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ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 58
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ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

1 January 2010

This is ISS status report #58 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 Human Spaceflight Coordination Office in cooperation with ESA’s Columbus and Payload Operations Management and Mission Science teams from the ISS Utilisation 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 ongoing research taking place inside and outside the Russian Segment of the ISS and in the US Destiny laboratory. The current status of the European science package on the ISS is as follows:

European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory

Biolab and near-term experiments
No activities were carried out using the Biolab in the two weeks up until 1 January 2010. The next run of the Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots (WAICO) experiment, which was the first experiment to take place in Biolab, has been deferred until spring 2010 and will take place after the science samples of the experiment are launched in conditioned state on Shuttle flight 19A. WAICO deals with the effect that gravity has on the spiralling motion (circumnutation) that occurs in Arabidopsis plant roots. It is suspected that this spiralling mechanism is an internal mechanism in the plant, independent of the influence of gravity.

The TripleLux-B experiment will tentatively be the next experiment after WAICO-2 to take place in the Biolab facility during Increment 23/24. The objective of this experiment is to further understand the cellular mechanisms underlying the aggravation of radiation responses, and the impairment of the immune functions under spaceflight conditions.

The ArtEMISS-A experiment will also tentatively be one of the following experiments to take place in the Biolab facility. This will be tentatively performed on ISS still during a Shuttle sortie flight, which is envisaged in Increment 24/25. The purpose of this experiment is to determine the effect of spaceflight conditions, including weightlessness and radiation on the algae Arthrospira sp. The form, structure and physiology of the algae will be examined along with a genetic study of the organism. This data is important for determining the reliability of using Arthrospira sp. in spacecraft biological life support systems in such projects as MELISSA (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative).

European Drawer Rack
No activities were carried out with the European Drawer Rack in the two weeks up until 1 January 2010. The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which had been continuously active and providing power, data and temperature control to the Protein Crystallisation Diagnostic Facility before the conclusion of 3.5 months of successful experiment runs in July.

Fluid Science Laboratory and FASES/Geoflow-2 experiments
No activities were carried out using the Fluid Science Laboratory in the two weeks up until 1 January 2010. Upgrades of the video system are in progress in order to support the next experiments with demanding requirements.

The Flight Acceptance Review for the Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) experiment has started and after the Experiment Sequence Test in the associated User Support and Operations Centre MARS, the launch of the Experiment Container is foreseen on a Progress flight mid 2010. This experiment will be studying emulsion properties with advanced optical diagnostics. Results of the FASES experiment hold significance for oil extraction processes, chemical industry and in the food industry. The hardware modifications for the implementation of the GeoFlow-2 experiment have been started in order to launch it tentatively on ATV-2 at the end of 2010.

European Physiology Modules
No activities were carried out with the European Physiology Module facility in the two weeks up until 1 January 2010. The facility is an International Standard Payload Rack, equipped with Science Modules to investigate the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. The experiment results will also contribute to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle wastage.

Flywheel Exercise Device
No further activities were carried out using the Flywheel Exercise Device in the two weeks up until. 1 January 2010. The Flywheel Exercise Device was launched to the ISS with Columbus in order to become an advanced exercise device for ISS astronauts and serving human physiology investigations in the area of advanced crew countermeasures.

The Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment is progressing well and the monthly data downlink is working perfectly. The DOSIS experiment will determine the nature and distribution of the radiation field inside European Columbus laboratory using different active and passive detectors spread around the laboratory. This is the first time that 'area dosimetry' is being undertaken on Columbus to measure the spatial radiation gradients inside the module. DOSIS will continue to record the radiation environment in the Columbus laboratory for at least one year.

Portable Pulmonary Function System
No activities were carried out using the Portable Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks up until 1 January 2010. The Portable Pulmonary Function System is an autonomous multi-user facility supporting a broad range of human physiological research experiments under weightless condition in the areas of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic physiology. The Portable Pulmonary Function System currently supports the combined VO2max (NASA) and ThermoLab (ESA) experiments on orbit.

Pulmonary Function System in Human Research Facility 2
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks up until 1 January 2010. The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA Human Research Facility 2, which was relocated from the US Destiny laboratory to the Columbus laboratory on 1 October 2008. The Pulmonary Function System is an ESA/NASA collaboration in the field of respiratory physiology instrumentation, which analyses exhaled gas from astronauts' lungs to provide near-instant data on the state of crew health.

