This is ISS status report #71 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 Department 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, WAICO and other near-term experiments
No activities were carried out using the Biolab facility in the two weeks until 2 July. Biolab is a facility designed to support biological experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates. The Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots (WAICO) experiment was the very first experiment to take place in Biolab. 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 four WAICO experiment containers returned to earth on 26 May with STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis are undergoing analysis at the science team’s laboratory.
Due to the imminent functional recovery plan for the Biolab facility the TripleLux experiment sequence has been updated and TripleLux-B will be deferred from the ULF-5 flight to a later time, tentatively in 2011. Therefore TripleLux-A will the next experiment after WAICO-2 and tentatively be launched on Shuttle Flight ULF-6, being performed in the Biolab facility during Increment 26. The objective of this experiment is to further understand the cellular mechanisms underlying the aggravation of radiation responses, and the impairment of the immune function under spaceflight conditions.
European Drawer Rack and Kubik Incubators
On 23 June the Kubik 3 incubator, connected to the European Drawer Rack, had its thermal e-box successfully replaced by ISS Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell-Dyson with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in order to resolve the technical problems with the incubator. Two spare e-boxes had been uploaded on Soyuz flight 23S. After the replacement Caldwell-Dyson carried out a functional check of the LEDs and displays before disconnecting Kubik 3 from the European Drawer Rack and stowing it. Commissioning activities for Kubik 3 will take place from 5 July.
These steps were carried out in advance of the start of the PADIAC (PAthway DIfferent Activators) experiment, the upload of which has been deferred to the subsequent Soyuz flight 24S in September. The PADIAC experiment requires both the Kubik-6 incubator inside the European Drawer rack as well as the Kubik-3 incubator which will be located in the Columbus centre aisle and connected to the rack. The Kubik incubators are transportable incubators with centrifuge accommodations which were designed in the frame of the ISS Soyuz missions for biology experiments processing. The goal of PADIAC is to determine the different pathways used for activation of T cells, which play an important role in the immune system.
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 3½ months of successful experiment runs in July 2009.
In the future the European Drawer Rack will also host the Facility for Absorption and Surface Tension (FASTER) in 2011 and the Electro-Magnetic Levitator payload from 2012 onwards. FASTER is a Capillarity Pressure Tensiometer developed for the study of the links between emulsion stability and physico-chemical characteristics of droplet interfaces. The Electro-Magnetic Levitator will investigate properties of metal alloy under weightlessness, supporting basic and industrial research.
Fluid Science Laboratory and FASES/Geoflow-2 experiments
No activities were carried out using the Fluid Science Laboratory facility in the two weeks until 2 July. 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 in Naples, the Experiment Container is foreseen to arrive at the ISS on Progress flight 39P in early September 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 are concluded. Final Flight Model testing is in progress in order to launch it on ATV-2 at the end of 2010 and the Experiment Sequence Test with the Engineering Model will take place at MARS in October.
European Physiology Modules and Experiments
ISS Flight Engineer Doug Wheelock used the European Physiology Modules facility to carry out another session of ESA’s PASSAGES experiment on 24 June. After installing the light shield and track ball on the facility laptop, Wheelock ran the experiment. Afterwards he downlinked the data via the facility laptop. Similarly on 2 July ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker carried out a session of PASSAGES, with data being downlinked afterwards. Activities were supported by the Columbus Control Centre. PASSAGES is designed to test how astronauts interpret visual information in weightlessness. The experiment aims at studying the effects of microgravity on the use of the ‘Eye-Height’ strategy for estimating allowed actions in an environment, and whether this could possibly decrease after a long exposure to weightlessness.
On 30 June ISS Flight Engineer Doug Wheelock supported the Columbus Control Centre with the uplink and transfer of files to the European Physiology Modules in order to update the Cardiolab Portable Clinical Blood Analyzer software in connection with future experiments. Cardiolab is a unit of the European Physiology Modules facility concerned with scientific studies of the adaptation of the cardiovascular system to conditions of weightlessness. The facility was also used in connection with data downlink for the DOSIS experiment (see below) on the same day.
The European Physiology Modules facility is equipped with different science modules to investigate the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body, with experiment results contributing to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle wastage.
Vessel Imaging Experiment
ESA is carrying out its new Vessel Imaging experiment in conjunction with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment (see Human Research Facility 1 below). On 30 June the first session of both joint experiments was carried out by ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker (assisted by Doug Wheelock). This consisted of an echography scan (see Human Research Facility 1 below) with ECG and heart rate measurements also being taken. On the ESA side support came from DAMEC and CADMOS, two of the User Support and Operations Centres for ESA, via the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany.
ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment evaluates the changes in central and peripheral blood vessel wall properties and cross sectional areas of long-duration ISS crewmembers during and after long-term exposure to weightlessness. A Lower Body Negative Pressure programme runs in parallel to Vessel Imaging. Flow velocity changes in the aorta and the middle cerebral and femoral arteries are used to quantify the cardiovascular response to fluid shifts. Vessel Imaging aims to optimise the countermeasures used routinely during long-duration space missions.
The Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment is progressing well during its time on orbit, with the instrument acquiring data using the active DOSTEL detector in the European Physiology Modules, following deinstallation and return of the passive dosimeters on STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis. The passive detectors are now undergoing scientific analyses. Files for the DOSIS experiment were downlinked via the European Physiology Modules facility on 30 June. The DOSIS experiment determines 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' has been undertaken on Columbus to measure the spatial radiation gradients inside the module.
Vessel Identification System (VIS)
Following the successful commissioning of the Vessel Identification System (commonly known as Automatic Identification System, AIS) by 4 June the system is now continuing to acquire data, the telemetry from which is received by the Norwegian User Support and Operation Centre (N-USOC) in Trondheim via the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich, Germany.
The system currently consists of the NORAIS receiver as well as the ERNO-Box, which is used as a data relay for the Vessel Identification System, whose antenna was installed on the outside of Columbus during an EVA on 21 November 2009. The Vessel Identification System will test 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. More than 90,000 messages were received from ships during the first 14 hours of operation.
Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 2 July. 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.
European Modular Cultivation System
Genara-A is the next ESA experiment to take place in the European Modular Cultivation System from next week. This experiment was transported to the ISS on Shuttle Flight STS-132 in May. Genara-A 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. ESA’s Gravi-2 experiment is planned to follow towards the end of 2010 before a further NASA experiment, SeedGrowth.
No activities were undertaken using the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks until 2 July though the Columbus Control Centre supported activities with EXPRESS Rack 3 in which it is located. This included activities related to the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS) in EXPRESS Rack, which is used for taking structural dynamics data. The European Modular Cultivation System, 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 is being operated jointly with NASA under a bilateral barter agreement which has been renewed after the initial 2 years time frame.
Microgravity Science Glovebox and SODI experiments
After completing experiment activities for NASA’s Coarsening in Solid-Liquid Mixtures experiment in the ESA-built Microgravity Science Glovebox for one of the Sample Processing Units on 19 June, Tracy Caldwell-Dyson exchanged the Sample Processing Unit on 21, 25, 28 June and 1 July. She serviced all the Sample Processing Units during the experiments runs, with the first three Sample Processing Units finishing their allotted four vacuum vent cycles. The fourth Sample Processing Unit was still running its fourth vacuum vent cycle which was due to finish on 3 July. The Coarsening in Solid-Liquid Mixtures experiment is examining the kinetics of competitive particle growth within a liquid metal matrix, which has applications to metal alloy manufacturing on Earth. The activities were supported by ESA’s Columbus Control Centre.
The avionics hardware for ESA’s triple SODI (Selectable Optical Diagnostics Instrument) experiments is being analysed on ground before being returned to the ISS tentatively on Progress flight 39P in early September 2010 for continuation of the experiment series. The first SODI experiment which was performed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox was IVIDIL (Influence of Vibrations on Diffusion in Liquids) was successfully completed on 20 January. Now the Colloid experiment will follow, which covers the study on growth and properties of advanced photonic materials within colloidal solutions. The focus is on materials that have a special interest in photonics, with emphasis on nano-structured, periodic dielectric materials, known as photonic crystals, which possess appealing properties and make them promising candidates for new types of optical components. This will take place following completion of ground analysis activities and return of SODI hardware on orbit. The Colloid experiment cells will be also uploaded on Progress flight 39P in September.
The DSC experiment (‘Diffusion and Soret Coefficient Measurements for Improvement of Oil Recovery’) will now be the third and final SODI experiment processed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox which is now tentatively foreseen around mid 2011. The DSC cells, which originally arrived at the ISS on Progress 36P on 5 February, were returned on STS-131 Shuttle Discovery for re-filling due to SODI avionics failure and postponement of experimentation until the resumption in autumn 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.
Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES)
Caldwell-Dyson confirmed the correct installation of certain bolts on the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES) rack on 19 June. The facility will be used for undertaking neuromuscular and exercise research on the International Space Station. MARES is capable of assessing the strength of isolated muscle groups around joints to provide a better understanding of the effects of weightlessness on the muscular system.
