ESA title
Columbus logo
Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 159 Increment 38: 30 November 2013 – 3 January 2014

13/01/2014 635 views 2 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #159 from the European Space Agency outlining ESA’s science-related activities that have taken place on the ISS during the past five 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:

Human Research
Space Headaches Experiment
In the five weeks until 3 January 2014 three different astronauts have taken part in the Space Headaches experiment. Weekly questionnaires were filled in on 6, 13, 20, 27 December and 2/3 January by ISS Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins (his 10th - 14th), Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata (their 4th – 8th). The weekly questionnaires follow on from one week of filling in daily questionnaires during the first week after launch on Soyuz 36S for Hopkins and Soyuz 37S for Mastracchio and Wakata.

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
Koichi Wakata successfully carried out a combined first and second session of the Circadian Rhythms experiment from 6 - 8 December. During the session Wakata donned the Thermolab temperature sensors, on the forehead and chest, and the Thermolab unit along with an activity monitoring armband. Hereafter measurements were taken for 36 hours. This was a recovery from Wakata’s first planned session which had to be prematurely stopped due to a hardware malfunction. Two days prior to the repeat session ISS Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio successfully repaired the Thermolab Unit, fixing parts of the battery compartment with glue. On 17 December Wakata transferred the activity armband data to the European Physiology Modules laptop and hereafter it was downlinked to ground for analysis. Thermolab data from this session will be downlinked after the next Circadian Rhythms session in January.

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.

Reversible Figures Experiment
Sessions of the Reversible Figures experiment were carried out in the Columbus laboratory on 13 December by ISS Flight Engineers Koichi Wakata (2nd session) and Michael Hopkins (4th 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 spinal ultrasound scans on 2 and 30 December on ISS Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins respectively. The spinal ultrasound scans are part of a NASA investigation to characterise spinal changes during and after spaceflight.

Further ultrasounds were undertaken by ISS Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata on 6 December and Wakata and Mike Hopkins on 3 January in connection with NASA’s Ocular Health protocol. These sessions included an ultrasound eye scan and a cardiac ultrasound with blood pressure. This followed up activities with the experiment subjects 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. 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 equipment was additionally used on 5 December for undertaking thigh and calf ultrasounds for Koichi Wakata for NASA’s Sprint protocol which is evaluating the use of high intensity, low volume exercise training to minimize loss of muscle, bone, and cardiovascular function in ISS crewmembers during long-duration missions. As part of the experiment Wakata carried out the Sprint VO2 session on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) in Node 3. Sprint VO2 max is a test that measures oxygen uptake, ventilatory threshold, and other physiological parameters for evaluation of the Sprint exercise protocol.

Outside of ultrasound measurements Human Research Facility 2’s refrigerated centrifuge was used for spinning blood samples for NASA’s Biochemical Profile and Repository protocol (for Koichi Wakata). Centrifuged blood samples were placed in a MELFI freezer unit.

Body Mass Measurements were undertaken on 10 December by Michael Hopkins and on 30 December by Hopkins and Wakata using the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) in Human Research Facility.


Biology Research
Biolab Facility Maintenance
Following conclusion of crew activities on orbit, ground commanded testing came to a successful conclusion on 11 December, bringing the Biolab Commissioning run to an end. Activities included a stability test of the Biolab Life Support System with different settings of temperature, humidity, airflow, CO2 and O2 and a test of the temperature behaviour of the Biolab incubator and to simulate an unexpected incubator power loss for measuring temperature impact. These activities are taking place in advance of the TripleLux-B experiment.

The TripleLux-B experiment will be the next experiment to make full use of the Biolab facility, currently scheduled for launch to the ISS on the SpaceX-5 spacecraft in Autumn 2014. This will be preceded by the GRAVI-2 experiment (executed in the European Modular Cultivation System - EMCS) that will also make use of Biolab’s thermal storage capabilities (in the Thermal Control Unit – TCU) following launch to the ISS on SpaceX-3 in Spring 2014.


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 1 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. On 11 December, due to a problem with the ISS External Thermal Control System, Columbus Power Distribution Unit (PDU) 1 was switched off, leading to loss of data acquisition by the active dosimeters. The DOSIS-3D hardware was however rerouted to an alternative power source by Rick Mastracchio on 13 December to limit any impact on science. An accumulated downlink of data from the active detectors was undertaken via the European Physiology Modules laptop on 17 December.

