This is ISS status report #86 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 ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli photographed damaged thermal insulation from one of Biolab’s Automatic Temperature Controlled Stowage compartments on 28 January for further analysis on ground. 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 at the latest on ULF-7 / STS-135 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 No activities were carried out using the European Drawer Rack in the two weeks until 28 January. 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 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 Geoflow-2 / FASES experiments Part 2 of commissioning activities for the Canadian Microgravity Vibration Isolation Subsystem (MVIS) continued from 17 – 21 January. Following a photo session carried out by Nespoli on 17 January, a performance verification test was undertaken on 18 January and repeated on 20 January. Between these two tests a data downlink was performed. Additional downlinks were performed on 21 January, (after which the facility was deactivated and the Facility Core Element was locked by Paolo Nespoli) and 24 January. The Microgravity Vibration Isolation Subsystem is incorporated within the Fluid Science Laboratory. It is equipped with an extremely sensitive accelerometer that can monitor movements or vibration aboard the Station and it has been designed to isolate the core element of the Fluid Science Laboratory from vibrations of the ISS, and from disturbances generated within the rack itself.
The GeoFlow-2 experiment is stowed in the Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) of ATV-2 “Johannes Kepler” for launch on 15 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 (MARS and E-USOC).
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 Progress 39P launch in September (due to the upgrade constraints of the Video Management Unit of the Fluid Science Laboratory). The Video Management Unit will be tentatively returned to Earth by ULF-7 / STS-135 for the upgrade implementation, after the execution of the GeoFlow-2 experiment. The flight of the FASES Experiment Container will now be rescheduled to a later Progress launch in 2012. 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.
European Physiology Modules facility and related experiments No activities were carried out using the European Physiology Modules facility in the two weeks until 28 January. 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 atrophy.
3D Space After experiment hardware was set up by ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli, sessions of the 3D Space experiment were performed by Nespoli and NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman on 21 January. This human physiology study investigates the effects of weightlessness on the mental representation of visual information during and after spaceflight. Accurate perception is a prerequisite for spatial orientation and reliable performance of tasks in space. The experiment has different elements including investigations of perception of depth and distance carried out using a virtual reality headset and standard psychophysics tests.
DOSIS 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, and sent to the research team to undergo 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.
Pulmonary Function System (in Human Research Facility 2) No activities were carried out using the Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 28 January. 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 EXPRESS Rack 3 (in which the European Modular Cultivation System is located) experienced a DC to DC Converter Unit Failure in the two weeks until 28 January. Hereafter on 24 January the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany had to reboot EXPRESS Rack 3 in order to restore telemetry. Once this was complete the racks Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS) was activated for taking structural dynamics data in connection with HTV-2 and Progress 41P dockings on 27 and 29 January.
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 28 January. 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, which opened on 24 December, closed on 6 January and the SOLAR facility has been transitioned to a safe configuration awaiting the next Sun visibility window. 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
On 18 January the final sample for the MICAST experiment was inserted into the newly installed Solidification and Quenching Furnace furnace for the Material Science Laboratory by Catherine Coleman. The following day, after a Chamber leak test was performed, processing of the experiment started. Heating the sample to a molten state, solidification and cool down were performed as planned with the experiment concluding on 20 January. Coleman removed the sample the following day.
This completes processing of the first batch of samples for the ESA/NASA CETSOL/MICAST experiments. An additional twelve CETSOL/MICAST experiment samples have already been processed to date in the Low Gradient Furnace (removed from the Material Science Laboratory earlier in January) with analyses undertaken by the relevant science teams on ground. The second batch of CETSOL/MICAST samples will be the next to be processed in the Material Science Laboratory followed by samples for the SETA experiment.
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. Project scientists have already 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 (Columnar-to-Equiaxed Transition in Solidification Processing) and MICAST (Microstructure Formation in Casting of Technical Alloys under Diffusive and Magnetically Controlled Convective Conditions) 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 January the Microgravity Science Glovebox was powered on in connection with DLR’s Capillary Channel Flow experiment located inside which is performed in bilateral cooperation with NASA. 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 and further experiment runs may be resumed later during 2011. 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 2010.