MARES consists of an adjustable chair with a system of pads and levers that fit to each astronaut and cover different movements, a main box containing the facility motor and control electronics to which the chair is connected by an articulated arm, as well as dedicated experiment software. The system is considerably more advanced than equivalent ground-based devices and a vast improvement on current muscle research facilities on the ISS.
European science and research facilities outside the Columbus laboratory in open space
Following the end of the latest Sun visibility window on 13 June, the next window for the SOLAR facility to gather scientific data is currently scheduled to open on 9 July. On 28 June the Solar facility was ‘safed’ due to undocking and relocation of Soyuz 23S. The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range currently for more than two years on-orbit. The SOLAR facility has so far produced excellent scientific data during a series of Sun observation cycles. Following the conclusion of the detailed technical feasibility study for on-orbit lifetime extension 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
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. Seven more sample cartridges were launched on 16 November 2009 with STS-129/ULF-3. Twelve of the CETSOL/MICAST experiment samples have been processed to date with the processed samples currently being analysed by the relevant science teams on ground.
Together with NASA a joint Material Science Laboratory/Materials Science Research Rack operations technical interface meeting has been performed at the Microgravity User Support Centre (MUSC), ESA’s Facility Responsible Centre for the Materials Science Laboratory. This meeting comprised operations, engineering, science, and agency representatives. The smooth and highly successful Material Science Laboratory experimentation has been highlighted and the scientists presented very promising preliminary scientific results stemming from analysis of the first samples. This constitutes an excellent basis for further materials research with international collaboration.
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.
Portable Pulmonary Function System
On 22 June Tracy Caldwell-Dyson successfully completed her third session of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with NASA’s VO2Max experiment. On 1 July Doug Wheelock successfully carried out his first session of the two experiments. These were supported by ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Thermolab uses the ESA-developed Portable Pulmonary Function System (combined with exercise) to investigate thermoregulatory and cardiovascular adaptations during rest and exercise in the course of long-term exposure to weightlessness. The Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) experiment is aimed at measuring oxygen uptake and cardiac output in particular, during various degrees of exercise.
On 1 July software for the Portable Pulmonary Function System was updated from the ground by the DAMEC Facility Support Centre in Odense, Denmark. Thermolab data was also successfully downlinked.
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.
European science inside the Japanese Kibo Laboratory
ESA’s Matroshka payload, which has been located in the Japanese Kibo laboratory since 4 May, is continuously acquiring data about the radiation environment inside the ISS. The accumulated radiation levels are being measured using the passive radiation dosimeters (including PADLES type from JAXA) which were recently installed inside the Matroshka Phantom, which simulates a human body (head and torso). Following agreements with JAXA and Roscosmos, the joint long-duration experiment run will be performed until HTV-2 arrives in 2011. 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.
European science inside the Russian ISS Segment
GTS-2 (Global Transmission Service)
The Global Transmission Service was deactivated on 31 May 2009 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 in the future. 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.
From 29 June until the end of the two-week period until 2 July ISS Commander Alexander Skvortsov set up, tested and configured experiment hardware for the Russian/German KTP-21 Plasma Crystal-3 Plus (PK-3+) experiment in the Russian “Poisk” Mini Research Module 2. This included leak checking the hardware’s electronics box vacuum chamber and uploading new software. An experiment session was started before the end of the period, the first for Expedition 24, which Skvortsov continued to monitor. The main objective of this experiment is to obtain a homogeneous plasma dust cloud at various pressures and particle quantities with or without superimposition of a low frequency harmonic electrical field. The PK-3+ experiment was also undertaken during the Astrolab mission with ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter.
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, is functioning well and acquiring scientific data in the two weeks until 2 July. A tentative return of the sample trays is foreseen for autumn 2010 which allows for a scientifically beneficial extension of the open space exposure period of 50%.
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 2009.
Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Human Research Facility 1
Tracy Caldwell-Dyson finished her latest week-long session of NASA’s Sleep experiment on 21 June during which she transferred data to the Human Research Facility laptop from the Actiwatch she was wearing to monitor sleep patterns and light exposure levels. On 23 June the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device in Human Research Facility 1 was used for taking body mass measurements from ISS Flight Engineers Tracy Caldwell-Dyson, Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker.
On 30 June Human Research Facility 1 was used in connection with ESA’s Vessel Imaging (see above) and NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiments with ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker as test subject. This consisted of ultrasound scans for both experiments using the facility as well ECG and heart rate measurements being taken. On 2 July Walker started an ambulatory session of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment, which includes 24-hr blood pressure measurement using ESA’s Cardiopres device, 48-hr ECG measurement with a holter device and 48-hr activity measurements using two Actiwatches. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms. The Human Research Facility 1 activities were supported by ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.
