This is ISS status report #156 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 and the Russian ISS Segment within international scientific collaboration agreements.
The current status of the European science package on the ISS is as follows:
Space Headaches Experiment
Weekly questionnaires were filled in on 11, 18, 25 and 31 October by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano (his 19th – 22nd) and NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins (his 2nd - 5th) 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 for Parmitano and Soyuz 36S for Hopkins.
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.
ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano completed the Energy experiment as the fifth test subject on 11 October. On the first day of the experiment (1 October) a baseline drinking water sample was taken from the Potable Water Dispenser (from which Parmitano drank for the duration of the experiment). On the second day a baseline urine sample was provided by Parmitano prior to imbibing a Double Labelled Water isotope. Oxygen Uptake Measurements were also undertaken on Parmitano at rest using the ESA/NASA Pulmonary Function System in order to measure Resting Metabolic Rate. After consuming a dedicated breakfast Parmitano carried out additional Oxygen Uptake Measurements and provided additional urine samples to determine what level of Double Labelled Water is directly excreted from the body. For the remainder of the experiment, Luca Parmitano logged his dietary intake (daily) and every other day urine samples were provided and water samples taken. On the final day of the experiment Parmitano also transferred data from the actimeter armband he wore throughout the experiment to the European Physiology Modules laptop, after which it was downlinked to ground.
The Energy experiment aims at determining the energy requirements of astronauts during long-term spaceflight. The data gathered will allow for the determination of Parmitano’s Total Energy Expenditure which will in turn allow for the calculation of the Activity Energy Expenditure. These results will help with deriving an equation for the energy requirements of astronauts which will allow for optimal planning when considering upload of food supplies to be sufficient but not excessive.
Reversible Figures Experiment
ISS Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins carried out his first two sessions as a subject of the Reversible Figures experiment in the Columbus laboratory on 9 and 31 October. During the sessions the experiment instruments were connected to a laptop in the Columbus laboratory before a dedicated visor was donned and the experiment protocol was conducted the in a free-floating position.
The experiment is investigating the adaptive nature of the human neuro-vestibular system in the processing of gravitational information related to 3D visual perception. It involves the comparisons of pre-flight, in-flight, and post-flight perceptions with regards to ambiguous perspective-reversible figures to assess the influence of weightlessness. During the science run, a series of ambiguous figures are displayed for about 60-120 seconds and the crew is prompted to specify, by pressing pushbuttons on a mouse, which percept is visualized first and then every subsequent change in perception.
Circadian Rhythms Experiment
Luca Parmitano successfully carried out his fifth session of the Circadian Rhythms experiment from 22 - 25 October. 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. The day after the start of the session a problem with the Thermolab Unit switching off was tracked to a battery contact issue by Luca Parmitano. Luca corrected the issue with some kapton tape and the experiment session was extended by one day in order to complete necessary 36-hour measurements with the sensors. Parmitano downloaded the Actiwatch/Thermolab data on the last day of the experiment
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.
On 23 October ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano undertook his sixth session of the 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
In addition to the European human research activities, NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 (HRF-1) in Columbus was used for undertaking ultrasound scans on 11 October for ISS Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano 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 with Nyberg and Parmitano undergoing visual tests, a tonometry eye exam which measures intraocular eye pressure, and a fundoscope eye exam as well as providing blood pressure and vital sign data. Similar tests were undertaken by ISS Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins culminating in an ultrasound eye scan and a cardiac ultrasound with blood pressure on 25 October. 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.
The ultrasound equipment was again used again on 17 October (for Nyberg), 28 October (for Hopkins) and 30 October (for Parmitano) for undertaking spinal ultrasound scans. The spinal ultrasound scans are part of a NASA investigation to characterise spinal changes during and after spaceflight. This was the first session for Hopkins and the last for Parmitano and Nyberg. Data was downlinked on 31 October.
The Cardiolab Leg-Arm Cuff System (LACS) of ESA’s European Physiology Modules facility and the ESA/NASA Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2 were used for performing the Canadian Space Agency’s new Blood Pressure Regulation (BP Reg) experiment on 18 October with ISS Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano as a test subject. This investigation will help to enhance methods for health monitoring during future long-term space flights with relation to cardiovascular adaptation and helping to identify the astronauts who could benefit from countermeasures before returning to Earth. This will also have implications for testing of individuals on Earth, especially the elderly who are at risk for fainting.