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 towards the end of 2011 after a the implementation of the partially re-defined liquid mixtures in conjunction with the new ELIPS project DCMIX. Further batches of DSC experiments are planned for 2012.
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
No activities were carried out using the Portable Pulmonary Function System in the two weeks until 28 January. 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 on 27 January. 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, has concluded science acquisition following almost 2 years of exposure to the harsh open space environment (Solar UV, cosmic radiation, vacuum). The facility, which had been functioning extremely well and continuously acquiring scientific data was removed from the outside of Zvezda during the Russian EVA of 21 January 2011 and brought back inside the ISS to await return to Earth on STS-133/ULF-5 Shuttle Discovery at the end of February or Soyuz 24S 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. On 28 January the Expose-R payload was retrieved in the frame of a Russian EVA and the sample trays were de-integrated and stowed in the Service Module by ISS Flight Engineers and Roscosmos cosmonauts Olek Skripochka and Dmitry Kondratyev until return to Earth. The Expose-R Monoblock will remain on orbit for further use in the future (see below).
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 28 January activities were carried out using NASA’s Human Research Facility 1 with the support of ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. The facility was activated on 17 January for supporting ultrasound measurements, and data for NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment was downlinked via the facility laptop on 21 January. On 24 January the facility was again activated to carry out troubleshooting on the Human Research Facility ultrasound equipment by performing a status check on switch positions, lights and sounds.
Human Research Facility 1 was used in connection with NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment with ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman as test subject. Coleman started her first Ambulatory Monitoring session for Integrated Cardiovascular on 19 January with Nespoli assisting as Crew Medical Officer for the experiment. The session was completed on 21 January. The NASA Integrated Cardiovascular Experiment consists of an a ultrasound echo session and of an Ambulatory Monitoring session, which includes 24-hr blood pressure measurement using ESA's Cardiopres device, 48-hr ECG measurement with a holter device and 48-hr activity measurements using two Actiwatches. Coleman downloaded all device data to the facility laptop on 10 January. The aim of the Integrated Cardiovascular experiment is to determine the degree, development and clinical significance of cardiac atrophy and identify its mechanisms.
ISS Commander Scott Kelly started another week-long session of NASA’s Sleep experiment starting from 24 January 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.
Human Research Facility 2
Human Research Facility 2 was activated on 26 January to centrifuge blood samples for NASA’s Nutrition protocol, drawn from ISS Commander Scott Kelly. The samples were thereafter stowed 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.
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, ESA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli removed (and later reinstalled) alignment guides in the Fluids Integrated Rack to allow activation of the rack’s Active Rack Isolation System. Nespoli also installed Passive Rack Isolation System alignment guides for the Fluids Integrated Rack and Combustion Integrated Rack to protect the racks against disturbances during the Russian EVA on 21 January. In addition Nespoli: built 10 alkaline battery packs for use by the Compound Specific Analyzer-Combustion Products units (which provide quick response during a fire), replacing the battery in the prime unit and zero calibrating all the units; calibrated and took readings from two Compound Specific Analyzer-Oxygen instruments; carried out weekly maintenance on two Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus units; and configured the panels in the Japanese Kibo laboratory for the arrival of the Kobairo Rack, which arrived on HTV-2 on 27 January.
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 activating and carrying out fluid test runs of NASA’s Capillary Flow Experiment. Furthermore Nespoli acted as Crew Medical Officer, supporting the preparation of Actiwatches, electrode sites, attachment of the harness, and donning the Cardiopres for Catherine Coleman’s 2nd Ambulatory Monitoring session of NASA’s Integrated Cardiovascular experiment.
Health status activities
The crew undertake health status checks on a regular basis. During the past two weeks Paolo Nespoli was the subject of: a US PanOptic Eye Test; an acoustic measurement protocol; a Russian Biochemical Urinalysis medical assessment; a US Periodic Fitness Evaluation (blood pressure and ECG during exercise); 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.