Wearable Augmented Reality (WEAR)
No further sessions of the WEAR experiments were carried out in the two weeks up until 1 January 2010. WEAR is demonstrating the usability of augmented reality technology on the ISS. The system will be worn by astronauts and will assist them when performing onboard tasks. When carrying out these tasks WEAR will allow the astronaut to consult procedures and manuals hands-free, with relevant information for the assigned task being displayed on a partially see-through screen before the astronaut’s eyes. The astronaut will control the system via voice commands. The main objective of this experiment involves assessing the maturity, suitability and overall usefulness of the technologies used in WEAR: object recognition, speech recognition, barcode reading, augmented reality and integration of multiple data sources such as the ISS Inventory Management System. The assessment will be based in the improvement observed using WEAR on a standard Columbus maintenance procedure.

European Modular Cultivation System
Maintenance activities for the European Modular Cultivation System were performed on 29 December. Flight Engineer Creamer installed the European Modular Cultivation System Gas Removal Module and replaced the European Modular Cultivation System Main Door Bolts, as well as the water reservoirs and three Rotor Based Life Support System boxes on both rotors, and six filters on one of the boxes.

This space biology facility, which was flown to the ISS in July 2006, is dedicated to biological experiments such as the effects of gravity on cells, roots and physiology of plants and simple animals. It was developed by ESA and has been operated for two years under a bilateral barter agreement with NASA which is expected to be continued.

The return of EMCS to full functionality makes it possible to for the following experiments to be undertaken in the facility: Genara is tentatively the next ESA experiment to take place in the European Modular Cultivation System and will study plant (Arabidopsis) growth at molecular level in weightlessness. This will help to better understand gravitropism and to find plant systems that compensate for the negative impact on plant growth in space. Tentatively in early 2010 prior to Genara, the execution of the next NASA experiment TROPI-2 is planned with ESA’s Gravi-2 experiment following after the first part of Genara.

Express Rack 3 in which EMCS is located was also activated on 22 December in order to take vibration measurements during Soyuz 21S docking.

Microgravity Science Glovebox
A number of successful runs of the SODI ‘Influence of Vibrations on Diffusion in Liquids’ (IVIDIL) experiment were performed up until 23 December when the experiment was deactivated. On 22 December an overheating issue caused SODI to be powered off, leading to a delay in the runs planned to be completed before Soyuz docking on 22 December.

Upon the preliminary analysis of the results of experiment runs from Cell Array 2, the science team have requested some specific runs in order to be able to properly interpret the fluid behaviour of Cell Array 2 and look in more detail into the role of the applied temperature gradient in the cell.

In addition to the SODI-IVIDIL experiment the triple SODI (Selectable Optical Diagnostics Instrument) experiments also includes the ‘Diffusion and Soret Coefficient Measurements for Improvement of Oil Recovery’ (DSC) experiment and the Colloid experiment, which covers the study on growth and properties of advanced photonic materials within colloidal solutions. The DSC and Colloid experiments will be launched on future Shuttle flights in the time frame until spring 2010.

The Microgravity Science Glovebox was developed by ESA within a barter agreement with NASA. The Glovebox provides the ability to perform a wide range of experiments in the fields of material science, biotechnology, fluid science, combustion science and crystal growth research, in a fully sealed and controlled environment. The Microgravity Science Glovebox has been continuously used for NASA experiments and will again play an important role for ESA’s SODI experiment series.

European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space

SOLAR is currently in survival Mode with the instruments switched off after the last Sun observation window ended earlier than expected on 27 December. An Analog Input Board (AIB) failure occurred on 19 December, which caused a temporary interruption to science acquisition of 10 hours. SOLAR was recovered by power cycling the facility on 20 December. The platform was put in safe mode on 22 December for the Souyz 21S docking. On 23 December SOLAR was brought back into Pointing Mode and SOLSPEC infrared measurements were performed. Calibration of the SOLSPEC instrument was performed several times between 19 and 27 December.

The SOLAR payload facility studies the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range during a 2-year timeframe on-orbit. The SOLAR facility has so far produced excellent scientific data during a series of Sun observation cycles. The detailed technical feasibility study for on-orbit lifetime extension has been successfully concluded and the science team will be able to continue gathering further science data in a period of increasing solar activity up to the maximum level in 2013.

European science inside the US Destiny Laboratory

Material Science Laboratory in the Material Science Research Rack
No activities were carried out using the Material Science Laboratory in the two weeks up until 1 January 2010. ESA’s Material Science Laboratory is the primary research facility located in NASA’s Materials Science Research Rack-1, which was launched together with a total of six sample cartridges for NASA and for ESA’s MICAST and CETSOL projects on STS-128/17A under a cooperation agreement with NASA and is now installed in the US Laboratory on the ISS.

CETSOL and MICAST are two complementary material science projects, which carry out research into the formation of microstructures during the solidification of metallic alloys. 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. Results of these experiments will help to optimise industrial casting processes.

