This is ISS status report #149 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 US Destiny laboratory within international scientific collaboration agreements.
Highlight/Note: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano undertook his first spacewalk on 9 July together with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy. The spacewalk was preparing the ISS for the arrival of the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module “Nauka” together with the European Robotic Arm (ERA), the last major elements to be launched to the ISS in December 2013. Due to the crew time requirements involved in preparations for a spacewalk, utilisation activities were at a reduced level in the two-week reporting until 12 July.
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 fifth and sixth) on 5 and 12 July 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.
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. 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 10 July. 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.
The TriTel (Tri-Axis Telescope) experiment hardware was transferred from ESA to Roscosmos with ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano handing over the active detector equipment to Russian cosmonaut and ISS Commander Pavel Vinogradov. The TriTel experiment had come to a successful conclusion in the Columbus laboratory on 10 May with a cumulative total of 139 days of data being gathered using its active cosmic radiation detector hardware and passive detectors located inside the Columbus laboratory (which were returned to Earth for analysis in May).
A prolongation of recording is now foreseen in the Russian segment of the ISS under Russian responsibility in a bilateral agreement with the Hungarian science team. This will provide a straightforward opportunity to compare the radiation conditions in the Columbus module with other segments of the ISS.
The active detector hardware includes three different detector types which are able to provide a 3-dimensional mapping of radiation entering the ISS i.e determining the time-dependent level of radiation and direction with which it travels into/through the Station.
The 66th Sun Visibility Window for the Solar facility to acquire data (which opened on 18 June) was on-going until the end of June. 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. However, instead of science acquisition ending as is normally the case, on 30 June the attitude of the ISS was changed for the start of a Sun Visibility Window bridging event. This changed attitude continued until 9 July when the ISS was rotated back to its standard orbital attitude. From this point Sun Visibility Window 67 started and was on-going by the end of the reporting period (12 July).
This campaign is an extended period of science acquisition which includes two Sun Visibility Windows and a bridging event during which the ISS is 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 was the second time that the attitude of the Space Station had been changed for science reasons (following up the first such campaign in November/December 2012).
The SolACES instrument from SOLAR was in a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation) from 8 - 12 July due to the ATV reboost of the ISS on 10 July.
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 science programme of the FASES (Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability) experiment is currently impacted by a problem at the level of the thermal control of its diagnostic apparatus since 25 June, with only one of two branches of the thermoelectrical temperature controls operative. However, some scientific runs are still possible in this situation and, with this in mind, a re-run with one of the samples (water/paraffin/surfactant mixture) was completed after being started on 4 July. Further runs are currently on hold to also resolve an error message for the sample carousel mechanism inside the FASES Experiment Container.
The FASES Experiment Container, with the 44 different sample cells, was installed inside the Fluid Science Laboratory by Luca Parmitano on 19 June after upload in ATV-4. The 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 12 July include:
Water Pump Assembly Replacement
Water Pump Assembly 2 in Columbus was replaced by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano on 5 July. A checkout of the new pump was hereafter successfully undertaken and the new pump was integrated into the thermal control loop. This once again introduced redundancy to the system as Columbus only had one functioning pump assembly (Water Pump Assembly 1) since January. On 11 July final commissioning of the new pump assembly was undertaken with a switchover from Water Pump Assembly 1 to Water Pump Assembly 2 in order to undertake a week of testing of the new pump. This also allowed Water Pump Assembly 1 to be reset to solve the commanding issue that was affecting it. On conclusion of a week’s testing, Water Pump Assembly 1 will be deactivated and Water Pump Assembly 1 will again become the prime Water Pump Assembly.
Facility Software Upgrade
New Rack Interface Controller software was loaded onto EXPRESS rack 3 in Columbus on 8 July. EXPRESS Rack 3 houses the European Modular Cultivation System which recently processed the joint ESA/NASA Seedling Growth experiment.
Cabin Heat Exchanger
On 30 June the Cabin Heat Exchanger core 2 was dried out for about 16 hours followed by a planned switchover to Condensate Water Separator Assembly 1.
Ham Radio Sessions
ISS Flight Engineer and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano used the amateur radio equipment in Columbus for undertaking a number of ham radio sessions with school students at different sites in Italy on 29 June and 6 July, with a children’s hospital in the Vatican State in Rome on 10 July as well as one session with the Scout Canada Jamboree in Alberta, Canada on 8 July.
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 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: NASA’s ‘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 12 July Luca Parmitano has undertaken a monthly Periodic Fitness Evaluation to monitor his overall fitness levels to ensure cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health as well as assisting NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg with her Periodic Fitness Evaluation. This is a graded exercise test undertaken on the CEVIS Cycle Ergometer.
During the two weeks until 12 July 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: took part in a live link public affairs event with Enrico Saggese, president of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and reporters gathered at the ASI’s headquarters in Rome on 12 July, and recorded video footage with ESA’s children’s mascot, Paxi, for educational purposes on 7 July.
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 12 July include:
Water Recovery System racks: Water Processor Assembly:
The Water Processor Assembly in the Water Recovery System Racks in Node 3 experienced a failure on 5 July which produced a leak fault, though pressure data was consistent with a flow obstruction. Engineering teams managed to introduce a temporary work-around to bring the Water Processor Assembly back into operation by reconfiguring the flows into the system and by raising the process pump speed during the first 20 minutes of the process cycle. The pump speed was too low, likely due to increased loading on the particulate filter which was determined needed replacing to resolve the problem. The filter was replaced by the crew on 12 July and the system is once again functioning normally.