Human Research Facility 2
The Columbus Control Centre supported blood draw activities with NASA’s Human Research Facility 2 in Columbus on 28 June. Blood samples from Doug Wheelock for the Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocols were spun in the Refrigerated Centrifuge before being placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers. The Human Research Facility 2 activities were again supported by ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.
ISS general system information and activities *
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. Main points of interest include:
Columbus Data Management Computer
On 24 June the Columbus Control Centre was assisted by ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Tracy-Caldwell Dyson on the ISS in troubleshooting a synchronization issue involving the Data Management Computer in Columbus which was going into free running mode during a channel switch. After using a spare connector the channel switch worked nominally without losing synchronization.
Emergency Depressurisation Training
The Columbus Control Centre supported an ISS Emergency Depressurisation Training session on 29 July together with the ISS control centres in Moscow, Houston and Tsukuba, Japan. The new ISS Flight Engineers: Doug Wheelock (NASA), Shannon Walker (NASA) and Fyodor Yurchikhin (Roscosmos), were taken through an emergency practice session by ISS Commander Alexander Skvortsov (Roscosmos) as a familiarization with procedures and hardware in the event of a rapid cabin depressurization. This activity provides proficiency training for crew response during a depressurization event.
ISS Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov worked on a failed feeder circuit for on the ASN-M Satellite Navigation System on 25 June. The system is needed for rendezvous and docking procedures of the second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2) at the end of the year.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
In addition to regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) and T2 COLBERT treadmill, ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker undertook additional troubleshooting/maintenance activities on the T2 Colbert treadmill on 24 June. This included working on a wireless connectivity issue which was stopping file transfer from a station laptop to the treadmill display, and carrying out a six-monthly maintenance session on the treadmill which included a checkout thereafter. The following day Caldwell-Dyson adjusted closeout panels to resolve a noise caused by the treadmill belt rubbing against the panels. Following a technical evaluation on 2 July the device is again cleared for use though inspections are required between exercise sessions.
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. On 29 June the Water Recovery System’s Recycle Filter Tank Assembly, which filters pre-treated urine for processing into water, was again replaced on 29 June by Tracy Caldwell-Dyson.
Minus-Eighty Laboratory Freezer for the ISS (MELFI)
Currently there are three European-built MELFI freezers on the ISS: MELFI 1 and MELFI 3 in the Japanese laboratory and MELFI 2 in the US laboratory. Blood and urine samples for ISS Flight Engineers and NASA astronauts Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol were placed in the MELFI 1 freezer. Tracy Caldwell-Dyson also freed a stuck drawer in MELFI 1 on 20 June before placing 4 ‘ice bricks’ in the drawer on 30 June.
Soyuz TMA-19/23S Expedition 24
Soyuz TMA-19 post-docking activities
Following docking of the Soyuz TMA-19 and three members of the Expedition 24 crew on 18 June, cargo transfer activities from the new Soyuz spacecraft have continued in the two weeks until 2 July.
Soyuz TMA-19 Relocation Preparations
On 25 June Yurchikhin, Wheelock and Walker, carried out a simulation of the relocation of Soyuz TMA-19 using a simulator application on a Russian laptop together with a hand controller. This is in preparation for actual relocation of the Soyuz on 28 June. ISS Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin spent an hour in the Descent Module of the Soyuz TMA-19 supporting a ground-commanded checkout of the Soyuz motion control system in preparation for relocation of the spacecraft. The checkout included tests of the pilot’s hand controller, the DPO braking thrusters, and propulsion system tank pressurisation. Attitude control was handed over to Russian thruster control during the tests.
Soyuz TMA-19 Relocation
Soyuz TMA-19/23S was relocated from the aft port of the Russian Zvezda Module to the Earth-facing docking port of the new Russian “Rassvet” Mini Research Module 1 on 28 June. This has freed up the aft port of Zvezda for the arrival of Progress 38P, which is more advantageous for carrying out a Progress reboost of the Station or debris avoidance manoeuvre. Yurchikhin, Wheelock and Walker, dressed in their Sokol spacesuits, were the Soyuz crew during relocation which took about 25 minutes. Standard procedures were undertaken before and after the Soyuz relocation including removal/installation of stabilising clamps where the Soyuz is docked, closure/opening of relevant hatches and standard leak checks.
Three different occurrences of orbital debris were being monitored from the ground at the start of the two-week period (one occurrence from an old Russian satellite, one from a Russian Proton launcher and one from a Chinese satellite) though by 19 June there was no need for avoidance action by the ISS. On 20 June some more orbital debris was spotted and being monitored though by the following day there was again no need to plan any evasive action by the ISS. Towards the end of the two-week period part of a Japanese H-2A launcher was being monitored though by 1 July it was also of no concern.
