This is ISS status report #164 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 14 March three different astronauts have taken part in the Space Headaches experiment. Weekly questionnaires were filled in on 7 March by ISS Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins (his 23rd and final before undocking/landing on 11 March), Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata (their 17th). Mastracchio and Wakata also completed their 18th weekly questionnaires on 13 and 14 March respectively. 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 completed his fourth session (session 5 as sessions 1 and 2 were combined into one session in December) of the Circadian Rhythms experiment on 1 March. At the start of the session on 27 February 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 5 March for undertaking ultrasound scans by ISS Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata in connection with NASA’s Ocular Health protocol. This session included an ultrasound eye scan and a cardiac ultrasound with blood pressure. This followed up activities with the experiment subject 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 10 March for 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.
Body Mass Measurements were undertaken on 7 March by Mike Hopkins using the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) in Human Research Facility 1.
Biolab Facility Maintenance
ISS Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins replaced all eight filters in the Biolab facility’s BioGloveBox on 7 March. This was the final activity needed to be performed in advance of the GRAVI-2 experiment (executed in the European Modular Cultivation System - EMCS) that will make use of Biolab’s thermal storage capabilities following the launch of the experiment to the ISS on SpaceX-3 at the end of March. 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.
The GRAVI-2 experiment continues the research undertaken within the GRAVI-1 experiment in determining the threshold of perception of gravity by lentil roots. The TripleLux-B experiment will compare the cellular mechanisms of vertebrate (rodent) and invertebrate (blue mussel) cells which cause impairment of immune function in weightlessness. Biolab is a multi-user facility designed to support biological experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates.
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 set of passive detectors were collected in and packed for return to Earth for analysis by ISS Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio on 6 March. Hereafter data acquisition continued with the active detectors. The passive detectors were returned to Earth on 11 March on Soyuz 36S. 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.
Following the end of the most recent Sun Visibility Window (the 74th) for the Solar facility to acquire data with its two active instruments (SOLSPEC and SolACES) on 21 February, there has been no data acquisition in the two-week period until 14 March. 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 next Sun Visibility Window is scheduled to open on 15 March.
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)
Experiment runs are temporarily on hold for the Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) experiment due to a high rate data link issue with the Fluid Science Laboratory’s Video Management Unit. A number of tests will be performed in the near future to isolate the root cause of the anomaly of one of the two FASES Peltier elements for thermal conditioning of the experiment cells.
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
Following successful conclusion of the SODI DCMIX-2 experiment inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox in the US Laboratory in February, three SODI flash disks and 1 external hard disk drive were packed by ISS Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio on 10 March. These were returned to ground on Soyuz 36S.
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.
Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) and Batch 2a experiments
The MICAST-2 sample (a metallic alloy of Al-7wt.%Si-1wt.%Fe) located in the Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) completed processing on 5 March. On 7 March ISS Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio exchanged the processed MICAST-2 sample for another MICAST-2 sample. This was followed by the associated chamber leak check in advance of future processing. 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.
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 almost four 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 Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio performed the installation of the Ham Video hardware in the Columbus laboratory on 6 March to test the functionalities of the new hardware and the related on-orbit equipment. On 8 and 9 March ISS Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins performed commissioning of the new hardware, with passes over the ARISS ground station in Matera, Italy which successfully tested video and audio signals with different frequencies via different ISS antennas. ISS HAM Video will produce valuable imagery for use in education and promotion activities. Footage will help to stimulate the public interest in the International Space Station in general, and more specifically generate an interest in children through providing a means to promote an interest in scientific research topics.
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 March 2014 include:
US Segment Audio System Troubleshooting
On 2 March the Audio subsystem of the US orbital segment of the ISS was shut down and restarted to troubleshoot on-going issues with the system. On repowering associated systems sequentially it was determined that Audio Terminal Unit 2 in Columbus is the root cause of the error. Since this unit is sharing the power feed with the Columbus Payload Ethernet Hub Gateway, it cannot be switched off, but keeping it disabled seems to be sufficient to avoid the recurrence of the problem. Further testing will be performed, before the Audio Terminal Unit replacement, to fully understand the cause of the problem.
