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ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 150 Increment 36: 13 – 26 July 2013

13/08/2013 851 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #150 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.

The current status of the European science package on the ISS is as follows:


Human Research
Space Headaches Experiment
ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano continued filling in weekly questionnaires (his 7th and 8th) on 19 and 26 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.

Circadian Rhythms Experiment
Luca Parmitano successfully carried out his third session of the Circadian Rhythms experiment from 23 - 25 July. 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.

Skin-B Experiment
On 22 July Luca Parmitano undertook his third  session of ESA’s new Skin-B experiment 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
NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 in Columbus was used for undertaking body mass measurements for the three non-Russian crew members (ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano, Karen Nyberg and Chris Cassidy) on 17 July.

NASA’s Human Research Facility 2 in Columbus was used on 26 July for centrifuging blood samples for Chris Cassidy for 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.  ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano took documentary photographs of the blood draw and sample insertion in one of the European-built MELFI units.


Biology Research
Biolab Facility Maintenance
Luca Parmitano exchanged the two Life Support Modules of ESA’s Biolab facility on 18 July and exchanged biological isolation filters on the facility’s incubator rotors and the Incubator Cold Spot Sponge. The O2 and CO2 gas bottles were also opened, which preceded successful ground-commanded testing the following day. On 22 July Parmitano continued maintenance steps on the facility by installing the refurbished microscope unit. Following installation, the microscope could not be activated to undergo initialisation steps (thought to be due to a power issue). After an engineering assessment Parmitano performed reinsertion of the facility’s Handling Mechanism Drawer on 26 July. This did show some improvement in telemetry but still indicated that the drawer may not be seated properly and additional steps were being put together to be undertaken in the following reporting period.


Radiation Research
DOSIS-3D 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 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.

A recent report and presentation material of the scientists’ analysis display nice results related to how the radiation levels on-board the Columbus laboratory vary with the Solar cycle, with altitude of the ISS and depending on the location inside Columbus. The report also covers the first results of the period from 24 to 29 May when the active detectors were used for the very first time in a higher frequency mode (due to an increase of the Solar proton flux). For example, in this mode the data produced by every single particle in both active detectors of the telescope is stored. Hence it is possible to investigate the relation of energy depositions of one particle in the first and the second silicon detectors of the DOSTEL active detector.

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.


Solar Research
SOLAR Facility
The latest Sun Visibility Window (67th) for the Solar facility to acquire data was completed on 23 July. This brought to conclusion an extended period of successful science acquisition which started on 18 June and included Sun Visibility Windows 66 and 67 and a bridging event (30 June  – 9 July) whereby the ISS was slightly rotated in order to continue science acquisition and join the two latest Sun Visibility Windows together. Sun Visibility Windows for the Solar facility, 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.

As the Sun visibility windows last for around 12 days this bridging event has made it possible to undertake solar measurements during a full Sun rotation cycle (which lasts around 27 days) for the second time (following up the first such campaign in November/December 2012). The bridging period was also only the second time that the attitude of the Space Station had been changed for science reasons. The SolACES instrument from SOLAR was placed in a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation) at the end of the Sun Visibility Window.

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.


Technology Research
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 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.


Education Activities
EPO Parmitano
ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano used part of his free time on 20 July to perform the ‘EPO Slinky’ education activity. This is a demonstration covering wave dynamics and behaviours which was  recorded on orbit for use in ESA educational products. The video was downlinked hereafter. ‘EPO Slinky’ forms part of ESA’s ‘EPO Parmitano’ series of education activities during ESA’s Volare Mission.


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 26 July include:

