June in order to test the ATV thrusters as well as set up phasing for the Progress 52P launch on 27 July. The reboost lasted 6 min 47 sec, increasing the altitude of the ISS by 1.73 km.
In the two weeks until 28 June preparations were underway for a Russian EVA on 24 June. The spacewalking crew members, Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Alexander Misurkin and Fyodor Yurchikhin: undertook a cardiac fitness evaluation; 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. 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.
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 Alexander Misurkin and Fyodor Yurchikhin on 24 June. The main tasks that were achieved during the 6 hr 34 min EVA, which started at 15:32 (CEST) were: replacement of a failed fluid flow control valve panel (part of the external thermal control system) on the Russian Zarya module; a test of Kurs automated docking cables for the arrival of a new Russian Multi-purpose Laboratory Module (MLM) at the end of the year; installation of clamps to later hold cables (installed during the next Russian spacewalk) bringing power from the US segment of the station to the new Russian module; installation of handholds for future spacewalk activities; and installation/retrieval of experiments from the Russian segment of the ISS.
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 Pavel Vinogradov 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 Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg were in the US segment of the ISS with access to Soyuz 35S docked at the Russian Rassvet Module for similar reasons.
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 Pro-K/Repository protocol (blood, urine) for Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg. In addition Luca Parmitano dried condensation and installed additional insulation around Thermal Control System quick disconnects on MELFI-1 and MELFI-3.
Microgravity Science Glovebox
On 15 June Chris Cassidy replaced a camera in the Microgravity Science Glovebox that was experiencing a shutter issue. Hereafter Cassidy installed the hardware for the Capillary Channel Flow experiment in the Glovebox. Commissioning for the experiment started from 18 June. A few initial glitches were experienced though these were successfully resolved.
This experiment will help to implement innovative solutions for transporting liquids (such as fuels, low temperature liquids like liquid nitrogen and water) in microgravity. By understanding capillary fluid flow rates in microgravity, hardware can be developed for "pumping" liquids from one reservoir to another without the need for a pump with moving parts.
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.
Chris Cassidy conducted the first of three Surface Telerobotics sessions on 17 June during which he operated a robot on ground from the ISS. The robot was at the Ames Research Center in California and simulated deployment of a radio telescope. A communication issue was experienced though this was resolved by engineers This payload investigates space-based crew control of surface tele-robotics in preparation for future exploration missions. This experiment will help to characterize the differences between Earth-based control and on-orbit control of surface robots, which will drive requirements for future human-robotic systems.
Robotic Arm Activities
On 17 June Ground Controllers manoeuvred the Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2) and the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator System along the Station’s truss to a different worksite in preparation for checkout operations for the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle 4 (HTV-4) which is scheduled to arrive at the ISS in August. The following night ground controllers used Canadarm 2 to stow the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator System before moving Canadarm 2 into position to perform a checkout, the results of which will be used to evaluate the improvement in robotic arm performance during free flyer release activities. On 24 June Canadarm 2 was used to provide visual support during the Russian spacewalk.
US Spacewalk Preparations
On 18 June batteries for the US spacewalk suits (Extravehicular Mobility Units or EMUs) were recharged by Chris Cassidy. A week later Cassidy, Parmitano, Nyberg and Vinogradov reviewed procedures for the two US EVA’s which are scheduled to be undertaken by Cassidy and Parmitano in July. The following day Cassidy and Nyberg filled the Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garments (worn under the EMUs during spacewalks) and scrubbed the EMU cooling loops as well as carrying out additional EMU checkout activities.
Progress M-19M/51P Activities
On 19 June Progress 51P was deorbited to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere following a series of thruster burns undertaken by the spacecraft between 13 – 18 June as part of engineering tests to calibrate Russian ground-based radar systems. Progress 51P had undocked from the ISS on 11 June.
ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano assembled and powered up NASA’s Robonaut hardware on 27 June to undertake another round of ground-commanded tests which consisted of the robotic hardware being commanded to undertake wiping and grasping operations as well as a vision recognition test and velocicalc measurements to characterize air flow in the ISS working volume. Robonaut is a human-like robotic technology which is being tested for its operability and duration in a space environment and will act as a spring-board in the evolution of robotic capabilities in space which could assist astronauts in such areas as spacewalk activities. Parmitano disassembled the hardware together with Chris Cassidy the following day.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 28 June include: installing the docking mechanism of Progress 50P in preparation for its departure; swapping facility inserts and replacing a hard drive of the DECLIC (DEvice for the study of Critical LIquids and Crystallization) facility; an engineering checkout of the Optical Coherence Tomography hardware, which will be used for future eye exams to collect high-resolution 3D images of structures within the eye; installation of the ATV-4-delivered GLACIER (General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator) freezer into EXPRESS Rack 7; 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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