European science inside the Russian ISS Segment

In its experimental set up the Matroshka experiments consist of a simulated human body (head and torso) called the Phantom equipped with several active and passive radiation dosimeters. The Phantom will be relocated to the Japanese Kibo laboratory and equipped with a set of new passive dosimeters which were uploaded on the Progress 35P flight, which docked to the Station on 18 October. JAXA have already confirmed the technical accommodation feasibility assessments conclusion and now concrete implementation steps and bi-/trilateral agreements with JAXA and Russia can be envisaged for another experiment run until mid 2010. Roscosmos concurs to the proposed trilateral agreement and also JAXA’s concurrence has been received. In the long-term Matroshka may again be accommodated on an external ISS platform to measure cosmic radiation levels in Low Earth Orbit which are of relevance for EVA activities.

GTS-2 (Global Transmission Service)
The Global Transmission Service was temporarily deactivated on 31 May though negotiations with Russian representatives are ongoing for reactivation of the instrument and continuation of the so-called test mode. GTS will be tentatively a cooperative European-Russian experiment on ISS. This experiment is intended to test the receiving conditions of a time and data signal for dedicated receivers on the ground. The time signal distributed by the GTS has special coding to allow the receiver to determine the local time anywhere on the Earth without user intervention. The main scientific objectives of the experiment are to verify under real space operation conditions: the performance and accuracy of a time signal transmitted to the Earth’s surface from low Earth orbit; the signal quality and data rates achieved on the ground; measurement of disturbing effects such as Doppler shifts, multi-path reflections, shadowing and elevation impacts.

Additional European science outside the ISS in open space

The Expose-R facility, which was installed outside the Zvezda Service Module during the Russian-based spacewalk on 10 March 2009, has been functioning well. A tentative return of the sample trays is foreseen for fall 2010 which allows a scientifically beneficial extension of the open space exposure period of 50%. The planned payload computer replacement was successfully performed on 28 December by Flight engineer Suraev, with the data files of the experiments successfully downloaded. Data was transmitted to the Microgravity User Support Centre (MUSC) in Cologne, Germany for analysis.

Expose-R hosts a suite of nine new astrobiology experiments (eight from ESA, one from IBMP, Moscow), some of which could help understand how life originated on Earth. This suite of experiments was transported to the International Space Station on Progress flight 31P, which docked with the ISS on 30 November 2008. The experiments are accommodated in three special sample trays, which are loaded with a variety of biological samples including plant seeds and spores of bacteria, fungi and ferns, which are exposed to the harsh space environment (Solar UV, cosmic radiation, vacuum), for about one and a half years.

The individual Expose-R experiments are as follows:


  • AMINO: Photochemical processing of amino acids and other organic compounds in Earth orbit
  • ENDO: Response of endolithic organisms to space conditions
  • OSMO: Exposure of osmophilic microbes to the space environment
  • SPORES: Spores in artificial meteorites
  • PHOTO: Measurements of vacuum and solar radiation-induced DNA damages within spores
  • SUBTIL: Mutational spectra of Bacillus subtilis spores and plasmid DNA exposed to high vacuum and solar UV radiation in the space environment.
  • PUR: Responses of Phage T7, Phage DNA and polycrystalline uracil to the space environment.
  • ORGANIC: Evolution of organic matter in space.
  • IMBP: Exposure of resting stages of terrestrial organisms to space conditions.

Expose-R complements the exobiology science package that was performed in Expose-E, a twin facility which had been in operation on ESA’s EuTEF facility outside of Columbus since February 2008 until EuTEF’s return to Earth with the STS-128/17A Shuttle Flight in September.

Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus laboratory

Human Research Facility 1
On 28 December ISS Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Creamer started another week-long session of the NASA SLEEP (Sleep-Wake Actigraphy & Light Exposure during Spaceflight) experiment, wearing Actiwatch devices from which to log data to the Human Research Facility 1 laptop. The Human Research Facility 1 was activated on 31 December for downloading data from the Integrated Cardiovascular Ambulatory Monitoring Session.

Human Research Facility 2
No activities were carried out using the Human Research Facility 2 in the two weeks up until 1 January 2010.

ISS general system information and activities *

Columbus laboratory
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. On 1 January 2010 ISS Commander and NASA astronaut Jeff Williams performed the periodic reboot of all US Portable Computer System and Portable Workstation laptops in Columbus.

Soyuz TMA-17/21S

  • Soyuz TMA-17 launch and docking
    Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, NASA astronaut Timothy Creamer and JAXA Astronaut Soichi Noguchi were launched successfully in the Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on flight 21S to the ISS on 21 December at 22:52 (CET). Creamer and Noguchi are Flight Engineers for ISS Expeditions 22 and 23. Soyuz Commander Kotov is a Flight Engineer for ISS Expedition 22 and will become ISS Commander for Expedition 23. Following orbital insertion, Soyuz TMA antennas and solar arrays were deployed and various orbital burns were carried out over the following two days to bring the Soyuz in the vicinity of the ISS to begin docking procedures.

