This is ISS status report #157 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
In the two weeks until 15 November four different astronauts have taken part in the Space Headaches experiment. Weekly questionnaires were filled in by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano (his 23rd and final prior to undocking/landing on 11 November) on 8 November and NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins (his 6th and 7th) on 8 and 15 November. 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. In addition ISS Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio (NASA) and Koichi Wakata (JAXA) filled in daily questionnaires as new subjects for the experiment between 7 - 13 November following their launch on Soyuz 37S. Mastracchio and Wakata filled in their first weekly questionnaires on 15 November.
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.
On 7 November ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano undertook his seventh and final session of the 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). 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.
Reversible Figures Experiment
Sessions of the Reversible Figures experiment were carried out in the Columbus laboratory on 14 November by ISS Flight Engineers Koichi Wakata (1st session) and Michael Hopkins (3rd session). 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.
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 15 November for ISS Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata 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 Wakata 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. Final visual tests were also undertaken by Luca Parmitano as part of the protocol on 5 November, prior to his return to earth a few days later. 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.
Biolab Facility Maintenance
On 5 November Luca Parmitano undertook maintenance work on the Biolab facility in Columbus, repairing the guiding rail of the microscope cassette by cutting and smoothing some chipped material and inspected the Flow Through Cell holder which confirmed that it was not bent. Three days later Luca continued the work, by reinserting the microscope cassette into Biolab. On 13 November, after 15 hours of ground-commanded activities, it was confirmed that the microscope is now indeed performing according to expectations. With this complete the Biolab facility is now ready to start a commissioning run experiment in the coming 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 new set of passive detectors which were deployed at various locations around the Columbus laboratory on 1 October. One of the passive detectors had become detached from its intended location on the European Drawer Rack. This was discovered on 13 November and was reattached by Koichi Wakata on 15 November. 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 14 November. 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 Solar facility was not taking scientific measurements with its two active instruments (SOLSPEC and SolACES) in the two weeks until 15 November as the next Sun Visibility Window (the 71st) will not open until 17 November. 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. The SolACES instrument from SOLAR was in a heated configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation) during the two-week reporting period.
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)
Two experiment runs of the Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) have been completed in the two-week reporting period on samples with liquid composition of 99.5% water / 0.5% hexane but with increasing surfactant concentrations. The first experiment run of the reporting period was completed on 6 November with temperature control disabled (due to an electronics board trip in FSL). The following run was started on 11 November and subsequently completed. Another experiment run was started on a similar sample with a higher surfactant concentration though this was stopped due to a telemetry loss and additional issues experienced in the night of 12 – 13 November. Further science runs are temporarily on hold in order solve these operational issues. 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 clustering 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.
SODI-DCMIX 2 Experiment and Microgravity Science Glovebox Activities
The Microgravity Science Glovebox inside the US Laboratory was active in the two-week period until 15 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 Michael Hopkins. On 13 November the InSPACE-3 hardware was removed from the Glovebox by ISS Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio.
On 14 November Michael Hopkins installed ESA’s Selectable Optical Diagnostics Instrument (SODI) inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox. This is in preparation for optical checkouts prior to start of the DCMIX 2 experiment, the samples of which will arrive on Progress 53P. SODI-DCMIX 2 is supporting research to determine diffusion coefficients in different petroleum field samples and refine petroleum reservoir models to help lead to more efficient extraction of oil resources.
The Microgravity Science Glovebox was developed by ESA within the Early Utilisation barter agreement with NASA. The Glovebox provides the ability to perform a wide range of experiments in the fields of materials science, biotechnology, fluid science, combustion science and crystal growth research, in a fully sealed and controlled environment.
Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) and Batch 2a experiments
On 5 November Luca Parmitano exchanged the processed MICAST-2 sample located in the MSL Solidification and quenching furnace for a CETSOL-2 sample (Al-7wt%Si-0.5wt%AT5B alloy). Following a leak check this new sample underwent melting and solidification processing on the night of 6-7 November. CETSOL-2 and MICAST-2 form part of the Batch 2a solidification experiments which also includes the SETA-2 experiment.
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 two weeks until 15 November include:
Columbus Condensate Heat Exchanger
The Columbus Condensate Heat Exchanger Core 1 dry-out was carried out from 3-4 November. Currently Condensate Heat Exchanger Core 2 is in use with Condensate Water Separator Assembly 2.
Ham Radio Sessions
ISS Flight Engineer and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano used the amateur radio equipment in Columbus for undertaking ham radio sessions with participants at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York and the Warren County Technical School in Washington, New Jersey, both on 4 November. ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins also undertook a session with participants at the Rancho Romero Elementary School in Alamo, California on 13 November.
European Physiology Modules
The European Physiology Modules facility was active on 5 November in support of a software upgrade for the facility laptop and European Physiology Modules telemetry handling corrections. On completion of the upgrade, the ground teams successfully tested the new software by performing a checkout on Cardiolab and laptop activation via ground commanding.
