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Science & Exploration

ESA ISS Science & System - Operations Status Report # 84, Increment 26

31/12/2010 287 views 0 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Columbus

This is ISS status report #84 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.

Highlight: The three newly arrived ISS crew members, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, Roscosmos cosmonaut Dmitri Kondratyev, and NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, all Flight Engineers for Expedition 26, took up duties on the ISS and will stay on board for about five months during Expeditions 26/27. In March 2011 Nespoli and Coleman will continue as Flight Engineers for Expedition 27 while Kondratyev will become Expedition 27 Commander.

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
ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli removed thermal insulation inserts from Biolab’s Automatic Temperature Controlled Stowage compartments 1 and 2 on 30 December. This was in support of periodic ground-commanded temperature checks of the two stowage areas, which have a temperature range from -20 deC to +10 deg C and are used for sample storage.

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 was revised and TripleLux-A was de-manifested from the ULF-6 / STS-134 flight mainly due to the Biolab microscope failure which will be returned from the 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
The samples from the SPaceflight of Huvec: an Integrated Xperiment’ (SPHINX) and the PADIAC (PAthway DIfferent Activators) experiment are undergoing analysis at the respective research team laboratories following the successful conclusion of the experiments on orbit and return of the samples to ground on Soyuz 23S on 26 November. Both experiments utilised the Kubik-6 incubator located inside the European Drawer Rack (PADIAC also utilised a second Kubik incubator outside of the European Drawer Rack)

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 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. Samples for SPHINX and PADIAC were returned to the relevant science teams on 29 November.

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 European Drawer Rack is a multi-user experiment facility which will also host in the future 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
No activities were undertaken with the Fluid Science Laboratory in the two weeks until 31 December. 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 Neurospat Experiment
On 20 December ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli set up the hardware for the Neurospat experiment. The following day Nespoli was assisted by ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman in donning and setting up the Electroencephalograph (EEG) cap and carrying out his first session of the experiment. On 22 December Nespoli transferred data to the hard disk of the Multi-Electrode Electroencephalogram Measurement Module (one of the European Physiology Modules subracks). This data will be downlinked to ground following a subsequent session of Neurospat.

NeuroSpat, which was the first experiment to make full use the European Physiology Modules facility in June 2009, is investigating the ways in which crew members’ three-dimensional perception is affected by long-duration stays in weightlessness. NeuroSpat also incorporates an experiment (Prespat) from the European Commission within the SURE project.

The European Physiology Modules facility is equipped with Science Modules to investigate the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. The experiment results will also contribute to an increased understanding of terrestrial problems such as the ageing process, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and muscle wastage.

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. 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 Identification System (VIS)
Using the Norwegian receiver the Vessel Identification System (commonly known as the Automatic Identification System, AIS), 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 31 December. The Pulmonary Function System is accommodated in NASA’s 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
The water pump servicing activity for the European Modular Cultivation System was successfully performed on 20 December. 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 was renewed after the initial 2 years time frame.

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 on Shuttle mission ULF5. 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. The tentative next EMCS experiment is a NASA experiment, SeedGrowth.

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 31 December. 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.

Sodium Loading in Microgravity Experiment (SOLO)
Portable Clinical Blood Analyzer cartridges for the SOLO experiment were transferred from the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft to the MELFI 1 freezer in the Japanese laboratory on 18 December. The SOLO experiment is carrying out research into salt retention in space and related physiological effects. Astronaut subjects carry out two six-day dietary sessions, one session with a low-salt diet, the other with a higher-salt diet. Body mass measurements as well as blood and urine samples are taken during each session.

Vessel Imaging Experiment
Another session of ESA’s Vessel Imaging experiment has been carried out in conjunction with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment (see Human Research Facility 1 below) on 30 December. This session of both joint experiments was carried out by ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman (assisted by Paolo Nespoli). This consisted of an echography scan 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.

EPO Greenhouse
An illumination test was performed by Paolo Nespoli in connection with the ‘Greenhouse in Space’ education project on 26 December. This is an education project where the concept of fresh food production in space will be related to the biology and science curriculums of 12 to 14 year olds through film and ISS live link activities.

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

Following completion of the Sun visibility window for the SOLAR facility at the end of the last two-week reporting period, a new Sun visibility window to gather scientific data opened on 24 December. 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 2 ½ years on-orbit. This 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 were carried out using ESA’s Material Science Laboratory in the two weeks until 31 December. 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 and analyses 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
On 27 December ISS Commander Scott Kelly installed NASA’s Capillary Channel Flow experiment in the European-built Microgravity Science Glovebox. After adjusting the high-resolution video camera for the experiment on 29 December (as per the request of the science team), Kelly carried out troubleshooting on the experiment unit two days later, checking a power cable and connector pins as two separate motors in the experiment unit are not responding. Capillary Channel Flow is a versatile experiment for studying a critical variety of inertial-capillary dominated flows important for innovations in the containment, storage, and handling of large liquid inventories (fuels, cryogens, and water) aboard spacecraft.

