ESA title
Columbus logo
Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 162 Increment 38: 1 – 14 February 2014

10/02/2014 554 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #162 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:

Human Research
Space Headaches Experiment
In the two weeks until 14 February three different astronauts have taken part in the Space Headaches experiment. Weekly questionnaires were filled in on 7 and 13/14 February by ISS Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins (his 19th and 20th), Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata (their 13th and 14th). 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
ISS Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata successfully completed his third session (session 4 as sessions 1 and 2 were combined into one session in December) of the Circadian Rhythms experiment from 3 - 5 February. 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.

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.


ISS Partner Research
In addition to the European human research activities, NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 (HRF-1) in Columbus was used on 3 February 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. The following day equipment was used for undertaking spinal ultrasound scans on ISS Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio. The spinal ultrasound scans are part of a NASA investigation to characterise spinal changes during and after spaceflight.

The equipment was additionally used for undertaking ultrasound scans by ISS Flight Engineers Koichi Wakata on 7 February and Mike Hopkins on 14 February 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 Cardiolab Leg-Arm Cuff System (LACS) of ESA’s European Physiology Modules facility and the ESA/NASA Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2 were used for performing the Canadian Space Agency’s Blood Pressure Regulation (BP Reg) experiment on 5 February with ISS Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins as a test subject. This investigation will help to enhance methods for health monitoring during future long-term space flights with relation to cardiovascular adaptation and helping to identify the astronauts who could benefit from countermeasures before returning to Earth. This will also have implications for testing of individuals on Earth, especially the elderly who are at risk for fainting.

Body Mass Measurements were undertaken on 10 February by Michael Hopkins using the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) in Human Research Facility 1.


Biology Research
Biolab Facility Maintenance
Following successful conclusion of maintenance and commissioning activities in December, a new T61p laptop for the Biolab facility was installed by ISS Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins on 10 February. This replaced the older A31p laptop.  This included installation of associated software for upcoming science activities and undertaking successful testing on the new laptop. The following day ISS Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio removed the microscope cassette from the Biolab facility which is expected to be returned to ground during Expeditions 39-40.

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 mid March 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 2013. 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.


Solar Research
SOLAR Facility
A new Sun Visibility Window (the 74th) for the Solar facility to acquire data with its two active instruments (SOLSPEC and SolACES) opened on 9 February. 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 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)
Research continued for the Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) experiment in the two weeks until 14 February. This included processing of two different samples with liquid compositions of 4% water and 96% paraffin with different concentrations of surfactant and three different samples with liquid compositions of 0.5% water and 99.5% paraffin with differing concentrations of surfactant. Preliminary results indicate good outcomes. Test measurements (Differential Scanning Calorimetry) were also undertaken on two samples with liquid compositions of 10% water and 90% paraffin with different concentrations of surfactant.   

On 6 February ISS Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio, performed an FSL Thermal Environment Control System (TEC) Board verification to troubleshoot the power issues associated with one of the two Peltier branches. He set up a multimeter on the FASES Experiment Container for verifying the current on different sets of pins. The current readings measured on-board matched what was expected on the ground, thus FSL TEC Boards are functioning correctly. Several candidates for the root cause have been identified and troubleshooting procedures are being prepared.

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
Data backup activities were successfully completed by ISS Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins for the SODI DCMIX-2 experiment inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox in the US Laboratory from 3-5 February. Hopkins successfully completed all the data backups from multiple flash disks to the External Hard Drive. With this complete, on 7 February Hopkins successfully de-installed the SODI DCMIX-2 hardware from the Microgravity Science Glovebox. The flash disks are scheduled to be returned on Soyuz 36S in March.

The DCMIX-2 experiment utilised 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.

On 10 February Rick Mastracchio installed and checked out the Life Science Ancillary Hardware Decontamination System inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox to support future rodent research activities. The following day Mastracchio performed the annual Recertification of the Glovebox, including sensor checkouts, inspections and work volume cleaning. With this complete, on 12 February Mastracchio installed NASA’s Burning and Suppression of Solids – 2 (BASS-2) experiment inside the Glovebox. A nitrogen leak check was undertaken the same day with research runs starting on 14 February. BASS-2 explores how different substances burn in weightlessness with benefits for combustion on Earth and fire safety in space.


Materials Research
Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) and Batch 2a experiments
The processed CETSOL-2 sample located in the Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) was exchanged for another MICAST-2 sample on 5 February. Following the associated leak check this sample completed processing on 6 February. On 12 February this sample was in turn exchanged for another CETSOL-2 sample. 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.


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.