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 earlier 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 71st Sun Visibility Window for the Solar facility to acquire data with its two active instruments (SOLSPEC and SolACES) concluded on 29 November (having been open since 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. On conclusion of this Sun Visibility Window the ISS was slightly rotated to continue science acquisition in the intervening period between Sun Visibility Windows 71 and 72 (following up similar campaigns in November/December 2012 and June/July 2013). On 10 December this bridging period was complete and the ISS was rotated back to its standard orbital profile and the start of Sun Visibility Window 72.

This campaign is an extended period of science acquisition. As the Sun visibility windows last for around 12 days these bridging events make it possible to undertake solar measurements during a full Sun rotation cycle (which lasts around 26 days at the Solar equator and up to 36 days at the solar poles). The bridging period was also the third time that the attitude of the Space Station had been changed for science reasons.

However the problem with the ISS External Thermal Control System on 11 December, causing loss of Columbus Power Distribution Unit (PDU) 1, forced the Solar payload into survival mode (hence not undertaking science acquisition) due to loss of power. Science acquisition remained on hold until the scheduled end of Sun visibility window 72 on 21 December. Following reactivation of PDU 1 on 31 December, SOLAR and its instruments were powered up. Any possible hardware impacts will be assessed in the next Sun visibility window.

The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range since 2008. 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.


Fluids Research
FASES Experiment in the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL)
Additional experiment runs were undertaken for the Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) up until 10 December. Three different samples were processed with liquid composition of 98% water / 2% hexane. Based on a preliminary assessment by the science team, the emulsification is good though with unexpected limitations/inconsistencies in one sample. Two additional samples one with liquid composition of 50% water and 50% paraffin, the other with liquid composition of 10% of water and 90% of paraffin oil also underwent pre-processing testing.

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
ISS Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins retrieved the cell array for the SODI DCMIX-2 experiment from Progress 53P on 30 November and installed it inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox in the US Laboratory. SODI activation and cell array check-out started immediately by ground commanding. No bubbles were observed in the cells and the quality of images are good. Numerous science runs have been undertaken since 1 December consisting in the application of a temperature gradient to various toluene, methanol and cyclohexane composition mixtures and acquiring Mach-Zehnder Interferometry images of the mixtures during thermodiffusion processes. Data downlink has also been undertaken.

The experiment utilises the Selectable Optical Diagnostics Instrument (SODI). The SODI DCMIX experiments are supporting research to determine Soret 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 Research
Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) and Batch 2a experiments
The MICAST-2 sample located in the Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) could not be processed as planned due to the problem with the ISS External Thermal Control System. The processing of this sample will be re-scheduled. MICAST-2 forms part of the Batch 2a solidification experiments  which also includes the CETSOL-2 and SETA-2 experiments. 

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.


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. However the NORAIS receiver was turned off on 11 December following the problem with the ISS External Thermal Control System which caused the loss of Columbus Power Distribution Unit (PDU) 1. On 17 December ISS Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata switched the Vessel ID hardware to an alternative power supply and data acquisition was resumed.

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 five weeks until 3 January 2014 include:

