This is ISS status report #77 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 and Japanese Kibo 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
Numerous different ground-commanded functional tests on Biolab have been undertaken via the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany in the past two weeks: A microscope liquid cassette was installed by ISS Flight Engineer Doug Wheelock on 14 September, followed by a ground test though the microscope mounting activity was not successful, the cause of which is still being determined by engineering experts on ground. Over the course of the next three days ground controlled run-in tests were carried out on Biolab’s Automatic Temperature Controlled Stowage and Temperature Controlled Units supported on orbit by ISS Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell-Dyson. On 20, 21 September activities continued with successful N2 pressure tests, temperature tests on the rotor illumination units, and a temperature performance test on Biolab’s Glovebox. A Thermal Control System and Incubator temperature test was successfully carried out from 22-24 September. All points raised by the tests are currently being analysed.
Biolab is a multi-user 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 following the Columbus launch and part 2 of the experiment has been concluded recently. 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-2 experiment containers returned to earth on 26 May with STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis and the biological plant samples are still undergoing detailed analysis at the science team’s laboratory.
Due to the still ongoing functional recovery activities for the Biolab facility the TripleLux experiments’ planning has been revised and de-manifested from the ULF-6 / STS-134 flight due to the microscope failure. 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
The PADIAC (PAthway DIfferent Activators) experiment will be uploaded on Soyuz flight 24S in October. PADIAC 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 European Drawer 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 scientific objective of the PADIAC experiment 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 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 alloys under weightlessness, supporting basic and industrial research.
Fluid Science Laboratory and FASES/Geoflow-2 experiments
The Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) experiment is undergoing extensive science testing using the flight sample cells in the Engineering Model of the Fluid Science Laboratory at the MARS User Support and Operations Centre in Naples, Italy. This replanning follows the demanifesting of FASES from the 39P Progress launch in September (due to the upgrade constraints of the Video Management Unit of the Fluid Science Laboratory). The flight of the Experiment Container will now be rescheduled to a later Progress launch in 2011. This experiment will be studying emulsion properties with advanced optical diagnostics. Results of the FASES experiment hold significance for oil extraction processes, and in the chemical and food industries.
The GeoFlow-2 experiment has been handed over to ATV team for stowage for the launch on ATV-2 and subsequent processing of an exhaustive scientific programme for a couple of months in the Fluid Science Laboratory.
European Physiology Modules and Experiments
No activities were carried out using the European Physiology Modules facility in the two weeks until 24 September. 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.
The Dose Distribution inside the ISS (DOSIS) experiment is progressing well during its time on orbit, with the instrument again acquiring data using one of the active DOSTEL detectors in the European Physiology Modules. The other DOSTEL detector appears to still be operational and the problem has been isolated to a power supply problem in the Data and Power Unit for the detector. Troubleshooting steps have been identified to be undertaken in the future. The passive detectors for DOSIS, which were deinstalled and returned to earth on STS-132 Shuttle Atlantis, are currently undergoing scientific analyses. 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.
On 20 September the ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects on Astronauts) hardware was configured by ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker for ESA’s ALTEA-Shield experiment. The experiment aims at obtaining a better understanding of the light flash phenomenon, and more generally the interaction between cosmic rays and brain function, as well as testing the effectiveness of different types of shielding material. The experiment is currently undertaking a 3-dimensional survey of the radiation environment in the US laboratory.
Vessel Identification System (VIS)
The Vessel Identification System (commonly known as Automatic Identification System, AIS) is working extremely well and continuing to acquire data. The data telemetry is received by the Norwegian User Support and Operation Centre (N-USOC) in Trondheim via ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Germany. On 16 September the cabling was rerouted to allow the VHF signal from the external antenna to bypass the system’s radio frequency filter and feed directly into the NORAIS receiver.
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 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. 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 24 September. 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
No activities have taken place in the European Modular Cultivation System in the two weeks until 24 September. The culture chambers for the Genara-A experiment (which took place in the European Modular Cultivation System) were transferred from the European-built MELFI-2 freezer to a General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER) on 20 September until their return by Shuttle on ULF-5. Genara-A is studying 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 in April 2011 before a further NASA experiment, SeedGrowth.
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
ESA’s SODI–Colloid experiment equipment was delivered to the ISS on Progress 39P, which docked with the ISS on 12 September. Activities on orbit for ESA’s SODI (Selectable Optical Diagnostics Instrument) Colloid experiment were undertaken from 13 September after the removal of hardware and samples for NASA’s Smoke and Aerosol Measurement Experiment (SAME) experiment from the Microgravity Science Glovebox. After installation of the SODI hardware on 13 September, the Colloid hardware was installed in the Glovebox by ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker the following day, application software was uploaded from the ground and science reference runs were undertaken up until 17 September. With reference testing complete the Colloid experiment was started on 20 September. Stirring of all the cells was performed the following day. Up until the end of the two-week period until 24 September the experiment was functioning as planned. By 23 September 36 experiment runs had already been completed and the science team were busy analysing the data from the first three waves (three different temperatures for all four cells) which was vary good and clear. The science team had noted a clear difference in the variance and power spectra for each cell for each temperature.
