This is ISS status report #151 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:
Space Headaches Experiment
ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano continued filling in weekly questionnaires (his 9th and 10th) on 2 and 9 August 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.
ISS Partner Research
The ultrasound equipment in NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 in Columbus was used on 31 July for undertaking ultrasound scans on ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano and Karen 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 29 and 30 July 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. On 7 August Parmitano also acted as Crew Medical Officer in conducting an ultrasound on ISS Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy as part of an ocular health assessment.
NASA’s Human Research Facility 2 in Columbus was used on 2 and 5 August for centrifuging blood samples for Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg respectively 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. Parmitano and Nyberg assisted each other with the blood draws. As part of the experiment, and prior to the blood draw procedures, each astronaut had completed a few days of urine pH testing, diet logging (as part of a controlled diet for the experiment), and a 24-hour urine collection. Following collection and processing the samples were placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezer units on orbit.
Biolab Facility Maintenance
Additional steps have been taken in the two week reporting period until 9 August as part of Biolab facility commissioning activities. On 1 August Luca Parmitano removed and reinserted the Handling Mechanism Drawer. Following facility activation the subsequent checkout of the Handling Mechanism, Automatic Temperature Controlled Stowage and the Microscope were all successful, supported by Biolab internal rack video. The following day Parmitano installed the microscope’s Diagnostic and Cleaning cassette. After completion of the activity, Biolab was again activated and a successful checkout of the Handling Mechanism and the Automatic Temperature Controlled Stowage was performed.
Activities continued on 5 August with additional steps in the microscope checkout procedures. A ground commanded check-out sequence revealed unfortunately unexpected image quality from the microscope, which is currently under assessment. In the meantime a full characterisation test of the two newly installed Life Support Modules was started on 5 August and will continue for two weeks.
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.
Following completion of the latest Sun Visibility Window (67th) on 23 July, the Solar facility has been in a standby mode while awaiting the next Sun Visibility Window. 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. During this two week period until 9 August the SolACES instrument from SOLAR has been in a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation).
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)
From 7-9 August successful troubleshooting was undertaken on the FASES (Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability) experiment container installed inside the Fluid Science Laboratory in order to unstick its sample carousel. All activities were undertaken via ground-commanding. This remedy again paves the way to restarting the science programme, which will begin very soon following a detailed engineering analysis of the telemetry logs.
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 a minimum of 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. A problem with a Columbus Mass Memory Unit is currently preventing file uplink though resolution steps are currently being developed.
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 9 August include:
Water Pump Assembly Replacement
Following replacement of Water Pump Assembly 2 in Columbus on 5 July and a successful week of testing of the new pump, a degassing procedure was performed to remove gas bubbles from the Columbus Thermal Control System. After ground-commanded flushing of the system, on 30 July ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano removed the excess gas bubbles from the system coolant with the help of a special tool, which uses centrifugal force to move the coolant and gas inside a vortex and separate and vent the gas through a vent valve. 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.
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 9 August. This included sessions with school students from different schools in Australia, Argentina and France as well as with participants at the Oshkosh Air Show in Wisconsin, USA.
Columbus Mass Memory Units
Resolution steps are currently being developed in order to resolve a problem uplinking files (for the Vessel ID System) to a Mass Memory Unit in Columbus. A first attempt to resolve the problem by rebooting the two Mass Memory Units in Columbus was not successful and assessment of the situation is on-going with experts suspecting a problem in the ground network.
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 Parmitano 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; removing alignment guides from the Combustion Integrated Rack in the US Laboratory for performing the Italian Combustion Experiment for Green Air (ICE-GA) which observes how different fuels burn in weightlessness (with a focus on second/third generation biofuels, or fundamental biofuel surrogates); transferring accumulated imagery for NASA’s Binary Colloidal Aggregated Test 3 (BCAT-3) experiment which will help manufacturers develop stronger, smarter materials for such things as faster computers and advanced optical devices; and hot sealing two of NASA’s MISSE-8 (Materials International Space Station Experiment-8) experiments retrieved from Express Logistics Carrier-2 on the starboard truss segment during the 9 July spacewalk, for return to Earth.
