This is ISS status report #161 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 31 January three different astronauts have taken part in the Space Headaches experiment. Weekly questionnaires were filled in on 24 and 31 January by ISS Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins (his 17th and 18th), Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata (their 11th and 12th). 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.
The Energy experiment, which aims at determining the energy requirements of astronauts during long-term spaceflight, started on 20 January with ISS Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins as the sixth test subject (following on from ESA astronauts André Kuipers and Luca Parmitano, CSA astronaut Chris Hadfield, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn). On the first day a baseline drinking water sample was taken from the Potable Water Dispenser (from which Hopkins drank for the duration of the experiment). On the second day water samples were taken and a baseline urine sample was provided by Hopkins prior to imbibing a Double Labelled Water isotope. Oxygen Uptake Measurements were also undertaken on Hopkins at rest using the ESA/NASA Pulmonary Function System in order to measure Resting Metabolic Rate. After consuming a dedicated breakfast Hopkins 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 11-day period, Mike Hopkins logged his dietary intake (daily) and provided urine samples every other day and water samples were taken. On the last day of the experiment (30 January) Hopkins transferred the activity data from the Energy Armband he had been wearing through the experiment to the laptop of the European Physiology Modules Facility for downlink and all dietary data logs were transferred to ground.
The data gathered will allow for the determination of Mike Hopkins’ 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. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano is scheduled to be the next test subject for the experiment.
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 by ISS Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins on 24 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.
Body Mass Measurements were undertaken on 30 January by Michael Hopkins and Koichi Wakata using the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) in Human Research Facility 1.
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. On 23 January the monthly data downlink was performed via the European Physiology Modules in which the active detectors are installed. The active detectors for DOSIS-3D 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 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.
The 73rd Sun Visibility Window for the SOLAR facility closed on 27 January, having been open since 15 January. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR, which is located on the external platform of Columbus, are open for the facility to acquire scientific data with its two active instruments (SOLSPEC and SolACES) when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun. This was the first window following the now-resolved problem with the ISS External Thermal Control System which led to the Solar facility being placed into survival mode for almost three weeks in December. The SolACES instrument successfully collected data, confirming that its spectrophotometers had recovered from the very cold period experienced when in survival mode. Solar was again placed in survival mode, though only for a period of 10 hours, on 28 January in connection with a Columbus software upgrade. Hereafter the SolACES instrument was placed in a heated configuration (as a work-around to protect the instrument’s optics from degradation). The next Sun Visibility Window is due to start on 9 February.
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.
FASES Experiment in the Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL)
Research continued for the Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) experiment from 20 - 22 January on three different samples with liquid compositions of 4% water and 96% paraffin with an increasing surfactant agent. The first run was aborted as the resulting emulsion was not good but the following two samples successfully completed sample processing on 22 January.
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 are being 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
Experiment runs have continued for the SODI DCMIX-2 experiment inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox in the US Laboratory in the two weeks until 31 January. This consists in the application of a temperature gradient to various toluene, methanol and cyclohexane composition mixtures while acquiring Mach-Zehnder Interferometry images of the mixtures during thermodiffusion processes. Following a flash disk date storage exchange on 20 January additional bonus science runs were undertaken with new parameters to assess if any change in sample compositions would have occurred with time since filling. These shorter runs include the thermodiffusion study without the sample relaxation phase afterwards.
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 Science Laboratory (MSL) and Batch 2a experiments
The CETSOL-2 sample located in the Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) was processed from 22 – 23 January. CETSOL-2 forms part of the Batch 2a solidification experiments which also includes the MICAST-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.
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 system was shut down for a 10-hour period on 28 January in order to undertake a Columbus laboratory software upgrade.
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 31 January 2014 include:
Columbus Software Transition
The Columbus module software transition from cycle 13 to cycle 14 was successfully performed from 27-31 January. On 27 January Columbus Mass Memory Unit 1 was switched over to being the master unit and ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio carried out the software load for Mass Memory Unit 2. The following day Mass Memory Unit 1 (on cycle 13 software) was deactivated with Mass Memory Unit 2 (on cycle 14 software) becoming the master unit in order to check-out of the new software. To check out the communication with ESA payload racks, the Fluid Science Laboratory in Columbus was activated to see if files could be transferred to and from the rack. It was demonstrated that science data can be downlinked via the High Rate Modulator directly. With the software transition check-outs successfully completed, on 31 January Mastracchio loaded Mass Memory Unit 1 with the same cycle 14 software. This new software version supports the Columbus system enhancements such as the new solid-state recorder arriving on ATV-5 as replacement for the VCRs and the Video Mark 2 as a spare for the Video Data Processing Unit. It will also support new NASA external payloads: High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) and RapidScat, which will be installed on the Columbus External payload Facility.