These activities follow the successful conclusion of the SODI-Colloid experiment and the relocation of the Microgravity Science Glovebox rack from Columbus back to the US Laboratory on 21 October. 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 later in 2011 after a re-definition of the liquid mixtures.

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 29 December Catherine Coleman successfully completed her first session of ESA’s Thermolab experiment in conjunction with NASA’s VO2Max experiment. 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.

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.

No activities were carried out on the ALTEA (Anomalous Long Term Effects on Astronauts) Shield experiment in the two weeks until 31 December. 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 was recently undertaking a 3-dimensional survey of the radiation environment in the US laboratory.

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; and 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 allowed for a scientifically beneficial extension of the open space exposure period to more than 1.5 years, though a recent request from Roscosmos has led to a mission extension until spring 2011 when the sample trays will be 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 will be exposed to the harsh space environment (Solar UV, cosmic radiation, vacuum), for about two 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 31 December 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 Scott Kelly concluded a week-long session of NASA’s Sleep experiment on 20 December during which data was transferred to a Human Research Facility 1 laptop from the Actiwatch he was wearing to monitor sleep patterns and light exposure levels.

On 30 December 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 Catherine Coleman 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.

Human Research Facility 2
Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 27 and 30 December to centrifuge blood samples for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol, drawn from ISS Flight Engineers Catherine Coleman and Paolo Nespoli respectively. Urine sample collection for the protocol was also concluded for each astronaut on the day of each blood draw. The samples were thereafter stowed in the European-built MELFI freezer. 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.

Activities of ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli


  • System and payload activities
    During the last two weeks in addition to what is stated in the rest of the report, Nespoli carried out routine maintenance on the Compound Specific Analyzer-Combustion Products prime unit, (which provides quick response during a fire), before redeploying it in the Service Module. He also removed (and subsequently replaced) alignment guides in the US Combustion Integrated Rack to allow its Passive Rack Isolation System to be activated prior to starting operations, and assisted Kelly in maintenance on the Fluids Integrated Rack.


  • Experiment activities
    In addition to the European science programme detailed above ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli has carried out additional science activities in support of the science programmes of ESA’s ISS partners. This included: being a subject for NASA’s ‘Reaction Self Test’ experiment which looks into how planned sleep shift for ISS crews affects performance; and undertaking a controlled diet (for several days) and collecting blood and urine samples as part of NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol.


  • Health status activities
    The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the past two weeks Paolo Nespoli has undertaken: Body Mass Measurement; an acoustic measurement protocol; an On-Orbit Hearing Assessment; sessions of the US Periodic Fitness Evaluation and Periodic Health Status which check blood pressure and electrocardiogram during programmed exercise, as well as standard medical checks; a session of the Russian "Hematokrit" test which measures the red blood cell count; and filled in Food Frequency Questionnaires to estimate nutritional intake for the astronauts and give recommendations to ground specialists that help maintain optimal crew health. In connection with health status Paolo (and the rest of the crew) undertake regular Private Medical Conferences with the ground, and daily exercise routines on the ISS.


  • Other activities
    During the last two weeks Nespoli has been undertaking general orientation, familiarisation and handover activities along with the other new ISS crew members. In addition he and the crew have had their regular Planning Conferences with ESA’s Columbus Control Centre as well as Mission Control in Houston and Moscow, and the Japanese Flight Control Team at the Tsukuba Space Centre. Nespoli also: took part in a Crew Safety Handover and Emergency Egress Drill with the other ISS crew members to familiarize themselves with emergency procedures in the case of, for example, depressurization, fire, ammonia release, non-ammonia toxic release; retrieved formaldehyde kits in the US Lab and Russian Service Module, which catch any atmospheric formaldehyde; carried out sampling sessions with the Air Quality Monitor, which identifies volatile organic compounds; and carried out a periodic noise level measurements survey inside the ISS. Nespoli was additionally involved in a Public Affairs exercise on 23 December with the Planetarium in Rome, Italy as well as in two Russian Public Affairs exercises on 27 and 31 December involving all the crew, and two American Public Affairs exercises on 28 and 30 December involving Kelly and Coleman.

Activities in the European-built Node 3


  • Exercise Equipment
    In addition to regular use, inspection and servicing of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (in which Paolo Nespoli was involved), and the T2/COLBERT treadmill in Node 3, no additional maintenance activities have been undertaken involving the exercise equipment in Node 3.


  • Regenerative ECLSS and Additional Environmental Control Racks
    The two Water Recovery System racks, together with the Oxygen Generation System rack, form the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) which is necessary in support of a six-person ISS Crew to help reduce upload mass. Other environmental control racks in Node 3 include an Atmosphere Revitalisation Rack and a Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Highlights of the past two weeks include:

    • Water Recovery System
      On 20 December ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli undertook the periodic sampling of the Water Recovery System using the Total Organic Carbon Analyzer.