Window Observation Research Facility (WORF)
NASA’s Window Observation Research Facility (WORF) was installed by Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker at the 50 cm science window in the US laboratory on 22 June. The facility serves for attaching cameras, multispectral scanners, and other instruments, providing attachment points and power and data transfer capability for instruments to be mounted in the window. Multiple instruments can be mounted at the same time.
ISS Reduced Power Profile
Due to high beta angles i.e. the ISS continually in sunlight on its flight profile, the solar arrays on the portside of the Station were pointed away from the Sun on 23 June for thermal reasons, which in turn has reduced the output from the solar cells. The reduced power in this orbital profile necessitated the initiation of an agreed power management plan to power down certain systems. This will continue until 29 June.
On 23 June ISS Commander Alexander Skvortsov and ISS Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko, both representing Roscosmos, carried out a test of the TORU manual docking system in preparation of the docking of Progress M-06M/38P. The TORU system acts as a manually controlled backup to the automatic Kurs docking system. They also carried out a refresher training session on the TORU system on 30 June. The session included, rendezvous, fly-around, final approach, docking and off-nominal situations such as video or communications loss.
Progress M-06/38P Launch
The Progress M-06M spacecraft on ISS logistics flight 38P was successfully launched into orbit by a Soyuz-U rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 17:35 CEST (21:35 local time) on 30 June. The Progress spacecraft was transporting about 2.2 tonnes of vital supplies to the ISS including water, food, gases, propellants, consumables and scientific equipment.
Progress Docking Delay
The docking of Progress 38P with the ISS was aborted twenty minutes prior to schedule when the spacecraft was about 2.5 – 3 km from the ISS. This was an automatic abort by the Progress spacecraft due to a communications loss between the Kurs systems on the ISS and the Progress spacecraft lasting more than three minutes. Progress 38P passed the ISS at a safe distance and was kept in a safe flight mode orbiting in the vicinity of the ISS until an additional docking attempt is planned in the near future.
Vehicle Cabin Atmosphere Module instrument
Tracy-Caldwell-Dyson carried out the first cabin air sampling on the ISS using the new Vehicle Cabin Atmosphere Module instrument on 23 June. The instrument identifies gases that are present in minute quantities in the breathing air on the ISS that could be harmful to crew health.
Soyuz 22S Descent Drill
On 24 June Skvortsov, Caldwell-Dyson and Kornienko carried out the standard Soyuz emergency descent drill in the Soyuz 22S spacecraft, reviewing 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.
Elektron O2 generator
Following a failure of the Elektron O2 generator to restart after deactivation on 25 June, an attempt to run the system on 50 amps (to flush suspected gas bubbles through the pump) also failed after two minutes of activity. On 1 July the systems BE buffer tank was flushed with nitrogen, which has solved the issue as Elektron successfully started up afterwards.
ISS Solar Arrays
The ISS 4B solar array stalled on 28 June delaying Soyuz 23S relocation for 75 minutes until the situation was recovered. It was thought that there was solar array disturbance caused by thruster impingement that was inadvertently interpreted by software as a motor trip. As such the Solar Array Wing switched to the incorrect pointing mode. Procedures are being updated to avoid a repeat of the situation. In addition critical shadowing issues (due to high solar beta angles) for solar arrays 2A, 4A, and 4B were looked into ahead of Progress 38P docking. Following reconstructive analysis however, engineering teams determined that thermal and structural impacts are within limits.
New Air Quality Monitor
Following about 100 runs with the previous Air Quality Monitor, ISS Flight Engineers and NASA astronauts Tracy Caldwell-Dyson and Shannon Walker carried out additional sessions with the new Air Quality Monitor in the two-week period until 2 July. 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.
Aurigae Eclipse Observation:
This ISS is involved in an astronomical observation programme of the Epsilon Aurigae Eclipse, which occurs about every 27 years. The eclipse of the Epsilon Aurigae star, which is in the Constellation Auriga, last for nearly 2 years and indicates an enormous eclipsing object though the nature of this is still unknown. Ground observation mid eclipse is prevented due to the Sun’s proximity.
Other activities that have taken place in the two-week period until 2 July include: The crew taking part in a Crew Safety Handover to familiarize them with procedures and escape routes in case of an emergency; replacement of a power switching unit in the Service Module; a check-out of the Hot Backup mode of the Station’s principal robotic arm to test new software; and updating radio hardware controllers in three Russian Orlan EVA suit backpacks.
(*)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.
Fill in your name and email address below to receive a notification when the latest status report is made available online.