This is ISS status report #81 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 and Japanese Kibo laboratories. 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 experiments
Following upload and installation of an alignment patch for Rotor A on 15 November, the Rotor A alignment was undertaken on 16 November by the engineering team via the MUSC User Support and Operations Centre in Cologne and the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany. Biolab is a multi-user facility designed to support biological experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates. Due to the still ongoing functional recovery activities for the Biolab facility the TripleLux experiments’ planning has been revised and TripleLux-A has been de-manifested from the ULF-6 / STS-134 flight mainly due to the Biolab microscope failure which will be returned from ISS and repaired on ground. The objective of the TripleLux experiments 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, Kubik Incubators and PADIAC/SPHINX Experiments
Following the successful completion of the PADIAC experiment on 12 October, the European Drawer Rack and the Kubik-6 incubator have still been active for processing and storage of the ‘SPaceflight of Huvec: an Integrated Xperiment’ (SPHINX) which arrived at the ISS on Progress 40P on 30 October.
All samples for the PADIAC experiment are currently in one of the European-built MELFI freezers (at -95 deg C) awaiting return to Earth. 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 human immune system.
On 7 November the temperature of the Kubik-6 incubator was reduced from 36.5 deg C to 6 deg C by ISS Flight Engineer Scott Kelly in order to keep the samples inside the SPHINX experiment containers in a refrigerated state until their return on Soyuz 23S at the end of November. This follows seven days of processing of the SPHINX experiment in the Kubik-6 incubator at 36.5 deg C.
The Kubik incubators are portable incubators with microgravity and centrifuge accommodations which were designed in the frame of the ISS Soyuz missions for biology experiments processing. The objective of the SPHINX experiment is to determine how HUVEC (Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells) modify their behaviour when exposed to real weightlessness. This could provide better knowledge of endothelial function, which could be useful for clinical application. Endothelial cells, which line the interior of the heart and blood vessels, are important in many aspects of vascular function.
The European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which, in the future, will also host the Facility for Adsorption and Surface Tension (FASTER) 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 Fluid Science Laboratory was activated on 11 November in order to take vibration measurements using Fluid Science Laboratory sensor equipment, additional sensors (installed on the facility the day before) from the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS) and SAMS equipment located in EXPRESS Rack 3 in Columbus. Measurements were taken during Fluid Science Laboratory camera movement and camera lens movement as well as capturing measurements during crew exercise in the Japanese laboratory and stowage retrieval in Columbus. Data was downlinked via the Fluid Science Laboratory on 15 November.
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 (USOC) 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. 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 stowed in the Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) of ATV-2 Johannes Kepler for launch in mid February 2011 and subsequent processing of an exhaustive scientific programme for a couple of months in the Fluid Science Laboratory. Final science and experiment operations preparation activities are currently taking place at the involved USOCs.
European Physiology Modules and Experiments
The European Physiology Modules facility was activated on 17 November and accumulated data was downlinked for the DOSIS experiment. 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 still acquiring data using one of the active DOSTEL detectors (DOSTEL-2) in the European Physiology Modules. Accumulated data for the experiment was downlinked via the European Physiology Modules facility on 17 November. 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.
Vessel Imaging Experiment
A new session of ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment was carried out in conjunction with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment on 15 November. This 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 ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects on Astronauts) Shield experiment is ongoing and acquiring data via its silicon detector units. For the majority of the reporting period all six detectors were gathering data, with one less detector in use on 18 and 19 November. 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)
Following the swap of receiver for the Vessel Identification System (commonly known as the Automatic Identification System, AIS) on 27 October, data acquisition is ongoing and telemetry is still being successfully received by the Norwegian User Support and Operation Centre (N-USOC) in Trondheim via ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Germany. The Vessel Identification System has acquired an extensive amount of data in the past months since its installation in Columbus.
The Vessel Identification System consists of the two different receivers (NORAIS and LuxAIS), which are alternated every three months or so, and 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. Meanwhile various service entities have been asking to get access to the VIS data which is continuously acquired on Columbus.
Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2)
No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 19 November. 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
EXPRESS Rack 3 in which the European Modular Cultivation System is located supported vibration measurement recording for the Fluid Science Laboratory on 11 November. (See above). Culture chambers for the Genara-A experiment (which took place in the European Modular Cultivation System) are currently in a General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER) 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.
Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES)
No activities were carried out using the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES) in the two weeks until 19 November. Once the facility is fully commissioned it 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 completion of an electrical checkout of the system (i.e. with no functional testing), MARES will be placed in its on-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 latest Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility to gather scientific data closed on 9 November following 11 days of data acquisition. Sun visibility windows for SOLAR are open when the ISS is in the correct orbital profile with relation to the Sun. The SOLAR payload facility has been studying the Sun’s irradiation with unprecedented accuracy across most of its spectral range 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
No activities wee carried out using ESA’s Material Science Laboratory in the two weeks until 19 November. The 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. The final NASA MICAST sample, which will complete processing of the first batch of CETSOL/MICAST samples, will be processed following the upcoming exchange of the Material Science Laboratory’s Low Gradient Furnace to its Solidification and Quenching Furnace. This will in turn be followed by the second batch of CETSOL/MICAST samples for processing and samples for the SETA experiment.
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. The SETA (Solidification along a Eutectic path in Ternary Alloys) experiment will be looking into a specific type of eutectic growth in alloys of aluminium manganese and silicon. Results of all these experiments will help to optimise industrial casting processes.
Microgravity Science Glovebox and SODI experiments
Following the successful conclusion of the SODI-Colloid experiment and the relocation of the European-built Microgravity Science Glovebox rack from Columbus back to the US Laboratory on 21 October, no activities were carried out using the Microgravity Science Glovebox in the two weeks until 19 November.
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 be the third and final SODI experiment processed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox which is now tentatively foreseen around mid 2011.
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.
Portable Pulmonary Function System
On 18/19 October sessions of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with the NASA’s Maximum Volume Oxygen (VO2 Max) were carried out by ISS Expedition 25 Commander Doug Wheelock and ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker respectively. These were the final sessions for the two astronauts. 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. All data has been downlinked to ground. 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 was foreseen for November 2010 which allows for a scientifically beneficial extension of the open space exposure period to more than 1.5 years, though a recent request from Roscosmos will lead to a mission extension until spring 2011 when the sample trays are retrieved via an EVA and returned to Earth either by Shuttle or the next Soyuz in March.
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.
In addition a new experiment complement for the tentative Expose-R2 mission has been identified and the implementation in collaboration with the Russian partners is commencing.
Non-European science and research facilities inside the Columbus Laboratory
Human Research Facility 1
During the two-week period until 19 November activities were carried out using NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. ISS Commander Doug Wheelock and ISS Flight Engineers Scott Kelly and Shannon Walker all completed week-long sessions of NASA’s Sleep experiment on 7 November during which data was transferred to a Human Research Facility 1 laptop from the Actiwatches they were wearing to monitor sleep patterns and light exposure levels.
Walker carried out her final ambulatory monitoring session (from 12 – 14 November) of NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment. This 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. On 15 November Human Research Facility 1 was used in connection with ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment (see above) and NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment with ISS Flight Engineer Shannon Walker as test subject. This consisted of ultrasound scans for both experiments using the facility as well as ECG and heart rate measurements being taken. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms.
On 17 November the Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD) was used for carrying out body mass measurements on ISS Commander Doug Wheelock.
Human Research Facility 2
Blood draw activities on Doug Wheelock in connection with NASA’s NUTRITION/Repository/Pro K protocol were carried out on 19 November. Samples were spun in the Refrigerated Centrifuge of Human Research Facility 2 before being placed in one of the European-built MELFI freezers. On 8 November ISS Commander Doug Wheelock completed an audit/inventory of Human Research Facility hardware in the rack drawers.
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:
Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter
On 11 November the Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter, one of the principal radiation measurement devices on the ISS, was relocated from Node 2 to the Columbus.