NASA’s Human Research Facility 2 in Columbus was used in the four weeks until 1 November for centrifuging blood samples for NASA’s joint Pro-K protocols for ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano, Karen Nyberg and Michael Hopkins and for CSA’s Vascular experiment for Karen Nyberg on 16 and 23 October (with Luca Parmitano assisting as Crew Medical Officer). Pro-K is testing the hypothesis that a diet with a decreased ratio of animal protein to potassium leads to decreased loss of bone mineral during flight. The Vascular experiment is determining the impact of long-duration space flight on the blood vessels of astronauts. Centrifuged samples were placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezer units afterwards.
Equipment in Human Research Facility 1 in Columbus was also used on 30 October for undertaking body mass measurements for all non-Russian crew members (ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano, Karen Nyberg and Michael Hopkins).
Biolab Facility Troubleshooting
On 17 October Luca Parmitano undertook troubleshooting steps on the Biolab facility in Columbus, undertaking an inspection of the facility’s microscope cassette and taking close-up pictures for engineering assessment. It was seen that the Flow Through Cell holder snapped out of the grabber again. The crew and ground teams made several observations and it was decided not to re-install the microscope cassette. Engineering teams now believe they have identified the root cause as a mechanical problem related to a not fully engaged retainer screw of the microscope cassette and an activity is being prepared to resolve the issue. The microscope was configured on 29 October in preparation for additional cassette troubleshooting steps on 5 November.
Data acquisition has been on-going for the Dose Distribution inside the ISS 3D (DOSIS-3D) experiment using the two active detectors and the new set of passive detectors which were deployed at various locations around the Columbus laboratory on 1 October. 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 17 October. 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 70th) for the Solar facility to acquire data with its two active instruments (SOLSPEC and SolACES) opened on 13 October and carried out successful science acquisition until the window closed on 24 October. 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. Prior to the Sun Visibility Window opening troubleshooting activities were successfully undertaken in order to resume science acquisition with the SolACES instrument. This was in resolution of a problem reaching the expected gas pressure experienced in the previous Sun Visibility Window. Following troubleshooting steps on 13 October it was confirmed that the valves of the gas system seem to behave as expected.
The SolACES instrument from SOLAR was in a unheated configuration (in order to undertake scientific measurements) during the Sun Visibility Window up until 21 October when it was placed in a warm-up configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation). This was due to the Cygnus spacecraft unberthing and related thruster firings. SolACES remained in this warmed-up configuration until the end of the reporting period. The next Sun Visibility Window is scheduled to open on 17 November
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)
Another two experiment runs of the Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) were completed on 7 and 9 October respectively. The images scanned inside the two processed samples have been preliminarily assessed by the science team, with the emulsification and images of the second sample processed considered better than the emulsification and images obtained with the first processed sample. Subsequent runs were temporarily put on hold the following week (due to inconsistent behaviour of a thermoelectric board) but following a successful test on 28 October science runs resumed on 29 October with a sample with liquid composition of 99.5% water / 0.5% hexane and a small surfactant concentration. Image analysis of the recent samples being processed (so-called ITEM-S type samples) will allow to extract the emulsion structure with deduction of droplet size and droplets cluster with respect to time.
The FASES experiment, installed inside the Fluid Science Laboratory, investigates the effect of surface tension on the stability of emulsions. Thin emulsions of different compositions are 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.
Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) and Batch 2a experiments
The Batch 2a solidification experiments (CETSOL-2, MICAST-2, SETA-2) continued in the Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) following processing of the MICAST-2 sample located in the MSL Solidification and quenching furnace from 28-29 October.
ESA’s Material Science Laboratory is the primary research facility located in NASA’s Materials Science Research Rack-1 in the US Laboratory and jointly operated under a bilateral cooperation agreement. CETSOL (Columnar-to-Equiaxed Transition in Solidification Processing) and MICAST (Microstructure Formation in Casting of Technical Alloys under Diffusive and Magnetically Controlled Convective Conditions) are two complementary material science projects. The goal of MICAST is to study the formation of microstructures during casting of technical alloys. In space, buoyancy convection is eliminated and the dendritic solidification of the alloys can be quantitatively studied under purely diffusive conditions. The objective of CETSOL is then to study the transition from columnar growth to equiaxed growth that occurs when crystals start to nucleate in the melt and grow independently. The SETA (Solidification along a Eutectic path in Ternary Alloys) experiment is looking into a specific type of eutectic growth in alloys of aluminium manganese and silicon. Results of all these experiments will help to optimise industrial casting processes.