  • Humidity Sensor
    A humidity sensor in Columbus failed on 30 November. Power Cycling restarted the sensor but its measurements hereafter deviated more than allowed. Further attempts to resolve the issue were not successful and an engineering assessment is pending.
  • Ham Radio Sessions
    The amateur radio equipment in Columbus was used for undertaking ham radio sessions with students in Brzeznica, Poland on 3 December and students in Japan on 12 and 14 December. The first contact was undertaken by ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, the second and third by ISS Flight Engineer and JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata.
  • Water Pump Assembly Switchover
    Following a Water Pump Assembly filter characterization test on 7 December,  the primary Water Pump Assembly was switched over from WPA 1 to WPA 2 the following day. This was in advance of a Coolant Fluid Servicer installation activity planned for 12 December, though this was subsequently cancelled due to the External Thermal Control System failure on 11 December (see below)
  • ISS Nitrogen Leak Check Activity
    The Columbus Control Centre supported a successful 10-hour ISS nitrogen leak check activity from 9-10 December.
  • Mass Memory Unit Card Replacement
    ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio successfully replaced card 2 in  Mass Memory Unit 2 in Columbus on 9 December. This had failed in 2012. In order to access the worksite, he had to rotate down Human Research Facility 1. During the removal of the facility’s umbilicals, a thermal control system supply line connector was found to be leaking (total amount of water lost is 100 ml). This was resolved by the crew according to standard procedures who collected imagery for ground analysis.
  • External Thermal Control System Failure
    One of the loops (Loop A) of the ISS External Thermal Control System which helps in the removal of excess heat from the ISS failed on 11 December. As such, contingency power downs were undertaken. Power Distribution Unit (PDU) 1 in Columbus was powered down. This feeds different Columbus payloads. As such EXPRESS Rack 3, the Fluid Science Laboratory, and the Solar Facility were deactivated as were a Station Support Computer, DOSIS 3D, the Vessel ID System, and the HAM radio equipment. Alternative power supplies were found for the last four pieces of hardware, while other non-critical systems were configured with no back up. Due to the failure many planned activities in Columbus involving the Columbus Control Centre were put temporarily on hold. To limit heat rejection limits in Columbus, Thermal Control System Interface Heat Exchanger (IFHX) hardware was bypassed on the ammonia side and thermally bypassed on water side by means of closing a water on/off valve, with heat rejection only via the Low Temperature Heat Exchanger. As such on 18 December Koichi Wakata performed water sampling on the medium temperature loop in Columbus which confirmed no Interface Heat Exchanger damage (as no evidence of ammonia). Following an EVA to replace a suspect pump for the failed External Thermal Control System loop (see below) standard thermal control was returned to Columbus by 25 December. PDU 1 was reactivated on 31 December and all systems were returned to their required configuration.
  • European Physiology Modules laptop
    On 17 December ISS Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata completed modification of the European Physiology Modules laptop monitor power settings in order to avoid a Local Area Network (LAN) connection interruption that was reported by the crew whenever the laptop lid was closed..
  • 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 checkouts, and smoke detector tests.


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 five weeks until 3 January 2014 include.
    • Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack: Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly Fault
      The Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack’s Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly shut down on 4 December due to a fan motor controller high temperature fault. Since all other Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly parameters were nominal at the time of the failure, a malfunction of the temperature sensor is suspected. The Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly was reactivated after masking this sensor in the software and is operating nominally. Redundant sensors are available in order to monitor the Fan Motor Controller temperature.
    • Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack: Sabatier Reactor
      The Sabatier reactor is now operating nominally after a series of purges to remove water build up in the Sabatier reactor’s CO2 accumulator. These purges were necessary as the manual purge performed in conjunction with the installation of a new check valve did not eliminate all the residual moisture inside. 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.
    • Oxygen Generation System: Sensor Replacement
      A Hydrogen Sensor in the Oxygen Generation System was replaced on 17 December as preventative maintenance. The system did experience an unexpected shutdown on 20 December though this was resolved during the same night.
    • Water Recovery System racks
      ISS Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins swapped out a recycle tank in the Water Recovery System on 9 December. On 15 December the system’s Water Processor Assembly experienced a fault during an attempt to start a processing run, thought to be due to an over speed condition in its Mostly Liquid Separator. Ground teams succeeded in starting up the assembly without such an over speed fault on the night of 16-17 December.
    • Waste and Hygiene Compartment
      Koichi Wakata replaced a pre-treat tank in the Waste and Hygiene Compartment on 9 December. On 20 December the compartment’s pump separator failed though the crew was able to successfully replace it the same day.
  • Exercise Equipment
    Rick Mastracchio replaced an exercise rope on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device in Node 3 on 2 December. Mike Hopkins also inspected the T2 COLBERT treadmill in Node 3 on 11 December to examine the inner edge of the drive shaft gear’s teeth that line up with the damaged teeth on the right lateral belt.  Hopkins identified the slat numbers on the tread-belt that corresponded to damaged teeth and took photos.
  • Cupola Activities
    The European-built Cupola Observation Module attached to Node 3 is proving a valuable ISS asset especially for observing/controlling external robotics and Earth Observation activities. ISS Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata set up JAXA’s 4K Ultra High Definition camera in the ESA-built Cupola Observation Module on 3 December as a rehearsal for a live public affairs event activities for the following day. The following day Wakata and Mike Hopkins participated in the event with Japanese media and an astronomer to discuss the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) Comet and Earth and space observations from the station. The scenes that were recorded during the event included night views of Japan, and Wakata within the Cupola. On 10 December Wakata set up the camera again to capture night views of the Earth and images of Comet Lovejoy. On 14 and 27 December  Wakata performed additional celestial and Earth recording sessions. Wakata will be taking high definition photos of the ISON comet, Earth, and various celestial events from Cupola over the next few months. By utilizing the advantage of high definition and high sensitivity of the camera, the video images can be also used for science purposes. The ISON Comet originates from the Oort Cloud region of our solar system and is now travelling toward the Sun. The comet reached its closest approach to the Sun on 28 November. If it comes around the Sun without breaking up, the comet will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere with the naked eye. The Cupola was additionally used for robotics activities in connection with the External Thermal Control System pump module replacement spacewalks and training sessions in connection with the upcoming launch of the Cygnus spacecraft.