    Prior to Soyuz TMA-17 docking the ISS crew configured relevant communications and video equipment. The Soyuz spacecraft docked successfully with the ISS at the nadir port of the Zarya Module on 22 December at 23:48 (CET).


  • Soyuz TMA-17 post-docking activities
    ISS attitude control was handed back from Russian to US systems at 01:15 (CET). Video of the docking and structural dynamics measurements were downlinked by the crew and the standard leak check between the Soyuz and the ISS was carried out. On completion the hatches were opened on 24 December at 01:30 (CET) and the usual crew greeting took place. Quick disconnect clamps were installed at the interface between the Soyuz and the ISS to further stabilise the connection. Flight engineer Kotov set up the three Sokol spacesuits and their gloves for drying out, and he deactivated the Soyuz spacecraft. Following the standard crew safety briefing, handover activities and familiarization of the newcomers with the Station, the crew started cargo transfer from the Soyuz to the ISS.

JAXA Laptops
On 19 December in the Kibo laboratory, ISS Commander Williams performed file system checks on System Laptop Terminal 2 in support of troubleshooting activities. The laptop has not activated properly since last June. On the same day System Laptop Terminal 1 experienced a communication failure, thus preventing all crew procedures that required the utilization of JAXA’s System Laptop Terminals. Troubleshooting activities on the System Laptop Terminals were completed respectively by 25 December.

Soyuz 20S Descent Drill
On 20 December ISS Commander Jeff Williams and Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev carried out the standard Soyuz emergency descent drill in the Soyuz 20S spacecraft to review Soyuz descent procedures including emergency procedures and manual undocking. The training used a descent simulator application on a Russian laptop together with a descent hand controller.

Russian Water Supply System
On 21 December ISS Flight Engineer Suraev replaced the Condensate Separation and Pumping Unit from the Condensate Water Processor with a new unit. The Condensate Water Processor is part of the Russian Water Supply System.

Minus-Eighty Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
On 22 December ISS Commander Jeff Williams relocated a laptop to a different Utility Outlet Panel in the Japanese Kibo laboratory in order for it to be used as the MELFI 2 laptop. On 28 December, working in the Kibo Laboratory, ISS Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi retrieved the Plant Units of the Japanese Dewey’s Forest education experiment from MELFI 1 and after watering he installed them into the Plant Unit Case where the payload can receive continuous light for growth. Afterwards, two minus 32 degrees C ice bricks were inserted into MELFI 1.

Kibo Temperature and Humidity Control Systems
On 24 and 25 December Temperature and Humidity Control Cabin Fan B in the Japanese Kibo laboratory was stopped when the automated Failure Detection, Isolation and Recovery system detected a Water Separator overspeed transient. Fan A was reset in order to support a higher airflow and the Smoke Detector B was turned off: The ventilation and smoke detection systems are currently working but without redundancy and the issue is being investigated by ground engineers.

Mini-Research Module 2
On 29 December ISS Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev performed troubleshooting activities on a ventilation fan in Mini-Research Module 2. The Mini-Research Module 2, called ‘Poisk’, which means ‘Search’ or ‘Quest’, is almost a copy of the Pirs Docking Module and acts as an airlock and docking port for Russian spacecraft. It will be first used as a docking port in January 2010, when the Soyuz TMA-16/20S will be relocated from the Service Module aft port. In addition the ‘Poisk’ module can accommodate external research payloads. It was launched to the ISS on 10 November, docking on 12 November.

Orlan Maintenance
Maintenance activities for the Orlan spacesuits was performed on 29 December by ISS Flight Engineers Suraev and Kotov including checkout of carbon dioxide collection and return lines, upgrading a radio telemetry unit, and a software checkout.

On 30 December ISS Flight Engineer Creamer, working on the new DECLIC (Device for the Study of Critical Liquids & Crystallization) payload in the Kibo laboratory, removing the Directional Solidification Insert and replacing it with the High-Temperature Insert.

Russian Simulator Software upgrade
Suraev installed a software upgrade for a Russian laptop on 30 December. The upgrade was for the Progress-M spacecraft simulator applications related to manual docking control systems (TORU) and the Mini Research Module 2, which docked to the ISS on 12 November, as well as Soyuz spacecraft relocation.

Air Quality Monitor
Williams, Creamer and Noguchi completed several sampling sessions with the Air Quality Monitor in the last two weeks. A Clean Run was performed in place of the usual automatic run i.e. 3 hours of heating and cooling cycles to clean all internal components, as the current unit is the backup unit, which has not run for over a year. This device is being used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere. This new technology is being evaluated over a period of several months.

(*)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

Markus Bauer
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer

Weekly reports compiled by ESA's Human Spaceflight Coordination Office.

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