During the two weeks until 9 August, 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: replaced cables for a camera port in the Quest airlock that recently experienced difficulty transmitting a clean picture; set up acoustic dosimeters for ISS Commander Pavel Vinogradov (Roscosmos) and ISS Flight Engineers Alexander Misurkin (Roscosmos) and Chris Cassidy (NASA) to wear for 24 hours to measure the noise levels they are exposed to on the ISS; and undertook a periodic fitness evaluation on the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization (CEVIS) together with blood pressure measurements. Parmitano also took part in live interviews with Italian media.
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 9 August include:
Water Recovery System racks:Urine Processor Assembly
The Urine Processor Assembly shut down due to a fault as a result of high pressure in the system. The data was downlinked for engineering teams to develop a forward plan. On 6 August Luca Parmitano replaced a Pressure Control and Pump Assembly for the Urine Processing Assembly and the system is once again performing nominally.
Water Recovery System racks:Sampling
Chris Cassidy 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 6 August.
- Water Recovery System racks:Urine Processor Assembly
The Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) is being closely monitored due to an increased cylinder leakage. A cylinder evacuation procedure is currently executed daily to ensure adequate loading during exercise. Following each evacuation, the crew reported a bar rise, which is indicative of increase in the cylinder leakage. A troubleshooting plan is being developed.
Progress M-20M/52P Launch
Launch and Docking
The Russian Progress M-20M spacecraft on logistics flight 52P to the ISS was launched successfully from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Soyuz-U rocket on 27 July at 22:45 CEST (02:45 local time on 28 July) with cargo consisting of 550 kg propellants, 50 kg oxygen and air, 420 kg water and more than 1500 kg dry cargo. The Russian Progress 52P spacecraft docked with the Station at the Pirs Docking Compartment at 04:26 (CEST) on 28 July under automatic Kurs system control. Progress 52P undertook a four-orbits-to-docking manoeuvre following launch, with the journey lasting under six hours. After docking ISS attitude control was returned first to Russian systems and then to US systems.
The standard leak check on the interhatch area and the fuel/oxidizer transfer line interface between Progress 52P and the Pirs Docking Compartment was performed on 28 July followed by hatch opening. Hereafter the quick disconnect clamps were installed to stabilise the connection between Progress and the Station, Progress 52P was deactivated and ventilation ducting was installed. The Progress docking mechanism was dismantled and air sampling was carried out in the new logistics spacecraft. Hereafter, and for the following days ISS Commander Pavel Vinogradov and the other two Roscosmos crew members (ISS Flight Engineers Alexander Misurkin and Fyodor Yurchikhin) carried out cargo transfer procedures from Progress to the ISS
In preparation for arrival of the fourth Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-4), ISS Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg (NASA), Chris Cassidy (NASA) and Luca Parmitano (ESA) carried out robotics training sessions in the week before launch and the few days after to practice procedures for the robotic capture and berthing of HTV-4. This involved use of the Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm-2) and ROBoT trainer, and was supported by ground specialists. After hands on training on 5 August the robotics team at Mission Control in Houston remotely manoeuvred Canadarm-2 to the correct position/orientation for its capture of the HTV-4 logistics spacecraft on 9 August. On 8 August Karen Nyberg installed the command panel that the crew will use to monitor the approach of HTV-4, and, if necessary, send commands to the Japanese spacecraft to abort its approach in the unlikely event of a system malfunction.
Launch and Rendezvous
The fourth Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-4) was launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan at 04:48 local time on 4 August (21:48 CEST on 3 August) with activation and checkout completed successfully once in orbit. Over the course of the next few days orbital manoeuvres were carried out to adjust the rendezvous phasing and bring the HTV in the vicinity of the ISS.