Progress M-21M/53P Activities

  • Post-docking activities
    Following docking on 29 November the hatches into the Russian Progress M-21M spacecraft on logistics flight 53P to the ISS were opened on 30 November. Progress 53P delivered cargo consisting of 800 kg propellants, 50 kg oxygen and air, 420 kg water and more than 1400 kg dry cargo. After hatch opening the crew started transferring cargo to the ISS.
  • ISS Reboost
     On 12 December Progress 53P thrusters were fired for more than 7 minutes in order to reboost the ISS to a higher orbital altitude in connection with phasing for Russian vehicle launches in 2014 and the upcoming arrival of the Cygnus spacecraft. A second reboost was undertaken on 13 December.


External Thermal Control System

  • Loop A Failure
    On 11 December the redundancy of the External Thermal Control System was lost when its loop A pump module shut down due to low temperature readings. These loops circulate ammonia outside the station to keep both internal and external equipment cool. The loop A pump module could be reactivated though it could not be integrated with the Interface Heat Exchangers (where heat is transferred from the Internal Thermal Control System to the External Thermal Control System). It was determined that the Flow Control Valve of the loop A pump module was not able to regulate the flow at the desired rates, and has been declared hard failed. That flow control valve regulates the temperature of the ammonia in the loop so that when the ammonia is re-introduced into the heat exchanger on Node 2 it does not freeze the water also flowing through the exchanger. The Loop A pump was however still able to cool the external loads. It was subsequently determined that the pump module itself would need replacing to return full functionality, requiring spacewalks. There was no risk to the crew or the ISS itself though after the failure some ISS systems were switched to the other external thermal control loop and some non-critical systems were shut down to limit heat rejection requirements.
  • Spacewalk 1 Preparations
    Preparations started on 14 December in the event that a contingency EVA would be necessary to replace the pump module. ISS Flight Engineers and NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins started preparing their spacesuits in the Quest airlock, adjusting the suit sizes and associated fit checks, battery charging, regenerating carbon dioxide removal canisters, checking out the Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue (SAFER) units (propulsion units in case an EVA astronaut becomes detached from the ISS), scrubbing the cooling loops of the Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), EMU communications and data checks, EVA tool configuration, configuring EVA cameras,  and configuring the Airlock. ISS Flight Engineer and JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata also trained for his work as robotic arm operator should the spacewalks become necessary including use of the Robotics Onboard Trainer (ROBoT) for replacing the Loop A Pump Module. It was decided to go forward with the spacewalks on 17 December. On 20 December robotics ground controllers manoeuvred the Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2) into position for the start of the spacewalks. On the day of the EVA the EVA astronauts carried out standard pre-EVA procedures  to remove nitrogen from their bodies prior to a spacewalk.
  • Spacewalk 1
    The first spacewalk to replace the loop A Pump Module of the External Thermal Control System was carried out by ISS Flight Engineers Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio on 21 December with Koichi Wakata as robotic arm operator inside the Station. The EVA which originated from the US Airlock lasted 5 hours 28 mins. After exiting the airlock  Hopkins made his way out to the worksite on the S1 truss segment while Wakata moved Mastracchio to the same location by robotic arm. The EVA astronauts then detached the four ammonia lines from the failed pump module, attaching the same lines to a jumper box during the required replacement. As the EVA was well ahead of schedule Hopkins and Mastracchio continued with a task scheduled for the second spacewalk: to remove the degraded pump module and transfer it to a stowage location. Mastracchio removed the five electrical connectors from the pump module and unfastened the module from the truss, while Hopkins set up the stowage location. Wakata moved Mastracchio (holding the pump module) to the stowage location where it was attached to a grapple fixture before the astronauts headed back to the airlock.
  • Post EVA procedures
     Standard procedures were undertaken after the EVA including: EVA suit and tether inspection, recharging batteries for the EVA suits, helmet lights, and tools; refilling the water lines of the EVA suits; installing new metal oxide canisters in the EVA suits for removing carbon dioxide during spacewalks; and reconfiguring the related EVA computer equipment. In addition during repressurisation of the airlock following the spacewalk, a spacesuit configuration issue put the suit Mastracchio was wearing in question for the next EVA, though this was tracked to the feed water switch on the spacesuit that had been inadvertently switched on for 2-3 seconds. As such, in order to let this suit properly dry out, it was decided to switch to a backup suit for the next spacewalk.
  • Spacewalk 2 Preparations
     Following the first EVA, Extravehicular Mobility Units suits were again resized for spacewalk 2, tools were prepared and the airlock was configured.  On the day of the EVA the EVA astronauts carried out standard pre-EVA procedures to remove nitrogen from their bodies prior to a spacewalk.
  • Spacewalk 2
    The second spacewalk to replace the loop A Pump Module of the External Thermal Control System was carried out by ISS Flight Engineers Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio on 24 December with Koichi Wakata as robotic arm operator inside the Station. The EVA which originated from the US Airlock lasted 7 hours 30 mins. After exiting the airlock Hopkins and Mastracchio retrieved the spare Pump Module from the Space Station’s External Stowage Platform-3. Hopkins was translated to the S1 truss location with the pump module attached to the Canadarm 2, again with Wakata as robotic arm operator. Mastracchio translated to the S1 truss independently. After translating to the worksite Hopkins and Mastracchio bolted the spare Pump Module into place, demated the four ammonia lines from the jumper box and attached them to the Pump Module. Afterward, they completed electrical connections to the pump module to complete installation and returned to the airlock. The spacewalkers undertook precautionary decontamination procedures after seeing some ammonia flakes during difficulties attaching a fluid line during the spacewalk.
  • External Thermal Control System Restart
    Flight controllers in the Mission Control Center at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston successfully restarted the new pump on the night of 24 December and repressurised the system. The pump was hereafter regulating the temperature and flow of the ammonia in loop A. Over the course of the next week the heat exchangers of the US and Japanese laboratories and Nodes 2 and 3 and the Columbus laboratory were reintegrated into the system to restore heat rejection capability and allow power to be restored to all systems..