In addition to the above activities some standard weekly activities have taken place in Columbus including cycling of Interface Heat Exchanger Water On/Off Valves, Water Pump Assembly 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 JAXA’s Biological Rhythms experiment looking into circadian variations in cardiac autonomic function during space flight; being a subject of NASA’s ‘Reaction Self Test’ experiment which looks into how planned sleep shift for ISS crews affects performance; blood 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; 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 two weeks until 15 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 recorded a video message for the Italian Space Research Convention.
Automated Transfer Vehicle 4 (ATV-4) Re-entry
Albert Einstein, Europe’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle, undertook its planned destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere on 2 November, completing its five-month mission to the International Space Station. 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). While docked at the ISS ATV-4 also reboosted the Station six times to a higher orbital altitude. On departure ATV-4 removed about 2 tonnes of waste and excess equipment from the ISS. The next ATV, ATV-5 “Georges Lemaître”, is currently scheduled for launch in June 2014
Soyuz TMA-11M/37S, Expedition 38/39 Crew Launch and Docking
Soyuz TMA-11M Launch and Docking
The Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft was launched on flight 37S to the ISS on 7 November at 05:14 CET (10:14 local time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The crew consisted of Roscosmos cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio. Tyurin and Mastracchio are Flight Engineers for ISS Expeditions 38 and 39. Wakata is a Flight Engineer for ISS Expedition 38 and will become ISS Commander for Expedition 39, the first Japanese Commander of the ISS. The three new arrivals will also be Flight Engineers for Expedition 37 for the first few days until the departure of Soyuz 35S. Following orbital insertion, Soyuz TMA 37S antennas and solar arrays were deployed. This was the fourth time that a four-orbits-to-docking manoeuvre had been undertaken for a Soyuz (crewed) launch, with the journey lasting only around six hours rather than the usual two days (or 34 orbits). Prior to Soyuz TMA docking the ISS crew configured relevant communications and video equipment. The Soyuz spacecraft docked successfully with the Russian “Rassvet” Mini Research Module 1 at 11:27 (CET). This brought the permanent crew of the ISS up to a total of nine for the first time since October 2009 with ISS Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and ISS Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano (ESA), Karen Nyberg (NASA), Oleg Kotov (Roscosmos), Sergey Ryazanskiy (Roscosmos), and Michael Hopkins (NASA).
Soyuz TMA-11M post-docking activities
ISS attitude control was handed back from Russian to US systems after docking. Video of the docking and structural dynamics measurements were downlinked by the crew and the standard leak check between the Soyuz and the ISS was carried out. On completion the hatches were opened at 13:44 CET and the usual crew greeting took place. Quick disconnect clamps were installed at the interface between the Soyuz and the ISS to further stabilise the connection. The standard crew safety briefing followed. The Soyuz spacecraft was deactivated and the crew quarters for the new crew members were set up. The three Sokol spacesuits and their gloves were also set up for drying out and the nine crew members carried out an Emergency Roles and Responsibilities Review to discuss emergency response planning.
Prior to the Russian EVA, Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy (the spacewalking cosmonauts): prepared EVA tools, carried out telemetry and communications checks on their Orlan EVA suits, conducted EVA suit fit and leak checks, and installed EVA equipment on their suits. The EVA will continue preparations for the installation of a new Russian research module as well as taking the Olympic torch outside the station.
Russian EVA 36
On completion of the standard pre-EVA procedures, the spacewalk was carried out by ISS Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy on 9 November. The first task that was achieved during the 5 hr 50 min EVA, which started at 15:34 (CET) was to undertake a symbolic handover of the Olympic torch (which arrived at the space station on Soyuz 37S on 7 November). The symbolic handover of the torch (which will be used to light the Olympic flame at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia in February) is part of the Olympic torch relay which takes place prior to the start of the Games. After completion of the photo and video session the torch was stowed back in the Airlock and the cosmonauts continued with their EVA tasks. This included installing handrails on a combination extravehicular activity workstation outside the Zvezda Service Module; removing a launch bracket from a biaxial pointing platform (which will house a high resolution camera system) that was installed outside the Zvezda Service Module during a Russian EVA in August; and deactivation and securing cables of the Radiometria experiment package on Zvezda which has been collecting information useful in seismic forecasts and earthquake predictions following installation in February 2011. A couple of additional scheduled tasks were deferred until future spacewalks. Once the EVA was complete the Service Module Transfer Compartment was repressurised, communications, ventilation and other systems were reconfigured back to the pre-EVA conditions and the cosmonauts carried out post-EVA medical procedures. During the Russian-based EVA Yurchikhin, Parmitano and Nyberg were isolated in the back of the ISS in Zvezda with access to their Soyuz 35S spacecraft, and Michael Hopkins was isolated in the Russian Poisk Mini Research Module 2 with access to Soyuz 36S in case of a depressurisation contingency. Mastracchio, Wakata and Tyurin were isolated in the US segment of the ISS with access to Soyuz 37S docked at the Russian Rassvet Module for similar reasons.