Water Recovery System racks:Sampling
On 2/3 July Luca Parmitano collected samples from the Water Recovery System racks for undertaking in-flight analysis.
- Water Recovery System racks: Water Processor Assembly:
Experts have determined that the cable arm ropes of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) in Node 3 are beyond their certified life. As such ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy replaced the ropes on 2 July. On 12 July further maintenance steps had to be taken related to the rope tension. The problems were eventually resolved through detensioning and retensioning the ropes either side of an ARED cylinder evacuation. On 5 July Cassidy also successfully carried out minor maintenance on the ARED Crank Handle which was loose.
ATV-4 ISS Reboost
Orbit Correction System thrusters of Europe’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-4) called “Albert Einstein” were used to carry out a reboost of the ISS starting at 07:35 (CEST) on 10 July. This raised the orbital altitude of the ISS, setting up phasing for the Progress 52P launch on 27 July as well as for the Expedition 36 crew’s departure on Soyuz TMA-08M in September. The reboost lasted 9 min 52 sec.
ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano, Karen Nyberg and Chris Cassidy have now completed a majority of the cargo transfer operations from ATV to the ISS by the end of the two weeks until 12 July. About 94% of the cargo has been transferred leaving just over 5 hours work remaining. This will be scheduled for after the departure of the fourth Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-4) in September.
Numerous preparatory activities were carried out in the US Airlock by the EVA astronauts (ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano and Chris Cassidy) in the few days running up to the 9 July spacewalk. This included resizing of their EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit) EVA suits (assisted by Karen Nyberg and Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin); installing batteries in the US EVA suits configuring and preparing EVA tools, tethers and systems; and checking out the Simplified Aid For EVA Rescue (SAFER) units: propulsive units for use during EVAs in the unlikely event that an astronaut becomes untethered from the ISS. On the day of the EVA the EVA astronauts carried out standard pre-EVA procedures to remove nitrogen from their bodies prior to a spacewalk. Ground Controllers also moved the Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2) into the start location for supporting the EVA.
The EVA started at 14:02 CEST on 9 July from the US Airlock and lasted 6 hours 7 min. The EVA was preparing the ISS for the arrival of the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module “Nauka” together with the European Robotic Arm (ERA), the last major elements to be launched to the ISS in December. The EVA also installed additional equipment on the station’s truss. During the spacewalk the EVA astronauts replaced a Ku-band Space-to-Ground Transmitter Receiver Controller on the Z1 truss which had failed in December 2012 (Cassidy); retrieved two of NASA’s MISSE-8 (Materials International Space Station Experiment-8) experiments from Express Logistics Carrier-2 on the starboard truss segment (Parmitano); photographed the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-02 (AMS-02) to provide the research team a visual assessment of the condition of this state-of-the-art cosmic-ray detector (Parmitano); routed power cables from the Unity node to the interface between the Pressurized Mating Adapter-1 and the Russian Zarya module (Cassidy) to support the installation of the new Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module; and relocated two Radiator Grapple Bars to the port- and starboard-side truss (Cassidy and Parmitano). After deinstallation of the grapple bars Parmitano was translated by the Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2), controlled by Karen Nyberg, with the grapple bars to their installation location where they were installed by Cassidy. Whilst translating on Canadarm 2 from starboard to port Parmitano used the opportunity to remove a camera assembly which was used for monitoring visiting vehicles. This had failed in May 2012.
Hereafter, the EVA astronauts installed power bypass jumpers (Cassidy) to provide additional redundancy in the event of failure of an external power module to negate the need for a spacewalk in such a situation; installed a multi-layer insulation cover to protect the docking interface of Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 (Parmitano); as well as carrying out certain other get-ahead tasks.
Post EVA procedures
Standard procedures were undertaken after the EVA including: EVA suit and tether inspection, recharging batteries for the EVA suits, helmet lights, and tools; refilling the water lines of the EVA suits; installing new metal oxide canisters in the EVA suits for removing carbon dioxide during spacewalks; and reconfiguring the related EVA computer equipment.
Future EVA Preparations
Following the completion of the spacewalk, Parmitano and Cassidy are preparing for their next EVA which is scheduled to take place on 16 July. This has included undertaking reviews and training as well as configuring tools for the next spacewalk.This spacewalk will complete the installation of two bypass jumpers to bring power redundancy and stability to critical station components and route additional cables for the new Russian Nauka Module.
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, Luca Parmitano inserted -32 deg C ice bricks into the MELFI-2 unit as part of future research objectives.
Microgravity Science Glovebox
In the two weeks until 12 July a number of runs of NASA’s Capillary Channel Flow experiment were undertaken in the Microgravity Science Glovebox. 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.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 12 July include: initialising an 18-day science run with the DECLIC (DEvice for the study of Critical LIquids and Crystallization) facility; photographing external heat rejection radiators to provide an insight into the overall health of the radiators and documenting any micro-meteoroid strikes; installation of a Joint Station LAN wire harness and ethernet connector in Node 2 which doubles bandwidth available between the US Lab and Node 2; collecting samples from the thermal control systems in the US laboratory, Node 2 and Node 3 for analysis; replacing panels in the Russian Poisk Module; 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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