The Colloid experiment 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. Colloid is the second in the series of three SODI experiments. The first SODI experiment performed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox was IVIDIL (Influence of Vibrations on Diffusion in Liquids), which was successfully completed on 20 January.
The subsequent 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 rescheduling of the experiment series.
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)
Assembly and installation of the new Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES) was started on 16 September by ISS Flight Engineers Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker and continued on 17 and 23 September. This included the Main Box electronics assembly, installing the Vibration Isolation Frame onto the MARES Rack, and connecting up power. On 24 September the Rack failed to activate as planned though steps are in the pipeline to resolve this issue. 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.
Following an electrical checkout of the system (i.e. with no functional testing), MARES will be placed in its -orbit stowage configuration. In the future this will be followed up by functional testing of MARES in two parts: the first part (during Expedition 26) without a crew member using the system, the second functional testing (during Expedition 27/28) with a crew member using the system. These two commissioning parts will include testing of hardware and software as well as testing downlink capabilities.
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
The new Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility to gather scientific data which opened on 3 September, closed on 14 September. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR are open when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun. The facility was placed in ‘Idle Mode’ for the duration of Progress 39P docking on 12 September. 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 2013 and possibly beyond.
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 21 September the third session of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with the NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) was carried out by ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker. The Thermolab experiment uses the ESA-developed Portable Pulmonary Function System 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) is aimed at measuring oxygen uptake and cardiac output in particular, during various degrees of exercise. The Portable Pulmonary Function System is an autonomous multi-user facility supporting a broad range of human physiological research experiments under weightless conditions 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 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.
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 continuously acquiring scientific data. A tentative return of the sample trays is foreseen for November 2010 which allows for a scientifically beneficial extension of more than 1.5 years for the open space exposure period.
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
During the two-week period until 24 September activities were carried out using NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. ISS Flight Engineers Tracy Caldwell-Dyson, Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker each completed another week-long session of NASA’s Sleep experiment on 12 September during which data was transferred to the Human Research Facility laptop from the Actiwatches they were wearing to monitor sleep patterns and light exposure levels. Troubleshooting steps were also undertaken by Shannon Walker on Human Research Facility 1 on 21 September, which was indicating failures on Orbital Replaceable Units.
Human Research Facility 2
On 15 September blood draw activities in connection with NASA’s NUTRITION/Repository/Pro K protocol were carried out on Tracy-Caldwell-Dyson. Samples were spun in the Refrigerated Centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 before being placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers. Activities were supported by the Columbus Control Centre.
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. Main points of interest are as follows:
NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Doug Wheelock took air samples in Columbus as well as other ISS modules on 15 September. These were stowed for return to Earth on Soyuz 22S.
Portable Glovebox Relocation
ESA’s Portable Glovebox was relocated from the Russian Zarya Module to Columbus on 20 September.
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 Engineers and NASA astronauts Tracy Caldwell-Dyson and Doug Wheelock removed and replaced the exercise rope on ARED in an attempt to remove slack coming from the exit pulley in order to bring it back to full functionality.
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 include:
Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack
The Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly in the Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack was deactivated on 14 September as it is no longer required due to the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly in the US Lab being restored to full functionality.
Oxygen Generation System
In preparation for unpowering the Oxygen Generator System rack Tracy-Caldwell Dyson accessed the rack and carried out purge activities on 21 September before closing the rack out.
Minus-Eighty degree 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. Samples were placed in the MELFI freezers related to NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol (blood, urine). On 20 September samples from ESA’s Genara-A experiment were transferred to a General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER) along with samples for JAXA’s Ferulate (Regulation by Gravity of Ferulate Formation in Cell Walls of Rice Seedlings) experiment and blood and urine samples. Desiccant packs were also inserted in MELFI-3 to help control moisture levels.
Progress M-07M/39P Spacecraft Activities
The Russian Progress M-07M spacecraft on ISS logistics flight 39P docked successfully with the aft port of the Service Module of the ISS on 12 September at 13:57 (CEST) under control of the spacecraft’s automatic Kurs docking system. Retraction of the docking probe and hook closure was complete soon after. After hooks closure the ISS was put back on Russian Service Module attitude control from free drift and thereafter back to US attitude control systems
Following Progress 39P docking Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov (ISS Commander) and Mikhail Kornienko (ISS Flight Engineer) performed the standard leak checks before opening the hatches and installing clamps to further stabilise the connection between the Progress and the ISS. After performing the standard air sampling inside Progress, the spacecraft was deactivated, ventilation ducting was installed into Progress and its docking mechanism was removed. High priority payloads (including ESA’s SODI-Colloid experiment) and additional cargo were than transferred from the Progress to the ISS. On 13 September Roscosmos cosmonaut and ISS Flight Engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin installed relevant temperature equipment in Progress 39P.