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.
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 four weeks until 1 November include:
European Drawer Rack
A ground-commanded checkout of the European Drawer Rack was successfully performed by the team at the Microgravity User Support Centre (MUSC) in Cologne, Germany on 11 October. This checkout confirmed the successful installation of an Exchangeable Standard Electronic Module board (installed in June).
Ham Radio Sessions
ISS Flight Engineer and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano used the amateur radio equipment in Columbus for undertaking ham radio sessions with students at the Polish Academy of Kids in Gdansk, Poland, schools in Camaiore, Italy and Saly in Senegal, the Scuola Media Statale, in Casano Maderno, Italy, the Castellana Grotte and Liceo Classico e Linguistico C. Sylos schools around the Bari area of Italy, and the Convitto Nazionale State school in Rome, Italy.
Module Lighting Unit Maintenance
Luca Parmitano, replaced a failed Module Lighting Unit in Columbus on 12 October.
Smoke Detector Maintenance
Luca Parmitano inspected and cleaned two Columbus Cabin Smoke Detectors on 15 October.
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 checkouts, 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; activities for NASA’s NanoRacks Platform which contains a new module of seventeen different science experiments as part of an education programme to allow student teams across the United States to design their own experiments using flight approved fluids and materials; six months activities for NASA’s VIABLE (eValuatIon And monitoring of microBiofiLms insidE the ISS) experiment for the evaluation of microbial biofilm development on space materials; saliva and body sampling for NASA’s Microbiome experiment, which is investigating the impact of space travel on the human immune system and the microbes that live in and on the human body; replacing Igniter Tip hardware for the Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus in the Combustion Integrated Rack for the Flame Extinguishment (FLEX) combustion experiment; setting up the EarthKAM camera in Node 2 for viewing of the Cygnus vehicle departure and a week-long imaging session encompassing an education programme; saliva collections for NASA’s Salivary Markers protocol; and setting up samples and transferring accumulated imagery for NASA’s Binary Colloidal Aggregated Test C1 (BCAT-C1) experiment which could help in finding new ways to produce plastics or extend the shelf-life of consumer products.
During the four weeks until 1 November, Luca 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: set up a camera in the ‘Poisk’ Mini-Research Module 2 window for automated photography of the transit of the Juno spacecraft (launched in August 2011) during its closest and final approach to Earth on its way to Jupiter; replaced (with NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins) the US Laboratory’s Common Cabin Air Assembly Water Separator which had failed in July of this year, well beyond its expected lifetime; performed a Periodic Fitness Evaluation to monitor his overall fitness levels to ensure cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health; participated in an ISS emergency drill with the other crew members to test emergency procedures in the case of a fire in the Columbus module; replaced a desiccant pack in the GLACIER (General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator) 2 freezer; took measurements of the acoustic environment in the habitable areas of the ISS; and carried out activities with the Diapason instrument in the US Laboratory which is used to measure the atmospheric composition on-board the ISS. Parmitano also undertook a number of live public affairs activities with with the ASI President and the Italian Minister of Research, Universities, and Education on 8 October and European students at ESA’s ESTEC facility in Noordwijk, The Netherlands on 16 October.
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 four weeks until 1 November include:
Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack
Following a number of failures experienced by the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly (in the Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack), ISS Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins replaced a faulty air selector valve on 29 October with an on-orbit spare. Hopkins was assisted in activities by ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano (ESA) and Karen Nyberg (NASA). The crew also inspected three hydraflow couplings between the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly and the Sabatier reactor for potential water leak path into Sabatier. The Sabatier reactor combines carbon dioxide coming from the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly with H2 (hydrogen) from the Oxygen Generator System to form H2O (water) and CH4 (methane). The water is sent to the Waste Water Bus and reprocessed through the Water Processor Assembly. The methane is vented overboard. Nominal valve motion is now occurring.
Water samples were taken by Luca Parmitano on 8 October and analysed using the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer (TOCA), the Microbial Capture Device and a Coliform Detection Bag.
- Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack
Cygnus Spacecraft Undocking
The ISS crew carried out various preparations prior to unberthing of the Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft on 22 October. This included transfer of cargo into Cygnus for disposal and on-board training sessions to review the procedures for using the station’s robotic arm to detach Cygnus from the ISS. Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins, Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg configured Cygnus and the Node 2 vestibule on 21 October in preparation for unberthing. The Cygnus hatch was closed followed by the removal of power, data, and air revitalization system jumpers. Hereafter, the Node 2 nadir hatch was closed and depressurization and a leak check of the vestibule between the Node 2/Cygnus hatches was performed.
On 22 October the Cygnus spacecraft was successfully unberthed from the ISS using the Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2). With Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg at the controls of Canadarm 2 Cygnus was demated from the Earth-facing docking port at Node 2 and manoeuvred into its release position. The Cygnus spacecraft was released at 13:30 (CET). After moving Canadarm 2 back away from the spacecraft the Cygnus undertook its departure burn. The Cygnus spacecraft undertook its planned destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere on 23 October loaded with more than 1305 kg of trash from the ISS. Cygnus is a commercial unmanned spacecraft under NASA contract which was on its very first (demo) flight to the ISS. The first commercial flight of the Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled for launch in December.
Automated Transfer Vehicle 4 (ATV-4) Preparations and Undocking
Proximity Communications Equipment
ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kotov installed the ATV Proximity Communications Equipment (used for close proximity communications between the ISS and the ATV) in the Russian Service Module on 17 October in preparation for undocking of ATV-4 ‘Albert Einstein’.
The ATV’s Orbit Correction System thrusters were used to carry out a reboost of the ISS on 24 October. This was in order to place the ATV in an optimal orbital profile for Soyuz TMA-11M on 7 November.
In addition to loading excess equipment and waste inside ATV for disposal, the crew carried out additional activities to prepare ATV-4 for its departure. Smoke detectors, light fixtures, a fire extinguisher, air ducts, a fan unit and other useful equipment were removed from the ATV for reuse, as well as removing the clamps which additionally secured the ATV with the ISS. ISS Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov and Luca Parmitano closed the ATV-4 and Service Module hatches on 25 October then performed leak checks in preparation for undocking.
ATV-4 Undocking and Destructive Re-entry
After the ATV Control equipment was activated in the Russian Service Module, Albert Einstein, Europe’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle, undocked from the International Space Station on 28 October at 09:55 CET following 4 ½ months of docked operations at the ISS. A spring mechanism located on the Service Module aft docking port, slowly pushed the ATV away from the Station. After drifting unpowered for one minute to a distance of three metres away from the Station, the ATV deployed its smaller attitude control thrusters to start its departure boost and distance itself further.
The undocking was monitored from the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, and the Mission Control Centres in Moscow and Houston. The ISS crew also monitored the undocking. ATV-4 transported a record payload to the ISS of 2480 kg cargo in its pressurised section, 2580 kg of propellants for reboosting the Station’s orbit and 860 kg more to refill the tanks of the Zvezda Service Module, 570 kg of drinking water and 100 kg of gases (two tanks of oxygen, one of air). On departure ATV-4 removed about 2 tonnes of waste and excess equipment from the ISS. ATV-4 will undertake its planned destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere on 2 November.
Soyuz TMA-09M/35S, Expedition 36/37 Crew Return Preparations
Soyuz TMA-09M Relocation/Return Preparations
In preparation for the relocation of the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft, and its ultimate undocking, the returning crew members: ISS Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin (Roscosmos) and ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano (ESA) and Karen Nyberg (NASA), performed leak checks on their Sokol spacesuits on 28 October. The following day Yurchikhin and Parmitano conducted an onboard descent drill inside the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft, reviewing various emergency scenarios to make sure they were prepared for potential hazards during the return journey. On 30 October Yurchikhin and Parmitano checked out some of the Soyuz TMA-09M systems. Yurchikhin additionally packed items and equipment for return aboard the Soyuz and undertook a Lower Body Negative Pressure test using a Russian Chibis suit. The Chibis suit provides stress that simulates gravity to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system and helps to evaluate how the Soyuz crewmember would cope with exposure to gravity on return to Earth, simulating the effects of gravity by drawing fluids to the lower half of the body. Fyodor Yurchikhin and Luca Parmitano carried out a final training prior to Soyuz relocation on 31 October and together with Nyberg, conducted fit checks of their Kentavr anti-g suits. These suits are worn under their Sokol suits during return and landing to help the long-duration crewmembers with the return into Earth’s gravity.