Cygnus On-orbit Launch Preparations
In the five weeks until 3 January 2014 September ISS Flight Engineers Mike Hopkins, Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata have been undertaking rendezvous and berthing training on the ISS in advance of the Cygnus spacecraft arrival on its first commercial flight to the ISS (following its successful demo flight in September). On 5 December Hopkins, Mastracchio and Wakata manoeuvred the Space Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm-2) into and out of the grapple envelope around the ISS Permanent Multipurpose Module, repeating the manoeuvre five times before moving the robotic arm back to a High Hover position. The astronauts also used a robotics simulator to practice rendezvous and docking manoeuvres on 9 and 11 December. These robotics trainings activities continued on 13 December following a ground commanded checkout of Canadarm-2’s Latching End Effector.

The Hardware Command Panel, used to enable the crew to send commands to the Cygnus spacecraft, was assembled on 9 December by Mike Hopkins and power and data cables were routed from the Japanese laboratory to the Cupola Observation Module. Later in the day, he worked with ground teams to check out the command panel and a string of the Proximity Communications which enables direct communications between the Cygnus spacecraft and ISS.  The second string was checked out the following day. On 17 December the decision was made to delay the launch of Cygnus due to the External Thermal Control System issues. The current launch is currently scheduled to no earlier than 8 January.