Following completion of the EVA Kotov and Ryazanskiy removed U.S. helmet cameras and lights from the Orlan spacesuits they wore during the spacewalk and stowed their Orlan suits and tools used.
Soyuz TMA-09M/35S, Expedition 36/37 Crew Return
In the two-week period until 15 November, the ISS crew members have been involved in cargo transfer activities packing cargo for either return to earth in the Descent Module of Soyuz 35S or for disposal in the Soyuz Orbital Module. Return items included a replaced part suspected of causing a water leak in a U.S. spacesuit during a spacewalk in July, Radiation Area Monitors deployed throughout the ISS, and the torch that will be used to light the Olympic flame at the 2013 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Soyuz 35S Descent Drill
A standard Soyuz descent drill was carried out by Fyodor Yurchikhin, Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg on 6 November. The descent drill, which took place in the Descent Module of the Soyuz 35S spacecraft is for the review of Soyuz descent procedures including emergency procedures and manual undocking. The training sessions used a descent simulator application on a Russian laptop together with a descent hand controller.
Soyuz TMA-09M/34S Motion Control Test
Yurchikhin and Parmitano supported a ground-commanded checkout of the Soyuz TMA-09M Motion Control System on 8 November including testing the pilot’s translational hand controller and the braking thrusters.
Change of Command Ceremony
The official ISS change of command ceremony took place in front of all crew members on 10 November with ISS Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin handing over command to Oleg Kotov (both representing Roscosmos). However as with all Expeditions, Expedition 38 will officially begin following undocking of the departing Soyuz/Expedition crew members.
Prior to undocking the Russian crew members removed temperature sensor and lighting equipment from the Soyuz Orbital module for reuse after Soyuz undocking, and checked out communications from Soyuz 35S to the ground. On 10 November following the joint crew farewell, the departing crew members (Fyodor Yurchikhin, Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg) entered the Soyuz spacecraft, and clamps were removed between the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft and the Zvezda module aft docking port to which it was docked. Following Soyuz activation the hatches between the Soyuz and Zvezda were closed at 21:09 (CET) and relevant leak checks were carried out.
Soyuz TMA-09M/35S, Expedition 37 Undocking and Landing
Undocking occurred at 00:26 (CET) on 11 November. A few minutes after undocking, the Soyuz performed its first separation burn. At 02:55 (CET) the Soyuz spacecraft performed its deorbit thruster burn. 30 minutes later the spacecraft went through module separation followed by atmospheric re-entry. After parachute deployment the Soyuz 35S landed at 03:49 (CET), 08:49 local time on 11 November in Kazakhstan. Undocking of Soyuz TMA-09M marked the end of Expedition 37 and the start of Expedition 38. The three departing crew members had spent 166 days in space.
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 ISS Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins for NASA’s Salivary Markers immunology experiment (saliva) as well as generic urine samples. In addition the MELFI-3 unit Brayton Motor was stopped (and subsequently restarted) on 12 November in connection with US laboratory Internal Thermal Control System leak troubleshooting.
ISS Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins installed the Japanese Experiment Module Small Satellite Orbital Deployer on the Multi-Purpose Experiment Platform in the Japanese Kibo Laboratory on 15 November. Koichi Wakata will use the laboratory’s airlock to help place the platform outside in the near future. The Japanese robotic arm will unberth the platform from the Small Fine Arm airlock attachment mechanism and manoeuvre it into position to release the small satellites known as Cubesats. Four satellites will be deployed.
Progress 52P Activities
On 13 November a vehicle-to-vehicle test was carried out by Oleg Kotov and Mikhail Tyurin on the Russian TORU manual docking system on the ISS with the Progress 52P spacecraft docked at the Pirs Docking Compartment. The TORU system allows ISS crew control of the Progress spacecraft from the Russian Service Module should the automatic KURS systems on Progress fail. Two days later Ryazanskiy and Tyurin dismantled the docking mechanism of the Progress 52P. The next Russian Progress spacecraft, Progress 53P, is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in late November.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 15 November include: a test run of a user interface and control system that allows ground-based users to operate a remote group of nanosatellites in space (SATS – Interact); a 6-month and yearly inspection of the T2 Treadmill in Node 3 as part of the ISTAR programme examining how mission operations can be optimized in the presence of communication delays as on future exploration missions for example to Mars; installation of a wireless access point inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory; replacing the failed white light lamps in the Fluids Integrated Rack in the US laboratory; installing Radiation Environment Monitors (on two ISS laptops) which are expected to provide the basis for the first generation of operational active personal space radiation dosimeters; troubleshooting on the US laboratory’s Internal Thermal Control System in order to locate a possible small leak within the system; replacing both igniter tips of the Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus inside the Combustion Integrated Rack; swapping out a laptop hard disk and updating software for EXPRESS rack 8; recovery of the Elektron oxygen-generating system; set up of JAXA’s 4K camera in the Cupola Observation Module for capturing high quality imagery of the Comet ISON, which will pass close to Earth in December; 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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