The relocation of Soyuz TMA-09M is due to the arrival of the Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft on 7 November. The three new crew members arriving on Soyuz TMA-11M are NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin.
Soyuz TMA-09M Relocation
The Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft was successfully relocated from the ‘Rassvet’ Mini Research Module 1 to the aft Zvezda port (vacated by ATV-4 on 28 October) on 1 November. Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano undocked in the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft at 09:33 (CET). After undertaking the flyaround to the rear of the station, Soyuz TMA-09M was aligned with the aft Zvezda docking port and guided in for docking at 09:54 (CET).
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 four-week reporting period, samples were installed inside MELFI units for numerous NASA human research protocols: saliva for the Salivary Markers immunology experiment (for Parmitano, Nyberg, and Hopkins); saliva (for Parmitano, Nyberg, and Hopkins) and additional body sampling (for Parmitano and Nyberg) for the Microbiome protocol; and blood and urine samples for the joint Pro-K protocols (for Parmitano, Nyberg and Hopkins). Additional samples were placed in one of the MELFI units for Karen Nyberg for CSA’s Vascular protocol (blood), and for JAXA’s Resist Tubule plant biology experiment.
Microgravity Science Glovebox
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was active in the four-week period until 1 November in order to undertake numerous runs for NASA’s InSPACE-3 (Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions 3) experiment. InSPACE-3 studies the fundamental behaviour of magnetic colloidal fluids under the influence of various magnetic fields. On-orbit activities were undertaken on different days by ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg.
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.
Japanese Laboratory Robotics Activities
On 8 October ground control teams of the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) successfully undertook a robotics demonstration of the Japanese robotic arm located on the external surface of the Japanese Kibo laboratory. The objective of the demonstration was to retrieve the Small Fine Arm, manoeuvre it to a specific Orbital Replacement Unit to provide calibration data for future Small Fine Arm payload transfers. This activity was followed by a Small Fine Arm check-out.
Russian Spacewalk Preparations
From 22 October – 1 November ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryazanskiy and Oleg Kotov undertook activities in preparation for a spacewalk they will undertake 9 November. This included gathering and consolidating spacewalk tools and various activities on their Orlan spacewalking suits: conducting leak checks, recharging water systems and batteries, resizing their Orlan suits, and installing U.S. spacesuit lights and helmet cameras. Michael Hopkins also assisted in gathering and inspecting spacewalking tools and tethers.
As part of preparations for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia the spacewalking cosmonauts will carry the Olympic torch outside the station during a symbolic spacewalk. The torch will arrive with the new crew members on Soyuz TMA-11M on 7 November as part of the traditional relay and be returned to Earth on Soyuz TMA-09M on 10 November.
Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Maintenance
Repair activities were undertaken on EMU spacesuit worn by ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano which experienced an internal water leak during the 16 July spacewalk. On 24 October ISS Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Michael Hopkins replaced the suit’s Fan Pump Separator which is suspected to have leaked water in the helmet of Luca Parmitano’s suit during the spacewalk. Hopkins completed activities the following day, which included a successful checkout with no water observed in the suits helmet during a water leak test. Other standard EVA suit procedures undertaken in the reporting period include scrubbing the different EMU suits’ cooling loops for particulate matter.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the four-week period until 1 November include: loading a software patch (from ground) as a first step to solve a Ku Band Loss of Signal/Acquisition of Signal recorder timing issue; recording video messages on orbit to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the launch of the first ISS element (Zarya) on 20 November; a successful performance test of the Russian Vozdukh CO2 scrubber in advance of an increase to a nine-person crew for a four-day period; a successful ground-commanded checkout of redundant channels for each 1553 data bus connected to the ISS Multiplexer/Demultiplexers; installation of a dehumidifier in the Cell Biology Experiment Facility in the Japanese laboratory’s Saibo experiment rack; setting up the Advanced Biological Research System which contains two temperature-controlled chambers that can be used to grow plants, microorganisms and small arthropods, such as insects or spiders; and additional 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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