Columbus high-rate multiplexer
On 2 March a high-rate multiplexer switchover from the nominal to the redundant core took placed unexpectedly. This left no high-rate multiplexer redundancy in Columbus. A telemetry glitch was observed at the Columbus Control Centre, lasting for a couple of seconds and initial investigations couldn’t relate the problem to the ground segment or the on-board segment. On 4 March successful troubleshooting was undertaken to reinstate redundancy.
GLACIER Freezer Checkout
On 3 March the GLACIER (General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator) freezer in EXPRESS Rack 3 in Columbus was activated and underwent a 10-day checkout.
Ham Radio Sessions
The amateur radio equipment in Columbus was used by for undertaking ham radio sessions with students in Hamura, Japan; Central Square, New York state, USA; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Richmond, British Columbia, Canada; and Warren, Michigan, USA in the two weeks until 14 March. The second contact was undertaken by ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins. The remaining contacts were undertaken by JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata.
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. The regular dry out of the Cabin Heat Exchanger core 1 was performed on 8 March.
Soyuz TMA-10M/36S, Expedition 37/38 Crew Return
Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
In the two weeks until 14 March ISS Commander Oleg Kotov and ISS Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy (both representing Roscosmos) carried out orthostatic hemodynamic endurance sessions by exercising whilst wearing a Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit. The Chibis suit, which provides stress that simulates gravity to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system, helps to evaluate how the Soyuz crewmember would cope with exposure to gravity on return to Earth.
Oleg Kotov, Sergey Ryazanskiy and Mike Hopkins carried out leak checks on their Sokol launch and entry suits on 3 March. Two days later they carried out fit checks of their protective Kentavr anti-g suits. These suits are worn under their Sokol suits during return and landing to help the long-duration crewmembers with the return into Earth’s gravity.
In the two-week period until 14 March, the ISS crew members have been involved in cargo transfer activities packing cargo for either return to earth in the Descent Module of Soyuz 36S or for disposal in the Soyuz Orbital Module. Return items included passive detectors for ESA’s DOSIS-3D experiment and data storage media for ESA’s SODI DCMIX-2 experiment.
Soyuz 36S Descent Drill
A standard Soyuz descent drill was carried out by Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy on 4 March. The descent drill, which took place in the Descent Module of the Soyuz 36S spacecraft is for the review of Soyuz descent procedures including emergency procedures and manual undocking. The training sessions used a descent simulator application on a Russian laptop together with a descent hand controller. Three days later another descent drill was undertaken, this time along with Mike Hopkins.
Soyuz TMA-10M/36S Motion Control Test
Kotov and Ryazanskiy supported a ground-commanded checkout of the Soyuz TMA-10M Motion Control System on 7 March including testing the pilot’s translational hand controller and the braking thrusters.
Change of Command Ceremony
The official ISS change of command ceremony took place in front of all crew members on 9 March with ISS Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kotov handing over command to JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata. Wakata becomes the first Japanese citizen to take command of the International Space Station. However as with all Expeditions, Expedition 39 officially begins following undocking of the departing Soyuz/Expedition crew members.
Prior to undocking the Russian crew members removed temperature sensor and lighting equipment from the Soyuz Orbital module for reuse after Soyuz undocking, and checked out communications from Soyuz 36S to the ground. On 10 March following the joint crew farewell, the departing crew members (Oleg Kotov, Sergey Ryazanskiy and Mike Hopkins) entered the Soyuz spacecraft, and clamps were removed between the Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft and the Poisk Mini-Research Module 2 docking port to which it was docked. Following Soyuz activation the hatches between the Soyuz and Poisk module were closed at 21:58 (CET) and relevant leak checks were carried out.
Soyuz TMA-10M/36S, Expedition 38 Undocking and Landing
Undocking occurred at 01:01 (CET) on 11 March. A few minutes after undocking, the Soyuz performed its first separation burn. At 03:30 (CET) the Soyuz spacecraft performed its deorbit thruster burn. 30 minutes later the spacecraft went through module separation followed by atmospheric re-entry. After parachute deployment the Soyuz 36S landed at 04:24 (CET), 09:24 local time on 11 March in Kazakhstan. Undocking of Soyuz TMA-10M marked the end of Expedition 38 and the start of Expedition 39. The three departing crew members had spent 166 days in space.