During the last two weeks Nespoli and the other ISS crew members 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: retrieved and stowed four Formaldehyde sampling assemblies located in the US laboratory and Russian Service Module; undertook a training session on the Simplified Aid For EVA Rescue or SAFER units (propulsion units worn by the EVA astronauts in the unlikely case they become untethered from the ISS); initiated a run of the Air Quality Monitor, used for identifying volatile organic compounds in the ISS cabin atmosphere; exchanged water bags in the Japanese laboratory; and took part in a crew safety training session to familiarise the crew with procedures and escape routes in case of a toxic spill or fire emergency, and to clarify emergency roles and responsibilities. He used the Service Module amateur radio equipment on 15 and 18 January to conduct live radio sessions with students in Rome, Italy respectively at the Istituto Comprensivo Via Toscana 2 Civitavecchia, and at Ladispoli, as well as being involved with a public affairs event with ESA and Italian Space agency (ASI) officials on 26 January, also in Rome. With respect to additional public affairs activities he participated in a US event on 18 January with Kelly and Coleman with CBS ‘The Talk’ television programme and participated with the whole crew for a Russian education event on 20 January.
Activities in the European-built Node 3
Regular use, inspection and servicing was carried out on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device in which Paolo Nespoli was involved and included evacuating its cylinder flywheels to maintain proper vacuum, sensor calibration, and checking out and greasing rails and rollers. Regular use, inspection and servicing of the T2/COLBERT treadmill in Node 3, also took place in the two weeks until 28 January. In addition Scott Kelly carried out troubleshooting on the treadmill on 18 January due to a reported loose bolt.
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:
Waste and Hygiene Compartment
After Paolo Nespoli had gathered together the necessary equipment, NASA astronaut and ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman replaced the air hose and Liquid indicator of the Waste and Hygiene compartment on 24 January.
- Waste and Hygiene Compartment
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. During the reporting period generic 24-hr urine samples have been placed in one of the MELFI freezers for ISS Flight Engineer Catherine Coleman, and ISS Commander Scott Kelly had blood and urine samples placed in MELFI for NASA’s Nutrition/Repository/Pro K protocol.
In the week prior to Russian EVA 27, Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Oleg Skripochka and Dmitry Kondratyev and ISS Commander Scott Kelly configured the Pirs Docking Compartment (and Airlock) and Service Module Transfer Compartment for the upcoming Russian spacewalk. This included 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. The Progress 40P spacecraft, attached to the Pirs Docking Compartment was also readied for undocking in the unlikely case of an EVA emergency on 19 January (see above).
EVA Dry Run
A suited EVA dry run was carried out on 18 January by Oleg Skripochka and Dmitry Kondratyev. 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.
Russian EVA 27
On completion of the standard pre-EVA procedures, Russian EVA 27 was carried out by Flight Engineers Oleg Skripochka and Dmitry Kondratyev on 21 January. The main tasks that were achieved during the 5 hr 27min EVA, which started at 15:25 (CET) were: the installation of a radio data transmission system on the Service Module Working Compartment; photographing and removing a plasma pulse injector monoblock from a similar location; deactivation and removal of ESA’s Expose-R payload from the Service Module; and installing a TV camera on the Mini Research Module-1. 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.
HTV-2 Launch, Docking and Additional Activities
Launch and Rendezvous
The second Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV 2) called “Kounotori” or Stork was launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan at 02:38 local time on 23 January (18:38 CET on 22 January) with activation and checkout completed successfully once in orbit. Some hours later the HTV carried out three main engine burns which raised its altitude to a near circular 315 x 320 km orbit and set up rendezvous phasing. Testing and leak checks were successfully performed on the HTV Reaction Control System and Main Engine thrusters. On Flight Days 2 and 3 additional burns were undertaken to adjust the rendezvous phasing and bring the HTV to approximately 3,400 km behind and 26 km below ISS.