    • Oxygen Generation System
      ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman mated a number of quick disconnects inside the Oxygen Generator System on 23 December. After its activation it is planned to keep it running for two days to increase cabin oxygen.


    • Laptop Software
      During the two weeks until 31 December Paolo Nespoli reloaded the Robotic Workstation / Portable Computer System in Node 3 with new software in order to eliminate a software error.


    • Earth-facing Video Camera
      Nespoli set up a Canon video camera at an Earth-facing window in the European-built Cupola Observation Module attached to Node 3 in support of ESA activities. Recording continued for five hours.

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. After transferring a laptop from the Columbus laboratory to the Japanese laboratory on 24 December, ISS Commander Scott Kelly used it to perform health checks on two MELFI freezers. The laptop was returned to the Columbus laboratory by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli on 26 December. During the reporting period blood and urine samples have been placed in the MELFI freezers for the Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol drawn from ISS Flight Engineers Catherine Coleman and Paolo Nespoli.

Soyuz TMA-20 Activities
On 20 and 21 December respectively ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Dmitri Kondratyev installed local temperature sensor equipment and removed television cameras (for reuse) in the newly arrived Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft. During the two-week reporting period Kondratyev also undertook troubleshooting activities on the gas analyzer in the Soyuz Descent Module to determine why it has been blowing power line fuses. This included fuse replacement and measuring resistance and voltage levels across 11 electric circuit contacts.

HTV Arrival Preparations
Preparations continue for the arrival of the second Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) scheduled on 27 January 2011. After reviewing materials on 20 December, Kelly and Coleman conducted a one-hour checkout of the Japanese Robotic Arm the following day. The HTV will be berthed to the Node 2 zenith port (as opposed to the Earth-facing nadir port) to allow for docking of STS-133 Discovery to Node 2’s forward port in February.

Robotic Testing: SSRMS and Dextre
On 20 December the Mobile Transporter with the Mobile Base System and Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), the Station’s principal robotic arm, was moved to Worksite 5 on the ISS truss where the robotic arm grappled the Mobile Base system. The following day the Mobile Transporter moved the robotic arm back to Worksite 2. On 24 December a series of ground-commanded manoeuvres was carried out by the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator “Dextre” to demonstrate its capability to undertake EVA tasks. This included grappling and detaching an attachment mechanism from an external payload carrier, attaching it to a temporary platform on Dextre, and returning it to its original location the following day.

RSPI Radio System Outfitting
ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri installed and connected numerous jumper cables in the Service Module on 21 December as part of continued outfitting of the RSPI Radio System. The system will allow the downlink of large data files using Russian communication resources.

ISS Reboost
Progress 39P, which is docked to the aft port of the ISS Service Module, performed a reboost of the ISS on 22 December. The ISS gained 4.1 km in altitude during the reboost, which was carried out to help place the ISS in the correct orbital profile for the arrival of HTV-2 on 27 January and STS-133 scheduled for launch in February. Another reboost is planned on 13 January.

ATV Preparations
Kaleri replaced two navigation computer modules of the ASN-M satellite navigation system in the Service Module on 23 December. The satellite navigation system is necessary for the arrival of Europe’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2) called Johannes Kepler in February.

Soyuz TMA-01M/24S Descent Drill
ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka and ISS Commander and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly carried out a simulation training of their return journey in the Soyuz 24S spacecraft on 30 December. This included 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. The training was carried out on a Russian laptop with a hand controller.

STS-133/ULF-5 Mission Preparations
Following additional testing and diagnostics on Shuttle Discovery’s external tank additional maintenance work will be carried out to reinforce external tank brackets (called stringers) prior to launch, which is currently scheduled for February.

Other Activities
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 31 December include: replacing two Russian segment A31p laptops with T61p laptops; upgrading software on the Hard Disk Drive primary and backup partitions of the Russian BSPN Payload Server; installing a Utility Outlet Panel in the US laboratory; replacing the Waste and Hygiene Compartment toilet pre-treat tank; cleaning ionising needles in the smoke detectors in the Russian Zarya Module; reviewing materials and collecting tools and equipment for the upcoming Russian spacewalk on 21 January; degassing three Contingency Water Containers; replacing a damaged bracket between the Fluids Integrated Rack and the Mobile Servicing System rack in the US laboratory; troubleshooting on EXPRESS Rack 6 due to reboot problems following a remote software load; and installing a power switching unit in the Russian Poisk Module.

(*)These activities are highlights of the past two weeks and do not include the majority of standard periodic operational/maintenance activities on the ISS or additional research activities not mentioned previously. Information compiled with the assistance of NASA sources.

Martin Zell
ESA Head of ISS Utilisation Department

Rosita Suenson
ESA Human Spaceflight Programme Communication Officer

Weekly reports compiled by ESA's ISS Utilisation Department.

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