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 14 February 2014 include:

  • Columbus Coolant Fluid Servicer Installation
    The primary Water Pump Assembly was switched over from WPA 1 to WPA 2 on 1 February. This was in advance of Coolant Fluid Servicer installation and commissioning on WPA-2 which was undertaken by ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio on 6 February. The  Coolant Fluid Servicer equipment  consists of an Internal Thermal Control System (ITCS) water sampling adapter and a degassing tool, which will improve ITCS maintenance and sampling activities in the Columbus module. Two days later the primary Water Pump Assembly was switched back to WPA 1.
  • Nitrogen Distribution Leak Check
    The Columbus Control Centre supported a Nitrogen Distribution System leak check in cooperation with the Mission Control Centre in Houston on 5 and 6 February.
  • Columbus Power Outlet Testing
    Rick Mastracchio undertook Columbus Standard Utility Panel power outlet testing in coordination with the Columbus Control Centre on 7 February.
  • Columbus Anniversary
    ESA’s Columbus Laboratory was launched to the ISS six years ago on 7 February 2008. Columbus was launched on the STS-122 mission aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis which included ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Léopold Eyharts who undertook the first steps in commissioning Europe’s permanent ISS Laboratory following its attachment to the European-built Node 2 on 11 February 2008.
  • Ham Radio Sessions
    The amateur radio equipment in Columbus was used by ISS Flight Engineer and JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata for undertaking ham radio sessions with students in Japan on 8 and 9 February.
  • Columbus Control Centre Data Services System Maintenance
    Data Services System upgrade was undertaken at the Columbus Control Centre on 13 February which caused a telemetry/telecommand outage for four hours. During this time Columbus telemetry was monitored at the Mission Control Centre in Houston. Once all ESA command positions confirmed good telemetry, the command forward link was re-established and a test command was sent from the Columbus Control Centre. Nominal operations were then resumed.
  • 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.


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 14 February 2014 include:
    • Water Recovery System racks:
      ISS Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio replaced a recycle tank in the Water Recovery System racks in Node 3 on 4 February. The Water Recovery System recycles condensation and urine into drinkable water, thereby reducing the amount of fresh water that needs to be transported to the ISS.
    • Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack: Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly/Sabatier Reactor
      On 6 February ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins assisted ground teams in undertaking troubleshooting activities on the Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack’s Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly (CDRA). This was due to an upward trend in the delta pressure across the CDRA beds as well as part of an ongoing investigation into the moisture observed in the Sabatier reactor’s CO2 accumulator.

      Following ground monitoring, Hopkins replaced o-rings on two connectors and tightened two other connectors. The activity isolated an obstruction in the adsorbent canister of the rear CDRA bed causing the increased pressure which is possible to resolve by a screen cleaning activity (currently being planned).

      The  Sabatier  CO2 compressor, the check valve fluid line and the accumulator  were  all purged. However, the crew reported that water is still present and ground experts are  assessing the forward plan. 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.

  • Exercise Equipment
    On 7 February Rick Mastracchio replaced the Failed Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) Instrumentation Box with a new unit which arrived on Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus logistics spacecraft. However the new unit will not be activated until the ARED laptop is upgraded in the next few months. On 12 February Mike Hopkins replaced a failed accelerometer in the T2 COLBERT treadmill before carrying out a speed test on the exercise device.
  • 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 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 a session of the Cosmo photography project to capture images of the Earth surface on 10 February. Selected imagery included views of India and the Himalayas, South America, Africa’s Great Rift Valley and a night time view of the United States.


Minus-Eighty degree Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
There are three European-built MELFI freezers on the ISS: MELFI-1 and MELFI-2 in the Japanese laboratory and MELFI-3 in the US laboratory. In the two-week reporting period, samples were installed inside MELFI units for: NASA’s Salivary Markers immunology experiment (saliva), and NASA’s Microbiome microbial survey experiment (saliva, body) for NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio; and for JAXA’s Medaka Osteoclast payload (water quality strips, Medaka fish). On 7 February a battery for the temperature data recorder in MELFI-2 was replaced by ISS Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins.

Progress M-20M/52P Undocking Activities

  • Progress M-20M/52P Undocking Preparations
    Prior to its scheduled departure the Russian crew members prepared the Progress 52P spacecraft for departure. The Progress docking mechanism was installed; Progress electronics were activated; ventilation ducting was removed; quick disconnect clamps which stabilize the connection between Progress 52P and the docking port of the Pirs Docking Compartment were removed; and the Progress/Pirs hatches were closed, followed by the standard one-hour leak check of the interhatch area and the interface between the fuel/oxidizer transfer line.
  • Progress M-20M/52P Undocking
    On 3 February Progress M-20M/52P successfully undocked from the Pirs Docking Compartment at 17:21 (CEST) and backed away to a safe distance from the ISS, before undertaking several days of tests to study thermal effects of space on its attitude control system. The undocking cleared the docking port for launch and docking of Progress 54P. Progress 52P undertook its planned destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere on 11 February.