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 March 2014 include:
Water Recovery System: Catalytic Reactor
ISS Flight Engineers and NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio replaced the catalytic reactor in the Water Processing Assembly in Water Recovery System Rack 1 on 6 March. The Water Processing Assembly is again operational following the replacement that was necessary following last week’s failure. The two NASA astronauts also installed a temporary filter between the reactor and the microbial check valve to support a system flush of the replacement unit. The Water Recovery System recycles condensation and urine into drinkable water
Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack
A sample pump of the Mass Constituent Analyzer in Node 3 reached the end of its lifetime on 12 March, well beyond its expected lifetime. The system was successfully restarted using the second sample pump of the system. Spares are available on board.
- Water Recovery System: Catalytic Reactor
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 Rick Mastracchio set up the D3 camera in the Cupola on 4 March for a photo session of Earth’s surface together with the existing JAXA attached payload. Coordinated operation gives a stereoscopic observation of common targets.
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 (blood,saliva), NASA’s Microbiome microbial survey experiment (blood, saliva, body), and NASA’s combined Biochemical Profile/Repository protocol (urine) for ISS Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins. Samples were retrieved from MELFI-1 for processing for JAXA’s Aniso Tubule experiment which investigates the roles of cortical microtubules and microtubule-associated proteins in gravity-induced growth modification of plant stems. In addition Wakata and Mastracchio reconfigured a Remote Flow Control Assembly in one of the cooling loops inside the station’s Destiny laboratory to support the potential relocation of one of the station’s MELFI freezers.
Japanese Robotics Activities: Cubesat Satellites
Following the successful deployment of the CubeSats satellites outside the Japanese Kibo laboratory, the slide table on which the satellites were located was moved from inside the Kibo airlock to inside the Kibo laboratory by Koichi Wakata and Mike Hopkins on 3 March. The empty satellite deployer and Multi-Purpose Experiment Platform were removed from the slide table. The following day Wakata installed the JEM ORU Transfer Interface (JOTI) onto the slide table. The JOTI will be used to transfer the Camera Light Pan Tilt Assembly outside the ISS for its robotic installation using the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator..
SpaceX-3 Dragon Launch/Rendezvous Preparations
Robotics Ground Controllers powered up the Mobile Servicing System on the Station’s truss on 6 March and manoeuvred the Station’s principal robotic arm (Canadarm 2) into position for robotics capture training sessions. This will prepare the crew for the capture of the SpaceX-3 Dragon spacecraft at the end of March. Wakata and Mastracchio carried out training sessions on 12/13 March. This included Dragon approach from 30m hold through to robotic capture. It also provided a big picture review of required coordination between the two crew members. The Dragon logistics spacecraft will deliver more than 2 tonnes of cargo to the station crew and return over 1500 kg of research gear, spacewalk tools and other supplies.
Progress Spacecraft Activities
On 13 March 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. This is in preparation for launch and docking of Soyuz 38S. The next Progress spacecraft (Progress 55P) is scheduled for launch on 9 April. The Progress spacecraft are an important element of logistics supply for the ISS.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two weeks until 14 March 2014 include: loading the US segment iPads with 6 new applications; replacing the ALICE-Like Insert from the DECLIC Experiment Locker with the a High Temperature Insert prior to starting an 18-day science run in the facility which supports the study of material growth and liquids behaviour near their critical point; updating (from ground) the firmware in two Remote Power Controller Modules to provide the capability for hot mate/demate and additional data gathering; sound level measurements being taken throughout the ISS; replacing one of the two Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus needles in the US laboratory’s Combustion Integrated Rack; and on-going efforts to re-establish the full redundancy of the Russian Service Module central computers. Additional ISS Partner research activities undertaken in the past two weeks include: NASA’s Binary Colloidal Alloy Test - Kinetics Platform (BCAT-KP) which is investigating colloid phase changes, providing results that may support new applications, from new liquid crystals to consumer goods having longer shelf life and uses; NanoRacks Module 9 experiments from student teams across the US; and completion of the Space Midge experiment which examines larvae to determine the impact of the space environment on their desiccation tolerance and their gene expression.
(*)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.
Subscribe to the mailing list through the link to the right and receive a notification when the latest status report is made available online.