The ISS was reboosted to a higher orbiting altitude on 15 September. The reboost, which lasted just under 9 minutes was carried out by Progress 39P rendezvous and docking thrusters and increased ISS altitude by 2.2 km. The reboost was undertaken in connection with phasing for Soyuz 22S landing and launch of Soyuz 24S and contributes to phasing for future launches.
Japanese Laboratory Fluid Physics Experiment Facility / Marangoni Inside Payload
On 11, 12 September, Doug Wheelock finished troubleshooting on JAXA’s Marangoni Inside payload. Steps included removing the Marangoni Inside cassette from its core, cleaning the core, exchanging elements, inserting the cassette inside the core, depressurizing the core’s inside, installing the core back into the Marangoni Inside body, installing this into the Fluid Physics Experiment Facility and connecting up relevant cabling and equipment.
Soyuz TMA-18/22S and Expedition Crew Return
Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
During five different sessions between 11 and 22 September, Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko carried out medical operations procedures whilst wearing the Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit. This was combined with use of the TVIS treadmill for the first three sessions and the VELO ergometer for the last two sessions. The Chibis suit, which provides stress that simulates gravity to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system, helps to evaluate how the crewmembers will cope with, and prepare them for, exposure to gravity on return to Earth.
On 13 September Skvortsov, Caldwell-Dyson and Kornienko 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.
Soyuz 22S Descent Drill
Standard Soyuz descent drills were carried out by Skvortsov and Kornienko on 17 September and also together with Caldwell-Dyson on 21 September. The descent drills, which took place in the Descent Module of the Soyuz 21S spacecraft were 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.
Soyuz TMA-18/22S Motion Control System Checks
ISS Commander and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov supported a ground-commanded checkout of the Soyuz TMA-18 Motion Control System on 21 September including testing the pilot’s translational hand controller and the braking thrusters.
The official handover from ISS Expedition 24 to Expedition 25 took place on 22 September with all crew members present and with Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov handing over commandership to NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock.
Soyuz Undocking Delay
Following standard preparations, the undocking of Soyuz 22S on 23 September was delayed by a day due to the failure of the hooks of the Russian ‘Poisk’ Module (where 22S was docked) to open. A computer error determined manual commanding of the hooks to open by the crew. As the Poisk ‘hatch closed’ signals were being received but ‘hatch locked’ signals were not, the crew tried reopening and closing the hatch and moving the ratchet to its emergency position. Depressurisation of the area between the hatches hereafter did not provide for the appropriate pressure measurements. During additional attempts at undocking procedures a damaged sprocket was found inside the docking mechanism behind the hatch. This was stopping the ‘hatch locked’ sensor passing on its signal and stopping the hooks from opening. A workaround was put in place to allow hook opening for the following day.
Soyuz TMA-18/22S, Expedition 24 Undocking and Landing
Following Soyuz activation on the evening of 24 September, quick-release clamps were removed from between ‘Poisk’ and Soyuz 22S, the hatches were closed and relevant leak checks were carried out. Undocking of Soyuz TMA-18 with Skvortsov, Caldwell-Dyson and Kornienko, occurred at 04:02 (CEST) on 25 September followed by a 15 sec separation burn three minutes later. At 06:31 (CEST) the Soyuz spacecraft performed its deorbit thruster burn lasting 4 min 17sec. This caused a deceleration of 115m/sec. 20 minutes later the spacecraft went through module separation, with atmospheric reentry occurring at 06:59 (CEST). The parachute was deployed 8½ minutes later with landing at 07:23 CEST (11:23 local time) central Kazakhstan near the city of Arkalyk. Skvortsov, Caldwell-Dyson and Kornienko had spent just over 177 days in space. From here the crew was flown to Karaganda in Kazakhstan by helicopter. Skvortsov and Kornienko were flown on to Star City in Moscow, while Caldwell-Dyson was flown directly to Houston. Undocking of Soyuz TMA-18 marked the end of Expedition 24 and the start of Expedition 25.
Soyuz 23S Emergency Descent Drill
On 22 September Yurchikhin, Wheelock and Walker carried out the standard Soyuz emergency descent drill in the Soyuz 23S 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.
Crew Quarters Relocation
After installation of a grounding strap by Doug Wheelock on 21 September and additional preparations, an ISS Crew Quarters was relocated to the European-built Node 2 from the Japanese laboratory the following day.
Other activities that have taken place in the two-week period until 24 September include: Ground-commanded calibration tests on NASA’s Fluids Integrated Rack; replacing display panels on three Orlan EVA suits; replacing a Power Switching Unit in the Russian Service Module; removal and replacement of Terminal Computing Device hardware in the Russian ‘Poisk’ Module; and a 2-hour crew safety handover on 17 September.
(*)These activities are highlights of the past two weeks and do not include the majority of standard periodic operational/maintenance activities on the ISS or additional research activities not mentioned previously. Information compiled with the assistance of NASA sources.
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer
Weekly reports compiled by ESA's ISS Utilisation Department.
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