Progress M-22M/54P Launch

  • Launch and Docking
    The Russian Progress M-22M spacecraft on logistics flight 54P to the ISS was launched successfully from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Soyuz-U rocket on 5 February at 17:23 CEST (22:23 local time) with cargo consisting of 800 kg propellants, 50 kg oxygen and air, 420 kg water and more than 1300 kg dry cargo. The Russian Progress 54P spacecraft docked with the Station at the Pirs Docking Compartment at 23:22 (CEST) on 5 February under automatic Kurs system control. Progress 54P undertook a four-orbits-to-docking manoeuvre following launch, with the journey lasting under six hours. After docking ISS attitude control was returned first to Russian systems and then to US systems.
  • Post-Docking Activities
    The standard leak check on the interhatch area and the fuel/oxidizer transfer line interface between Progress 54P and the Pirs Docking Compartment was performed followed by hatch opening (by ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Mikhail Tyurin and Sergey Ryazanskiy) on 6 February. Hereafter the quick disconnect clamps were installed to stabilise the connection between Progress and the Station, Progress 54P was deactivated and ventilation ducting was installed. The Progress docking mechanism was dismantled and air sampling was carried out in the new logistics spacecraft. Hereafter, and for the following days the two Russian Flight Engineers carried out cargo transfer procedures from Progress to the ISS.


Cygnus Spacecraft Undocking Preparations
The ISS crew carried out various preparations prior to unberthing of the Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft which is scheduled for 18 February. This included transfer of cargo into Cygnus for disposal and on-board training sessions to review the procedures for using the station’s robotic arm to detach Cygnus from the ISS. The Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2) was used to grapple the Cygnus spacecraft in preparation for its departure on following the Zarya Grapple Fixture Checkout activities (see below)

Zarya Grapple Fixture Checkout
The functional and electrical checkouts of the Power and Data Grapple Fixture on the Russian Zarya Module were successfully completed by 10 February and the grapple fixture is now ready for use. ISS Flight Engineers Koichi Wakata (JAXA) and Mikhail Tyurin (Roscosmos) used a multimeter to measure resistance across four connector pairs in Zarya. Once proper connectivity between the individual connectors and the grapple fixture was confirmed, the Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2) was mated to the grapple fixture and testing was undertaken in support of Russian segment spacewalks. Following the checkout, Canadarm 2 was  manoeuvred   away   from   the  Zarya module to a grapple fixture on the Mobile Base System on the Station truss. 

Japanese Robotics Activities: Cubesat Satellites
On 6 February ISS Flight Enginer Koichi Wakata successfully installed a deployment mechanism for use together with the Japanese laboratory’s robotic arm in deploying mini-satellites (NanoRacks Cubesats). This involved relocating the mechanism to a different location on the Multi-Purpose Experiment Platform. 33 Cubesats arrived on the Cygnus spacecraft (Orb-1), loaded into the 15 deployment mechanism locations. Four days later the Japanese laboratory airlock was first depressurised and then the Japanese flight controllers operated the laboratory’s robotic arm to move the Multi-Purpose Experiment Platform from the Japanese airlock to the deploy position. From 11 – 14 February six successful deployments had taken place, with more scheduled in the next reporting period. The Cubesats programme contains a variety of experiments covering areas such as Earth observation and advanced electronics testing. Among these satellites are 28 Planet Labs Dove satellites, which will be part of a large remote sensing nano satellite constellation, which will be used to collect imagery of the entire changing planet, to be taken on a frequent basis. This project carries humanitarian and environmental applications, ranging from monitoring deforestation and the ice caps to disaster relief and improving agriculture yields in developing nations.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two weeks until 14 February 2014 include: replacing the fuel reservoirs, igniter tips and fibre arm inside the Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus of the US laboratory’s Combustion Integrated Rack for future experiment runs; replacing a filter in the High Bit-Depth Multi-Spectral Imaging Package of the Combustion Integrated Rack; installation and activation of a Multi-Gas Monitor installed in EXPRESS Rack 4 in the Japanese laboratory for continuous measurement of oxygen, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and humidity in spacecraft cabin air in real time; deployment (and later collection) of eight radiation detectors in the Japanese laboratory; installation of a new navigation receiver module inside the Russian Zarya module by ISS Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kotov; and an emergency evacuation drill by Tyurin, Mastracchio and Wakata.

(*)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