HTV-2 Berthing Preparations
From 17 – 24 January, Nespoli, Coleman (and Kelly) carried out robotic simulated training sessions using the ROBoT training tool to familiarise themselves with procedures for HTV-2 berthing. Prior to launch of HTV-2, berthing preparations were still taking place on the ISS and related ground control centres. ISS Commander Scott Kelly checked out the Inter-Orbit Communication System in the Japanese laboratory on 19 January, checking the link to the Space Station Integration and Promotion Centre in Tsukuba, Japan, the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany and the Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas. On 25 January Kelly and Coleman took part in an HTV Exposed Platform transfer run training session using the ROBoT Simulator. The following day Nespoli set up the Robotic Workstation in the European Cupola Observation Module attached to Node 3, and configured the Hardware Command Panel for the ATV and initiated a self check while a ground commanded check out took place.
Prior to berthing the HTV-2 undertook different planned burns on 27 January to bring it within proximity of the ISS. After setting up and activating the Robotic Workstation in the European-built Cupola Observation Module, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman (supported by Scott Kelly) successfully grappled the Japanese HTV-2 using the Station’s principal robotic arm. The Passive Common Berthing Mechanism of the HTV was inspected for any foreign objects, and the Centerline Berthing Camera System was activated at the Node 2 Earth-facing port. With this in place the HTV-2 was berthed to the same port at 16:00 CET on 27 January. The robotic arm operators then ungrappled the HTV and grappled the HTV’s Exposed Pallet. The vestibule between the HTV and Node 2 hatches was pressurised and, following a successful leak check, the Node 2 hatch was opened. The vestibule was outfitted by Nespoli and Coleman with power and data lines from Node 2 to the HTV and the HTV was transitioned from internal battery power to ISS power. The Centre Disk Cover was removed and the crew ingressed the HTV one day ahead of schedule. ISS Flight Engineer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka carried out one of the first tasks inside which was to sample the air.
Final loading activities have been taking place in Progress 39P, docked at the Service Module aft port, in the two weeks until 28 January. The docking mechanism was removed and two handles were installed on the external side of the Progress 39P hatch door. The following day Kondratyev set up pumping equipment and initiated transfer of urine (for disposal) into one of Progress 39Ps Rodnik water storage tanks,
Progress M-08M/40P Preparations and Undocking
Roscosmos cosmonauts and ISS Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka prepared Progress 40P in the week before undocking (and also prior to Russian EVA-27, see ‘Russian EVA-27’ above). The docking mechanism was reinstalled; temperature sensor equipment and light fixtures were removed from Progress for reuse; Progress electronics were activated; ventilation ducting was removed as were the quick disconnect clamps which stabilize the connection between Progress 40P and the docking port of the Pirs Docking Module. The Progress/Pirs Module hatches were closed at 11:40 (CET) on 19 January followed by the standard one-hour leak check of the interhatch area and the interface between the fuel/oxidizer transfer line. On 23 January Skripochka moved the TEKh-15/DAKON-M IZGIB payload into Pirs for taking structural dynamics data during Progress undocking. Progress 40P undocked as scheduled at 01:42 CET on 24 January. A few hours later it undertook its deorbit burn prior to its planned destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
TORU Manual Docking System Training
On 25 Janaury ISS Flight Engineers Kaleri and Skripochka carried out a training session on the Russian TORU system in preparation for Progress 41P docking on 29 January. The TORU system acts as a manual backup to the Kurs automated rendezvous and docking system. The session included, rendezvous, fly-around, final approach, docking and off-nominal situations such as video or communications loss.
Progress 41P Launch
The Progress M-09M spacecraft on ISS logistics flight 41P was successfully launched into orbit by a Soyuz-U rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 02:31 CET (07:31 local time) on 28 January. The Progress spacecraft is transporting vital supplies to the ISS including water, food, gases, propellants, consumables and scientific equipment.
Other activities that have taken place on the ISS in the two-week period until 28 January include: troubleshooting blown fuses in the Soyuz 25S Descent Module related to the gas analyzer; replacing a filter reactor in the Russian SRV-K2M condensate water processor; replacing a hard disk drive in the Russian BSPN Payload Server; and an annual functional testing of the two Russian SUDN pilot sighting instruments.
(*)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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