Russian Spacewalk 37

  • Spacewalk Preparations
    ISS Commander Oleg Kotov, and ISS Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy (both representing Roscosmos) were preparing to undertake the 37th Russian ISS spacewalk in December. In additional to procedural reviews, on 19 December they were assisted by fellow cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin (also representing Roscosmos) in reviewing procedures and checking EVA batteries. Three days later the hatches into Progress 52P (docked to the Pirs Docking Compartment) were closed. The following day the spacewalking cosmonauts undertook a suited dry run inside the Pirs Airlock. Air ducts between the Service Module Transfer Compartment and the Pirs Docking Compartment and airlock were removed in order to clear space for a suited dry run and communications equipment was configured in Pirs. Hereafter the two cosmonauts carried out functionality and leak checks on the Russian Orlan EVA suits and related equipment. Once the cosmonauts were sealed into their respective suits additional functionality checks were carried out and successful testing was completed to check on suited mobility inside the Pirs Docking Compartment. Once this suited dry run was finished, communications and air ducting was restored to its pre-test configuration. The EVA cosmonauts were again assisted by Tyurin. Preparations continued on 26 December with the hatches to Progress 53P (docked at the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module) being closed and all US equipment that will be used during the Russian EVA having been transferred to the Russian crew.
  • Spacewalk
    On completion of the standard pre-EVA procedures, the spacewalk was carried out by Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy on 27 December. The spacewalk lasted 8 hr 7 min which is the longest Russian spacewalk in history. The main task was the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras as part of a Canadian commercial project to downlink Earth observation imagery. Kotov and Ryazanskiy attached the two cameras as planned on a pointing platform and spacewalk workstation that was installed on the Zvezda service module during a spacewalk in November and installed a foot restraint to the workstation. After connecting relevant cables to the cameras, telemetry was unfortunately not received at the Mission Control Centre in Moscow. As such the cosmonauts were directed to remove the cameras and return them to the airlock. In addition to their work with the two cameras, the spacewalkers removed and jettisoned an experiment package (installed in July 2008) designed to monitor seismic effects using high-energy particle streams in the near-Earth environment, and in its place installed  hardware for a more sophisticated earthquake-monitoring experiment. The extra time needed for the camera installation/deinstallation meant that further tasks have been deferred until a later spacewalk.
    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 Mike Hopkins was isolated in the Russian Poisk Mini Research Module 2 with access to Soyuz 36S  in case of a depressurisation contingency while Rick Mastracchio, Koichi Wakata and Mikhail Tyurin were in the US segment of the ISS with access to Soyuz 37S docked at the Russian Rassvet Module for similar reasons. In the few days following the EVA Kotov and Ryazanskiy carried out clean-up activities (stowing EVA tools and reconfiguring ISS systems/modules) as well as checking the telemetry connectors for the cameras inside the Russian Service Module.


Minus-Eighty degree Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
There are three European-built MELFI freezers on the ISS: MELFI-1 and MELFI-2 in the Japanese laboratory and MELFI-3 in the US laboratory. In the five-week reporting period, samples were installed inside MELFI units for: NASA’s Biochemical Profile and Repository protocol (blood and urine) for Koichi Wakata, NASA’s Salivary Markers immunology experiment (saliva) for NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins, and NASA’s Microbiome microbial survey experiment (saliva, body) for NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins.  In addition the MELFI units were affected by the External Thermal Control System failure, going through activation/deactivation procedures at various times in order to maintain sufficient thermal conditions inside and limit heat rejection requirements. Samples were also transferred to MELFI-3 from the GLACIER 1 freezer on 12 December.

External Robotics: Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer
In addition to the robotics activities associated with the two External Thermal Control System spacewalks and training for Cygnus spacecraft capture and berthing, a robotic inspection of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) was carried out on 2 January. Ground teams in Houston commanded the Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm-2) to grapple the Dextre Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator for the inspection. The imagery generated will be used as a tool to assess any degradation and help diagnose any future issues. The day after the inspection, Canadarm-2 was relocated from its base point on the ISS truss to an external grapple fixture on Node 2 in preparation for the launch of the Cygnus spacecraft in January. AMS-02 is a state-of-the-art cosmic-ray detector designed to examine fundamental properties of matter and the origin of the Universe.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the five-week period until 3 January 2014 include: an emergency role and responsibility review by the ISS crew and emergency training drills (to simulate a fire and rapid depressurisation on the ISS; an upgrade to the Service Module Central and Terminal Computers to support the Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) and European Robotic Arm (ERA) after their arrival as well as improving Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Manoeuvre capabilities and Russian segment thruster control algorithms; setting up NASA’s Robonaut hardware for a ground-commanded firmware update to support the installation of a pair of legs for the humanoid robot (scheduled to arrive on the SpaceX-3 spacecraft); an Inter Orbit Communication System (ICS) Space to Ground communications check between the ISS Kibo laboratory and the Tsukuba Space Centre in Japan; reconfiguring the Quest airlock for a new Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System; installing a jumper in the Quest airlock to provide contingency power to the airlock’s secondary shell heaters; replacement of fans in the Zvezda service module with low-noise units; replacing a multi-drop combustion apparatus fuel reservoir inside the Combustion Integrated Rack in the US laboratory; 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.

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.

Related Links