Internal Thermal Control System Sampling
NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Scott Kelly took a sample from the Internal Thermal Control System in Columbus using a coolant sampling adapter. The sample will be returned to ground for analysis.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
Regenerative ECLSS and Additional Environmental Control Racks
The two Water Recovery System racks, together with the Oxygen Generation System rack, form the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) which is necessary in support of a six-person ISS Crew to help reduce upload mass. Other environmental control racks in Node 3 include an Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack and a Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Highlights include:
Water Recovery System
The Recycle Filter Tank Assembly which filters pre-treated urine for processing into water was again replaced on 9 November. The old unit was stowed for return to Earth.
Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack
Between 17-19 November maintenance activities took place in connection with replacement of the back bed of the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly inside the Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack in Node 3. After rotating the rack forward and removal of the front bed, the back bed could not be removed as the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly frame could not be pulled out completely. Analysis on ground of on-orbit imagery suggests that the problem could be two launch restraint bolts being engaged in a different set of drilled holes and so procedures will be put in place to remove them.
Cupola Robotic Work Station
On 19 November Scott Kelly assisted the ground in performing on-orbit check-outs of the backup control system for the Station’s principal robotic arm in advance of the berthing of the Japanese HTV-II logistics spacecraft in January. After powering up the Cupola Robotic Work Station in Node 3 he transitioned control to the Hot Backup before undertaking a capture and release manoeuvre in free space.
On 11 November filming of the ISS ground track through the Cupola windows was carried out as part of a video called “First Orbit”. The video will be used to recreate the flight of Yuri Gagarin and the view he would have had from Vostok 1.
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 JAXA’s hair experiment (hair), NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol for ISS Commander and NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock (blood and urine), and NASA’s Integrated Immune experiment for Wheelock and ISS Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Shannon Walker (saliva). MELFI 1 also contains blood and urine samples from ESA’s Sodium Loading in Microgravity (SOLO) experiment while MELFI 2 contains samples from ESA’s PADIAC experiment.
STS-133/ULF-5 Mission Preparations
The launch of Shuttle Discovery on its last flight was delayed due the necessity to repair a gaseous hydrogen leak at the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate and cracks on two aluminium brackets called stringers on the Shuttle’s External Tank. With repair work complete final testing is underway with the earliest launch date currently set at 17 December.
Shuttle R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre Preparations
On 17/18 November Scott Kelly undertook R-bar Pitch Manoeuvre training sessions. This involved photographing ground sites from two windows in the Russian Service Module with a D2X digital still camera using 400 and 800 mm lenses. The delay in the Shuttle launch means that ISS Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin (Roscosmos) and Shannon Walker (NASA) will no longer be involved in the exercise. This exercise is in preparation for photographing the STS-133/ULF-5 Shuttle during its pitch manoeuvre during rendezvous and docking. During the manoeuvre at a distance of about 180 m from the Station, the photographers will only have around 90 seconds to take high-resolution digital photographs of all thermal protection tile areas and door seals on Shuttle Discovery, to be downlinked for launch debris assessment.
In the week prior to Russian EVA 26, Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Skripochka configured the Pirs Docking Compartment (and Airlock) and Service Module Transfer Compartment for the upcoming Russian spacewalk. This included the cosmonauts preparing spacewalk hardware; configuring and checking out communications equipment; adjusting, configuring and checking out the Russian Orlan EVA suits including hardware installation and checking out communications and medical systems; leak checking relevant equipment and interfaces; installing portable oxygen tanks and medical packs; performing oxygen and air system pressure checks; and recharging EVA suit batteries.
Progress 39P/40P Undocking Preparations
Also in preparation for the spacewalk, Progress 39P (docked at the Service Module’s aft port) and Progress 40P (docked at the Pirs Module’s Earth-facing docking port) were readied for undocking in the unlikely case of an EVA emergency. The Progress docking mechanisms were again installed; the spacecraft was activated; ventilation ducting was removed; quick disconnect clamps were removed at the docking port; the hatches were closed; and an interhatch leak check was performed. ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Kaleri reversed this process to re-integrate Progress 39P and 40P back into the ISS on 17/18 July respectively.