Prior to berthing, HTV-4 undertook different planned burns to bring it within close proximity of the ISS. After setting up and activating the Robotic Workstation in the European-built Cupola Observation Module, NASA astronauts Karen Nyberg and Chris Cassidy (supported by ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano) successfully grappled the Japanese HTV-4 using the Station’s principal robotic arm at 13:23 (CEST). After being moved to the Earth-facing port of Node 2 by robotics controllers at the Mission Control Centre in Houston, Nyberg and Cassidy berthed HTV-4 to the same port at 17:38 (CEST). Hatch opening was scheduled to take place on 10 August. HTV-4 is transporting more than 3 tonnes of supplies, food and experiment hardware for the station’s Expedition 36 crew. In the pressurised section of HTV this includes research samples, a new freezer, new micro-satellites to be deployed from the Japanese Airlock and hardware for the Robotic Refuelling Mission (which is helping to demonstrate and test techniques for servicing satellites in orbit that weren’t originally designed to be serviced). In the unpressurised section of HTV-4 the cargo includes a spare Main Bus Switching Unit and Utility Transfer Assembly which are used to keep the space station’s electrical system operating smoothly.
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, blood and urine samples for the Pro K/Repository protocol for Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg were stowed inside one of MELFI freezers on orbit
Microgravity Science Glovebox
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was active on 29 July to undertake the final run of the German Capillary Channel Flow experiment. After the run the experiment hardware was deactivated, removed from the Glovebox and stowed. 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.
On 1 August Karen Nyberg installed the hardware for NASA’s InSPACE-3 (Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions 3) experiment inside the Glovebox. The following day the first two experiment runs took place. One more was undertaken on 9 August. InSPACE-3 studies the fundamental behaviour of magnetic colloidal fluids under the influence of various magnetic fields.
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.
European ground controllers at the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France successfully reintegrated two of the three Data Processing units of Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle 4 (ATV-4) back into the system on 29 July following the unexpected shutdown of one unit on 28 July and the isolation of the other by fault detection systems. Full redundancy is now restored after resetting all three units.
ATV water and fuel transfer operations have also been successfully completed. Fuel and oxidizer have been transferred from ATV-4 tanks to the Russian Zarya module, while water was transferred from ATV-4 to the Russian Service Module. In addition approximately 110 litres of liquid waste were transferred from the ISS into an empty ATV4 water tank for disposal after undocking.
Test activities continued for NASA’s Robonaut humanoid robot technology demonstrator on 5 and 6 August. ISS Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy set up the hardware and on the first day ground-commanded test activities were undertaken with Robonaut commanded to use disinfectant wipes. The following day Cassidy put on telerobotics gear (assisted by Luca Parmitano), including a special helmet and gloves that allowed him to command the robot by having it copy his movements, and also using voice commands. 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. Robonaut was designed with the intention of eventually supporting future operations in the EVA environment as well as certain Intravehicular Activity situations.
Russian Spacewalk Preparations
Preparations are on-going on the ISS in advance of two Russian spacewalks scheduled to take place on 16 and 22 August. During the spacewalks Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Fyodor Yurchikhin will continue preparations for the arrival of the ‘Nauka’ Multipurpose Laboratory Module and European Robotic Arm, the final major modules set for launch to the ISS, as well as installation of additional equipment and research hardware. Preparations included procedure reviews, consolidating EVA tools and equipment, configuring the Russian Pirs airlock and preparing their Orlan EVA suits.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 9 August include: replacing a failed Rack Interface Controller in EXPRESS Rack 7 with an upgraded unit; deployment of upgraded ethernet equipment in the Japanese laboratory; a communication hardware check and maintenance on the Multipurpose Small Payload Rack Combustion Chamber located in the Japanese laboratory; a semi-annual checkout of the 1553 data bus for the four EXPRESS Logistics Carriers on the P3 and S3 truss sections outside the ISS; repair of a Russian Chibis suit, which provides stress that simulates gravity to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system to help prepare/evaluate how the Soyuz crewmember would cope with exposure to gravity on return to Earth; 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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