  • Water Pump Assembly Replacement
    Following replacement of Water Pump Assembly 2 in Columbus on 5 July, a week of testing of the new pump was completed on 18 July. Having two functioning Water Pump Assemblies in Columbus has once again introduced redundancy to the system as Columbus only had one functioning pump assembly (Water Pump Assembly 1) since January. With the testing successfully complete, the system was reconfigured with a switchover from Water Pump Assembly 2 to Water Pump Assembly 1 as the prime Water Pump Assembly.
  • 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 in the two weeks until 26 July. This included with school students at different sites in Uruguay on 20 and 22 July, with the Boy Scouts of America on 20 July and with the ESA Space Camp in Austria on 24 July.
  • Hard Disk Drive Swap
    Luca Parmitano swapped the failed hard disk of the Portable Workstation 1 laptop in Columbus for the hard disk of the CRUISE experiment laptop on 13 July. The subsequent activation of both laptops confirmed the failure with Portable Workstation 1 staring up without issue and the CRUISE experiment laptop failing to start.
  • Internal Thermal Control System Sampling
    Luca Parmitano completed water sampling from the Internal Thermal Control System in Columbus on 18 July to determine levels of Ortho-Phthalaldehyde and ammonia in the system.  This is to verify that there are no micro-leaks in any of the interface heat exchangers to allow ammonia to enter the Internal Thermal Control System coolant from the External Thermal Control System coolant. The sampling confirmed that no micro-leaks are present. The samples also showed that the levels of Ortho-Phthalaldehyde (an antimicrobial agent) are within nominal limits. The samples taken will be returned to ground for further analysis. Similar samples were also taken in the Japanese and US laboratories.
  • European Drawer Rack Maintenance
    On 23 July Luca Parmitano replaced an electronics module in the European Drawer Rack in the Columbus Laboratory. 
  • Fuse Exchange
    On 24 July NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg performed a fuse exchange (3A to 20A) in the Columbus Payload Power Switching Box in preparation of new experiment installation.
  • Lighting Maintenance
    Luca Parmitano replaced a failed Module Lighting Unit in the Columbus laboratory on 26 July.
  • Weekly Activities
    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

  • Experiment Activities
    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; photographing magnetised samples and transferring imagery for NASA’s  Binary Colloidal Aggregated Test (BCAT-4) experiment which will help manufacturers develop stronger, smarter materials for such things as faster computers and advanced optical devices; replacing the Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus fuel reservoir, Fiber Arm and Igniter Tips in NASA’s Combustion Integrated Rack for upcoming research that observes how different fuels burn in weightlessness (with a focus on second/third generation biofuels, or fundamental biofuel surrogates); and installing detectors in the Japanese laboratory for the Russian RaDI-N experiment which detects neutron radiation on the ISS.
  • Other activities
    During the two weeks until 26 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 an emergency simulation drill with the other five ISS crew members to allow the crew to practice communication and coordination skills during a simulated emergency scenario; undertook a live link with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta on 19 July, discussing his recent spacewalks and Italy’s contributions to the space station; conducted a complete ISS internal video survey for review on ground by safety specialists; trashed and relocated items in the NASA’s Human Research Facility racks in Columbus to make room for hardware arriving on Progress 52P and HTV-4; and inspected ISS emergency supplies such as portable breathing apparatus and fire extinguishers.


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 26 July include:
    • Water Recovery System racks:Water Processor Assembly
      Following replacement of the particulate filter in the Water Processor Assembly in the Water Recovery System Racks on 12 July flow rates remain lower than expected during the initial phase of processing runs. Experts now suspect a clogged valve to be responsible. A temporary work-around which raises the process pump speed during the first 20 minutes of the process cycle is still in action while planning is being put in place to replace the valve.
    • Oxygen Generation System: 
      Karen Nyberg replaced a hydrogen sensor in the Oxygen Generation System in Node 3 on 19 July and cleaned and inspected an inlet for the Sabatier system to extract more water from the station’s atmosphere.


US Spacewalks

  • EVA Preparations
     Preparatory activities were carried out in the US Airlock by the EVA astronauts, ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano (ESA) and Chris Cassidy (NASA), in the run up to the 16 July spacewalk. This included configuring and preparing the US EVA suits, EVA tools, tethers and systems. On the day of the spacewalk the EVA astronauts carried out standard pre-EVA procedures  to remove nitrogen from their bodies prior to a spacewalk, and Ground Controllers also moved the Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2) into its start location for supporting the EVA.
  • EVA
     The EVA started at 13:57 CEST on 16 July from the US Airlock. One hour into the spacewalk, Luca Parmitano reported water floating behind his head inside his helmet. The water was not an immediate health hazard but Mission Control Houston decided to end the spacewalk early. After re-entering and re-pressurising the airlock the spacewalk had officially lasted 1 hour, 32 minutes. 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 due to be launched to the ISS in December. During the spacewalk Parmitano and Cassidy successfully completed installation of power jumpers and data cabling for arrival of the new module. EVA specialists are assessing the cause and source of water in the suit. Mission managers are working to identify when the unfinished tasks will be completed, none of which are urgent.
  • Post EVA Activities
     Following standard post-EVA procedures, activities were undertaken to troubleshoot the problem with the EVA suit worn by Luca Parmitano during the spacewalk. On 17 July Parmitano undertook exhaustive procedures in the US airlock, activating the EVA suit, recharging it with water and inspecting every area for leakage. Though Mission Control Houston observed a higher than normal water usage no signs of the leakage source were visible. However, preliminary results of the troubleshooting tests indicate that water is likely being introduced into the oxygen ventilation circuit of the suit.  On 26 July Cassidy and Nyberg performed additional troubleshooting steps to investigate the functionality of the suits fan, pump, and water separator as well as drying out the EMU vent loop to determine if the EMU is able to support future loop scrubbing maintenance activity. During the troubleshooting, ground specialists did not see any off nominal signatures or any unexpected water leakage though continue to review data to determine future steps. Other standard EVA procedures undertaken include scrubbing the suits’ cooling loops for particulate matter (Cassidy’s suit and an on-orbit spare) and reconfiguring EVA tools.