EVA Dry Run
A suited EVA dry run was carried out on 12 November. Ventilation ducting was removed from between the Pirs Docking Compartment (and Airlock) and Service Module Transfer Compartment. Communications systems were configured in the Docking Compartment, the Orlan suits and associated equipment were leak checked before the EVA cosmonauts donned their suits. Following further suits checks the suit pressure was dropped to 0.4 of an atmosphere before mobility testing inside the airlock was carried out.
On completion of the standard pre-EVA procedures, Russian EVA 26 was carried out by Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Skripochka on 15 November. The main tasks that were achieved during the 6h 27min EVA, which started at 15:55 (CET) were: the installation of portable multipurpose workstation on the Service Module; removal of the ROKVISS hardware; Installation of SKK removable exposure plates on the Russian Poisk Module; Installation of a Gap Spanner on the Pirs Docking Compartment; taking samples from under multi-layer insulation on the Service Module and Pirs Docking Compartment (looking for the existence of bio-organisms and Fuel/Oxidizer Reactive Products); and removal of a TV camera from the Russian Rassvet Module. Once the EVA was complete the Service Module Transfer Compartment was repressurised, communications, ventilation and other systems were reconfigured back to the pre-EVA conditions and the cosmonauts carried out post-EVA medical procedures.
Treadmill with Vibration Isolation System (TVIS)
Troubleshooting has been taking place on the TVIS treadmill in the Russian Service Module. On 9 November a microphone was used by Wheelock and Kaleri to record noise levels coming from the treadmill (reported on 8 November). As the flywheel case was seen as the likely cause of the noise, on 10 November the treadmill was removed from its pit by Kelly, Walker and Yurchikhin and its flywheel case was replaced with a spare unit.
ISS Crew Return Preparations
Orthostatic hemodynamic endurance tests
On 18 November Yurchikhin carried out additional orthostatic hemodynamic endurance test sessions using the TVIS treadmill whilst wearing the Russian ‘Chibis’ lower body negative pressure suit. The Chibis suit, which provides stress that simulates gravity to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system, helps to evaluate how the Russian crewmember would cope with, and prepare them for, exposure to gravity on return to Earth.
Soyuz 23S Descent Drill
Yurchikhin and Walker carried out a Soyuz Descent training exercise on 18 November in Soyuz 23S. Using a computer simulation and hand controller the two ISS Crew members carried out various simulated reentry scenarios in manual mode.
Soyuz Seat Checks
Wearing their Sokol space suits Wheelock, Yurchikhin and Walker carried out a fit check of the contoured Kazbek shock-absorbing seats on 18 November in the Soyuz 23S Descent Module in which they will land. Undocking is scheduled for 25 November.,
On 18 November Kaleri checked out the Russian “Istochnik-M” Telemetry system for receiving telemetry from Soyuz 23S during its descent especially during module separation.
Sokol Leak Checks
The returning members of the Expedition 25 Crew carried out standard leak checks on their Sokol spacesuits in the Soyuz 23S spacecraft on 19 November.
Other activities that have taken place in the two-week period until 19 November include: installing extra handles on the Russian Rassvet, Poisk and Pirs modules (taken from the Progress cargo ships) to facilitate hatch closing operations; Progress cargo transfers; troubleshooting an analogue/digital converter in the Soyuz 24S Descent Module, which failed during ascent; troubleshooting reduced airflow in the starboard Crew Quarters in Node 2; swapping the Air Quality Monitor for a new unit and carrying out a first sampling session; uploading new charge parameters to the Battery Charge Modules in the US Airlock to make them more sensitive to charge completion; successful troubleshooting of a hand-held microphone; collecting additional Internal Thermal Control System samples in Node 2, the US laboratory and the Japanese laboratory; a VHF emergency communications proficiency check with different ground stations in Europe, the US, and Moscow; and major routine maintenance on the Service Module toilet, changing various replaceable parts.
(*)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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