Weekly and Periodic 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. In addition a biweekly Portable Workstation 1 reboot was performed from ground and periodic pump servicing was undertaken on the European Modular Cultivation System in Columbus.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
Regenerative ECLSS and Additional Environmental Control Racks
The two Water Recovery System racks, together with the Oxygen Generation System rack, form the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) which is necessary in support of a six-person ISS crew to help reduce upload mass. Other environmental control racks in Node 3 include an Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack and a Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Highlights of the two weeks until 31 January 2014 include:
Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack: Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly/Sabatier Reactor
A series of ground-commanded leak checks were undertaken on the Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack’s Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly as part of an ongoing investigation into the moisture observed in the Sabatier reactor’s CO2 accumulator. Initial review of the data showed no gross leaks. 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.
Waste and Hygiene Compartment
In the two weeks until 31 January routine maintenance activities were undertaken on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment in Node 3. This included replacement of its urine receptacle and filter, pre-treat tank and dose pump, water container, air hose and liquid indicator. On-orbit activities were undertaken by ISS Flight Engineers and NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio.
- Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack: Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly/Sabatier Reactor
As part of periodic maintenance Rick Mastracchio replaced the exercise rope of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) in Node 3 on 27 January.
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 and JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata set up JAXA’s 4K Ultra High Definition camera and Cosmo Shoot laptop in the Cupola Module and carried out sessions of the Cosmo photography project to capture images of the Earth surface on 21 and 22 January. Selected imagery included auroras over Canada, night views of the Himalayas and Japan, and imagery of Hawaii, Australia and California.
Russian Spacewalk 37A
ISS Commander Oleg Kotov, and ISS Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy (both representing Roscosmos) were preparing to undertake the Russian ISS spacewalk 37A in January assisted by ISS Flight Engineers Mikhail Tyurin (Roscosmos) and Rick Mastracchio (NASA). On 20, 21 January Mastracchio gathered and inspected US EVA tools and tethers for use during the EVA. Kotov and Ryazanskiy carried out functionality and leak checks on the Russian Orlan EVA suits and related equipment on 22, 23 January. Koichi Wakata also configured EVA cameras. 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.
On completion of the standard pre-EVA procedures, the spacewalk was carried out by Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy on 27 January. The main task during the 6 hr 8 min spacewalk was the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras as part of a Canadian commercial project to downlink Earth observation imagery, as a follow up to work that could not be completed during their spacewalk on 27 December. After leaving the Pirs Airlock Kotov and Ryazanskiy attached the two cameras (one high-resolution, one medium-resolution) as planned on a pointing platform and spacewalk workstation that was installed on the Zvezda service module during a spacewalk in November. However, the medium resolution camera again experienced telemetry issues. The spacewalkers also retrieved a cassette container attached to Pirs, part of a materials exposure experiment; and removed a worksite interface adapter attached to a grapple fixture on the Russian Zarya module to ensure future operations with the Canadarm 2 robotic arm will not be impeded.
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 spacewalk the EVA cosmonauts and other ISS crew members carried out clean-up activities (stowing EVA tools, drying out and stowing EVA suits, discharging EVA batteries, and reconfiguring ISS systems/modules).
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. On 31 January MELFI-1 and MELFI-3 were deactivated and batteries were replaced in the two units by Mike Hopkins.
Progress Spacecraft Activities
In the two weeks until 31 January a number of activities have been undertaken related to the Russian Progress spacecraft which are an important element of logistics supply for the ISS. On 18 January the Progress 53P spacecraft (docked to the aft docking port of the Russian Service Module) was used for undertaking a reboost of the ISS to a higher orbital altitude. Progress 52P which is docked to the Pirs Docking Compartment/Airlock is being prepared for its departure on 3 February. It is being loaded with trash and excess equipment no longer needed on the ISS. Progress 52P activities were undertaken by Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy. The next Progress spacecraft (Progress 54P) is scheduled for launch on 5 February.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two weeks until 31 January 2014 include: the start of an 18-day run for the Device for the study of Critical Liquids and Crystallization (DECLIC) Investigation; troubleshooting on a Low Temperature Loop pump in the Thermal Control Assembly in the Japanese Laboratory which confirmed a problem of electrical isolation inside the pump; sound level measurements taken throughout the US segment of the ISS; packing items for return on the next SpaceX Dragon mission (SpaceX-3) which is due for launch at the beginning of March; repairs on the food warmer in the US segment of the ISS; replacement of a failed pointing mount on the ISS SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System (ISERV) to allow the device to be pointed at desired targets as part of the ISERV Earth observation experiment; troubleshooting of the Fluids and Combustion Facility’s Light Microscopy Module by installing a 10x lens which had become loose; cleaning fans in the US Destiny laboratory due to low flow measurements; refilling coolant in the Internal Thermal Control System in the US laboratory; deployment of an Internal Wireless Integrated System accelerometer in Node 3; installation of a Cubesat micro-satellite deployer in the airlock of the Japanese laboratory; troubleshooting on a US EVA battery; and testing of Control Moment Gyroscopes 1 and 2. In addition operations for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 2 (AMS-2) continue nominally and it has now collected over 44 billion pieces of particle data since its installation during the STS-134/ULF-6 mission in 2011. AMS-2 is a state-of-the-art particle physics detector designed to study the universe and its origin by searching for antimatter and dark matter while performing precision measurements of cosmic rays composition and flux.
(*)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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