Progress 50P Undocking Activities

  • Undocking Preparations
     On 23 July a vehicle-to-vehicle test was carried out on the Russian TORU manual docking system on the ISS. The TORU system allows ISS crew control of the Progress spacecraft from the Russian Service Module should the automatic KURS systems on Progress fail. Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Commander Vinogradov also installed the docking mechanism of Progress 50P. The following day the Russian crew members (Vinogradov and ISS Flight Engineers Alexander Misurkin and Fyodor Yurchikhin) finished loading trash and excess equipment into the Progress 50P spacecraft for disposal. Vinogradov and Yurchikhin  prepared the Progress 50P spacecraft for its final undocking: Progress electronics were activated; ventilation ducting and light fittings were removed; quick disconnect clamps which stabilize the connection between Progress 50P and the Pirs Docking Compartment were removed; and the Progress/Pirs hatches were closed, followed by the standard one-hour leak check of the interhatch area and the interface between the fuel/oxidizer transfer line.
  • Progress 50P Undocking/Deorbit
     On 25 July Progress M-18M/50P successfully undocked from the Russian Pirs Docking Compartment at 22:43 (CEST). A few hours after undocking the Progress spacecraft undertook its deorbit burn to place it into a planned destructive reentry into Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.


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, Chris Cassidy collected samples for the Pro K/Repository protocol (blood, urine) and stowed them inside one of MELFI freezers on orbit

HTV-4 Docking Preparations
In preparation for arrival of the fourth Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-4), ground controllers used the Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2) to relocate the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator “Dextre” from the Mobile Base System on the Station’s truss to a grapple fixture on the outside of the US laboratory and made a number of configurations to Dextre’s functionality. Hereafter they manoeuvred Canadarm 2 into a park position. These operations were in preparation for HTV-4 capture and berthing scheduled for 9 August.

Robonaut Testing
Test activities continued for NASA’s Robonaut humanoid robot technology demonstrator on 22 July. ISS Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg set up the hardware and put on telerobotics gear, including a special helmet and gloves that allowed her to command the robot by having it copy her movements.. These latest activities with a number of different astronauts are demonstrating the ability to effectively control Robonaut from the ISS as all previous Robonaut commanding had been from the ground. This capability will allow the astronauts to make real-time decisions and control Robonaut’s actions from inside the station. The following day ground-commanded test activities were undertaken with Robonaut commanded to use a bar code reader to scan a Cargo Transfer Bag containing tagged hardware. Robonaut was designed with the intention of eventually supporting future operations in the EVA environment as well as certain Intravehicular Activity situations.

Surface Telerobotics
Luca Parmitano conducted the second of three Surface Telerobotics sessions on 26 July during which he operated a robot on ground from the ISS, remotely-controlling the rover and deploying a simulated Kapton film-based radio antenna. The robot was at the Ames Research Center in California on an outdoor robotic test area the size of two football fields. 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.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 26 July include: installation, activation and testing of a fluorescense microscope in the Multipurpose Small Payload Rack in the Destiny laboratory; uplink to the ISS of a software upgrade for the Joint Station Local Area Network; an emergency descent drill aboard the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft by ISS Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineers Alexander Misurkin  and Chris Cassidy in preparation for their return in September; a video test in advance of launch/docking of the Progress 52P logistics spacercraft; removal of the Marangoni Inside experiment from, and replacing lamps in, the Fluid Physics Experiment Facility in the Japanese laboratory; replacement of a US laboratory Low Temperature Loop Gas Trap;  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.

Martin Zell  
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department

Rosita Suenson  
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer

Weekly reports compiled by ESA's ISS Utilisation Department.

Subscribe to the mailing list through the link to the right and receive a notification when the latest status report is made available online.

Martin Zell  
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department

Rosita Suenson  
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer

Weekly reports compiled by ESA's ISS Utilisation Department.

Subscribe to the mailing list through the link to the right and receive a notification when the latest status report is made available online.

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